The Grand National That Never Was
Whatever broadcasters and the press may say, there really are very few sporting events that capture the British imagination year after year. But The Grand National at Aintree combines all the elements required to make it truly special: there is danger (sadly occasionally fatal danger for some of the horses); endurance over the 4.5 mile course; tradition as it dates back to 1839, or arguably 1836 though under other names; the colour of the silks; the skill of both horse and rider; big excited crowds; and gambling.
No wonder that in workplaces around the land we run sweepstakes; that grannies scan the racing pages for a nice name or a family connection before getting someone to nip down the bookies for them. And no wonder that we all felt somehow cheated by the 1993 event, a fiasco of false starts and failed communication that ended in the first void Grand National ever. Extenuating circumstances included problems with demonstrators and wet weather. But a race watched by 300 million people worldwide and with tens of millions of pounds staked on it deserved a better recall system than one man with a little flag alerted by another man with a little flag.
For the record the horses that set off on the last (again false-started) attempt to get the race underway were headed home by Esha Ness, ridden by John White and trained by Jenny Pitman. At 50-1 it was a long-shot; but it would have been a worthy winner, setting the second fastest time in history in less than perfect conditions.
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