Corach Rambler – Winner of 2023 Grand National at Aintree BSI

Bryan Cooper: Reducing Grand National Runners Not The Right Call

Reducing the number of runners in the Aintree Grand National is not the silver bullet to save the race.

That’s according to former Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Bryan Cooper.

It’s the biggest race in the sport and its future may be in jeopardy as forces from outside horse racing conspire to bring about its demise due to animal welfare concerns.

In an exclusive interview with BoyleSports, Cooper discussed the future of horse racing’s most famous race along with the important relationship between horse racing and betting, Frankie Dettori’s retirement U-turn and the drastic lifestyle differences between a flat jockey and a jumps jockey.

Reducing Grand National Runners Not The Way To Go

There is still that same number of runners in the Topham Chase at the same meeting…

But look, it is good to see they are doing what they can to save the race.

I’m all for a change, I think if they made the ground soft – speed and the drier ground makes for quicker horses and the quicker they go, the higher chance you have of falling. 

Soft or heavy ground brings the speed out of things so if they watered the ground and took the good to soft out of the ground and just made it soft it definitely would have helped things a bit more.

I don’t think reducing it to 34 runners is a big step in the right direction at all, it will still be very competitive. If there are one or two stragglers out of the back and they just want to complete the course but then they fall, then give the jockeys a ban, give them 21 days, make the jockeys use their brain.

The 2024 Aintree Grand National is scheduled for April 13th and you can find odds for the big event with BoyleSports’ horse racing betting odds.

Pressure On The Sport of Horse Racing

With what went on in April, the sport was under a lot of pressure and it wasn’t nice to see what went on.

I think they have modified the fences as well, made them a bit smaller. Maybe I am biased but even as a human being, if you are taking on a smaller jump then you are going to run faster at it than at a bigger jump. I am hopeful that the improvements will work.

The Strong Relationship Between Racing And Betting

I’m not a punter myself and I haven’t had the experiences but reading between the lines and with my own circle of friends – they love having a bet.

Saturday’s they will have their accounts and money set up and now they could be quizzed on what’s there and have it checked, that’s another reason that will stop people getting into racing.

Racing relies so heavily on the Gambling Commission for sponsorship and when you have that money taken out, it will have a massive hit.

There are ways around it I am sure, I was very interested to hear John Gosden say what he said, his opinion matters. I think people like him and others need to step in.

Frankie Detorri’s Retirement U-Turn

I thought he was maybe following in the footsteps of those higher echelon footballers, you know your Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, David Beckham, going off to live the glamorous lifestyle!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have that opportunity! I can see where he is likely coming from, he is still riding at the top level, yes he said he was going to retire but I know as a jockey that when you are still racing, you have that bug, it is very hard to give it up and walk away. Especially with Frankie after he rode those two winners at Ascot the way he did, he couldn’t have left it at that.

Yes, maybe he dealt with it in the wrong way when he signed out at Goodwood and all of these other places when it was supposedly going to be his last time but I firmly understand where he’s coming from.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing him back on the track soon. He’s a great rider, a great character and hopefully we will see him on this side of the water again soon.

Glamorous Lifestyle of a Flat Jockey

You can extend your career more and flat jockeys certainly have a better lifestyle than us that went over the obstacles, that’s for sure. It is a worldwide sport for them, they can head off to Dubai or Saudi and ride around in glamorous conditions whereas we were trekking around in winter tracks in minus one degrees and torrential rain. 

It is a very high end sport on the Flat, the prize money has shot up, and when Frankie was earning that he probably found it hard to step away when he was racing on the big days. 

I knew when I was getting out. I’d had a lot of injuries and was worried about getting another one. I was waking up every morning with a worry and that’s not what you want. Frankie I suppose is waking up in the California sunshine! 

I got out on my terms and in one piece and knew I was never going to go back but if I had the career that Frankie has had, then I might have done things a bit differently. 

I had two or three winners on the flat but things worked a little bit too quickly for me on the flat, my brain didn’t react as quickly so that stopped my career as a flat jockey.

The big flat race this weekend will take place at Doncaster with the Prospect Stakes and you can place your horse racing bets for the big race at BoyleSports.

*Prices subject to fluctuation

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