The Grand and Scottish Nationals have rightly taken centre stage on the last two Saturdays, writes Ian Sutherland. They are as good an indicator as any that the jumps season is all but over. Yet there is still one more National to run before the curtain falls, Perth's Highland National, taking place this afternoon.
Matt's positive mention of Royale Knight for the Scottish National led me to listen out for the thoughts of the television team. I was surprised to hear that he was already a winner of three Nationals, and astonished when I looked up his profile to find that they were the last three races he had won (a Borders National in 2013 and the Durham National in 2014 and 2015). Here we had a three time National winner that wasn't on my radar at all.
It led me to wonder - are there too many Nationals?
How many do you think are run each season? And why are they all called a National? Now I've absolutely no quibble with the Grand, Scottish, Welsh and Irish races of that name. Each is a pinnacle of long distance handicap steeplechasing in the respective country, and the calling the race a National certainly helps to capture its importance.
Yet the racing calendar includes another 13 "regional nationals", surely a contradiction in terms if ever there was one.
The following table shows races run over a distance of 3m 2.5f or more, with those reserved for amateur and conditional jockeys, or novice and hunter chases. There are 45 of them, with 16, or just over a third, including the word National in the race name. There are two anomalies: I've included the Summer Cup, run at Uttoxeter, as until 2011 that was known as the Summer National. And from this season the West Wales National has been reduced from 3m 4f to 3m 1.5f, a great shame in my view.
One of the things that makes a National special is the spectacle of a large field of horses taking each other on. Five of our 16 Nationals fail on that score, unable to attract 10 runners this season. Indeed, for the Cambridgeshire National, only four horses went to post, down from five in 2014, and eight in its inaugural running in 2013.
That's not what a National is about. It's time to drop the word from some of these long distance chases.
- Ian S
|30-Apr-15||Sedgefield||Free Bookmakers Bets||3m 2.5f||Class 4||5|
|5-May-15||Sedgefield||Jardines Catering||3m 2.5f||Class 5||8|
|30-May-15||Stratford||AMG Logistics||3m 3.5f||Class 3||9|
|28-Jun-16||Uttoxeter||John Smith's Summer Cup||3m 2f||Listed||17|
|3-Sep-15||Sedgefield||Tips on this Race||3m 2.5f||Class 5||8|
|12-Oct-16||Sedgefield||Renew Holdings||3m 2.5f||Class 3||5|
|25-Oct-16||Wincanton||Desert Orchid Silver Cup||3m 2.5f||Class 3||8|
|29-Oct-16||Sedgefield||Durham National||3m 5f||Class 3||7|
|6-Nov-15||Musselburgh||Thistle systems||3m 2.5f||Class 4||4|
|14-Nov-15||Cheltenham||Murphy Group||3m 3.5f||Grade 3||17|
|15-Nov-15||Fontwell||Southern National||3m 3f||Class 3||13|
|19-Nov-15||Wincanton||Wincanton Interactive||3m 2.5f||Class 4||6|
|21-Nov-15||Haydock||Betfair Pricerush||3m 4.5f||Class 3||8|
|24-Nov-15||Sedgefield||Betfred follow us on Twitter||3m 2.5f||Class 5||11|
|4-Dec-15||Exeter||Brewin Marathon||3m 6.5f||Class 3||12|
|5-Dec-15||Sandown||London National||3m 5f||Class 2||15|
|6-Dec-15||Kelso||Borders National||4m 0.5f||Class 3||8|
|26-Dec-15||Market Rasen||Lincolnshire National||3m 3.5f||Class 4||12|
|30-Dec-15||Haydock||Last Fling||3m 3.5f||Class 2||8|
|1-Jan-16||Cheltenham||Watch Live Racing||3m 2.5f||Class 2||8|
|9-Jan-16||Chepstow||Welsh National||3m 5.5f||Grade 3||20|
|14-Jan-16||Catterick||N Yorks Grand National||3m 6f||Class 3||12|
|16-Jan-16||Warwick||Betfred Classic||3m 5f||Class 1||14|
|21-Jan-16||Wincanton||Somerset National||3m 2.5f||Class 3||14|
|6-Feb-16||Fos Llas||West Wales National||3m 1.5f||Class 2||7|
|20-Feb-16||Haydock||Grand National Trial||3m 4.5f||Class 1||8|
|26-Feb-16||Exeter||Devon National||3m 6.5f||Class 3||12|
|22-Feb-15||Newcastle||Eider||4m 0.5f||Class 2||17|
|29-Feb-16||Ayr||Dawn Homes Kilsyth||3m 3f||Class 4||8|
|2-Mar-16||Bangor||RAO/Racing Post||3m 5.5f||Class 4||8|
|6-Mar-16||Huntingdon||Cambridgehire National||3m 6.5f||Class 3||4|
|13-Mar-16||Warwick||Free Skips For Metal||3m 5f||Class 3||11|
|14-Mar-16||Taunton||Bathwick Tyres||3m 4f||Class 3||6|
|17-Mar-16||Hexham||Perfect Location||4m||Class 4||6|
|19-Mar-16||Uttoxeter||Midlands Grand National||4m 2f||Listed||18|
|23-Mar-16||Warwick||Executive Hire News||3m 5f||Class 4||10|
|26-Mar-16||Haydock||Tim Moloney||3m 4f||Class 3||8|
|27-Mar-16||Plumpton||Sussex National||3m 4.5f||Class 3||8|
|9-Apr-16||Aintree||Grand National||4m 2.5f||Grade 3||39|
|12-Apr-16||Exeter||Exeter Audi Stayers||3m 6.5f||Class 3||9|
|13-Apr-16||Cheltenham||Racing UK Now||3m 4f||Class 3||16|
|16-Apr-16||Ayr||Scottish Grand National||4m||Class 1||28|
|21-Apr-16||Warwick||Close Brothers||3m 5f||Class 3|
|22-Apr-16||Perth||Deeside Highland National||3m 6.5f||Class 3|
|23-Apr-16||Sandown||Bet365 Gold Cup||3m 4.5f||Grade 3|