IF Cheltenham racecourse gave us “the Greatest Show”, then this afternoon Aintree racecourse will bring us “the Greatest Race”, the Grand National.

The first official winner of the National was the aptly named Lottery in 1839, trained by George Dockeray, and ridden by Jem Mason. Just before the race started at 3pm, hot money came in for four horses, Lottery, The Nun, Rust, and Daxon. Lottery was first across the line, The Nun was fifth, Rust pulled up, and Daxon fell.

The race was famous for one other event when a horse called Conrad fell at the 22nd fence and threw his rider, Captain Martin Becher, into a brook where the captain took shelter to avoid injury. Hence the sixth and 22nd fence is now called Becher’s Brook.

In 1840, a horse called Valentine is reputed to have jumped the ninth and 25th fence with its hind legs first, hence that fence is now called Valentine’s Brook.

In 1967, a loose horse called Popham Down, which had unseated its rider at the first fence, veered across the front runners at the 23rd fence, causing a right old melee. Some runners stopped, others refused to jump or unseated their riders. Some horses even turned round and started to run back up the course.

Lagging well behind this main body of runners was jockey John Buckingham riding a horse called Foinavon, a rank outsider at 100/1. Buckingham managed to steer his horse through the chaos, took it to the front, and allowed it to gallop away for a famous victory. The seventh and 23rd fence is now called the Foinavon Fence.

In 1841, a mare called Charity won the race and twenty years later in 1861 later another mare, Jealousy, was the winner.

Since the Second World War, two Reds from County Durham have won: Red Alligator in 1968, trained by Denys Smith in Bishop Auckland, and ridden by Brian Fletcher, and Red Marauder in 2001, trained by Norman Mason in Brancepeth and ridden by Richard Guest.

Sir Peter O'Sullevan commentated on 50 Grand Nationals on radio and television, his last one in 1997. When Red Rum completed a hat-trick of wins in 1977, Sir Peter called him home, saying: "The 12-year-old Red Rum being preceded by loose horses, being chased by Churchtown Boy. It's hats off and a tremendous reception, you've never heard one like it in Liverpool."

The previous year, 1976, a horse called Rag Trade, trained by Fred Rimell, ridden by John Burke, and owned by celebrated hairstylist Mr “Teasy Weasy” Raymond had foiled Red Rum's hat-trick bid. Mr Raymond also owned the 1963 winner Ayala.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother had her first runner with Monaveen in 1950. Six years later, she watched her horse Devon Loch, ridden by Dick Francis, take what looked an unassailable lead, but 40 yards from the winning line, and in front of the Royal Box, Devon Loch jumped into the air, dropped onto its belly, and presented the race to ESB.

The favourite in 1968, Different Class, was owned by Gregory Peck, while What A Friend, a runner in 2011 and 2013, was partly owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, the retired Manchester United manager.

Picking a winner

WHICH horse will win this year's race? Here are some stats and trends to help you find the winner:

1. Do not back a seven-year-old. The last seven-year-old to win was Bogskar way back in 1940.

2. Make sure your selection has won a chase over a distance of three miles or more.

3. Sixty-five of the top 11 finishers in each of the last seven years, that's 65 out of 77 horses, carried less than 11 stone.

4. Twenty-one of the last 27 winners had never run in the race before, so experience counts for nothing.

5. Your selection really needs an official chase rating of 148 or more.

Top tips

YOU can't knock the credentials of market leaders Cloth Cap, Any Second Now and Burrows Saint, but favourites or near favourites do not have a good record. The going might be an important factor. I expect the going to be good or good/soft. Horses at bigger prices which have won on that type of going, and have won or finished second in a chase in the spring, and so meet a lot of my criteria, are OK Corral, Mister Malarkey, Potters Corner Talkischeap and Takingrisks.

Remember Takingrisks beat Cloth Cap by four lengths in the Scottish National in April 2019. Cloth Cap is just one pound better off today.