Why the National dominates the Jump racing mindset

14-September-2020
14-September-2020 12:23
in General
by Peter McNeile

Irrespective of where you sit in the racing pyramid of excellence, there's no-one in our sport that doesn't dream of winning the Grand National. It's the race we all grew up watching, astride the armchair, riding a finish like Ron Barry, Jonjo O'Neill, AP McCoy, Dickie Johnson or Jack Tudor, depending on your age. 

The Grand National is the one race each year across the UK and Ireland that guarantees its rider national recognition. 

Grand National - every racing fan's dream

And the Grand National ranks as the most wagered race in the UK calendar by some distance, dwarfing the Cheltenham Festival and Derby despite their now global appeal. It's a race where the housekeeping piggybank can be raided by any member of the household. Housewives as well as racing aficionados can get Grand National Free bets ahead of next Spring to bet on the horses they believe will win. 

But like every great event, the Grand National has spawned a fair few lookalikes. Here's just a sample:

The Grand Leicestershire Steeplechase

Little is known of this event held in Quorn country in 1829, other than the winner, Magic, was owned by a Sir Harry Goodricke. The race has spawned numerous prints which you're most likely to find foxed and dog-eared in the studies and libraries of British country houses! Actually, the race is a precursor to the National, which wasn’t invented until 1839.

The English National Steeplechase

Steeplechasing's growth in the Victorian era stimulated the inauguration of very many of our best-loved races as promoters and land owners competed to stage the latest grandly titled steeplechase. Thomas Coleman of St Albans was one such. As licensee of the Turf Hotel in St Albans, he could see the financial gain to be had from staging a race which would draw folk to the area. The initial English National Steeplechase of March 8 1830 preceded the Liverpool version by nine years and ran from Harlington in Bedfordshire to Wrest Park, a distance of 4 miles completed in 16m 25s! 

The race didn't survive, but Coleman was also behind the St Albans Steepelchase in March 1832, which was the true pre-cursor of the Grand National. Coleman's friend and arch rival was William Lynn, originator of the Liverpool race. 

Sussex Nationals

Plumpton doesn't bear great comparison to Aintree, but it's not ashamed to stage its own version of the world's greatest race. The Sussex National in January is a 0-135 Handicap worth nearly £30,000, and whilst some of its winners have reached ratings as high as 147lbs, it's unlikely that most winners will even make the cut in the real thing. 

The Southern National at Fontwell Park in November bookends the "National year", but like Plumpton, the curious but engaging figure of eight track is unlikely to throw up winners of the big race in March. To all intents and purposes, this £20,000 race is just another long distance race for plodders.

Plumpton's January fixture starts a calendar year of NationalsFontwell's affluent crowd relies on retired folk in wealthy Sussex

North Yorkshire National

Catterick wouldn't be most folks' stopping off point for the big race occasion, although races are always fairly run at this straightforward course. The 3 3/4 mile race is Catterick's most valuable at £26,000, and includes the Denys Smith Trophy, named after the county's late trainer who won the real thing with Red Alligator in 1968. 

Again, it's a race where winners would struglle to make the cut at Aintree, but Sue Smith is one to follow. She won the race in each of four consecutive years from 2016-19 with four different horses, and has sitting tenant rights on the trophy.

A little further north, Sedgefield stages the Durham National in October. The 0-145 chase over 3m 5f has been a target for Worcestershire's Richard Newland pretty regularly. Royale Knight won back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015, whilst Audacious Plan justified 6/4 favouritism in 2017. 

Scottish Nationals

The best known of these is of course the eponymous Scottish National, a £200,000 race in late April that draws a huge field and enormous crowd to Ayr. The marathon race has been won by some top flight horses. Low weights seem to be especially well in the race. Barbury's own Alan King won the race in 2013 with Godsmejudge. 

Less well known is the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh in February, part of a Festival Trials fixture over two days that saw a significant injection of funds at its outset in 2016. Let's hope that momentum is maintained when racing returns to full strength. 

