It’s the British horse racing tradition deemed the ultimate test for horse & rider. Read on for all the best facts about the Grand National!
The Grand National may be the most grueling horse race in the world. And we’re not talking flat-land racing around a track, the Grand National is a jumping course with 30 obstacles at heights of over 5 feet!
Since this prestigious horse race has been running since 1839 there are so many fun facts about the Grand National to explore.
We’ll learn about some of the greatest horses to ever run the track, the jockeys who made history, and the trainers who will go down in the record books as some of the sport’s very best.
We’ll also highlight a few underdog stories, like Bob Champion and Aldaniti, Charlotte Brew and Barony Fort, and the handful of horse and jockey combos that won the race at 100/1 odds.
Then of course, we must mention the infamous 1993 ‘race that never was’ and the 1944 Elizabeth Taylor film that pretended England was in California.
With over 600 million viewers worldwide each year, the Grand National is one of the most enduring, exciting, and nerve-wracking races in the world.
Are you intrigued yet? Let’s get this show started and highlight some of the greatest Grand National facts.
Table of Contents
21 Fun Facts About the Grand National
1. When was the first Grand National?
The first ever Grand National was run on February 26th, 1839. The inaugural event had 17 entrants with a horse called Lottery winning the race.
Overall there have been 175 runnings of the Grand National. The only cancellations being from 1941-1945 during World War II and in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. What’s the prize money for the Grand National?
In the 2023 race, the winner of the Grand National received an astonishing £561,300 out of a £1,000,000 prize pool, with the runner-up receiving a prize of £211,100.
Compare this to the first Grand National in 1839 where first prize netted £590. We bet that was a lot of money in those days though!
3. What’s the largest field ever assembled in Grand National history?
Back in 1929, the Grand National was absolutely stacked! There were an incredible 66 horse and jockey combinations trying to win the prestigious race.
Due to the conditions being unsafe for the horses and riders, the Grand National is now limited to 40 runners. That’s still a lot!
4. A few fun facts about the Grand National horses
The real superheroes of the Grand National are the horses. These records will probably never be broken.
Manifesto is a two-time Grand National winner and ran the race 8 times, more than any other horse. Peter Simple was the oldest horse to win the Grand National at 15 years old in 1853.
5. Aintree Racecourse stats and figures
The dubious distinction of, ‘the ultimate test for horse and rider’ is thanks to the extreme difficulty of the Aintree Racecourse.
The course covers over 2 miles with 16 jumping obstacles. The tallest is the 15th obstacle known as ‘the chair’ at 5 ft 2 in.
6. Who’s the most successful Grand National horse?
Red Rum. Red Rum. And no, we’re not talking about The Shining.
Red Rum, an Irish-bred gelding, is the most celebrated horse at the Grand National, winning an unbelievable three times in 1973, 1974, and 1977.
7. Who’s the most successful Grand National rider?
Jockey George Stevens is far and away the most successful rider at the Grand National. He won the race 5 times (1856, 1863, 1864, 1869, 1870) on four different horses.
His first win came when he was only 22 years old. Tragically, Stevens died in 1871 of a skull fracture after being thrown from a horse.
8. Who’s the most successful Grand National trainer?
There is a three-way tie at the top for the winningest horse trainer. George Dockeray, Fred Rimmel, and Ginger McCain have all trained four Grand National winners.
Famously, Ginger McCain was the trainer of Red Rum, who we already learned was the most successful horse at the Grand National.
9. The fastest ever horse at the Grand National
This is the perfect name for the fastest horse ever to run the Grand National: Mr Frisk.
Jockey Marcus Armitage and Mr Frisk won the race in 1990 in the record-setting time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds. This is the only time the Grand National has been completed in under 9 minutes.
10. Who was the first female jockey to race the Grand National?
The trailblazing icon for women riders at the Grand National was Charlotte Brew in 1977. She was allowed to participate after the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act.
Brew rode her horse Barony Fort up to the 27th of 30 obstacles becoming the highest ranked non-finisher of the 1977 race.
11. Who was the first female jockey to win the Grand National?
Often in our sports-related facts articles we highlight the first female to participate professionally (you can check out hockey and basketball as an example), but at the Grand National a female has won the whole thing!
In 2021, Irishwoman Rachael Blackmore and her horse Minella Times achieved this impressive feat.
12. Grand National attendance facts and figures
The stands are always packed every year for the Grand National at Aintree. Upwards of 70,000 fans cheer on their chosen horse around the track.
600 million others watch on television in over 140 countries and over 13 million people will place a bet.
13. 1993 Grand National debacle
Here’s one of the strangest Grand National facts: due to a false start the 1993 Grand National had to be declared void and no winner was awarded.
30 of the 39 riders didn’t realize a false start had been called and continued to run the race. Bookmakers had to return bets of over £75 million!
14. How long is the home straight for the Grand National?
As if jumping 30 of the most harrowing obstacles in horse racing isn’t difficult enough, the home straight at Aintree for the Grand National is the longest in the UK.
The straightaway measures a grueling 514 yards, ensuring a tough, gritty finish for any of the horses and jockeys who remain on the course.
15. The champion Champion
Bob Champion famously won the 1981 Grand National after a courageous battle with testicular cancer. His horse, Aldaniti, had also recently recovered from a career-threatening leg injury.
This underdog story of determination and triumph inspired the 1984 film Champions starring John Hurt as Bob Champion and Aldaniti playing himself.
16. Most recent back-to-back champion at the Grand National
Tiger Roll is the latest superstar horse to dominate the Grand National. The Irish bay gelding who was bred for flat racing, was a repeat winner at the Grand National in 2018 and 2019.
After a disputed handicap rating, Tiger Roll didn’t run the 2022 Grand National and retired in 2022 after a runner-up finish at the Cross Country Chase.
17. The greatest Grand National longshots
There have been five Grand National winners who came out of nowhere to win at 100/1 odds. Tipperary Tim (1928), Gregalach (1929), Caughoo (1947), Ayala (1963), and Mon Mome (2009).
The lesson here is to expect the unexpected at the Grand National!
18. What’s the closest Grand National finish ever?
In the exciting 2012 race, Sunnyhillboy was leading Neptune Collognes by a length with 100 yards to go down the famous Aintree home straight.
But it was Neptune Collognes who reeled in Sunnyhillboy and beat him by a nose with a photo-finish at the line.
19. Grand National and the safety of horses
Horse racing has been mired in many controversies over the years and the Grand National is no exception.
Animal rights protestors often delay races amid demands to stop horse racing altogether. The Grand National has seen 89 horse fatalities in its 175 races.
20. A girl jockey wins the Grand National?
National Velvet was a 1944 family film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. The film tells the story of a teenage girl who wins the Grand National on her horse Pie.
Horse racing traditionalists may scoff however, since a racetrack in California acted as a stand-in for Aintree.
21. When is the next Grand National?
If you’re looking for a bucket list trip, mark your calendars for April 11-13 2024 when the 176th running of the Grand National will take place.
Will Corach Rambler win back-to-back races or will one of the longshots surprise again at Aintree? You’ll have to go and find out for yourself!
Who wants more fun facts?
If you’re looking for some recommendations, these are a few of our favorite fact books to buy. We use these when planning fun trivia nights with family and friends!
We really hope you enjoyed all our fun facts about the Grand National! Did you learn something new?
If there’s any Grand National facts we missed, you can let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them to this article!