Nominee – Best Science and Natural History programme, Royal Television Society 2013
The Grand National is the ultimate challenge in horse racing. To take part in it at all requires extraordinary dedication and bravery. This programme examines what it takes to win it.
Drawing on the testimony of jockeys, and analysis of the anatomy of the horses, Mark Evans gets to grips with the race. His aim is to learn what qualities separate the winner from the also-rans.
He looks at the race in forensic detail: first the adrenaline-pumping start where 40 horses line up ready to charge, followed by the immense power they need to jump the nearly six-foot-high fences, then the precise combination of human balance and equine skill to land safely, and finally the power, will and endurance that decide the final sprint.
From its origins in the muddy chaos of Irish cross-country drag hunting, the Grand National has transformed itself, with new research in laboratories now unlocking the biological basis of success.
With demonstrations including horses leaping over cars, new film techniques taking viewers inside the race, and trainers revealing the secrets behind creating winners, the programme provides an unprecedented insight into the sport, and into the people and horses whose goal is to conquer four and half miles and 30 fences, and to satisfy what is often a lifetime’s obsession.