I have very mixed feelings about this Steeplechase, particularly this year when a local horse had to be put down.* The Grand National, like the Boat Race, the Derby, The Cheltenham Gold Cup and the FA Cup Final, is an iconic moment in the sporting calendar and is one of the events which we always try to watch. This year because of the wedding we missed it and I can't say that I am sorry in view of the fatalities.
There has been such a lot of publicity, so many people writing 'for' it and so many 'against' it - that I really don't know which side to come down on. The points the pro people seem to make are:
a) the horses love it. How do we know this? They say that if the horses didn't love it they wouldn't continue to gallop round the course once they had unseated their riders. My answer to this is to think of wild horses in various parts of the world - they are herd animals and when put together they follow one another. Surely the same applies when they are galloping round the course.
b) the runners are chosen by their owners because they are the brave and fearless ones. This I view with suspicion mainly because I think these are human characteristics. Having watched young horses being broken in by the jockeys on our local 'gallops' (we live in a racing area) I think the jockeys do not give up until they totally dominate the horse, in which case they are not so much brave and fearless as under total domination.
Why in all the furore at the moment does no one mention the real reason the race is run - money.
We have to accept that are too many horses, the loose, riderless horses are a real danger, every horse seems to be being steered in the direction of the tightest bend (like racing cars), the jumps are fearsome (I have seen them and believe me, some of them, particularly Bechers Brook are absolutely terrifying). Last but by no means least, every jockey carries a whip and after the last fence there is a frantic race to finish first. Need I say more?
As I say - I love watching it on television, I would be sad to see it go but I do sometimes feel that my reasons are for self-gratification rather than the good of the horse. Can someone please enlighten me?
*According to Pete.