The history of the Grand National can be traced back to the early 1800s, when the first official races were organised at Aintree.
In February 1839, Lottery became the first winner of the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, the race that would become known as the Grand National. Horses had to jump a stone wall, cross a stretch of ploughed land and finish over two hurdles.
Mr Edward William Topham, a respected handicapper, was responsible for turning the Grand National into a handicap in 1843 after it had been a weight-for-age race for the first four years. The Topham family owned substantial tracts of land around Aintree and in 1949 they bought the course outright from Lord Sefton, from whom the land had previously been leased since the racecourse’s opening in 1829.
Throughout the year many dreams were shuttered and legends created. It was over 40 years ago now that Red Rum recorded the first of the three victories in the Grand National that earned him pride of place in the record books forever. He still remains the only horse to have won the Grand National three times and, as that statistic suggests, the great horse was a phenomenon.
The current course, which stages races over conventional fences and hurdles, opened in 1839. A difficult period for Aintree in the post-war years led to a sale to a property developer and concerns about the future of the Grand National. Bookmaker Ladbrokes stepped in to manage the Grand National until 1984, when Seagram Distillers became sponsors.
They provided the solid foundation on which Aintree’s revival was built. Today Aintree is owned and managed by Jockey Club Racecourses, one of 14 operated by The Jockey Club subsidiary.
The 2014 Grand National boasted a seven-figure prize fund for the first time, which was replicated in 2015 and 2016.
The Grand National is completely unscripted and totally captivating, steeped in a history of unpredictable winners and fabulous stories. The next chapter is ready to be written.