Saturday 18 March. That’s the day in 2017 when 16,000 racing fans and corporate guests will descend on Uttoxeter Racecourse, when £211,000 in prize money will be up for grabs – £125,000 of which is for the Betferd Midlands Grand National – and when the eyes of the entire racing world will focus on this quiet corner of Staffordshire.
As the second largest steeplechase in the UK, after the Aintree Grand National, it’s one of the most colourful and spectacular sporting days out on the Midlands calendar, as well as a major highlight of the horseracing world.
The Betfred Midlands Grand National itself has a long history and features some of the best chasers-in-training. Some of its previous winners have gone on to achieve glory in the Aintree Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The 2015 race saw A.P.McCoy’s final competitive appearance at the racecourse; and last year Adam Wedge rode Firebird Flyer to victory.
Further details can be found at http://www.uttoxeter-racecourse.co.uk/whats-on/fixture/18th-march-2017/. But in the meantime, we’ve started the countdown to the 2017 Midlands Grand National with ten facts you might never have known about the race…
Ten. The first Midlands Grand National was run on 3 May 1969. It was held in the month of May until 1991, when it was moved to the Saturday after The Cheltenham Festival in March. This gives racegoers the chance to visit, follow, and get very excited by the racing at Cheltenham all week, and then come to Uttoxeter Racecourse on the Saturday. What it also means is that this week now has the largest betting turnover of the year.
Nine. A test of stamina and courage for both jockey and racehorse, 20 runners and riders take-on 24 fences on the four miles and one-and-a-half furlong Midlands Grand National course.
Eight. The race was not covered on television in its early years but was shown by Channel 4 during the 1980s and up until 1998. BBC TV took over coverage between 1998 and 2005, before the race returned to Channel 4. This will be the first year it will appear live on ITV.
Seven. No horse has ever won the race twice; and only four jockeys have ever notched-up two victories: Ken White – Happy Spring (1969), Rip’s Lyric (1973); Derek Morris – Midnight Madness (1987), Mister Ed (1993); Brendan Powell – Another Excuse (1996), Young Kenny (1999); and Norman Williamson – Lucky Lane (1995), The Bunny Boiler (2002).
Six. Up in the stands, around 250 racegoers attending the 2017 Betfred Midlands Grand National will be seated in the 1907 restaurant which officially opened last year. Around the entire course, some 1,118 three or four-course meals will be enjoyed and, at exactly the same time, around 330 catering staff and casuals will be so busy they’ll barely notice that a race meeting is even taking place. An estimated 5,256 glasses of champagne will be quaffed from 876 bottles; 12,564 glasses of wine will be poured from 2,094 bottles; and 50,000 pints of beer will be pulled.
Five. Lord Gyllene owned by Sir Stanley & Lady Hilda Clarke, also then owners of Uttoxeter Racecourse, came second in the Midlands Grand National in 1997 and later that year went on to win the Aintree Grand National.
Four. Bonanza Boy, trained by Martin Pipe, won the race in 1991 under jockey Peter Scudamore. Pipe’s son, David, then went on to train four Midlands Grand National winners in a row between 2011 and 2014…one of which was in partnership with jockey Tom Scudamore, on Master Overseer, in 2012.
Three. The 1977 winner Watafella finished third in the race but was promoted to first place after the first and second, No Scotch and Evander were disqualified after it was realised they failed to meet the conditions of the race, along with three other runners.
Two. 102 race horses will be comfortably accommodated in Uttoxeter’s 102 stables; while around 50 jockeys will jostle for position both in the weighing room and out on the course itself.
One. And they’re off! Ticket prices for this year’s Betfred Midlands Grand National range from £15 – £42. For further information and to book tickets online, visit http://www.uttoxeter-racecourse.co.uk/midlands-grand-national, or call 01889 562561.