The Jockey Club has announced sweeping changes to the Randox Grand National to improve safety measures for participating riders and horses.
From 2024 onwards, the field size of UK racing’s most prestigious race will be reduced from 40 to 34 runners, as announced by the Jockey Club, the owner of Aintree Racecourse.
Further decisions taken to ‘reduce risk’ will see the Grand National’s first fence moved 60-yards closer to the start, a precaution needed to reduce horses falling or jockeys being unseated, primarily due to the speed at which they approach the first jump.
The heritage race will return to a standing start, and its start time, typically set at 5:00 pm, will be moved forward to allow horses to run on the softest ground possible.
On-course safety changes will involve redesigning Aintree’s running rail on the inside of the course to assist with capturing loose horses and a reduction of fence 11 by two inches.
The Review Panel of the Grand National cited that safety changes will be implemented to highlight the race’s new focus on jockey protections and animal welfare. The Jockey Club will strengthen procedures in scrutinising participating horses with a record of jumping errors in more than half of their last eight races.
Supporting safety changes, Nevin Truesdale, CEO of The Jockey Club stated: “The Randox Grand National is part of the fabric of British sporting life alongside the likes of Wimbledon, the FA Cup, and the Open golf and is loved and watched by millions of people all over the world every year.”
Our sport, like many other sports have done, needs to recognise when action needs to be taken to evolve because the safety and care of horses and jockeys will always be our number one priority. In making these changes at Aintree, we are underlining our relentless focus on welfare and our commitment to powering the future of British racing.”
The Grand National’s safety review was led by Aintree Head of Racing and Clerk of the Course, Sulekha Varma, who stated: “The welfare of our racehorses and jockeys is our number one priority at Aintree and we have invested significantly in equine welfare over many years.
“We continually review the Grand National and following an in-depth, evidence-based review process this year, we are announcing several changes as part of its continued evolution.”
The announced changes to the 2024 Grand National see 2024 become a transformative year for British horseracing. This week, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced its 2024 Fixtures List, developed by racing stakeholders to grow and engage new audiences with Britain’s oldest sport.
Securing an additional investment of £3.8m from the Horseracing Betting Levy Board (HBLB), British racing will feature 170 Premier Racedays featuring top riders and horses. Premier Racedays will be supported by significantly enhanced promotion, broadcast coverage and new fan engagement innovations developed by British racing’s Commercial Committee.