A full house is completed by Kelso's Borders National in December, a very well-endowed 0-140 chase worth £45,000 at its last running. Berwick trainer Sandy Thomson just loves this race. His Neptune Equester and Harry the Viking have secured the race in no less than four consecutive years before Rose Dobbin seized it back earlier this year.  

West Country Nationals

Exeter amongst the professional courses stages its own version in February, a 0-135 handicap and West Country trainers have keept a strong hold on the race in the past 10 years, with Jeremy Scott, Colin Tizzard and Polly Gundry each scoring, the latter twice with Dawson City. 

Badbury Rings runs the Wessex National, a Men's Open the same month, which is one of Wessex's two feature events in the Point-to-Point calendar, which spans 22 fixtures. 

Badbury Rings is Dorset's leading course

Welsh Nationals

The eponymous Welsh National at Chepstow is one of the marquee events of the season, and a major Christmas highlight. It's a race where the growing number of Welsh trainers have largely repulsed the English invaders in the past few years, most recently with Christian Williams' Potters Corner in 2019. 

Trainers from west of the River Severn have achieved consistent success in the last decade. Richard Lee, then daughter Kerry, with Le Beau Bai and Mountainous (2013, 2016). Even Venetia Williams and Michael Scudamore might be offered honorary Welsh nationhood bearing in mind their proximity to the border from their bases in Herefordshire. 

Potters Corner make a Welsh National special in 2019

And of course, success is not limited to Welsh trainers. Sean Bowen, and most recently Pointing's own Jack Tudor (pictured above) have put their Welsh mark on the race.

There is another National at the other end of Wales too. Ffos Las stages its own version in April. 

London National

It would be unfair to omit Sandown Park's London National, for no better reason than that it is a valauble contest in support of ther much shorter Tingle Creek in December. It was the scene for a void race fiasco last December, but has yet to flush out an Aintree winner, coinciding with the Becher Chase the following day at Aintree as a closer trial. It wouldn't be short on quality even so. 

Midlands Grand National

Uttoxeter's marquee event concludes a jam-packed Festival week, and still succeeds in luring plenty of quality stayers away from the Festival's handicaps. This dour slog in the mud appeals to out and out stayers - Potters Corner won this the season before his Welsh triumph. And whilst many of these will find their way to Aintree, most are tapped for toe there in very different under foot conditions. With prize money of £150,000, it cannot be ignored however. 

A huge crowd enjoys the Midlands Grand National

Ireland

The mother of Irish Nationals is at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, and almost always the sole domain of the Irish. Apart from Shutthefrontdoor for Jonjo O'Neill in 2014, the British haven't had a look-in in over 10 years.

There are other versions at Naas in March, Downpatrick the same month, and Limerick in the autumn, the latter of which always throws up a good horse. Tiger Roll won this in 2016, and my own horse Shan Pallas in 2014. 

In Ireland, you'll find other long distance chases masquerading under the National title at Killarney, Ballinrobe, Roscommon, Kilbeggan and Listowel, whilst UK versions I haven't mentioned take place at Market Rasen and Fakenham.

Australia

The Grand National Steeplechase at Ballarat is, I'm afraid, a poor relation to the Aintree version, although well endowed in its own right. At $AUS 250,000, it's a valuable prize that attracts the best chasers in Australia, but the fences are not much larger than small Point-to-Point fences, and more emphasis is placed on speed. This year's race saw the toppling of previous winner Ablaze by Bee Tee Junior, trained by Rachel Cunningham. 

USA

America's Grand National is held at Far Hills, New Jersey each autumn, and European trainers have cottoned on to it these past two years. It doesn't share much in common with Aintree, although Battleship did win both in 1938 for the late Bruce Hobbs. 

Run over 2 3/4m, Gordon Elliott scooped the race in 2018 with Jury Duty, whilst Brain Power (pictured below) held off the same horse last year for Nicky Henderson. It's a race where British and Irish riders like to ride as it doesn't take them away from much over here; the past 5 runnings have been won by jockeys from Britain or Ireland. 

Brain Power picks up an American National

Next Event

When?

Sunday February 13th Vine & Craven - CANCELLED

Sunday April 10th Tedworth First Race 1.15pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where?

