Grand National - Fences.


of The Grand National

Richard Dunwoody
Jon Franklin

The Grand National fences have been altered substantially in recent years. In some cases the height has been slightly reduced, in other cases the drop on the landing side has been levelled off, and in all cases the internal construction has changed from wooden stakes to a synthetic core. These changes have been made to improve the safety of the race, and the ‘new’ fences still seem to take plenty of jumping although they are designed to be more forgiving. The look of the fences is unchanged, although old jockeys like me will always say that they seem much smaller than in our day.


(height 4ft 6in)

This is an ordinary, plain fence that over the years has accounted for a large number of fallers because of its position in the race – the full field jumps it and the jockeys tend to be going much too fast towards it. It’s important to give your horse a good, clear view of the fence, which is why everyone is keen to get a good position, but going off so fast in order to accomplish this often causes horses to over jump and crumple on landing. I never fell at the first – I remember Graham McCourt and Richard Rowe had terrible luck here – and now that the run to the first has been reduced it has caused fewer problems.

Grand National: The First fence.
Grand National: The First fence.

2 /18

(4ft 7in)

Just a straightforward plain fence, nothing out of the ordinary for Aintree.


(4ft 10in, 6ft ditch on take-off side)

This is a big fence, the first real test, and a fence that all the jockeys have on their mind before the start. There’s a big ditch on one side and a reasonable drop on the other, and it rides almost as though it’s bigger than it actually is. I’ve nearly hit the deck several times here, and it’s especially troublesome on the second circuit when the horses are more tired.

4 /20

(4ft 10in)

Another big, plain fence that can cause quite a few fallers. It generally rides well but, as for the previous fence, it can wipe a few out on the second circuit. In 1997, I fell here on the second circuit when going well on Smith’s Band, who very sadly did not survive.

5 /21


Big fence that tends to be as straightforward as any on the racecourse. It’s always known simply as “the one before Becher’s,” as that’s what all the jockeys are thinking about when they’re approaching it!

Grand National: Becher's Brook.
Grand National: Becher’s Brook.

6/22  Becher’s Brook


It’s not the fence itself but the drop that has made this the most famous fence in the world. Although the brook has been covered over and the drop levelled out to a considerable extent, it’s still the focus of attention.

I always used to track out to the right on approach if I could because the drop isn’t so high there. I was dead centre when I fell on West Tip in 1985. You feel as though you’re jumping out into space. You hang in the air for a long, eerie moment, and invariably horses peck when they land. There’s a history of horses falling here on the second circuit, leaders such as Andy Pandy and Uncle Merlin, because they’re more tired and the drop can catch them out. It’s been altered, but it’s still a fearsome fence.

7/23  The Foinavon

(4ft 6in)

The Foinavon fence is named after the 1967 winner who was one of the few to escape an enormous melee here on the second circuit. It’s on a bend, which can complicate matters, and although it’s small enough horses are prone to making mistakes because it comes after the shock of the drop at Becher’s. They seem not to want to get too high at this one.

Grand National: THE CANAL-TURN
Grand National: THE CANAL-TURN

8/24  The Canal Turn


The Canal Turn is where horses have to make a 90-degree turn on the landing side. You can lose a lot of ground if you go ‘straight on’, but if you’re on the inner you can very easily be hampered and find yourself in trouble. The approved method is to swing out to the right on approach and then angle in over the jump, apexing the corner and saving ground. Needless to say, there are often fallers and unseated riders here.

Grand National: Valentine’s Brook.
Grand National: Valentine’s Brook.

9/25 Valentine’s Brook

(5ft, 5ft 6in ditch on take-off side)

Not usually a problem despite its size; if you’ve made it this far, this is where you start getting your horse into a rhythm and start keeping an eye on the loose horses around you. On the second circuit, if you’re in with a chance, this is where you start thinking about tactics and about making a race of it.



A straightforward plain fence, a relief after the last few fences.


(5ft, with 6ft ditch on take-off side)

This is a big ditch but given its position, at a point of consolidation either before going out toward the second circuit or beginning the final challenge, it seems to cause less problems than many of the fences.


(5ft, with 5ft 6in ditch on landing side)

The third-last, and the last fence before crossing the Melling Road and coming back on to the racecourse ‘proper.’ You don’t want to take off too far away because there is a small ditch on the landing side.


(4ft 7in)

Ordinary plain fence, but can cause problems, notably in 1994 after it was rebuilt and thus stiffer than before. There were three or four fallers on the first circuit.


(4ft 6in)

One of the smallest on the course, but given that it’s the final fence, it often seems pretty big. By the time we get here on the second circuit there’s usually plenty of spruce dressing missing, big holes that can help if you’re on the right line to take advantage of them.

Grand National: The Chair-5ft 2in, with a 6ft ditch on the landing side.
Grand National: The Chair-5ft 2in, with a 6ft ditch on the landing side.

15 The Chair

(5ft 2in, with a 6ft ditch on the landing side)

The Chair. The tallest fence on the circuit and the approach funnels in, making it the narrowest fence, too. It’s one everyone takes care over, especially with loose horses getting in the way. It’s very important to give your horse a clear view. Now and again a horse plants itself or ends up in the ditch, and there have been several photographs of riders coming over the fence without their horse. It’s right in front of the stands, too, so there’s plenty of noise to add to the situation.

Grand National: The WATER JUMP
Grand National: The WATER JUMP

16 The Water Jump

(2ft 6in)

Never usually a problem, although now and again a horse might drop his hindlegs in the water. My grandfather fell here back in the 1920s – he was probably one of the last one’s ever to fall at it!



