Win Some, Lose Some, Record £650m Staked On Grand National World’s Greatest Horse Race

It took less than the proverbial blink of an eye for punters to lose an estimated £20 million (US$25m) in bets, as joint-favourite and last year’s winner, Corach Rambler, clipped the first fence at this weekend’s running of the Grand National and unseated his jockey Derek Fox.

But it was one of few falls in a brilliant National Hunt race that saw the bookies take a record £650 million (US$811.26m) for the biggest horse race in history.

And a goodly number of the 13 million people, who gambled on the storied steeplechase–around a third of the adult UK population–, made up the lost gaming ground by winning on the other 7-1 co-favourite, the all-Irish I Am Maximus, which won the iconic race in some style.

The eight-year-old bay gelding, ridden by Irish jockey Paul Townend (pictured above) and trained by Irishman Willie Mullins, and owned by Irish multi-millionaire JP McManus, romped home by 7.5 lengths in the historic four-mile 2.5 furlong handicap steeplechase at Aintree racecourse, near Liverpool, which was first run in 1839.

At the 13th time of asking, it was a belated–but grand–victory for Champion Jockey Paul Townend, who also won this year’s prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup.

As winner, I Am Maximus took home over half of the Grand National’s £1 million prize pot.

Less well known is how much 33-year-old Townend–six times Irish Champion Jockey and winner of some 30 Cheltenham Festival races over the years–earned for his sterling day’s work.

It’s been reported that racing magnate JP McManus–a man who once controversially fell out with legendary former-Manchester United Manager Alex Ferguson over the stud rights of a co-owned racehorse–has previously offered his jockeys exclusive £1 million-a-year riding deals.

Bookies Delight

Following growing calls to improve racing safety–last year, for example, three horses were euthanized after accidents over the Aintree racing weekend–, the Grand National course was further altered for the latest iteration.

Somewhat ironically, given Corach Rambler’s mishap, the run to the first fence–at 4ft 6 inches high and 2ft 9 inches wide, and one of the smallest on the course–was shorted by some 60 yards to slow the speed that the 32 competing chasers and riders would hit–and jump–the hurdle.

Aintree Racegoers Celebrate 2024 Grand National
No doubt to the delight of bookmakers, Scotland’s Corach Rambler became the first defending champion since Hello Dandy in 1985 to jettison its rider at the first of 30 jumps (16 fences; 14 jumped twice) around the Aintree course.

Safety changes to the Grand National saw the highest number of horses cross the finish line since 1992. No horses fell and 21 finished the race.

I Am Maximus was followed home by 28-1 shot Delta Work, with equal fancied Minella Indo crossing in third and Galvin, a 40-1 chance, joining the winners’ podium in fourth.

“[To be honest] it’s a bit surreal,” said winning jockey Townend. “It was unbelievable. It’s what you grow up watching and wanting to do. It was a huge performance.

“It was an unbelievable race and he’s an unbelievable horse.

“We didn’t get the clearest run from the second last to the last, but it kind of helped me and I felt that when I got him out he was going to start motoring when he got into clear air, which he did.

“The ones in front of me, I’m sure they weren’t looking for me, but I had them well in my sights and I was hoping he’d respond as I thought he would.”

And respond indeed did I Am Maximus: To deliver the safest Grand National in over 30-years. And keep Irish eyes smiling.

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