The History of the Grand National

Good Morning!

Happy Grand National Day! Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. With the Grand National just hours away, today’s post is all about the history of the Grand National. Here, I go through the history of the race as well as some key facts and figures I have found. At the very end of this post you can also find some winning trends, maybe this will help you choose a winner today!

Before we get into it, as some of you may or may not know, I am an official partner blogger with Careers in Racing and this week I got to sit down and speak with Clerk of the Course at Aintree Sulekha Varma on their behalf. We discussed how she is the first female Clerk of the Course to take charge of the Grand National, how different this years Festival has been, protocols in place, what happens to the fences after the Grand National plus much more. You can read the interview right here:

Part One: https://www.careersinracing.com/sulekha-varma-talks-aintree-with-zoe-smith/

Part Two: https://www.careersinracing.com/i-think-its-a-buzz-and-theres-a-real-shot-of-adrenaline-throughout-the-whole-experience/

So with that being said, I hope you all enjoy this one and hopefully you all learn something new about the big race! So without further ado, let’s just get right into it!


The Grand National is a National Hunt Race which is ran left handed over 4 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs (4 miles and 514 yards) over 30 fences (16 separate fences jumped multiple times) at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. It is for 7 year olds and over which are rated 120 or more by the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) and have been previously placed in a recognised chase of 3 miles or more.

It was first ran in 1839 on the 26th of February and is the most valuable jump race in Europe. It is widely believed that the first running took place in 1836, however the 1836, 1837 and 1838 races were all disregarded as it is believed that they took place at Maghull and not at Aintree. The 1839 Grand National – which is believed to have been the ‘real’ first Grand National – was won by Lottery who was rode by Jem Mason. Interestingly, it was not until 1843 that the Grand National was made into a handicap, by Edward Topham who was a respected handicapper at the time and held a great influence over the National, for the first 4 years it had been a ‘weight for age’ race.

During the First World War, from 1916 to 1918, Aintree Racecourse was taken over by the war office so an alternative race took place at Gatwick Racecourse – which is now land that is occupied by Gatwick Airport. In 1916 the race was called the Racecourse Association Steeplechase, in 1917 and 1918 the race was called the War National Steeplechase. However, these three races are not classed as ‘Grand Nationals’ and the results of these three races often get left out of the winners list.

During the Second World War, from 1941 to 1945, no Grand National was run as Aintree Racecourse was used by the armed forces for defence use. So the Grand National did not return until 1946 where it was ran on a Friday. However it was only in 1947 that it was moved to a Saturday as the Home Secretary James Chuter Ede thought it would be better for a wider audience of working people, from then on, it has been ran on a Saturday each year.


Moving on to some key winners of the Grand National. The first ever winner, as mentioned above, was in 1839 and it was a horse called Lottery for jockey Jem Mason, trainer George Dockeray and owner John Elmore. He was the 5/1 favourite and carried 12 stone where he won in a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

The first horse to win multiple Grand National’s came in 1850 and 1851 when Abd-El-Kader won in 2 consecutive Grand Nationals. In 1850, he won carrying 9 stone 12 pounds for jockey Chris Green, trainer and owner Joseph Osborne in a time of 9 minutes 57.5 seconds. He then won again, in 1851, this time for jockey Tom Abbott carrying 10 stone and 4 pounds.

We then move forward to 1868 where The Lamb won the race at 9/1 for jockey George Ede, trainer Ben Land and owner Lord Poulett carrying 10 stone 7 pounds, he then retained his title in 1871 where he won for jockey Tommy Pickernell and trainer Chris Green for the same owner Lord Poulett, this time at 7/2 carrying 11 stone 5 pounds. In the 2 years during his two wins, they were both won by a horse called The Colonel, in 1869 he won carrying 10 stone 7 pounds at 100/7, then he won again in 1870 carrying 11 stone 12 pounds this time as the 7/2 favourite. Both times for jockey George Stevens and trainer R. Roberts.

