The pas­sion and perils of the Grand Na­tional

Town & Country (UK) - - COUNTRY -

There’s noth­ing quite like the Grand Na­tional’s four miles and 30 fences of treach­er­ous, un­pre­dictable, heart-clench­ing drama. When we were young, my si­b­lings and I would take it in turns to draw a horse’s name out of a hat. I re­mem­ber watch­ing from be­hind a cush­ion as my se­lected run­ner per­ilously nav­i­gated Becher’s Brook. At 12, I went in per­son in my best coat with £10 pocket money. I put £2 on Red Ma­rauder (be­cause I liked the colour of the jockey’s silks) and when he romped to vic­tory – one of only four to fin­ish that year – I thought win­ning was the eas­i­est thing in the world. Nowa­days, my friends and I stand on the slop­ing con­crete of the stalls where you can feel the rum­ble of hooves be­fore the horses hur­tle into view. We keep hand warm­ers in our pock­ets, sip cham­pagne from plas­tic glasses and stand on tip­toe to scan the book­ies for the best odds. I rarely win now, but it doesn’t mat­ter – I love the feel­ing of fren­zied crescendo as the steeds vault the fi­nal fence and thun­der to­wards the fin­ish line. It’s only as the last piece of turf set­tles that you re­alise you were hold­ing your breath for the en­tire race. teresa fitzher­bert The Grand Na­tional week­end (www.ran­dox­health­grand­na­ will take place from 12 to 14 April.

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