Plain Fence, Height: 4ft 6in, Width: 2ft 9in
Standing 4ft 6in high and with a clearance of 2ft 9in in width, the first fence of the Grand National course at Aintree should, in theory, be easy enough to overcome for top-flight steeplechasers.
But in this most unpredictable of races, anything can and – often – will happen, and there’s a rogue’s gallery of horses that have either fallen or unseated their jockey at the first obstacle….leaving the hopes and dreams of punters torn to shreds like their hastily discarded betslips.
Horses, by their very nature, can travel keenly once the race is underway, and some will be running a little too hard approaching the first fence – that can prove to be their undoing.
The landing side has been levelled off on the landing side to give as many of the 40-horse field as possible a chance of continuing in the race, although it’s been a decade since every single horse made it over the first fence unscathed!
And two horses have achieved the unthinkable – falling at the first fence in two consecutive editions of the Grand National. Bishops Hall (1995 and ’96) and Art Prince (2000 and ’01) the guilty parties.
The Second Circuit – Fence 17
Of course, the first also becomes the seventeenth obstacle as the horses wind round the track for their second circuit, and at this point it surely becomes more difficult to navigate – after all, the field will have just tackled The Chair and the Water Jump, which are two of the most formidable fences to be overcome.
This opening obstacle sits parallel to the famous Aintree Embankment, a hill offering a prime viewing spot that seats around 13,000 punters every year. You will hear a roar from them as the horses pass by….and the occasional groan if their selection fails to clear the fence on its first or second attempt.