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A year after its debut covering of the world’s greatest steeplechase, Channel 4 returns to Aintree for the 2014 running of the Crabbies Grand National Festival on April 3-5.

The broadcaster will be dedicating more than 20 hours of programming around one of Britain’s biggest sporting days out, including more than 10 hours of live racing coverage from Aintree alongside a wide range of Grand National-themed programmes in the build-up to the biggest horse race of the year. 

A sporting event which has witnessed a spectacular rise in popularity since dancing perilously close to extinction from the mid-1960s to the mid-70s, the Grand National is known as the ‘People’s Race’ and Channel 4 will cover it for the second time in 2014 after taking over from the BBC in 2013, who screened the race for more than five decades.

Despite the lure of other major sporting events at this time of year, the Grand National still captures the hearts and the imagination of inveterate racing fans and once-a-year viewers alike. 

It is the race that all jumps jockey want to win, given its iconic status with the British sporting public, as well the thrill of navigating a course that asks the most questions of horse and rider anywhere in the world. 

It is a race where dreams can be realised – Bob Champion overcame cancer to ride Aldaniti to victory in 1981, Red Rum won the race for the third time in 1977 and Nigel Twiston-Davies – the only current trainer to win the race twice – saddled Bindaree to victory in 2002 when he was considering finishing his training operation.

History has been written about the legendary runners and riders who have triumphed in the Grand National, each of them demonstrating that thrilling combination of human endeavour and equine fortitude.

From the legendary triple-winning success of Red Rum, to the 2013 race, when Auroras Encore took the honours, there is always a story to be told.

GRAND NATIONAL 2014 – RUNNERS & RIDERS

Ryan Mania secured a memorable Grand National victory on his first appearance in the famous race, guiding 66-1 outsider Auroras Encore to a shock success 12 months ago.

Trained by Sue Smith, the 11-year-old powered past Cappa Bleu after clearing the final fence to win the famous race by nine lengths ahead of Cappa Bleu and Teaforthree.

Once again the world will stop in its tracks, as 600 million people watch live on television. 40 horses and jockeys will line up to race across the famous fences including Becher’s Brook, Canal Turn, Valentine’s and The Chair.7

On the morning of the big race, many people will be searching in a mild state of desperation, through unfamiliar racecards and newspaper columns, to try to unearth which horse will win the world’s most famous steeplechase.

Channel 4 will takes viewers to the heart of the race again in 2014 and will be hoping to follow the strong viewing figures for its debut screening of the Aintree spectacular in 2013, which peaked at 8.4 million viewers for the big race.

Alongside five daily live races, the broadcaster will again dedicate a range of support programming around the event, including spin-offs of popular Channel 4 shows and special documentaries.

Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Sport, says: “Once again, I’m delighted with the programme support this great race has secured.

“With the race boasting a million pound prize fund for the first time, it’s fantastic that our build-up to the big spectacle on Saturday includes Grand National-themed programming on Thursday and Friday evening to support the racing on both those days.

“From 9.00am on Saturday viewers can soak up the atmosphere right through to the main event at 4.15pm.

“Across the three days of the Festival we’ll be bringing people right to the heart of the event and the sport through insightful features, experts on course and the amazing camera technology we’ve employed.

“The overhead Cam-cat adds its amazing vista of the field and in the Scorpio Arm, normally used to film high-speed car chases, we have a unique view as it travels in front of the horses at a height of 18 feet.

“We have also added equine locomotion expert Alan Wilson to our team to bring further insight into these incredible athletes.”

For a rich and ever-evolving tapestry of stories and memories, no race can match the Grand National and you can follow all three days of action from Aintree on Channel 4.

Scroll down for SOTB’s TV guide to the 2014 Grand National on Channel 4 below:

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Channel 4 is to dedicate 20 hours of programming around the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National Festival as it screens Britain’s most popular horse race for the second time.

Clare Balding and Nick Luck will again lead the presenting team at Aintree for all three days of the Grand National Festival, which will incorporate over 15 hours of live action and five races each day.

‘The Morning Line’, hosted by Nick Luck, will preview racing action on Thursday and Friday in its usual 8.00am slot, with Saturday’s show moving to 9.00am to begin Channel 4’s full day programming based around the Grand National.

Afternoon coverage starts at 1:35pm on Thursday/Friday and at 1:00pm on Grand National Day, all fronted by Balding and Luck, with Jim McGrath and Graham Cunningham providing expert analysis from the trackside studio.

On-course reporters Alice Plunkett, Mick Fitzgerald and Rishi Persad will have exclusive access to the stables, jockeys’ changing Room and steward’s room, as well as bring viewers all the atmosphere of the thrilling three-day meeting, enabling Channel 4 viewers to be up close to the action.

Simon Holt leads Channel 4’s commentary team for all three days. He will be supported by two additional commentators in Richard Hoiles and Ian Bartlett for the feature four miles, three furlongs contest on Saturday, as well selected races on the opening two days.

In the bustling Aintree betting ring, Tanya Stevenson will be on-hand to relay the latest news alongside Brian Gleeson, who offers his unique Irish perspective.

New innovations for this year’s Grand National coverage on Channel 4 includes the use of two additional cameras – a new jib camera to show the challenge of The Chair jump from a low angle, as well as four cameras within the fences and the return of the Camcat wirecam.

Channel 4’s Grand National Festival coverage will also include a broad range of features to complement the live racing action.

Clare Balding chats with last year’s winning jockey, Ryan Mania, about the day that changed his world, while last year’s winning trainers Sue and Harvey Smith reveal their 2014 chance with Mr Moonshine.

