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 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.
So, what are the changes the authorities have made to The Grand National and how will these changes affect the race?
- Cutting the maximum number of runners from 40, a limit introduced in 1984, to 34.
- Moving the first fence 60 yards closer to the start and implementing a standing start. Research showed speeds to the first fence had increased to about 35mph from 28mph in recent years and this increased speed had a severe impact on the level of danger.
- Bringing forward the start time from 17:15 BST as the ground conditions can become quicker as it dries out on a breezy, sunny April afternoon. The revised time is likely to be between 15:45 and 16:15.*
- Horses will no longer be led by a handler on course during the pre-race parade before the grandstands.
- Changes to the alignment of the running rail on the inside of the course to help catch loose horses.
- Reducing height of 11th fence by two inches, from 5ft to 4ft 10in, on take-off side and some ‘levelling off’ on landing side to reduce height of the drop. The fence was shown to have an unusually high number of fallers, horses being brought down and unseated riders in all races over the National course.
- Introducing softer foam and rubber ‘toe boards’ at the foot of the jumping side of every fence.
- More pop-up irrigation to water the course; and widening paddock walkways.
- Raising the minimum handicap rating for horses to 130 from 125, which brings it in line with top-level Grade One races.
- A review panel of industry experts who assess the suitability of every runner to take a closer look at horses that have made jumping errors in 50% or more of their last eight races before allowing them to take part.
These changes will improve conditions for both horse and jockey, whilst also preserving the thrill of the racing action for spectators.
*Please note all times are subject to change.