Risky Racing at the Grand National

The Grand National is arguably one of Britain’s most magnificent sporting events, which is held annually at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool.  The air of excitement is contagious even if you’re only watching the race on television–the horses exude such grandeur and beauty. You simply never know what will happen on the course, which adds to the excitement. The favourite does not always win and sometimes you’ll end up with a surprise winner at odds of 100/1.

The 1967 Grand National saw one of the race’s most remarkable incidents when most of the field were hampered or dismounted in a mêlée, allowing the then undistinguished outsider Foinavon to triumph.  Perhaps it’s not the most glamourous victory, but at the end of the day, a win is a win.

Stephen Moss is spot on in saying, “The Grand National is irrational, unpredictable, emotional, vivid, dangerous. It probably should not exist, yet it has enriched our imaginations”. It certainly gets your blood pumping and your heart racing.  Each year my matey N gets me to choose my own favourite to win. I usually go with the best name and this year I picked Junior, who if I’m not mistaken, fell at the second fence. I have never been known to pick winners so it’s good that you don’t follow my betting advice if you’re in it to win.

Sadly, as with any sport, there is a certain amount of risk involved and in this case it is equally risky for both jockeys and race horses. This year, following the deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete, the question everyone is asking is if the race should be allowed to continue. I must admit I’m torn on this one.  It’s not like race officials haven’t tinkered with the course to try and make it safer and it’s not like the horses are mistreated in their daily lives.

To ban the races would be like banning people from running marathons. The risk of death is not low in these long runs and it seems that there is always someone that dies or is hospitalised after a race. That said, I think we’re in agreement that it’s not that simple. Race authorities are in a difficult position–they’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. In the end perhaps it doesn’t make much sense to try to rationalise the race.

I was looking forward to experiencing the magnificence of the National in the flesh one day with hubby and N, so for selfish reasons I hope the race will continue.