Famous Grand National Course Guide
The Grand National Handicap Steeplechase, the world’s most famous horse race, is run at Aintree over a distance of 3m 3f 110yds and 30 fences. The course is almost two and a quarter miles in circumference with 16 fences jumped on the first circuit and 14 fences on the second. The Chair (Fence 15) and the Water Jump (Fence 16) are the only two obstacles in the race that are jumped only once and the run in after the 30th and final fence is a gruelling 494 yards.
Fence 1 (17) According to recent research, the 1st fence is the most troublesome in the race claiming victim after victim with alarming regularity. It is only 4ft 6in high, but the fence looms after only 425yds and horses going too fast, in an effort to gain an advantageous position early on, often pay the price. Famous past victims include former winners Gay Trip and Aldaniti when attempting back to back National wins in 1971 and 1982 respectively.
Fence 2 (18) The 2nd fence can catch runners out due to its close proximity to the 1st, despite being another plain fence standing only 4ft 7in tall. It is known within racing circles as the Fan Fence, in memory of the popular Victorian race mare named Fan who caused mayhem there in 1868 when she persistently refused to jump it.
Fence 3 (19) After two straightforward plain fences, inexperienced runners and riders are taken by complete surprise when they reach the 3rd obstacle, the first of the big open ditches. At 5ft high, the fence is considerably taller than the first two and is preceded by a monstrous abyss stretching 6ft across. The ground slopes considerably on the landing side and this can often proves troublesome when horses reach the other side.
Fence 4 (20) Following the perils of the first big open ditch, runners are once again faced with a standard plain fence measuring 4ft 10in high which seldom causes trouble to either horse or rider. It used to measure 5ft in height but was lowered by 2in when new safety measures were recently implemented.
Fence 5 (21) The 5th is another plain fence standing 5ft tall and can often give inexperienced horses a false sense of security on the approach to the 6th, the renowned Bechers Brook.
Fence 6 (22) Bechers Brook, the most famous of all the National fences, is the 6th in the race and is named in memory of Captain Martin Becher who was twice deposited into the ditch by his mount Conrad during the 1839 race. Standing at 4ft 10in tall, the fence looks quite unassuming until runners reach the other side and are met with a 5ft 6in brook with a steep 10in drop on the inside and 6in drop on the outside upon landing. The brook has since been covered following recent modifications to make the course safer and the fence is not quite as formidable as it once was, although it still claims many unsuspecting victims.
Fence 7 (23) The 7th fence, standing only 4ft 6in, was a truly unspectacular obstacle until 1967 when a massive pile up occurred on the second circuit bringing most of the field to a complete standstill. Rank outsider Foinavon, well behind at the time, managed to escape the melee and threaded his way through the stricken field to record a shock National win at 100/1 and ever since then the obstacle has been known as the Foinavon Fence.
Fence 8 (24) The Canal Turn, the 8th fence, is quite formidable at 5ft high, but it’s the 90 degree turn on landing which causes problems and ultimate casualties as horses try desperately to negotiate the sharp bend without crashing into each other. It’s one of the most hazardous obstacles in the race and has caused much mayhem throughout National history, particularly in 1928 when a massive pile up occurred bringing almost the entire field to a complete standstill. Tipperary Tim and Billy Barton were the only two horses to avoid the melee and actually finish the race.
Fence 9 (25) The 9th fence, Valentines Brook, with a 5ft 6in brook and severe drop on the landing side, is very similar to Bechers Brook, yet over the years it has proved much less perilous than it’s illustrious predecessor despite the fact that the actual fence is 2in higher at 5ft tall. It is named in honour of Valentine, the great Irish chaser, who finished 3rd behind Jerry in 1840.
Fence 10 (26) The 10th fence, situated opposite the Sefton Stand, is a straightforward obstacle and seldom causes much problems, despite standing 5ft tall.
Fence 11 (27) The 11th is known as The Booth and is a monster of a fence. It’s the fourth obstacle in a row measuring 5ft high and is preceded by a yawning open ditch which stretches 6ft across.
Fence 12 (28) The 12th fence, commonly known as Westhead in racing circles, is yet another 5ft tall obstacle where runners are greeted with a monstrous ditch, spanning 5ft 6in wide, on the landing side. It’s the 28th fence on the second circuit and survivors face a stamina sapping run of almost half a mile before reaching the 29th, the penultimate fence.
Fence 13 (29) The 13th, standing 4ft 7in high, is as unassuming a fence as one can find on the National course and seldom creates havoc to any of the field.
Fence 14 (30) The 14th fence, standing 4ft 6in tall, is arguably the easiest obstacle to be found on the National course. However, on the second circuit it’s the 30th and final fence of the gruelling race and can prove difficult if horse or rider show any signs of fatigue. Once jumped, runners are then faced with an energy sapping run of 495yds on the Flat in an effort to claim National glory.
Fence 15 The Chair, the 15th fence, stands 5ft 2in high and is the biggest and most difficult of all the National obstacles. The approach is very narrow and the fence is preceded by a monstrous ditch spanning 6ft across. The landing side is elevated causing further difficulty and confusion to the unsuspecting horse and rider and it is one of only two fences in the race which are negotiated only once. It is known as The Chair because a judge used to sit adjacent to the fence in Victorian days to calculate the winning distances.
Fence 16 The 16th fence, the Water Jump, is the only other obstacle in the race which is negotiated only once. It is situated directly opposite the main stand and provides a magnificent spectacle as runners make their way out on the final circuit. It is the smallest fence in the race, standing a mere 2ft 6in high, but is followed by an enormous stretch of water spanning 12ft 6in on the landing side.