Barbury, 3m N of Marlborough, off A346, Jn 15 M4

 

Latest News

Why the National dominates the Jump racing mindset

14-September-2020
14-September-2020 12:23
in General
by Peter McNeile

Irrespective of where you sit in the racing pyramid of excellence, there's no-one in our sport that doesn't dream of winning the Grand National. It's the race we all grew up watching, astride the armchair, riding a finish like Ron Barry, Jonjo O'Neill, AP McCoy, Dickie Johnson or Jack Tudor, depending on your age. 

The Grand National is the one race each year across the UK and Ireland that guarantees its rider national recognition. 

Grand National - every racing fan's dream

And the Grand National ranks as the most wagered race in the UK calendar by some distance, dwarfing the Cheltenham Festival and Derby despite their now global appeal. It's a race where the housekeeping piggybank can be raided by any member of the household. Housewives as well as racing aficionados can get Grand National Free bets ahead of next Spring to bet on the horses they believe will win. 

But like every great event, the Grand National has spawned a fair few lookalikes. Here's just a sample:

The Grand Leicestershire Steeplechase

Little is known of this event held in Quorn country in 1829, other than the winner, Magic, was owned by a Sir Harry Goodricke. The race has spawned numerous prints which you're most likely to find foxed and dog-eared in the studies and libraries of British country houses! Actually, the race is a precursor to the National, which wasn’t invented until 1839.

The English National Steeplechase

Steeplechasing's growth in the Victorian era stimulated the inauguration of very many of our best-loved races as promoters and land owners competed to stage the latest grandly titled steeplechase. Thomas Coleman of St Albans was one such. As licensee of the Turf Hotel in St Albans, he could see the financial gain to be had from staging a race which would draw folk to the area. The initial English National Steeplechase of March 8 1830 preceded the Liverpool version by nine years and ran from Harlington in Bedfordshire to Wrest Park, a distance of 4 miles completed in 16m 25s! 

The race didn't survive, but Coleman was also behind the St Albans Steepelchase in March 1832, which was the true pre-cursor of the Grand National. Coleman's friend and arch rival was William Lynn, originator of the Liverpool race. 

Sussex Nationals

Plumpton doesn't bear great comparison to Aintree, but it's not ashamed to stage its own version of the world's greatest race. The Sussex National in January is a 0-135 Handicap worth nearly £30,000, and whilst some of its winners have reached ratings as high as 147lbs, it's unlikely that most winners will even make the cut in the real thing. 

The Southern National at Fontwell Park in November bookends the "National year", but like Plumpton, the curious but engaging figure of eight track is unlikely to throw up winners of the big race in March. To all intents and purposes, this £20,000 race is just another long distance race for plodders.

Plumpton's January fixture starts a calendar year of NationalsFontwell's affluent crowd relies on retired folk in wealthy Sussex

North Yorkshire National

Catterick wouldn't be most folks' stopping off point for the big race occasion, although races are always fairly run at this straightforward course. The 3 3/4 mile race is Catterick's most valuable at £26,000, and includes the Denys Smith Trophy, named after the county's late trainer who won the real thing with Red Alligator in 1968. 

Again, it's a race where winners would struglle to make the cut at Aintree, but Sue Smith is one to follow. She won the race in each of four consecutive years from 2016-19 with four different horses, and has sitting tenant rights on the trophy.

A little further north, Sedgefield stages the Durham National in October. The 0-145 chase over 3m 5f has been a target for Worcestershire's Richard Newland pretty regularly. Royale Knight won back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015, whilst Audacious Plan justified 6/4 favouritism in 2017. 

Scottish Nationals

The best known of these is of course the eponymous Scottish National, a £200,000 race in late April that draws a huge field and enormous crowd to Ayr. The marathon race has been won by some top flight horses. Low weights seem to be especially well in the race. Barbury's own Alan King won the race in 2013 with Godsmejudge. 

Less well known is the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh in February, part of a Festival Trials fixture over two days that saw a significant injection of funds at its outset in 2016. Let's hope that momentum is maintained when racing returns to full strength. 

