It seems some sporting events capture the public imagination to such an extent that they become bigger than the sport itself.
The Grand National handicap steeplechase – held annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool – is one such iconic event.
Many of us never give horse racing a second thought. But each spring, across the land, workers will pay a pound or two to enter the office sweepstake, while betting novices head to their local bookies to have a bit of a flutter. The form book goes out of the window and horses are chosen subjectively, on the basis of name or colour.
Then, at the appointed time, the nation sits down in front of the telly and watches enthralled as the four and a half mile race unfolds, the names of the jumps – Becher’s Brook, the Chair, Valentine’s, the Canal Turn – burned into our collective consciousness.
Having seen him featured on BBC’s The One Show, I decided to place my money and faith in the hooves of Teaforthree for the 2013 Grand National. He came home in third place and I bagged the princely sum of eight quid.
Three things to spend my Grand National winnings on:
1. A DVD of National Velvet. Remarkably, Elizabeth Taylor remains the sole female jockey to have won the Grand National. But only thanks to the magic of cinema. This year, just one rider – Katie Walsh – was doing it for the gals.
2. A Dick Francis novel. After hanging up his silks, jump jockey Dick Francis turned his hand to writing cracking thrillers set in the world of horse racing.
3. A years’ supply of sugar cubes. For the horse. Obviously.