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Gallop Magazine
First issue
©Japan Racing Association

The Peoples Race

Japan’s season-ending race, the G1 Arima Kinen, is set to be run on December 24 at Nakayama racecourse near Tokyo. The all-aged race is a celebration of  Japan’s favourite racehorses, as the majority of the field is decided by a public vote, similar to Major League Baseball’s All-Star game. Last year, 1.5 million votes were cast. The public interest in the race makes it the most popular betting race not only in Japan, but in the world.

The turnover for the 2016 Arima Kinen was an astonishing ¥44,902,572,000.


Beyond the racetrack

Beyond the racetrack

Retraining of thoroughbred racehorses has become a topic of increasing importance in the racing industry all over the world. Many retired racehorses have very successful second careers, competing at the highest level in equestrian disciplines such as eventing and polo, or find homes in pony club, polo, and as pleasure horses. Others go on to become broodmares or stallions.

Beyond the racetrack
Beyond the racetrack

Racing NSW in Australia recently set an example for other racing jurisdictions when deciding that A$2 million per year will be set aside to ensure that all thoroughbred horses domiciled in New South Wales are appropriately cared for outside of their racing careers. They have also purchased a 2,600 acre property to be used for the rehabilitation, retraining, and rehoming of horses after their racing careers.

Photo: Alex Cairns


 Gazwan and Maxime Guyon (blue cap) galloped to victory in the G1 Qatar Arabian World Cup at Chantilly in France on October 1. The six-year-old Purebred Arabian had to battle hard in the closing stages to fight off his contenders, including his almost identical stablemate Ebraz. Both Gazwan and Ebraz are owned by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani and trained in Qatar by Julian Smart. It will come as no surprise that the two horses also share the same sire, the legendary Arabian stallion Amer.

Michael Owen


Former professional footballer Michael Owen is one of England’s most successful strikers in recent years. Since hanging up his football boots in 2013, he has become a prominent racehorse owner and breeder. Owen recently took his passion for horse racing to the next level when agreeing to take part in a charity race at Ascot on November 24. Despite having never sat on a horse until five months prior to the race, Owen finished a creditable second aboard Calder Prince, and his new race-riding career is certainly off to a good start.

Maroon & White

HH Sheikh Mohammed’s legendary maroon and white colours have been carried to victories by turf legends such as Oh So Sharp, Singspiel, and Pebbles, but the ruler of Dubai now runs all his horses in Australia, USA, and Europe in the blue colours of Godolphin. More than a decade after the famous silks were regularly spotted on British racecourses, they appeared in the winner’s enclosure at Windsor in September.

The silks have been passed on to Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya’s young daughter Sheikha Al Jalila, who has a keen interest in racing despite being only nine years old. In partnership with her father, she has a string of around a dozen horses in training with John Gosden in Newmarket.

The $9.5 million dollar mare

Horses like Songbird don’t come around very often. When the two-time champion and nine-time Grade 1 winner stepped into the sales ring at Fasig-Tipton in Kentucky, breeder Mandy Pope knew that she would have to go high to acquire the four-year-old mare. She was right, and after an intense bidding process, the hammer fell on $9.5 million dollars, the second highest price ever paid for a broodmare prospect. Pope admitted after the sale that it was a bit over her budget, but it is not the first time she has signed for an expensive ticket at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale. The world record price for a broodmare prospect was set in 2012, when Pope parted with $10 million for multiple Grade 1 winner Havre De Grace. Just like Songbird, Havre De Grace was owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and sold by Taylor Made Sales Agency at Fasig-Tipton.

Photo: James Boardman/Alamy Live News


Toby Moore is only eight years old, but is already following in his father’s footsteps. As a son of the multiple British champion jockey Ryan Moore, who has ridden more than 100 Group or Grade 1 winners, the young Moore certainly has racing in the blood. On October 23, Toby had his first ride in public in the Shetland Pony Gold Cup, dressed in the same purple and white colours that his father has carried to victory in four Group 1 races aboard Highland Reel.

The name of Toby’s pony? Lowland Reel, of course.


Carry all in a Cary All

The James River Carry All ~ from Tucker Tweed is a generous tote that does “carry all”. Featuring scratch-resistant saffiano leather exterior, this handbag contains pockets for smart phone, key fob, large zip pocket and tablet compartment with embossed leather logo. Completed with silver hardware and feet, embossed with a variety of different horsey motifs.


Art by a Champion rider

Jens Fredricson won a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics and individual gold for showjumping at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017. Jens is not only an outstanding horseman – he is also an accomplished artist. Now you can but prints of his works. This edition is made in a limited number of 250 and each piece is numbered and signed by the artist. Printed on fine art paper (Hahnemühle, German Etching, 310 g), each print is sold rolled up so you can frame it the way you like. 

We think its awesome!

40 x 50 cm

€ 153

Buy it here!

Pickup X-travaganza

So one side of your brain says a pickup truck is what you need for going to the farm and watch morning workouts and to put all the dirty stuff in the back and not get stuck in fields/mud/snow/sand.

The other side says that you want to arrive to the races in style – like in a Mercedes.

The great news is that you don’t need to chose.

Just get a Mercedes X-Class, the premium brands first pickup truck. Launched in November the X-Class has all the toughness you need from a pickup and all the feeling and design you except from a Mercedes. We took it for a test-drive and loved the 360° camera that turned out to be perfect for navigating off-road. And – this is not a so called SUV. This one has proper 4WD and low-range gear. Plus all the safety systems you can think of. And a big star in the front!

The 190 hp fully loaded X 250d with Power package is a bargain at £34.100 in the UK.

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