A full house is completed by Kelso's Borders National in December, a very well-endowed 0-140 chase worth £45,000 at its last running. Berwick trainer Sandy Thomson just loves this race. His Neptune Equester and Harry the Viking have secured the race in no less than four consecutive years before Rose Dobbin seized it back earlier this year.  

West Country Nationals

Exeter amongst the professional courses stages its own version in February, a 0-135 handicap and West Country trainers have keept a strong hold on the race in the past 10 years, with Jeremy Scott, Colin Tizzard and Polly Gundry each scoring, the latter twice with Dawson City. 

Badbury Rings runs the Wessex National, a Men's Open the same month, which is one of Wessex's two feature events in the Point-to-Point calendar, which spans 22 fixtures. 

Badbury Rings is Dorset's leading course

Welsh Nationals

The eponymous Welsh National at Chepstow is one of the marquee events of the season, and a major Christmas highlight. It's a race where the growing number of Welsh trainers have largely repulsed the English invaders in the past few years, most recently with Christian Williams' Potters Corner in 2019. 

Trainers from west of the River Severn have achieved consistent success in the last decade. Richard Lee, then daughter Kerry, with Le Beau Bai and Mountainous (2013, 2016). Even Venetia Williams and Michael Scudamore might be offered honorary Welsh nationhood bearing in mind their proximity to the border from their bases in Herefordshire. 

Potters Corner make a Welsh National special in 2019

And of course, success is not limited to Welsh trainers. Sean Bowen, and most recently Pointing's own Jack Tudor (pictured above) have put their Welsh mark on the race.

There is another National at the other end of Wales too. Ffos Las stages its own version in April. 

London National

It would be unfair to omit Sandown Park's London National, for no better reason than that it is a valauble contest in support of ther much shorter Tingle Creek in December. It was the scene for a void race fiasco last December, but has yet to flush out an Aintree winner, coinciding with the Becher Chase the following day at Aintree as a closer trial. It wouldn't be short on quality even so. 

Midlands Grand National

Uttoxeter's marquee event concludes a jam-packed Festival week, and still succeeds in luring plenty of quality stayers away from the Festival's handicaps. This dour slog in the mud appeals to out and out stayers - Potters Corner won this the season before his Welsh triumph. And whilst many of these will find their way to Aintree, most are tapped for toe there in very different under foot conditions. With prize money of £150,000, it cannot be ignored however. 

A huge crowd enjoys the Midlands Grand National

Ireland

The mother of Irish Nationals is at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, and almost always the sole domain of the Irish. Apart from Shutthefrontdoor for Jonjo O'Neill in 2014, the British haven't had a look-in in over 10 years.

There are other versions at Naas in March, Downpatrick the same month, and Limerick in the autumn, the latter of which always throws up a good horse. Tiger Roll won this in 2016, and my own horse Shan Pallas in 2014. 

In Ireland, you'll find other long distance chases masquerading under the National title at Killarney, Ballinrobe, Roscommon, Kilbeggan and Listowel, whilst UK versions I haven't mentioned take place at Market Rasen and Fakenham.

Australia

The Grand National Steeplechase at Ballarat is, I'm afraid, a poor relation to the Aintree version, although well endowed in its own right. At $AUS 250,000, it's a valuable prize that attracts the best chasers in Australia, but the fences are not much larger than small Point-to-Point fences, and more emphasis is placed on speed. This year's race saw the toppling of previous winner Ablaze by Bee Tee Junior, trained by Rachel Cunningham. 

USA

America's Grand National is held at Far Hills, New Jersey each autumn, and European trainers have cottoned on to it these past two years. It doesn't share much in common with Aintree, although Battleship did win both in 1938 for the late Bruce Hobbs. 

Run over 2 3/4m, Gordon Elliott scooped the race in 2018 with Jury Duty, whilst Brain Power (pictured below) held off the same horse last year for Nicky Henderson. It's a race where British and Irish riders like to ride as it doesn't take them away from much over here; the past 5 runnings have been won by jockeys from Britain or Ireland. 

Brain Power picks up an American National

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