In 1908, the race was won by Rubio who I wrote a post about earlier this year, you can read this right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/03/rubio-the-retired-grand-national-winner/

In 1928, the record for the fewest finishers in a Grand National was set, you can read all about that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/27/1928-the-record-breaking-grand-national/

I am now going to jump forward a little bit to the 1950’s. Here, trainer Vincent O’Brien won 3 consecutive Grand National’s with 3 different horses. In 1953, he won with Early Mist who was carrying 11 stone 2 pounds, being rode by Bryan Marshall at 20/1 for owner Joe Griffin. In 1954, he won with Royal Tan who carried 11 stone 7 pounds again rode by Bryan Marshall at 8/1, again for owner Joe Griffin. In 1955, he won with Quare Times who carried 11 stone with Pat Taaffe riding at 100/9 for owner Cecily Welman.

The next noticeable winner is Foinavon who won at 100/1 in 1967, this is such a noticeable win as you may recognise the name as a fence in the Grand National is named after this horse. In 1967, the rest of the field fell, refused, were hampered or brought down at the 23rd fence, which led 100/1 shot Foinavon to winning the race. So in 1984, that exact fence was named after Foinavon.

We then move into the 1970’s, which were totally dominated by the incredible Red Rum. My midweek post just gone was all about Red Rum and his career so if you haven’t already, then do go and check that out! Red Rum won the race in 1973, 1974 and again in 1977 all for trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain and owner Noel Le Mare. In 1973, he was rode by Brian Fletcher as the 9/1 joint favourite, in 1974, he was again rode by Brian Fletcher at 11/1 and in 1977 he was rode by Tommy Stack at 9/1.

1981, we had Bob Champion win on Aldaniti, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, you can read that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/06/1981-grand-national-bob-champion-the-greatest-comeback/

In 1993, the race was declared void, you can read that whole story right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/06/1993-the-grand-national-that-never-was/

And in 1997 there was a delay in proceedings and the race didn’t take place until the following Monday. The full story plus insights from someone who was in attendance is right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/20/1997-the-postponed-grand-national/

We then move into the new millennium where we have winners such as 16/1 shot Monty’s Pass for Barry Geraghty, Jimmy Mangan and Dee Racing Syndicate in 2003, 7/1 favourite Hedgehunter for Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Trevor Hemmings in 2005 and 100/1 shot Mon Mome for Liam Treadwell, Venetia Williams and Vida Bingham in 2009.

In 2010, we have Don’t Push It who gave 20 time Champion Jockey AP McCoy his first and only Grand National as the 10/1 joint favourite for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner JP McManus.

We then have some big prices come into play, with Neptune Collonges winning at 33/1 for Daryl Jacob, Paul Nicholls and John Hales in 2012 followed by 66/1 winner Auroras Encore in 2013 for Ryan Mania and Sue Smith. In 2014 we have Pineau De Re at 25/1 for Leighton Aspell and Richard Newland followed by another 25/1 shot, Many Clouds again for Leighton Aspell, this time for Oliver Sherwood in the Trevor Hemmings colours. In 2016 we are followed up by Rule The World at 33/1 for David Mullins and Mouse Morris in the famous Gigginstown House Stud.

Now onto the last three runs of the Grand National. In 2017, 14/1 shot One For Arthur won for jockey Derek Fox, trainer Lucinda Russell and owners Deborah Thomson and Belinda McClung. The next two years were both won by Tiger Roll for jockey Davy Russell, trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud. In 2018 carrying 10 stone 13 pounds at 10/1 and in 1029 carrying 11 stone 5 pounds as the 4/1 favourite.

The 2020 renewal of the Grand National was cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic.


