We participated in a bit of an English tradition on Saturday and hopped into a pub (on a slightly rainy afternoon- how fitting) to watch the Grand National horse race. For those of you whom may not have experienced this race it is the most widely watched and bet on horse race of the year (one stat expected that half of the British population will wager an average of £8 on the race equating to hundreds of millions of pounds being wagered on the race). The reason for such interest in the race is because of the length, difficulty and general chaos that ensues as truly, just about any horse could win the race.
The horses run for 4 miles and 4 furlongs (approximately 9 minute of straight running) and must jump 30 fences…however these aren’t really fences like track and field fences they look like tall hedges. The largest of these jumps is the chair which has a 6 foot trench leading up to it and it stands 4’8″ tall so the horse must jump long and high in order to have a chance of clearing it.
With 40 horses in the race and you can imagine it becomes chaotic when all the horses go busting over these hedge type structures as some horses get scared and stop dead before a jump, some get tripped up going over the jump and eject the jockey or other horses trip on the landing and fall with the jockey on their back. This can mean that there are horses and jockeys crashing into each other or landing on the ground….and with 39 other horses in the race, the last place you probably want to be is on the ground.
Also, the horses that eject their riders tend to continue running out of habit but they can also cause distractions some decide to stop or wander off the track cutting off other horses still in the race. As a side note, a jockey-less horse can’t win…I found this out the hard way when the horse I bet on crossed the finish line without a jockey but to me cheering him on at which point a lovely elderly Englishman leaned over to me and said ‘unfortunately dear, without a rider your horse can’t win’. Oh, um thanks, will remember that for next year.
So, for the reasons above you can see how you are almost as likely to pick a winning horse based on your favourite name or number than actual research!
Anyway back to Saturday, we positioned ourselves with a pints in hand watched the race unfold. It is strange as you go from cheering to covering your eyes when horses fall back to cheering again…especially when 8 horses got taken out at the 2nd hurdle due to falling losing jockeys etc. However it seemed as long as your horse was still running you kept cheering. Long story short (and the best part) the horse I chose (for no particular reason other than the name sounded neat) won and I made £20 off a £2 bet….not too shabby!
In the end however, 19 of the 40 finished the race and from what I have heard there was at least one injured jockey, one horse that died of a broken neck and one that was ‘humanely’ put down after sustaining too many injuries. Hmm…that kind of takes away from my £20 win doesn’t it?
Video clip below for those interested in watching – it’s about 9 minutes but you will get the idea after the second jump.