Home » All Posts » Equine News » News » Changes to The Grand National in 2024

Changes to The Grand National in 2024

Horses being shown a fence at Bangor on Dee. Credit: Paul @ Flickr. Original: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vegaseddie/3309224777/in/album-72157614429301260/

Tomorrow’s the big day – the Grand National is here! But this year, things might look a bit different, and that’s because the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) have made the first real changes to the race in 30 years. All these changes aim to improve the safety and welfare of both the horses and the jockeys taking part.

Reduced Field Size:

In a proactive move to mitigate congestion and minimise risks during the race, organisers have reduced the number of horses competing from 40 to 34. This adjustment should allow for a smoother flow on the course, reducing the likelihood of accidents and promoting a safer racing environment. And removing 6 horses really shouldn’t take away from the excitement of this big race!

Fence Modifications:

All fences now have foam or rubber toe boards, creating a softer impact for any horse who gets a bit too close to the fence. Additionally, other fences have had the ground levelled out on take off and landing or had their height reduced slightly. All these things will help the horses stay on their feet during the race and should hopefully reduce the numbers of falls and unseated riders we see.

Earlier Start Time:

To ensure optimal ground conditions and improve safety, the race will commence at 4 pm, a departure from the previous 5:15 pm start time. This adjustment means less horses will run on the ground before the race, giving the horses tackling this challenging race an easier time of it.

Altered Pre-Race Procedures:

Traditions have been adapted to promote a calmer and smoother transition for the horses. Instead of being led along the grandstand for a parade, horses will be released at the end of the horse walk to canter past. This change aims to reduce stress and excitement levels, fostering a more relaxed atmosphere before the race begins.

Standing Start and Shortened Run to the First Fence:

Implementing a standing start and shortening the distance to the first fence are strategic measures to promote a more orderly and controlled beginning to the race. These adjustments aim to minimise the intensity of the initial hurdle, reducing the risk of early incidents and ensuring a safer start for all competitors.

Higher Qualification Standards:

The Grand National has always attracted the best horses and has had high qualification standards for the horses entering. But this year, the minimum Official Rating requirement has been increased from 125 to 130. Other qualification requirements include:

  • aged 7 or older
  • completed a minimum of 3 steeplechases (jump races over fences rather than hurdles.)
  • completed at least 1 steeplechase in the current season
  • placed 4th or better in any steeplechase 2 miles 7.5 furlongs or further.

These changes have recieved a lot of hate from the wider racing industry, with claims that the race is being dumbed down. But in a world where animal welfare is a huge consideration to everything we do (and rightly so) racing needs to adapt with the times. These changes to such a historic and much loved race, show the industries willingness to change. I’m sure this year’s Grand National will be just as exciting and the winner will be remembered as a hero alongside the other legends who have won.

Last Updated on 12/04/2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.