2014 Grand National


Here’s the good news: It’s safe to watch the video. All 40 horses that started in last Saturday’s Grand National came home okay. Changes to the race course over the past few years seem to be working and while their were falls and general mayhem, there were no serious injuries. 18 of the starters finished the race, which is kind of par for the course.

Pineau de Re, ridden by Leighton Aspell, on his way to winning the Grand National (center)
Pineau de Re, ridden by Leighton Aspell, on his way to winning the Grand National (center)

The riskiness of the race is one reason why I have no interest in watching it live. I always wait until I can read about the results before watching the replay.

This year the Grand National proved again that just being the fastest or the best jumper isn’t enough. You also have to stay out of the way of the loose horses. Right from the beginning there was trouble when a false start, caused by Battle Group, sent the horses back for another try. Then when the tape went up for real, Battle Group refused to run. I’ve never seen a horse that didn’t want to be part of a herd of 40 horses that gallop off like that, but he planted his feet and would have none of it.

Plenty of horses fell this year and several were pulled up because of fatigue. Jockeys were told by racing officials to pull up their horses if they showed fatigue and were not going to finish in the money (10th) place. To underscore their commitment to safety, stewards issued a 12-day riding ban to Jack Doyle whom they judged should have pulled up when tailed off as his mount, Wayward Prince, appeared in an exhausted state before falling at the third-last fence.

The real spoiler of the race came when the leader, Across the Bay, literally pushed across the track by the loose Tidal Bay, losing 40-odd lengths to the field.

The winner, Pineau de Re, an 11-year old French bred bay gelding, finished strongly having recovered from an early bobble where he almost lost jockey, Leighton Aspell. Pineau de Re is trained by Dr. Richard Newland, who has retired from his work as a physician and has about a dozen horses in training. He has a reputation for “refreshing” older horses. This was his first Grand National entry.

This is how you look when your first entry to the Grand National wins! Dr. Richard Newland with Pineau de Re.
This is how you look when your first entry to the Grand National wins! Dr. Richard Newland with Pineau de Re.

Trainer Dr. Richard Newland is a registered physician with around a dozen horses in training. He has quickly established a reputation as a trainer skilled at refreshing older horses, such as the 11-year-old Pineau De Re.

Pineau De Re is expected to have the rest of the season off — in fact most of the Grand National horses will have months of recovery after such a grueling race.
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2 thoughts on “2014 Grand National

  1. Thank you for the play by play. I knew it was going on this past weekend, but didn’t know if there was a way to watch in the US. I’m still traumatized by watching Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby a few years back (live). I like your idea of watching a recorded version.

    1. The Grand National is a bit of a conundrum because it’s like watching a car crash. Now I won’t watch it if I know that something bad happened. I feel that way about the Triple Crown races, too. It’s too stressful to watch them live.

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