Our Guide to The Aintree Grand National

The Grand National is the most infamous National Hunt Race in the world. It is hosted at Aintree Racecourse, which is not one of the many flat racecourses in the UK, and is run over an incredible four and a quarter miles - featuring no less than 30 fences. Gruelling in length and famous for its notoriously difficult and often dangerous jumps, the Grand National is considered the ultimate test for any steeplechase horse. Its 'anything can happen' reputation makes this race one of the most exciting events of the season.

A Closer Look at the
Grand National

The Grand National is held at Aintree Racecourse. For most of its history, it was open to thoroughbreds aged five and older. Currently, the minimum age requirement is seven as of 2012. The weight requirement is no more than 11 stones and 10 pounds.

In 2016, it was determined that the race should cover 4 miles, 2 furlongs and 74 yards. The Grand National Course itself is left-handed requiring the field to turn left three times each lap around. Competitors must jump a total of 30 fences before crossing the finish.

fact file

location: Aintree Racecourse

grade: Grade 3

race type: Handicap Chase

A Historic Event on the Racing Calendar

The first official running of the Grand National was staged in 1839, but a similar version of the race first took place in 1836. The race has always been hosted early in April and generally takes place on the first Saturday of the month as the main event of the Aintree Festival.

The Aintree Grand National is watched annually by over 600 million people worldwide and is broadcast in over 140 countries. The race is the most valuable event of the Jump Racing Season in the United Kingdom and has a prize fund of £1m (as of 2017).

One of the reasons the Grand National has always been so popular is the large field sizes. The Grand National field is currently restricted to forty runners for safety reasons, but field sizes of over sixty horses were commonplace in the 1920s. This famous race can be extremely dangerous. The majority of horses generally don't finish with only fifteen of the forty runners in 2012 making it to the finish line. The most dangerous jump is known as Becher's Brook which has been responsible for numerous fatalities and falls in the history of the race.

After the death of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Synchronised, in the 2012 Grand National, a safety review of the event was conducted. In 2013, the start was moved ninety yards closer to the first fence, and the Becher's Brook landing zone has been levelled to make it less steep.


Have a look at the current records for the Grand National set by competitors that have run in the race since its genesis 170 years ago (as of 2017).

  • The record for fastest time is held by 1990 winner Mr. Frisk who finished the race in 8m: 47.8sec.

  • The record for most wins is held by Red Rum who won on three occasions. He won back to back races in 1973 and 1974, then won a third time in 1977.

  • 1839's Lottery holds the record for the slowest winning time of 14m: 53sec.

  • The oldest winner is 1853's Peter Simple who won the race at age 15.

  • The most successful jockey with the most wins is George Stevens with six victories from the 1856 winner Free Trader to The Colonel in 1870.

  • Ginger McCain and Fred Rimell have the most wins of any trainer with four apiece. McCain won three times with Red Rum and again with Amberleigh House in 2004. Rimell won from 1956-1976 with E.S.B, Nicolaus Silver, Gay Trip and Red Trade.

Best Moments

The Grand National is one of the most famous events of its kind with a rich history filled with the kind of drama that only a race with a reputation suggesting that 'anything can happen' has to offer. Here are a few of the most memorable moments (as of 2017).

jockey racing horse
  • The most famous horse in Grand National history is the legendary Red Rum. Red Rum won the Grand National in 1973, 1974, and 1977 (the only horse to win the race on three occasions) and finished second in 1975 and 1976.

  • Perhaps the most heart-stopping event in the history of the Grand National was when Fionavon, quoted at 500/1 but paid out at 100/1, won the race in 1967. With no wins over his past 26 races, absolutely no one believed he had any chance to win.