The Grand National Course at Aintree consists of 16 fences, 14 of which are jumped twice during the Grand National, but five of them, namely Becher’s Brook, Foinavon, Canal Turn, Valentine’s Brook and The Chair, have become famous, or infamous, in their own right. Indeed, the first four of the ‘named’ fences come one after another in rapid succession.
The most famous of them all, Becher’s Brook, is the sixth fence on the first circuit and is named after Captain Martin Becher, who took shelter in the brook on the landing side after being unseated from his mount, Conrad, in the inaugural Grand National in 1839. The fence, itself, stands 4′ 10″ high, but a steep drop on the landing side, which is between 5″ and 10″ lower than the take-off side, makes Becher’s Brook a notoriously difficult obstacle.
Becher’s Brook is immediately followed by Foinavon, an unremarkable, 4′ 6″ high fence – in fact, one of the smallest on the Grand National Course – but, nevertheless, the scene of a dramatic melee during the 1967 Grand National. The 100/1 outsider, and eventual winner, Foinavon, was the only horse to jump the fence at the first time of asking and, in 1984, it was renamed in his honour.
The next fence, the eighth on the first circuit, is the Canal Turn, which takes its name from its position, near the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the fact that horses must negotiate a sharp left turn immediately after the fence. Next comes Valentine’s Brook, originally known simply as the Second Brook, but renamed after Valentine, the horse that negotiated the fence in bizarre, twisting fashion, apparently landing hind feet first, during the 1840 Grand National.
Last, but by no means least, of the ‘named’ fences, The Chair is the fifteenth, and penultimate, fence on the first circuit and is jumped just once. Originally known as the Monument Jump, The Chair stands 5’3″ high and has a 6′ wide ditch on the take-off side, making it the tallest and broadest fence on the Grand National Course.