BBC BLOGS - Sport Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

In the National interest...

Post categories:

Carl Hicks Carl Hicks | 12:35 UK time, Wednesday, 11 April 2007

If there is one sporting event that truly unites the nation annually it is surely the Grand National - the most famous horse race in the world.

While over 600 million will watch the race worldwide, Britain, as usual, will come to a halt at 4.15pm this Saturday as 40 runners charge towards the first fence at the unique Aintree course.

The enduring beauty of this event is its total unpredictability. The only thing you can safely say about Saturday's winning horse and jockey is that there will be a great story behind them - somehow there always is.

In our programme from 1.00pm (BST) on BBC ONE this Saturday, the team led by Sue Barker and Clare Balding will try to tell a number of those tales to help mark your card.

Donald McCain (right) speaks with his father Donald 'Ginger', at his Stables in Cheshire
How appropriate would it be if on the 30th anniversary of Red Rum's record third win in the race his trainer Donald 'Ginger' McCain's son Donald jnr should saddle Idle Talk to win the race? Richard Pitman visited their Cholmondley yard and tried to keep the old man quiet long enough for young Donald to assess his newly acquired horse's chances.

Ginger shares the record of training FOUR Grand National winners with the late Fred Rimell. Although as Ginger will tell you himself, he was lucky enough to train 'that great hoss' while Fred won the race with four different horses with his last winner Rag Trade beating that 'hoss' Red Rum in 1976.

This year Fred's widow Mercy Rimell owns Simon - trained at their famous Kinnersley yard now by John Spearing. Peter Scudamore has been to Worcestershire to hear some great tales from racing's first lady.

After a drought that lasted from 1975 until 1999, the Irish have trained five of the past eight winners of the National and have a really strong hand again this year.

Our Irish correspondent Brian Gleeson visited Monty's Pass, Hedgehunter and last year's champion Numbersixvalverde before each of their triumphs. So not surprisingly they've rolled the red carpet out for him at the yards of Point Barrow and Dun Doire, as well as the last two winners, on another round-Ireland trip with producer Susan Roberts to make features for the weekend.

Or will the champion trainer Paul Nicholls break his Aintree jinx this year? Or can Tony McCoy finally ride a Grand National winner? He started the week well with Irish National winner Butler's Cabin on Monday.

Butler's Cabin - the day after the Masters finished, I hear you cry. Yes, it's true you might as well try sticking to the names you know. So watch out for money on Joes Edge, Jack High or the aforementioned Simon this weekend as the once-a-year punters flood into the betting shops.

That's part of what makes the National great - whatever horse you draw in the office sweep you have some kind of chance - it's the 40th anniversary this year of the amazing race in 1967 when Foinavon emerged from the carnage of the 23rd fence to become the last 100-1 winner.

The second most watched horse race in this country - after the Grand National - is the Grand National re-run. From around 4.35pm we'll use the many angles from our 45 cameras around the course to try and tell the exhilarating story of the race. We'll show you where your money went and try to capture the bravery of horse and rider around Aintree's still huge fences.

BBC TV coverage gets underway on Thursday at 1.45pm for the first day of what has now become a three-day festival to match Cheltenham for jump racing fans.

Also watch out for our Grand National preview on Friday at 11.35pm OR from 6pm via the red button on Interactive for digital and satellite viewers.

And as for my selection, well I've got a little four-year old called Billy so obviously Billyvoddan is the one for me, although by 4.30pm I'll probably wish I'd called him Simon or Joe or Point Barrow!

Good luck.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.