Next up, let’s move onto the fences. There are 16 fences on the Grand National course, all 16 are jumped on the first lap and then on the final lap the runners bear to the right onto the run in so they avoid The Chair and the Water jump. Here is a summary of the fences and their heights:

Fence 1 & 17: 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 2 & 18: 4 feet 7 inches (1.40 metres)

Fence 3 & 19: Open Ditch – 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres) with a 6 feet (1.83 metres) ditch

Fence 4 & 20: 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres)

Fence 5 & 21: 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 6 & 22: Becher’s Brook – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with landing side 6 inches (15cm) to 10 inches (25cm) lower than the takeoff side

Fence 7 & 23: Foinavon – 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 8 & 24: Canal Turn – 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 9 & 25: Valentine’s Brook – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 metres) brook

Fence 10 & 26: 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 11 & 27: Open ditch – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 6 feet (1.83 metres) ditch on the take off side

Fence 12 & 28: Ditch – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 5 feet 6 inch (1.68 metres) ditch on the landing side

Fence 13 & 29: 4 feet 7 inches (1.4 metres)

Fence 14 & 30: 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 15: The Chair – 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 metres) preceded by a 6 feet (1.83 metres) wide ditch

Fence 16: Water Jump – 2 feet 6 inches (0.76 metres)


Let’s jump into some records for the Grand National!

Leading Horse:

Red Rum – 1973, 1974 and 1977

Leading Jockey:

George Stevens – 1856 on Freetrader, 1863 on Emblem, 1864 on Emblematic and 1869 an 1870 on The Colonel

Leading Trainers:

George Dockeray – 1839 with Lottery, 1840 with Jerry, 1842 with Gaylad and 1852 with Miss Mowbray

Fred Rimell – 1956 with E.S.B, 1961 with Nicolaus Silver, 1970 with Gay Trip and 1976 with Rag Trade.

Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain – 1973, 1974 and 1977 with Red Rum and 2004 with Amberleigh House

Leading Owners:

James Octavius Machell – 1873 with Disturbance, 1874 with Reugny and 1876 with Regal

Noel Le Mare – 1973, 1974 and 1977 with Red Rum

Trevor Hemmings – 2005 with Hedgehunter, 2011 with Ballabriggs and 2015 with Many Clouds

Gigginstown House Stud – 2016 with Rule The World and 2018 and 2019 with Tiger Roll


The fastest run Grand National was in 1990 when Mr. Frisk won in a time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds. The slowest was the first running of the Grand National in 1839 when Lottery won in a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

The oldest winner was in 1853 when 15 year old Peter Simple won. The youngest horses to win have all been 5 years old and they are Alcibiade in 1865, Regal in 1876, Austerlitz in 1877, Empress in 1880 and Lutteur III in 1909.

The oldest jockey was 48 year old Dick Saunders who won in 1982, the youngest being Bruce Hobbs who won in 1938 when he was just 17 years old.

The biggest priced winners were all 100/1 when they won and we have a few, these are Tipperary Tim in 1928, Gregalach in 1929, Caughoo in 1947, Foinavon in 1967 and Mon Mome in 2009. With the shorted priced winner being 11/4 Poethlyn in 1919.

The biggest Grand National was in 1929 when 66 horses ran, the smallest being in 1883 when only 10 horses ran.

The most horses to finish a Grand National was in 1984 when 23 horses finished, the fewest being in 1928 when only 2 horses finished, you can read all about that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/27/1928-the-record-breaking-grand-national/

The jockey who has had the most rides in the Grand National is Richard Johnson who was had rode 21 times and is still yet to win the race. After his retirement being announced this past weekend, Tom Scudamore who rides the favourite Cloth Cap this afternoon is the jockey who has rode the most times without a victory with 18 rides in the race.

The first female jockey to enter the race was Charlotte Brew in 1977 who rode 200/1 shot Barony Fort.

The first female jockey to complete the race was Geraldine Rees on Cheers in 1982.

The best result for a female jockey was in 2012 when Katie Walsh finished 3rd on the 8/1 joint favourite Seabass.

The female jockey with the most rides in the Grand National is Nina Carberry who rode in her 5th in 2010.

