The Grand National begins
Buckle up – the Grand National, one of the biggest sporting events in the UK, is about to start!
Every year an estimated £1.5m ($2m) in bets is splashed out on the horses that are favorite to win the famous steeplechase (hurdles). The race starts at 5.15pm BST on Saturday.
More than 150,000 people will be attending the event over three days and it is expected that more than 600m people will tune in to the big race live on TV around the world. The event is held annually at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, and will start tomorrow.
Van raiders already in action
The biggest story surrounding the race is that security has been increased at Aintree after vandals gained access and damaged the track last Saturday morning. It was reported that a car drove through the security gates at 6.45am, leaving tire marks in the turf and damaging the railings on part of the track.
New measures have been put in place to ensure that there is no repeat before the main race on Saturday.
An Aintree spokesperson said: “We’re very disappointed this occurred in the build-up. This is now a police matter, so there’s not much we can say on the specifics of what occurred, but some superficial damage was done to a small area of the course. Security has been stepped up prior to the festival. Our ground staff team will rectify this and it will have no impact on the meeting.”
The Merseyside police are yet to make any arrests but are appealing for more information.
Drones and beefed-up security
Several security alerts were issued across the UK in the last year, so it’s not surprising that chiefs at the racecourse have decided there is a need for new security measures. Merseyside police have revealed that racegoers will now see armed police patrols around the grandstands and an increase in anti-terror security. That includes drones, metal detectors, body searches, and bags and badge checks.
Any cars entering the racecourse in Merseyside will be stopped while security teams search engine bonnets, boots, foot wells, and the undersides of the vehicles.
A spokesman for Aintree Racecourse as said, “As well as the police, we’re working with a special drone surveillance team that will operate across the meeting with the aim to ensure there’s no disruption.”
The use of drones has made headlines in recent months amid reports that they are being used to film races. This comes from the ability to relay film to in-running punters, who can then use them to gain a significant advantage over those using delayed pictures in their own homes.
Racegoers can expect high visibility policing across the three days of the event.
Boozy antics banned
You might remember headlines highlighting the antics of drunken punters last year. For the first time, officials have announced zero tolerance for drunken antics. They will arrest any racegoers found to be in drink and causing a disturbance.
Merseyside police stressed that “alcohol-related disorder will not be tolerated either on the course or in the surrounding area.” A spokesperson added: “Local pubs and off-licenses will also be monitored to ensure people who are already drunk are not being served more alcohol.”
The strict new rule will be very much welcomed by families who say that shocking drunken behavior can spoil the event. People will be limited to purchasing only four alcoholic drinks at one time.
John Baker, managing director of Aintree Racecourse, said: “The Grand National is an opportunity to enjoy the best of jump racing in a unique atmosphere, we wish for everyone to have an excellent customer experience and as part of this we are continuing to be proactive with our policies towards responsible drinking.”
Tiger Roll could take all again
There is talk that 2018 winner Tiger Roll could make history and win the 2019 Grand National for the second year in a row. Tiger is a nine-year-old horse whose stature is small compared to his competition, but he has a great race history and claimed his fourth Cheltenham Festival prize over the course of six years.
Jockey Davy Russell is again riding Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House stud. If successful, Tiger Roll would become the first horse since Aintree legend Red Rum to win in two consecutive years.
“Mr. Grand National”
You might have heard the name Trevor Hemmings. He’s a self-made, multi-millionaire businessman nicknamed “Mr. Grand National.” His horses have won three Grand Nationals – Hedgehunter in 2005, Ballabriggs in 2011, and Many Clouds in 2015.
Hemmings has three entries in the 2019 Grand National:
- Lake View Lad, with trainer Nick Alexander
- Vintage Clouds, with trainer Sue Smith, who has already won a Grand National
- Warriors Tale, with trainer Paul Nicholls
Two of Hemmings’ horses are grey and nine years old – historically, the best age to win. Lake View Lad looks to be the most likely.
21st time lucky…
If you prefer a sob story, jockey Richard Johnson might be your man after 20 attempts at winning the Grand National. The three-time champion jockey has twice finished in second place – on What’s Up Boys, behind Bindaree in 2002, and Balthazar King, when Pineau De Re won in 2014. This time he will be riding “Rock the Kasbah,” one of the leading contenders.