Open Ditch, Height: 5ft, Width: 3ft 6in, Ditch: 7ft
The third fence on the first second circuit of the Grand National track, and also the race’s 19th obstacle on the next lap of the course, is the first of the open ditches.
An open ditch, for the uninitiated, is a typical fence – in Aintree’s case, made from spruce with a plastic ‘shell’ – that is protected by a ditch on the take-off side. The water isn’t deep of course, but you will occasionally see splashes when a horse doesn’t time their jump to perfection and drags a trailing leg through the wet stuff.
At an open ditch, the horses have a wider span to jump, and that makes the third (and nineteenth) fence in the Grand National a sturdy obstacle to overcome. The 5ft height is considerable enough, but the total ‘carry’ of this open ditch is around 10ft 6in – the 3ft 6in of the fence itself, and the 7ft ditch that protects the front of it.
While not a ‘named’ fence as such, many at Aintree refer to the third obstacles as the ‘Westhead’ – in deference to the former fence-builder Steve Westhead, who was a long-serving operator on Grand National race day in the 1960s and 70s.
Whether the third was one of his favourite fences at Aintree remains to be seen, but it would be fair to say that the horses and jockeys that tackle it might not agree with such an opinion.
The fence took out former Grand National champion Party Politics four years after his triumph in the race, while carnage ensued in the 2019 edition on the second lap here – General Principle fell and brought down the quietly-fancied 16/1 hopeful Rock the Kasbah, while Jury Duty – another favoured by punters at the 10/1 mark – unseated Robbie Power amid the mayhem.