What were the largest and smallest fields for the Grand National?
Nowadays, the Grand National has a safety limit of 40, so the days of huge fields are long gone. However, in the 1947 Grand National, won by 100/1 outsider Caughoo, 57 horses faced the starter and even that wasn’t the largest field ever assembled. In 1929, which was, ironically, the year after the open ditch at the Canal Turn was filled in for safety purposes, the National attracted 66 runners and was won by another 100/1 outsider, Gregalach.
At the other end of the scale, the smallest field ever assembled for the Grand National was just ten, in 1883. At a time when the National Course still included an expanse of ploughed field, some owners of top-class staying chasers baulked at the idea of running in the Grand National on the grounds that it involved too little jumping and, unbelievably, that the obstacles, at that stage, were too small. The 1883 Grand National was acknowledged by the contemporary press as a poor renewal, lacking strength in depth, but that didn’t stop Zoedone, owned and ridden by Count Karel Kinsky, being ‘hunted’ around to win, unchallenged, by 10 lengths. Apart from a slight mistake at the second last, Zoedone barely put a foot wrong and came home in a pedestrian 11 minutes 39.0 seconds.