FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

England, Grand National Steeplechase 2013

Apr 1, 2013
2013 / April 2013

I don’t gamble, and I am against animal cruelty. So why, every April, do I dabble in the former and tolerate the latter?

The cause of my annual ethical lapse is a horse race. Not just any horse race. This one is ingrained in the British psyche. It is a unifying event. It ranks with The Beatles as one of Liverpool’s essential contributions to the fabric of British life.

Several countries have annual horse races that have broken beyond the usual confines of the sport to become national institutions. The Kentucky Derby, for instance. In Australia, the Melbourne Cup. In France, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

For the duration of those races, amateur gamblers pin their fortunes on a particular horse, and for two or three heart-stopping minutes the dominant sounds in bars and homes across the nation are the thunder of hooves and a TV commentary crescendoing to virtual hysteria.

England’s Grand National shares the attendant cultural trappings of the world’s other great races, but there is one significant difference. Whereas those races are short sprints over flat courses, the National (as it is familiarly known) is a grueling steeplechase.

Steeplechasing originated in Ireland in the 17th century. The reputed first race was cross-country, between two churches. The riders had to jump hedges and streams as they galloped to the finish, using the church steeple as a navigation aid.

Formal steeplechase races were staged on British and Irish courses from 1794 onward, with purpose-built fences and water jumps. The season traditionally runs through winter, when the softer ground makes jumping less hazardous for horses and riders.

Nevertheless, the races are tough, involving more than one lap of the course, with many jumps to be overcome. The toughest race of all is the Grand National, held on Liverpool’s Aintree Racecourse since 1839.

Over a distance of four miles and four furlongs, the 40 horses must jump 30 fences before the final heavy-legged gallop to the finish line. Few make it all the way around. Some unseat their riders and run on, getting in everyone else’s way. But also, with unsettling regularity, horses die.

Of all the Grand National racing odds, the most macabre is 73-1. That’s the likelihood of an individual horse being killed during the race — for every 73 participants, one dies. When you place a bet on the National, it is often more likely your chosen horse will die than win.

In 2012, I bet on the third favorite, Synchronized. He lost his rider at the infamous sixth fence, Becher’s Brook, and then fell catastrophically at the 11th. When the horses came round for the second lap, they were diverted around the fence, where a discrete tent had been erected. I knew what that meant: Synchronized was being euthanized.

With a betting stub bearing the doomed horse’s name, I felt complicit in the tragedy. And yet, this year, on April 6, I will again pore over the Grand National supplements, weighing up runners and riders before making my annual bet.

I understand why campaigners have long called for the National to be banned. Ordinarily, given my love of animals, I would add my voice to theirs. But ethical considerations are overwhelmed by the absolute elation I felt when Red Marauder triumphed in 2001, returning me a handsome payday at 40-1. The feeling is addictive. Without my annual betting outlet, could I resist the lure of other forms of gambling?

So I’ll be betting again this year, with the foremost hope they all get ’round safely. And that my chosen horse will do so first.


FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Explore Excursions


Insta Feed
Feb 23, 2024

The Radical: A New Boutique Hotel, Opens in Asheville, North Carolina’s, River Arts District

Once an abandoned 1923 constructed warehouse in Asheville, North Carolina, it took a creative group of designers, artists, musicians, chefs and business folks to transform a neglected, 100-year-old structure into one of Asheville’s most interesting and daring hotel projects.

Travel Tips to Help Protect Your Health and Your Trip

Five Tips to Help Minimize Potential Travel Problems

February 2024
Feb 23, 2024

Pickle Up: Get in on America’s Fastest Growing Sport

Early on, pickleball had something to do with pickles. Pickles the dog, that is. In one story, the game was named for a family dog that ran off with the ball between sets.

Feb 23, 2024

Hôtel Norman Opens Near the Top of Champs Elysées

Located a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe, Olivier Bertrand recently opened Hôtel Norman for those looking to explore the city.

Briggs & Riley: Elevate Your Journey with Quality Luggage

Embracing a life well lived often means embracing a life well-traveled. Every journey becomes a canvas for experiences that shape our lives and at the heart of every adventure lies the indispensable companion: quality luggage.

Feb 23, 2024

JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City Polanco Completes Renovations

JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City Polanco recently completed renovations of its entrances, lobby, culinary concepts and meeting space. This marks the final stage of the renovation, which began in 2021 with the revitalization of its 269 guestrooms and 45 suites.

Feb 21, 2024

Make Alberta, Canada, Your Next Wellness Getaway

Rich in mountains, prairies, forests and hot springs, Alberta, Canada, takes nature and wellness travel to a whole new level. Combine the beauty of this western Canadian province with relaxation and you’re in for a treat.

Fill Your Heart with Ireland

Whether it's the people, the craic (fun) or the coasts, travelers always find something to love about the island of Ireland. What fills your heart?

eFlyer Reviews
Feb 21, 2024

Amantaka Review

You know what you’re going to get at an Aman hotel, and also you don’t. Expect peerless service, obsessive attention to detail, architectural elegance worthy of a fashion magazine, a holistic approach to wellness and astounding levels of comfort. But each property is also intimately connected to its setting, and that’s where the surprises lie. For instance, finding yourself on your knees on a sidewalk in Luang Prabang handing out sticky rice to Buddhist monks at 5:30 a.m. isn’t something we expected.