There has been 4 female trainers who have won the race. Jenny Pitman in 1995 with Royal Athlete, Venetia Williams in 2009 with Mon Mome, Sue Smith in 2013 with Auroras Encore and Lucinda Russell in 2017 with One For Arthur.


Onto some other interesting facts to note… In the 70 races of the post war era (not including the 1993 void race) the favourite or joint favourite have only won the race 10 times, these were:

1950: Freebooter at 10/1

1960: Merryman II at 13/2

1973: Red Rum at 9/1 JF

1982: Grittar at 7/1

1996: Rough Quest at 7/1

1998: Earth Summit at 7/1

2005: Hedgehunter at 7/1

2008: Comply or Die at 7/1 JF

2010: Don’t Push It at 10/1 JF

2019: Tiger Roll at 4/1


Only 13 mares have ever won the Grand National and all of these were prior to 1951:

Charity in 1841

Miss Mowbray in 1852

Anatis in 1860

Jealousy in 1861

Emblem in 1863

Emblematic in 1864

Casse Tete in 1872

Empress in 1880

Zoedone in 1883

Frigate in 1889

Shannon Lass in 1902

Sheila’s Cottage in 1948

Nickel Coin in 1951


Only 3 greys have ever won the Grand National and these are:

The Lamb in 1868 and 1871

Nicolaus Silver in 1961

Neptune Collonges in 2012


Now onto international winners. There have been 2 French trained horses who were Huntsman in 1862 an Cortolvin in 1867.

There has only ever been one Welsh trained horse who was Kirkland in 1905 and 2 Scottish trained winners who are Rubstic in 1979 and One For Arthur in 2017.

There has been 16 Irish winners since 1900, which includes 9 since 1999, these are… Ambush II in 1900, Troytown in 1920, Workman in 1939, Caughoo in 1947, Early Mist 1953, Royal Tan in 1954, Quare Times in 1955, L’Escargot in 1975, Bobbyjo in 1999, Papillon in 2000, Monty’s Pass in 2003, Hedgehunter in 2005, Numbersixvalverde in 2006, Silver Birch in 2007, Rule The World in 2016 and Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019.


Now onto some interesting winning trends. I have sat and collated this information myself via the Racing Post website and created the different trends, so I apologise if I have got anything slightly incorrect, but I have tried to verify this information as best as I possibly could but as you can imagine sitting with a pen and paper trying to work this out isn’t the easiest of tasks! These are all based on the last 20 runs since 2000.

4/20 have been 8 years old
6/20 have been 9 years old
5/20 have been 10 years old
4/20 have been 11 years old
1/20 has been 12 years old

2/20 have carried 10-6 or less
17/20 have carried between 10-6 and 11-6
1/20 has carried 11-6 or more

10/20 had their previous run between 20 and 30 days before
5/20 had their previous run between 31 and 40 days before
3/20 had their previous run between 41 and 50 days before
2/20 had their previous run over 51 days before (2017 winner One For Arthur having his previous run 84 days before making him the one with the longest break between his final run before the Grand National)

16/20 had previously ran at Aintree
8/20 had previously ran in the Grand National
20/20 had ran 3+ times in the season leading up to their Grand National win

5/20 won last time out before the Grand National
7/20 finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th last time out before the Grand National
6/20 finished outside of the top 4 last time out before the Grand National
1/20 fell last time out before the Grand National
1/20 pulled up last time out before the Grand National

4/20 were favourite or joint favourite

One thing I also wanted to mention is that the owner of current favourite Cloth Cap, Trevor Hemmings won the Grand National in 2005, 2011 and 2015. The years ending with 5 and 1, so could 2021 be his year again?


So there we have it, I have tried my best to include as much detail as I possibly could into this post with plenty of facts ad figures and some winning trends which may or may not help you choose a Grand National winner today. Who are you backing? Let me know over on my Twitter: zoelouisesmithx.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you all enjoyed this one and I hope you all pick a few winners today, including the Grand National winner. I hope to see you all Wednesday evening at 6pm for my next post!