Historically, there was a time when every schoolboy – or, at least, every schoolboy with a slightly misspent youth – knew that the Grand National was run over an advertised distance of four-and-a-half miles. Of course, that was before 2013, when safety measures included moving the start forward, about a hundred yards closer to the first fence, with the result that the race was run over the shorter advertised distance of four miles and three-and-a-half furlongs. Thus, the last Grand National to be run over four-and-a-half miles was the 2012 renewal which, fittingly, also produced the closest ever finish, with Neptune Collonges beating Sunnyhillboy by a nose.
However, Aintree, along with every other National Hunt racecourse in Britain, was subsequently professionally surveyed and re-measured, along a line two yards from the inside rail rather than down the middle of the track, as had traditionally been the case. Not unexpectedly, the change in methodology lead to traditional race descriptions becoming shorter; since 2016, the Grand National has been run over an advertised distance of four miles and two-and-half furlongs, or an exact, ‘baseline’ distance of four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards. However, notwithstanding the earlier changes, horses still travel exactly the same distance they did prior to 2016.