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Jockey Club review leads to Grand National changes

Aintree racecourse has announced plans to make changes to the Grand National to make the historic race safer for horses and jockeys.

Following the 2023 race, the Jockey Club conducted a review of the race, which has led to several changes being made for the 2024 running of the world's most famous steeplechase.

Read all you need to know about the 2024 Grand National

Grand National changes confirmed

There have been no fewer than 10 changes made for the 2024 race in the biggest shake-up to the Aintree showpiece since 2012.

Here are more details on those changes…

  • The field will be cut to a maximum of 34 runners, having previously been 40 horses.
  • The race will get underway with a standing start, rather than the horses walking towards the tape.
  • The first fence is to be moved 60 yards closer to the start, in an attempt to reduce the speed of the horses as they attempt to jump it.
  • The Grand National will start earlier in the day, to try and make sure the runners get the 'best possible ground conditions'. The new start time is yet to be confirmed.
  • Horses will no longer be paraded in front of the crowds, instead being given their own time to prepare.
  • Fence 11 and Fence 27 will be reduced in height by two inches from 5 foot to 4 foot 10 inches – with the landing area levelled off.
  • All fences will have foam and rubber toe boards added to them.
  • Alterations will be made to the alignment of the running rail on the course to help with the capture of loose horses.
  • Horses with entries in the big race and have made jumping errors in 50% or more of their last eight races, will be scrutinised by the Grand National Review Panel before being allowed to run.
  • The minimum rating for a horse competing in the Grand National will rise from 125 to 130.

Ruby Walsh amongst supporters of Aintree changes 

Aintree's clerk of the course was handed the task of announcing the planned changes to the Grand National and the reasoning behind them.

Sulekha Varma said: "We know from research papers and internal analysis of jump races that there is a direct correlation between the number of runners and the risk of falling, unseating or being brought down.

"However, we also must consider that reducing the field size by too great a number could create a faster race and have an adverse impact in terms of safety."

Former jockey Ruby Walsh, twice a winner of the Grand National and now leading pundit, feels these latest changes will enhance the race and ‘help to ensure its future'.

He said: "The slower you go, the safer things are. Horses are competitive and will race each other but these changes should help to slow down both horse and rider.

Meanwhile, trainer Lucinda Russell – who has enjoyed success twice in the last six editions of the Grand National – says she ‘fully supports' the decision to reduce the size of the field.

Russell stated: "I don't feel that six fewer runners will make a difference to the heritage of the race. It can only be a good step and hopefully will help improve the start procedures.”

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