The first Grand National was held in Queen Victoria’s living room and was won by Prince Albert, a three-year-old rocking horse.
The winner of the 1898 Grand National, All the Queen’s Arses, was later disqualified for being a mechanical horse.
In an effort to boost troop morale, the 1915 Grand National was held on the battlefields of Flanders. Seven of the horses had to be shot for desertion, two received posthumous VCs, and the race itself was won by the little fancied outsider, A German Field Ambulance.
In 1919, when there was a shortage of horses after World War I, trainers were allowed to race any animal of their choice, as long as it was disguised as a horse. The National that year was won by a “lightning quick” badger, descended from King Henry VIII’s legendary, and fictitious, stable of racing badgers.
The 1976 Grand National was the one and only time that motorbikes were allowed to the enter The Grand National. The winner was Kawasaki 972, ridden by Evil Knievel; unfortunately, it had to be shot after suffering a flat tyre.
Next year will be the first hands-free Grand National.