Plus, there is an insightful feature examining the longest partnership in racing between trainer Philip Hobbs and stable jockey Richard Johnson; a Monbeg Dude fitness challenge between co-owner Nicky Robinson and rugby pal Kyle Traynor versus jockeys Sam Thomas and Mattie Batchelor, and an in-depth interview with Graham Wylie, owner of Grand National heavy-weight Tidal Bay.

A total of 47 cameras will be deployed around the Aintree course for all three days by coverage producers IMG Media, while Channel 4 will again run a range of Grand National specials based around its major shows to promote its coverage of the big race (see below).

Denise Large, Programme Director for Channel 4 Racing, said: “The Grand National is like a feature film in terms of racing – it needs watching carefully and I want viewers to see their horses as much as possible throughout and of course bring enjoyment to their screens.

“This year’s we’re using more cameras that ever before with a specific focus on the start, key fences and the final leap at the last.”

The award-winning Horse Tracker app, launched ahead of last year’s race, will run across all three days of the 2014 Festival with new features that include a map providing visual representation of where your horses are within the 40-runner field, plus audience tracking data that can highlight the most tracked horse in the app.

Channel 4’s online services will provide a comprehensive service across the Festival to support viewers’ experience.

Multimedia live text commentary, daily reviews, on-course reporting and Grand National features will be available at channel4.com/racing, with further interactivity via Channel 4 Racing’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

For further information about the 2014 Grand National Festival, visit the official website.

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Alongside the live racing, Channel 4 will once again embrace the Grand National Festival across its schedules with a varied range of supporting programmes.

Channel 4 launched its build up for the Grand National with the spectacular ‘Original Extreme Sport’ promotional trailer (see above) which dramatised the story of the first ever recorded steeplechase, reported to have taken place in 1752 Ireland.

The 90-second trail, produced by the award-winning 4Creative team, has been broadcast extensively across Channel 4 portfolio of channels in the build-up to the event.

In the week building up to the National, Channel 4 will broadcast a new horse-racing documentary ‘Jockey School’ at 10.00pm on Thursday, April 3.

The one-hour documentary by First Cut, which provides first time directors with terrestrial exposure, is filmed by Bianca Barker and follows three teenagers with troubled backgrounds, as they attempt to secure a career in racing through an intensive 10-week course at the Northern Racing College near Doncaster.

This is followed at 11.00pm by a repeat showing of last year’s acclaimed documentary ‘How to Win the Grand National’, presented by veterinary expert Mark Evans, which examined the science of race horses and focuses on the genetics of this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National favourite Tea For Three.

On Friday, April 4, Channel 4 will broadcast an ‘Alan Carr Chatty Man: Grand National Special’ featuring Frankie Dettori and a celebrity Grand National sweepstake.

Grand National Day on Channel 4 starts on Saturday starts at 9.00am with ‘The Morning Line’ followed by a three-hour special edition of Weekend Brunch, featuring Simon Rimmer cooking from a VW camper van on the winning line, plus actress Chelsee Healey from Waterloo Road on-course.

Tim Lovejoy and Amanda Byram will present the show that also includes special guest Jodie Kidd and music from The Vamps ahead of the live racing coverage that begins at 1.00pm that afternoon.

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* denotes non-live Channel 4 races
 
Thursday 3rd April
DAY 1: GRAND OPENING DAY
The Morning Line: 8.00am-9.00am  Channel 4
LIVE: 1.35pm-4.30pm  Channel 4
 

Today’s highlight is the £200,000 Aintree Hurdle, one of three Grade One clashes, in which The New One looks to bounce back after his unlucky third in the Champion Hurdle.

There’s also the Fox Hunters Chase, over 2m 6f of the famous Grand National course for amateur riders.

   
Race Card
2:00  Injured Jockeys Fund 50th Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle
2:30  Betfred Bowl Chase
3:05  Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle
3:40  Crabbie’s Fox Hunters’ Chase
4:15  Silver Cross Red Rum Handicap Chase
4:50  Pinsent Masons Manifesto Novices’ Chase*
5:25  Dominican Republic Handicap Hurdle*
 
 
Friday 4th April
DAY 2: LADIES DAY
The Morning Line: 8.00am-9.00am  Channel 4
LIVE: 1.35pm-4.30pm  Channel 4
  

Five top quality live races on Ladies Day, including three Grade One clashes, plus all the news and features ahead of tomorrow’s £1,000,000 Grand National, the world’s greatest steeplechase.

  
Race Card
2:00  ifb2014.com Top Novices’ Hurdle
2:30  Befred Mobile Mildmay Novices’ Chase
3:05  Betfred Melling Chase
3:40  Crabbie’s Topham Chase
4:15  Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle
4:50  Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle*
5:25  Concerto Group Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race*
 
 
Saturday 5th April
DAY 3: GRAND NATIONAL DAY
The Morning Line: 9.00am-10.00am  Channel 4
LIVE: 1.00pm-5.15pm  Channel 4
  

Clare Balding and Nick Luck present all the drama, excitement and stories from the world’s greatest steeplechase – the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National.

The first running of the race, 175 years ago, was won by a horse called Lottery: a name that has proved prophetic in the annual hunt for the winner.

By way of help, the team examine the clues in the build-up to the first £1,000,000 National, and then show how the money went with a comprehensive re-run. 

   
Race Card
1:30  Pertemps Network Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
2:15  Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase
2:50  Silver Cross Stayers´ Hurdle
3:25  Betfred TV Handicap Chase
4:15  Crabbie´s Grand National Chase
5:10  Maxilead Metals Handicap Hurdle*
5:45  Weatherbys Private Banking Champion Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race*

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