In making these changes at Aintree we are underlining our relentless focus on welfare and our commitment to powering the future of British racing - Nevin Truesdale, Chief Executive, The Jockey Club

(estimated 3 minute read time)

The Grand National is one of the most watched and most exciting horse racing events anywhere in the world. Known as ‘the true test for both horse and rider,’ the gruelling nature of the Aintree course has led to many memorable races over the years.

However, the difficulty of the track and the sheer number of horses involved led to several questions over safety and animal welfare. With much media attention and even protests, The Jockey Club and British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) had to act, and a number of positive changes have been made to the Grand National for 2024.

Key Changes to the Grand National

To improve conditions for the horse and jockey, whilst preserving the thrill of watching for spectators, some changes to the Grand National have been introduced this year. The key ones are outlined below:

  • Altering a limit introduced in 1984, the maximum number of runners is now 34 instead of 40.
  • The first fence has been moved 60 yards closer to the start and a standing start has been implemented. This change comes after research has shown the dangers of the increased first fence speed from 28 mph to 35 mph in recent years.
  • As ground conditions are drier on breezy April afternoons, the starting time will likely be moved to between 15:45 and 16:15* from the usual 17:15 BST.
  • During the pre-race parade, horses will be allowed to prepare for the races in their own time and, as such, will not be led on course by a handler.
  • Another change to the Grand National designed for horses involves changing the alignment of the running rail inside the course to catch loose animals.
  • To cut down the significantly high numbers of fallers, the height of the 11th fence has been reduced from 5 ft to 4 ft 10 inches. At the foot of the fence on the jumping side, softer foam and rubber ‘toe boards’ have also been introduced.
  • To bring the Grand National in line with top-level Grade One races, the minimum handicap rating for horses has been raised from 125 to 130.
  • Horses that have made over 50% errors in their past eight races are being reviewed by a panel to assess their suitability for the races.
  • The racecourse itself is being improved with frequent irrigation and wider paddock walkways.

Any changes to the Grand National are likely to evoke controversy. What remains unchanged is the fact that it is one of the most cherished events for racing fans. After all, for many, the Grand National is the first race to inspire their love of racing.

*Please note all times are subject to change.