What was the largest field ever assembled for the Grand National?

Nowadays, the safety limit for the Grand National is 40 runners, but the largest field ever assembled was 66 in 1929. A photograph of the start shows the record number of starters stretched out, in one long line, across the entire width of the Aintree track.

The 1929 Grand National was also notable as the first renewal after the filling in of the ditch that had previously preceded the Canal Turn, which had been the site of the biggest pile-up in National history the previous year. Indeed, one of the horses that contributed to the melee, Easter Hero, was sent off clear favourite at 9/2 in 1929, despite carrying the welter burden of 12st 7lb. In any event, Easter Hero finished second, beaten 6 lengths, by Gregalach, who became the second 100/1 winner in the history of the Grand National and, remarkably, the second consecutive 100/1 winner after Tipperary Tim in 1929.

Of the 66 starters, nine horses – including three 200/1 outsiders, Melleray’s Belle, Delarue and Kilbairn – completed the course. There was, however, one casualty; Stort, another 200/1 outsider, nearly unseated rider at the first fence, did so at the third fence, fell, when loose, at the Canal Turn on the first circuit and fell again, fatally, at the twelfth fence.

Which horse won the 1993 ‘Grand National that never was’?

The ‘Grand National that never was’ took place in 1993 and was so-called because, although seven horses completed the course, the result was subsequently declared void and the race was never re-run. Oblivious to a second false start, the majority of the 39-strong field set off on the first circuit of the National Course and, despite frantic efforts by all and sundry to stop the race, it was not until the sixteenth fence, the Water Jump, that many of the jockeys became aware that they had been recalled by the starter and pulled up.

Even so, fourteen horses headed out ‘into the country’ for a second time. They were eventually led home by Esha Ness, owned by Patrick Bancroft, trained by Jenny Pitman and ridden by John White, who was first past the post at odds of 50/1. Ironically, had the result been allowed to stand, Esha Ness would have recorded the second-fastest time in the history of the National. However, following what the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan called, ‘the greatest disaster in the history of the Grand National’, the race was nullified by the stewards and bookmakers were forced to refund tens of millions of pounds.

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