The Grand National - "How It All Began"


The Grand National - "How It All Began"

A Mr Lynn had been licensee of the grandstand of the defunct Maghull racecourse. He owned the Waterloo Hotel in the Liverpool suburb of Aintree. In July 1829 he opened a flat racing course. In 1836, in accordance with the spirit of the times, he inaugurated the "Grand Liverpool Steeplechase", a sweepstake, gentlemen riders at 12 stone, 20 fences in each of two circuits, and two flights of hurdles in the straight. Captain Becher won on the The Duke. In 1837 the City of Liverpool gave 100 added money. The Duke won again, but Becher was ill and another jockey rode.

Mr Lynn lacked either luck or skill. He wrote to the artist Ferneley in 1838 that the venture had lost him all his money. A syndicate then took over Aintree racing, with a distinguished Race Committee including Lord George Bentinck and Lords Eglinton, Derby, Sefton and Wilton. The first race under the new dispensation was on 26 February 1839, four miles and 29 jumps. There were 53 entries, wide public interest, and heavy ante-post betting at the Talbot Hotel. 17 started. Becher on Conrad, fell into a brook on the first circuit, remounted and carried on, fell into it again on the second circuit, and this time stayed there while the field jumped over him. Emore's Lottery won, ridden as always by Jem Mason.

The race is regarded, illogically, but invariably as the first Grand National. It was still called the Grand Liverpool. It became the Liverpool and National in 1843 and in 1847 it was called The Grand National.

Part of the course was plough-land. The obstacles were both natural and artificial. The two brooks were widened. In 1840 a stone wall was added for the benefit of the Irish and an oxer for the Leicestershire men.

From these humble beginnings it has become the most exciting and prestigious horse race in the world.