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The Season: The Randox Grand National 2024

One of Britain’s most famous and prestigious horse races is back for its 176th edition

The History

The world’s most popular steeplechase, the Grand National has its origins in the mid-1830s, when the Great St Albans Steeplechase inspired hotel proprietor William Lynn to create a counterpart on the edge of Liverpool. He leased some land at Aintree, on which he then established a racecourse with a grandstand.

The history of the Grand National’s earliest races is a contested one, with recent scholarship dating the first Aintree steeplechase to 1836. Meanwhile, the official line is that the inaugural event took place in 1839, when Lottery became the first horse to win the “Grand Liverpool Steeplechase”, as it was then known.

In 1843, Edward William Topham turned the race into a handicap, which no doubt contributed to its popularity by levelling the proverbial playing field. Add this to the hurdles over which a horse might fail to jump at any moment, and you’ll understand why the Grand National has always been such an unpredictable event in the sporting calendar. Take, for instance, Tipperary Tim’s 1928 victory after all his competitors had fallen. Just before the race, a friend of the horse’s jockey William Dutton had shouted, ‘Billy boy, you’ll only win if all the others fall!’ Or the 1967 race, which shocked spectators as they watched an underdog called Foinavon evade a pile-up at the shortest fence before winning.

Indeed, throughout its history, the Grand National has made legends of certain horses and jockeys. Among the most notable of these are Red Rum, the only horse to win three times; Abd-el-Kader, the first to accomplish consecutive victories; and the jockey Bob Champion, who inspiringly won the race while recovering from cancer.

The Rules

This year, the Randox Grand National Festival will take place from 11-13 April. It comprises Opening Day, Ladies Day, and Grand National Day, each of which combines live entertainment with the crème de la crème of horseracing. The main event, the Grand National run, will begin at 4pm on the Saturday.

During the race, professional and amateur riders alike will complete two laps of the triangular course, which features 30 jumps. These include 16 different fences and hurdles, the first 14 of which are vaulted again during the second circuit. In recent years, the prize funds have reached seven figures, so there’s a great deal at stake at every single jump. The most notorious for falls are Becher’s Brook, Valentine’s Brook, and the Chair, so it’s worth keeping an eye on these in particular.

That more weight is added to horses of higher ability gives every competitor the prospect of victory. But in every case, the course demands incredible strength, athleticism and durability, cold-blood draught horses with a certain amount of thoroughbred ancestry tending to perform the best. This year, some of the horses’ names with which the auctioneer-fast commentators must contend include I Am Maximus, Mr Incredible, Embittered and Fiddlerontheroof.

The Dress Code

While the Grand National features no official dress code, part of the fun is to dress up, with colour seen throughout the festival on extravagant garments and accessories – regardless of the weather. Men tend to wear suits marked by some snazzy element. You might, for instance, adorn your blazer with a flash of colour in the form of one of our burgundy or navy silk twill woven pocket squares, or through the enamelled finishes our shimmering cufflinks feature. The National is also the perfect occasion to try on a silk satin bow tie or one of our slightly bolder ties. We recommend our blue silk tie with a geometric print fortuitously composed of dragonflies, a symbol of good fortune in many cultures around the world. Hats are another staple of the event, with men often pairing their fun suits with baker boy caps (think Peaky Blinders with an injection of flair). While you might consider wearing darker tailoring (our Chalk Stripe merino wool jacket, when paired with a matching waistcoat, is very Tommy Shelby) to accentuate your bold statement piece, you could wear a lighter, more striking blazer such as our Prince of Wales check wool jacket, for which we offer both matching pleated trousers and a matching four-button waistcoat.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you will be attending Ladies Day this year, you can enter into the Style Award. Grand prizes will be awarded to the two best-dressed racegoers and to the single most sustainably dressed entry. So, while we can’t guarantee that your flutter will pay dividends, you could be a shoo-in for best dressed attendee.