The Last Samuri
“Watching the 40 strong field spread across the famous Aintree track galloping towards the first fence in the National is one of the most iconic images in horse racing and arguably in British sport. Like last year the winner was given a virtuoso ride and actually won with quite a bit in hand in the end. Here are my five talking points from this year’s Grand National.” JJ
4. All 40 Horses Came Back Safe
By far the most important thing to come out of this Grand National was, along with the very low number of fallers, there were absolutely no casualties. The future of the race was put in jeopardy back in 2012 after when According to Pete had to be euthanized after coming down at Becher’s Brook and that year’s Gold Cup winner Synchronised suffered a similar fate. But since 2012 after major safety changes were implemented there have been no deaths.
3. Viewing Figures for ITV’s First National Showing Lower Than Any Channel 4 Broadcast
The audience level peaked at 8.2 million - lower than any of the four showings by Channel 4 - but as always there is more than meets the eye with these statistics. Although the peak viewing figure was relatively low the audience share of 62% is a modern record for the race. I always take these viewing figure horror stories with a pinch of salt because they barely ever take into account the steady decline in television viewing figures in general. With racing widely available for viewing from many big bookmaker’s web pages so long as a small stake is running on the race, it’s obvious the knock on effect from this is going to be less people watching racing on television. Also it was absolutely boiling so Britain being Britain - everyone was at the pub.
2. Staying Is The Name Of The Game, Now more Than Ever
In the past the first lap of the National was run at a sedate pace before the men were separated form the boys in the final circuit. There was much more of an emphasis on just getting over the much more difficult fences, so the speed they came into these beasts was generally slower. But now they go absolutely hell for leather from the very first stride. They attack that first fence like the first hurdle in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and those who can, attempt to keep that up for the entire race! Inevitably the majority of the field can’t keep this up which is why we see nearly the whole field walking over the line. Overall I think the only horses that actually properly stayed the trip were the first three, One For Arthur, Cause Of Causes and Saint Are. Likelihood to stay has become far more important that ability to jump in my opinion.
1. Derek Fox and One For Arthur
At around 5.30 PM on Saturday One For Arthur became only the second Scottish trained horse to win a Grand National. He was given an exceptionally gutsy ride from Derek Fox who was coming back from a long injury lay-off before taking the ride. To sit in behind in the National is not only ludicrously brave but it also makes it incredibly hard to complete, with the likelihood of traffic problems of course increasing greatly. However Derek Fox had the cool to understand they were going to quick out front and holding back would be the only way he could win on his mount. It could be argued that Blaklion was a more significant take out as he was on the front end and was travelling sweetly until the final fence. But in the end One For Arthur actually won quite easily, so who’s to say he couldn’t do it again?
Of my Grand National tips Saint Are fared best placing third after being tipped last month at 50/1! Of the whole Aintree Festival my Aintree tips ended up a little down after a poor day one!