The Grand National: the Greatest Horse Race?

I don’t see the Grand National that way; in fact I usually don’t see it all, as it makes me so nervous. Nowadays I would prefer any number of flat races, but as a child I knew what the race was alright: a black and white horse racing bonanza that Red Rum nearly always won. As a child in the 1970s, I knew, because I saw them, that Red Rum was the greatest racehorse, Muhammed Ali was the greatest boxer and Nottingham Forest were the greatest football team. End of the matter. And even with various horses and boxers winning in glorious technicolour since, I have not changed my mind about the first two sporting legends.

Red Rum was the last horse to win back-to-back Nationals (his second in 1974) so with that being nearly 40 years ago you could say with statistics on your side that Don’t Push It has a mountain to climb in defence of his crown this afternoon. On the other hand you could say that the statistics could be offset by the power of the man in saddle: the McCoy factor.

I won’t be saying any of those things. I will be backing State of Play in the National for the third time in this race. This year he races off 10 stone 6 pounds (his lightest weight ever in the race) and he goes to Aintree with no prep run at all. In fact, if anything, his prep run was last year’s 3rd place in the Grand National. I don’t know if this will make any difference, but his trainer, Evan Williams, seems happy enough with the horse and he has a fair enough chance.

Fingers crossed for all the runners and riders at 4.15 this afternoon: they are all a lot braver than me.

From Ginger McCain’s My Colourful Life.

Around the time the time we acquired Red Rum, I was struck by the fact that world champion boxer Sugar Ray Robinson had taken his own hairdresser with him wherever he went. I thought, well, if Sugar Ray had a personal hairdresser, Red Rum can have his own blacksmith. So, when Red Rum went racing, Bob went with him…

…From the moment we first saw that Red Rum had his problems, Bob took care of him. No other person ever shod him. He wouldn’t let anyone else touch his feet. Neither would I.

Posted on April 9, 2011, in Horse racing, Jump racing, Sport, Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Ah, Red Rum. What a lovely horse. I’ve been meaning to comment on all the recent philosophical musings and I will when I get a moment. I thought if you didn’t revert from philosophy to horse racing on today of all days you’d have to change the name of the blog.

  2. Haha – thank goodness I’ve saved myself. I did think of trying to find a Freudian selection for the race, but that would just be silly…

    I don’t know why I go off down these roads I do; yesterday’s post was a real off the wall number. I suppose the blog sometimes serves as a dumping ground for my thoughts!

    Good luck in picking a winner x

  3. Good luck for the day. I have to say I’m a typical grand national better, who only flutters annually. However I do love the race it must be said.
    Good luck

  4. Good luck to you too. I am wondering if I have seen a sign for Calgary Bay now.

    By the off I have usually backed at least 5 horses…

  5. It’s an interesting question. How does something or somebody become the greatest? For me personally it’s something that trascends the person, sport or event itself so it could be argued that The Grand National is the greatest horse race in the world, Red Rum the greatest horse, much like Muhammed Ali was the greatest sportsman of the last century in that he was not ‘just’ a boxer.

    Red Rum was put forward in a programme last night as the horse that saved the National. You may remember it was in grave danger of disappearing.

    Some peoples only interest in horse racing is the National and even then it’s only a way of being involved through sweepstakes in workplaces throughout the country.

    There is the downside of course. I don’t know if anyone else feels the same but when ‘your’ horse dies, it’s unbelievably gut wrenching and you feel a sense of contributing to it’s death. Paul Simon’s ‘The Boxer’ always springs to mind in such circumstances. 😦

    From an athletic point of view, Diva, who is considered the best athlete in the horsey world. One who can sprint for 5f – 1 1/2 miles or one who goes over 4 miles jumping obstacles?

  6. I do know how that feels, let’s hope no-one feels that way today. I read Ginger McCain’s autobiog and he asserted the same thing about the race being on its knees before Red Rum captured the public’s imagination. Not the first year round though, I think many people felt sorry for the weight-lugging Crisp.

    Re the athletic question it’s probably a question of preference for spectacle. For me though I would say that jumping is a technical ability horses are trained by humans to do, and as such interferes with the natural athleticism of the horse. So that sort of rules out jump racing for me. And then the next question is: do you rate raw speed over endurance? I like a blend of the two, so my favourite races are the Classics over a mile to a mile and half, where the horses can display both qualities.

    But I suppose, what it boils down to in terms of ‘the greatest’ is the ability to win lots of races and it’s hard not to be impressed by the latest super sprinting filly from Australia who completed her 12th win out of 12 at 5.20 this morning. Now if she tips up to Royal Ascot in the Golden Jubilee stakes in June I would be pretty keen to see her.

  7. I am dithering between but What a Friend, State of Play and That’s Rhythm. But will definitely have a little sentimental each way on Jimmy and Wide Receiver in the 5.20 at Chepstow – that’s the easy one.

  8. The Grand National isn’t quite the same to an addicted punter as it was to a naive child. I loved it then and backed Sunny Bay every year

  9. ‘Best horse never to win a National’

    Until State of Play 😉

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