The Steeplechase Gates Will Soon Open Wide
~ James Moore
Stamina…speed…talent…all of these factors combined bring about the ultimate win. And that’s just for the rider; the horse competing, although the real hero, needs to put in extra hard work and agony to become the winner of The Grand National’s Steeplechase.
Being the world’s most renowned horse race in the world, The Grand National has been around since the early 1800’s. With barely any changes made over time, this three-day meet still calls out to the steeplechase lovers, sports fans, and horse aficionados to head to Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool to see the best of the best shine. As many as forty horses meet up with each other to reign over the 4.5-mile course dotted with obstacles that challenge both horse and rider.
Although the horse must make sure to be the best on that track, the rider has significant challenges they must overcome in order to prove they are lengths ahead of their competition. Together, the team must successfully jump 30 fences in total, that are extra difficult because of the six-foot-wide ditch located on the take-off side. When the last fence is left behind, the almost 500-yard sprint ensues, and the first horse to reach that finish line wins the race.
It is very soon that The Grand National will come about one more time. The equestrian community is already excited about it, wanting very much to take April off of work in order to spend the time in the U.K.. This is not an over-exaggeration by any means. When it comes to this particular sport, it ranks up there as exciting and ‘must-see’ as the actual Olympic games to many people.
Opening Day is the first event, and tens of thousands of viewers and excited spectators come to the opening of the racing cycle. Ladies Day is presented the second day of the three-day event, and one and all get to enjoy the sport as well as high-fashion. For those in the fashion world, by the way, this is actually considered the highlight of northern England’s social season. And on the final day, the stunning race comes to pass, bringing together various cultures and sports lovers to enjoy the first glimpse of an extremely amazing season to come.
For those who are not aware of the intensity or the history of the steeplechase, this particular form of horseracing first came about in Europe. England, Ireland and France were the main purveyors of the glam and grit, with Canada and the United States coming on board as the equestrian level of fame and popularity grew over the decades.
The reason for the interesting sport name came from the fact that the course, itself, was laid out in the shape of a church steeple, with fences, ditches and other natural obstacles in the countryside being a part of the challenge.
Even though The Grand National at Aintree Racecourse, is very well-renowned and considered the most famous in the steeplechase world, the actual sport first came from Ireland a century before. The story behind it is that the first steeplechase race was actually the result of a bet made in 1752 between two men who wished to race four miles cross-country from Buttevant Church to St. Leger Church in Doneraile, in Cork, Ireland.
But when the very first recorded steeplechase began on a pre-prepared track with fences, it was run at Bedford in 1810. One of the winners, if you flip back into the history of this amazing sport, was a man by the name of Captain Macdowall who rode on “The Wonder”, winning in 16 minutes 25 seconds. That horse was truly a wonder to the sport.
As time moves forward the steeplechase is still very much a part of United Kingdom culture, extending to the U.S. and around the globe. The Grand National will commence very soon, and open the gates for the flood of exciting races about to begin. Enjoy!