The Grand National may be staged annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, but the race is enjoyed throughout the country, including here in East Riding. There is a connection in the county that dates back 183 years.
The first-ever official winner of the race was from East Riding. Lottery prevailed in the marathon contest in 1839 for trainer George Dockeray. He went off as the 5/1 favourite and he scored with a winning time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.
Lottery was bred by Peter Jackson in Long Riston. He was then sold at the 1836 Horncastle Fair. Three years later, he made history by winning a race that would go on to become the most famous steeplechase in the world.
The latest generation of leading steeplechasers will be looking to follow in Lottery’s footsteps this year, including Galvin. The Irish horse has odds for Cheltenham Festival of 10/3 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. After the Blue Riband of the sport, he will then attempt to complete an impressive double at Aintree.
There are many comparisons to be made with Galvin and Lottery. The former will have to carry one of the highest weight allocations in the Grand National this year, just like the 1839 winner did. Gordon Elliott’s runner has achieved success at Grade One level, so there is no doubt about his class.
Aintree Race continues to be ultimate test of a chaser
Although many horse racing pundits argue the Grand National is a much different race today to the one that Lottery won in 1839, it continues to be a tough challenge. The distance of four miles, two and a half furlongs still makes it a marathon contest. On average, more than half the field fail to finish the race each year.
When Lottery came out on top 183 years ago, he jumped a stone wall, hurdles, ditches and all this came on a ploughed field. The fences today remain much higher than in other steeplechases, however, they have been modified for safety.
All 40 runners that line up in a race are given an allocation by the official handicapper, which in theory, gives them an equal chance of success. This is based on their official rating. When Lottery won the race in the 19th century, he had just 16 other rivals to beat.
This year’s Grand National has a purse of £1 million in prize money. It means the contest is the most lucrative National Hunt race staged anywhere in the world.
Racing continues to be popular in East Riding
Although there are no National Hunt courses in East Riding that stage fixtures under Rules, Beverley Racecourse is one of the country’s leading Flat venues.
Meetings at Beverley are well-attended, particularly through the summer months. Racing has taken place at the current site for over 300 years. The racecourse had its first-ever grandstand all the way back in 1767.
Hopefully, one day we see another Grand National winner with connections to East Riding. Given what Lottery achieved in the first running of the steeplechase, the Aintree race will always have a strong connection with the county.