The current Grand National course record holder is Mr. Frisk who, in 1990, before the distance was shortened by half a furlong, carried amateur jockey Marcus Armytage to victory in a time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds. Notwithstanding the revised distance – which is now, officially, 4 miles 2 furlongs and 74 yards, following a change to the position of the start and subsequent remeasurement of the yardage – Many Clouds, who won in a time of 8 minutes 56.8 seconds, under 11st 9lb, in 2015, recorded the fastest time since.
However, Mr. Frisk set his record on officially ‘firm’ going but, since 2013, the Aintree executive has routinely watered the course, so that the going is never, and never will be, faster than ‘good to soft’. The latter decision may mean the current Grand National course record stands in perpetuity, but the world-famous steeplechase has undergone many significant changes in its long, illustrious, so we thought we’d take a look at the horses who’ve held the course record down the years.
The first Grand National course record holder was, of course, Lottery, who won the inaugural running of the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, in 1839, in a rather pedestrian 14 minutes 53.0 seconds. The Grand National became a handicap in 1843 and winning times steadily improved over the next few years until, in 1850, the diminutive Abd-El-Kader won the first of his two consecutive Nationals and, in so doing, recorded the first sub-ten minute time of 9 minutes 57.5 seconds.
One reputable source suggests that Abd-El-Kader held the Grand National course record for the next 93 years but, elsewhere, The Huntsman has been credited with a winning time of 9 minutes 30.0 seconds in 1862, and Kellsboro’ Jack with 9 minutes 28.0 seconds in 1933. Either way, the next Grand National course record holder was definitely the legendary Golden Miller who, in 1934, fresh from the third of his five consecutive victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, beat Delaneige, who was receiving 10lb, by 5 lengths in a lickety-split 9 minutes 20.4 seconds.
Again, at least one reputable source suggests that Golden Miller held the course record for 39 years, while another credits Reynoldstown with a fractionally faster winning time, of 9 minutes 20.2 seconds, in 1935. Nevertheless, other than for the sake of historical accuracy, the point is moot because, in 1973, the existing course record – whatever it was – was smashed to smithereens by the incomparable Red Rum.
Having trailed the long-time leader, Crisp, for most of the second circuit, Red Rum was still about 15 lengths behind jumping the final fence, but overhauled his leg-weary rival close home to win by three-quarters of a length. His winning time, of 9 minutes 1.9 seconds, was nearly 19 seconds faster than any that had been achieved before and set a record that would stand for the next 16 years. In fact, three-and-a-half decades later, the time has still only ever been beaten by three horses, the aforementioned pair of Mr. Frisk and Many Clouds and Ballabriggs, who came home in a time of 9 minutes 1.2 seconds in 2011.