The Grand National is one of the most iconic and famous steeplechase horse races in the world. It is a grueling race that tests the skill and endurance of both horse and jockey. The race is known for its danger and difficulty, and there are many stories of close calls and injuries. But has a jockey ever died in the Grand National?
The Grand National Race
The Grand National is a National Hunt steeplechase horse race held annually at the Aintree racecourse, near Liverpool, England. It is a major event in the British sporting calendar and attracts a huge number of spectators. The race is run over a distance of 4 miles, 514 yards and includes 30 fences, known as “National Fences”. These fences are larger and more challenging than regular steeplechase fences and are a key part of the race’s challenge and danger.
History of Jockey Deaths in the Grand National
The Grand National has seen its fair share of close calls and injuries over the years, but there has only been one reported death of a jockey in the race’s long history. On March 27th, 1870, jockey George Stevens lost his life during the race. He was riding a horse called The Colonel when it fell at the sixth fence, throwing Stevens off and causing him to land on a hurdle. He suffered a fractured skull and died shortly afterwards.
Safety Measures Implemented After the Death of George Stevens
The death of George Stevens was a tragedy, and it led to an overhaul of safety measures for the Grand National. These included:
- The introduction of medical personnel on site for the race to provide medical attention in the event of an accident or injury.
- The introduction of jump jockeys to replace the traditional jockeys who were more prone to injury.
- The introduction of safety fences to reduce the risk of horses and jockeys becoming injured in the event of a fall.
- The introduction of a starting gate to ensure that horses and jockeys are lined up evenly before the start of the race.
Modern Safety Measures
Since the death of George Stevens in 1870, there have been a number of safety measures implemented in the Grand National to ensure the safety of both horses and jockeys. All fences have been modified to ensure they are as safe as possible, with the most challenging fences being replaced with more forgiving ones. In addition, the starting gate has been improved to ensure that all horses and jockeys are lined up evenly before the start of the race.
Medical Personnel on Site
At each Grand National race, there is a team of medical personnel on site to provide medical attention in the event of an accident or injury. The medical team is made up of paramedics, medical doctors and veterinary surgeons who are on hand to provide medical care for any horse or jockey who needs it.
Modern jockeys are highly trained and experienced athletes who have the skill and stamina to complete the grueling Grand National course. With the introduction of safety measures and the use of jump jockeys, the risk to jockeys is much lower than it was in the past.
Risk of Injury or Death
Despite the safety measures that have been put in place, there is still a risk of injury or death for both horses and jockeys in the Grand National. The combination of the challenging course, unpredictable weather and large number of horses makes the race a high-risk event.
The death of George Stevens in 1870 was a tragedy, but it led to an overhaul of safety measures in the Grand National. With the introduction of safety fences, jump jockeys, medical personnel on site and improved starting gates, the risk to jockeys is much lower than it was in the past. However, the risk of injury or death is still present and both horses and jockeys should take extra care when competing in the Grand National.