For the first time since I have legally been allowed to bet (and let me tell you that is more years than I care to remember) I shall not be having a bet on the Grand National this year, indeed I would be pushed to name more than half a dozen of this year’s runners without looking them up.
In the immediate aftermath of last year’s National my reservations about the race began to come into sharper focus.
I had thought, even hoped, with time my concerns would mellow but they haven’t.
Whilst last year’s race added a few nails to the coffin the final straw was the BHA review into the race and the prosed solutions.
The review was a typical fudge by committee even more that I believe the changes could even make the situation worse.
In their infinite wisdom the committee decided to make a couple of the fences easier. That, in my mind, is wrong. Making them “easier” will mean they will be treated with less respect, they will be approached faster and this will result in more falls, especially coupled with refusal to reduce the safety limit in the contest.
The one mitigating factor in this renewal is the long awaited rain will result in softer ground and, hopefully, the filed approaching the fences at a safer pace. However too much rain and we have the danger of another Red Marauder contest, which in its own way was unedifying.
I really hope I am proved wrong and this turns out to be a National which makes the news for all the right reasons.
It is difficult to “walk away” from the National, after all it forms my earliest racing memory, watching Nicholas Silver win the 1961 contest, watching it on a fuzzy black and white television.
That was the second time the BBC had televised the race and it is, perhaps, a symmetry that the last Grand National I watched would turn out to be the second last the BBC will broadcast.
When I told one of my racing friends I had given up on the National he summed it up perfectly when he said:-
“The National is a funny race, I can easily see why people might fall out of love with it. For me it's a bit like a teenage crush. You don't want to admit when it's over and you never quite get over it.”
So I’ll be spending Saturday at Chepstow although my attempts to avoid the National may well be thwarted as there is a massive 1 hour 5 minute gap between races three and four so racegoers can watch the Grand National – I may go into town and do some shopping.