The Grand National is the most iconic steeplechase in the world and one of the highlights of the racing calendar, with millions set to tune in to watch this weekend.

For many fans of the sport, it is a good excuse to dress up and put on a bet or two as the race meeting culminates in style. But for animal rights campaigners, it is an event synonymous with cruelty and death as many horses have lost their lives at Aintree over the years.

64 horses have died at the race meeting in its history, with Gionvinco the first to lose his life at the 2024 meeting on Friday. You can read about that here.

Four fatalities occurred last year alone. Envoye Special died on the first day of last year's meeting, with Dark Raven killed in a race hours ahead of the Grand National. In the main event, Hill Sixteen suffered a broken neck at the first fence, while Hullnback died weeks later of an infection caused by an injury sustained in a race earlier in the festival.

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Last year's race had been delayed by 14 minutes after protestors attempted to glue themselves to a fence, with hundreds more trying to invade the racecourse in an attempt to stop the steeplechase from going ahead. The event has been subject to criticism for decades, however, with many calling for it to be banned completely.

For this year's race, the Grand National has implemented a number of changes to help maximise safety. However, the Jockey Club insists that the changes did not come as a direct response to last year's protests.

The most significant changes include the start time, with the race pushed back from 5.15pm to 4pm in a move to help improve the ground at Aintree. The number of runners has also been cut, with the total number of horses reduced from 40 to a maximum of 34 for this year.

There had been calls to reduce the field down to 30, but these were rebuffed by Aintree clerk of the course Sulekha Varma who insists such a move would be counter-productive.

"We know from research papers and internal analysis of jump races that there is a direct correlation between the number of runners and the risk of falling, unseating or being brought down," she said. "However, we also must consider that reducing the field size by too great a number could create a faster race and have an adverse impact in terms of safety."

In a further change, the first fence has been brought forward, towards the start line, by 60 yards in order to reduce the speed at which the horses reach it. For the same reason, the start itself will now be a standing start at the tape, rather than the traditional rolling start.

Each horse must have an official rating of at least 130, up from the traditional 125, while they will no longer be led onto the course by a handler before the race. Instead, each horse will be released to canter in front of the grandstands.

Fence 11 has also been reduced in height by two inches, with the drop on the landing side reduced. No changes to any other fences have been announced.

Grand National runners and riders for 2024

Final field of 34 runners and riders for the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Class 1), (4m2f74y) at Aintree Racecourse on Saturday, April 13 2024 (4pm):

  1. Noble Yeats (J: Harry Cobden; T: Emmet Mullins)
  2. Nassalam (J: Caoilin Quinn; T: Gary Moore)
  3. Coko Beach (J: Jordan Gainford; T: Gordon Elliott)
  4. Capodanno (J Keith Donoghue; T: Willie Mullins)
  5. I Am Maximus (J: Paul Townend; T: Willie Mullins)
  6. Minella Indo (J: Rachael Blackmore; T: Henry De Bromhead)
  7. Corach Rambler (J: Derek Fox; T: Lucinda Russell)
  8. Janidil (J: Jody McGarvey; T: Willie Mullins)
  9. Stattler (J: Patrick Mullins; T: Willie Mullins)
  10. Mahler Mission (J: Ben Harvey; T: John McConnell)
  11. Delta Work (J: Jack Kennedy; T: Gordon Elliott)
  12. Foxy Jacks (J: Gavin Brouder; T: Mouse Morris)
  13. Galvin (J: Sam Ewing; T: Gordon Elliott)
  14. Farouk D’Alene (J: Donagh Meyler; T: Gordon Elliott)
  15. Eldorado Allen (J: Brendan Powell; T: Joe Tizzard)
  16. Ain’t That A Shame (J: David Maxwell; T: Henry De Bromhead)
  17. Vanillier (J: Sean Flanagan; T: Gavin Cromwell)
  18. Mr Incredible (J: Brian Hayes; T: Willie Mullins)
  19. Run Wild Fred (J: Tom Hamilton; T: Gordon Elliott)
  20. Latenightpass (J: Gina Andrews; T: Tom Ellis)
  21. Minella Crooner (J: Kevin Sexton; T: Gordon Elliott)
  22. Adamantly Chosen (J: Sean O’Keeffe; T: Willie Mullins)
  23. Mac Tottie (J: James Bowen; T: Peter Bowen)
  24. Chemical Energy (J: Danny Gilligan; T: Gordon Elliott)
  25. Limerick Lace (J: Mark Walsh; T: Gavin Cromwell)
  26. Meetingofthewaters (J: Danny Mullins; T: Willie Mullins)
  27. The Goffer (J: Sean Bowen; T: Gordon Elliott)
  28. Roi Mage (J: James Reveley; T: Patrick Griffin)
  29. Glengouly (J: Michael O’Sullivan; T: Willie Mullins)
  30. Galia Des Liteaux (J: Harry Skelton; T: Dan Skelton)
  31. Panda Boy (J: JJ Slevin; T: Martin Brassil)
  32. Eklat De Dire (J: Darragh O’Keeffe; T: Henry De Bromhead)
  33. Chambard (J: Lucy Turner; T: Venetia Williams)
  34. Kitty’s Light (J: Jack Tudor; T: Christian Williams)