Safety has been paramount at the Grand National for many years and bosses at Aintree have announced that jockeys who haven’t ridden the course on more than two previous occasions will need to take part in an official walk around the course alongside a BHA jockey coach. This move has the full backing of the Professional Jockeys Association and it will involve riders who are taking part in the three races over the famous fences during the Grand National festival in April.
Two-time Grand National-winning jockey Carl Llewellyn and top rider Brian Harding who finished third in race on Simply Gifted in 2005 have both been enlisted to prepare inexperienced jockeys on the potential pitfalls by passing on their knowledge of riding the tough course.
Andrew Tullock, clerk of Aintree, said:
“We’ve staged course walks at the meeting for a number of years and seen positive results.
“This is the first time it will be mandatory for certain jockeys. Those required to walk the course can do so on any one of the three days.”
Indeed many jockeys may decide to take part in the official walk even if not required to do so, Harry Cobden himself walking the course prior to winning the 2017 Topham Chase aboard Ultragold. The jockey said:
“I thought the course walk was a great idea so went around with Carl Llewellyn on the Friday ahead of the 2017 Topham Chase.
“I subsequently won the race on Ultragold, and Carl’s advice and insight proved invaluable – so much so I walked the course with him again the next day before the National!”
Chief Executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, Paul Struthers, said:
“Voluntary course walks have been in place at Aintree for a number of years and have been a success, whilst the mandatory course walks introduced for this year’s Cheltenham Festival worked very well.
“We were therefore very happy to support this decision, with the course walks taking place at multiple times across the three days under the guidance of BHA jockey coaches.”
Jockeys who will be required to walk the Grand National course will be notified by the British Horseracing Authority at the declaration stages.