Which are the ‘named’ fences on the Grand National Course?

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.

Do outsiders often win the Grand National?

The Grand National in variably attracts whole host of once-a-year punters dreaming of striking it rich by backing an outsider at hugely rewarding odds. However, such wishful thinkers would do well to remember that, in 172 runnings of the celebrated steeplechase, just five horses have won at treble figure odds. The last two 100/1 winners were Mon Mome (2009) and Foinavon (1967), while further back in Grand National history Caughoo (1947), Gregalach (1929) and Tipperary Tim (1928) also scored equally unlikely victories. It is also worth noting that Tipperary Tim and Foinavon took advantage of mid-race pile-ups and Gregalach and Caughoo were part of the two largest Grand National fields in history, 66 and 57, respectively.

Four horses have won the Grand National at odds of 66/1, the last being Auroras Encore (2013), while the last of the four 50/1 winners was Last Suspect (1985). Seven horses have prevailed at odds of 40/1, the last being Royal Athlete (1995) but, interestingly, all four 33/1 winners, the last of which was Rule The World (2016), have been victorious since the turn of the twenty-first century. So, percentage-wise, in 172 runnings of the Grand National, just 24 winners, or roughly 14%, have been returned at odds of 33/1 or longer. If we also consider 25/1 winners, of which Many Clouds (2015) was the last of fourteen, the number of winners increases to 38, or roughly 22%.

Who was Liam Treadwell?

Liam Treadwell was a Grand National winning national hunt jockey born in the market town of Arundel, West Sussex. During his prolific career he won more than 300 races during a ten year period (and 308 wins total). His education and indeed career in horse racing was closely tied with trainer Venetia Williams, who gave him the ride on 2009 Grand National winning Mon Mome after her principle jockey turned down the chance to ride it. The unlikely 100-1 win made Williams only the second ever female trainer to claim victory in the race (after Jenny Pitman). It was Treadwell’s debut in the race and yet his triumph resulted in an memorable achievement – and only the 5th time in the history of the Grand National a horse of those odds had won the race.

He was famously, and jokingly, mocked for his gap-toothed appearance directly after the 2009 Grand National race by interviewer Clare Balding, which resulted in a free dental makeover by a promotion savvy dentist.

The ambitious jockey’s successes in 2009 didn’t end there though. He also won the United House Gold Cup in Ascot that very same year. In 2013 he was still impressing, with a win at the Cheltenham Festival on Carrick boy. In 2015 Liam Treadwell placed third in the Grand National on Monbeg Dude and had a further success in the Grand Sefton Steeplechase. Unfortunately the following year, 2016, was a year that will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons. Following a fall at Bangor, Treadmill was unconscious for several minutes after sustaining a head injury. The concussion resulted in a lasting impact. He spoke of the mental health toll of what he described as the ‘big bang’ in ‘Jockey Matters’.

He spoke candidly about the indicent at the time, “The symptoms of concussion probably wore off after six weeks or two months, but I was mentally not very well and my brain was still a bit fragile when I exercised… I didn’t want to ride a horse as I felt so grim, so disillusioned, and I was shutting myself away, not talking to anyone; I wasn’t diagnosed with depression, but in my own head, sitting on the sofa at home, I felt depressed.”

He officially retired from professional riding in 2018, before recovering enough to make a comeback possible in 2019, and he rode some 20 winners in the 2019-2020 season. Treadmill died on 23rd June 2020, at just 34 years old. His family describe him as “polite, funny, kind and brave“. From Grand National highs on Mon Mome, to this sad time 11 years on, Liam Treadwell had his struggles but also, in his own jovial yet determined fashion, made his mark in the sport of racing.