top of page

Grand National 2024 🐎✨

On Saturday 13th April 2024, I was lucky enough to attend the Grand National for the third year running.

Saturday dawned a wet and windy morning, and I counted the raindrops scurrying down the train window on the way to Aintree. With the famous Grand National theme (‘Champions’ by the late, great Sir Carl Davis) playing through my headphones, I slipped into a daydream fuelled by both the nostalgia and the impending excitement of the Grand National.

 A very stormy Aintree! 😍

If you’ve read my other Grand National blogs, you’ll know that I was very much ‘that horse geek’ throughout primary and high school.

From the age of 6, it was my undying ambition to be the first girl to win the Grand National, just like Velvet Brown, the beloved character from National Velvet, my favourite book and film.

Every spring, when the National rolled around, I’d be glued to the TV, drinking in every single detail of the race. I memorised the jumps until I could recite them in order. I made lists of the horses’ names in a little notebook and imagined that each belonged to me. I even designed my own jockey silks and wrote fake newspaper articles detailing my future victory.


The finer details such as the fact that I was a very nervous rider and generally refused to go any faster than a trot didn’t matter.

I had a dream, and I had my imagination, and there are very few things a child needs more. ✨

I’m so grateful to have grown up with those dreams, no matter how far-fetched they might have been. Attending Aintree over the past few years has given me the opportunity to revisit the fairytale land that I conjured up as a child.

And while I know I’ll never ride in the National (slight understatement, ha! 🤣), being at Aintree – the very place that shaped so much of my childhood from afar – has brought all those dreams to life.

There’s something about the Grand National that instantly transports us back to the carefree days of our childhoods, where anything seemed possible, and we dared to dream.

At what point do we lose our ability to dream?

Daydreaming might seem a somewhat fruitless pastime for an adult, as practicalities and logic poke holes in our fantasies. But does that mean we can’t indulge in a little harmless folly every now and again?

It was actually Mrs Brown in National Velvet who once famously said, “Tell me, what’s wrong with folly?”


I’m not ashamed to say that on the train on way to Aintree, I allowed the stresses of real life to slowly drain away as I treated my mind to some downtime in the form of daydreaming. In my head, I pretended that I was a jockey, due to ride my self-trained horse in the National. At 15hh, my horse, a trusty steed called Celebration (not sure where I got the name from - probably thinking about chocolate, as always 🤣), was about to make history as the smallest horse to ever run the Aintree course. I think I even envisioned him as a distant descendant of Red Rum. Of course I did. Anything goes in the world of your imagination! 🤷🏻‍♀️🤣


I mean, sure, there were some anomalies in my daydream…

If I was jockey, would I be casually travelling down to Aintree on a rickey old London Northwestern train the morning of the race? I hope not.

Would I be wearing an Oh Polly dress, a pair of stiletto sock boots, and a pink fluffy coat to ride a horse in? Ummm, no.

And, would I be knocking back Liquorice Allsorts for breakfast if I was about to compete in the biggest event of my life? … Okay, to be fair, I probably would. 🐽🤣

But you know what? Sometimes, it’s just nice to leave the real world behind for a couple of hours. Never underestimate the power of imagination, no matter what age you are.

I’ve talked about the magical, unrivalled vibe of the Grand National in my previous two articles: Bucket List: The Grand National 2022 🏇🍀 ( and The Grand National 2023 🏇✨ (

Watching the race on TV is mesmerising enough, but actually being there, in the beating heart of it all, is something I can’t quite describe.

Everywhere you turn, you’re surrounded by magnificence.

The names of some of the greatest legends in sporting history greet you st every turn: the Red Rum statue, Aldiniti Bar, the Tiger Roll Suite… It takes my breath away to think that these greats have dominated the very space I was treading. Each and every one of them has left behind a trail of magic that still ferociously shimmers to this day. It’s impossible not to feel the electric aura that sweeps the ground. ✨

Every single element of Grand National day gives me goosebumps, from the crowd proudly rising to their feet for the National Anthem, to the spine- tingling video footage played before the main race, showing Red Rum galloping along the beach at Southport.

 Neptune Collonges is beautiful. 🥺❤️

I arrived at Aintree just before 11, and grabbed a seat at the Parade Ring. The Winner’s Parade is always my favourite part of the day.

Watching the horses stride nobly down the ramp against a backdrop of blooming blossom trees is such a humbling experience.

This year, the parade consisted of Silver Birch, Mon Mome, Neptune Collonges (he is just so gorgeous), Pineau de Re, Balthazar King, Walk In The Mill, Vieux Lion Rouge, and Tiger Roll.

Also making an appearance was Minella Times, who gave Rachael Blackmore her history-shattering winning ride back in 2021. Deffo turned me into a proper fangirl!

 Minella Times 🖤

          “Just make sure you’re standing out of the way when Tiger Roll comes down,” I overheard one of the horse handlers say to the ground staff.

Right on cue, Tiger Roll pranced into the ring, bucking and kicking out. The SASS on that! 💁🏻‍♀️


After the parade, I went to find my seat in the West Tip for a day of racing

I’m not a gambling kinda’ gal (far too tightfisted* for that!), but I do have a bet on National day. Well, I use the term ‘bet’ loosely… I literally put £2 each way on the horse with the prettiest name. 🤷🏻‍♀️🤣

This year, I bet on a horse called Twig in the 2:30pm race, purely because his name reminded me of my sparrow legs.

I didn’t bet on the actual National, although I probably should have, given that I Am Maximus was my chosen horse! I also liked Mr Incredible, and I always support Rachael Blackmore.


(*Tightfisted, but will happily spend £13 on a portion of halloumi-topped fries at the National, because cheese is life xox)

 View from the West Tip 🐎

You simply cannot beat the Aintree atmosphere. From fellow racegoers to the hundreds of staff working tirelessly to help the day run smoothly, everyone is just so friendly.

One particular moment that really stood out to me was something that occurred during the main race.

One of the horses that had been pulled up mid-course trotted past the stand, and everyone just erupted in cheers and claps of support. It just goes to show that people DO associate races with the animals running in them, and at the end of the day, as exciting as a day at the races is, it’s the horses that we care about the most.


It was such a privilege to spend the day at Aintree again. National weekend is fast becoming my favourite time of the entire year, and I hope to carry this tradition on every year for the rest of my life.

Until next time, Aintree. ✌🏻❤️




I thought I’d round this blog off by writing about some of the horses that have impacted my own life over the years. To be honest, I’ve been intending to re-embrace my inner horse nerd and write a post like this for quite some time, and it seemed fitting to include it here.

I’ve had to narrow my favourites down to just five, or we’d all honestly be here all night – I’m so fortunate to have known some truly exceptional horses across my 24 years of riding.


1.       Billy ❤️


Every rider knows that you get this once-in-a-lifetime horse that you’ll never forget.

Billy came into my life when I was just 9 years old, and to this day, I’m still painfully aware that I’ll never be lucky enough to find another pony like him. I have a photo of him above my desk in my home-office, and truthfully, not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.

A grumpy, exceedingly stubborn and often lazy Exmoor pony, Billy wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect pony for me.

He was completely bombproof, a real confidence giver, and above all, a childhood dream and my absolute best friend.

For 3 perfect years, Billy and I spent our Sunday mornings hacking out down the Middlewood Way, whatever the weather. Those days still remain to be some of my happiest memories.


Billy was sold from my local riding school when I was 12, but I never gave up on the hope of us one day being reunited.

In 2011, when I was 17, I finally managed to track Billy down. He was living in Northampton with a lovely lady called Sam, who very kindly invited my mum and I to visit.

Seeing Billy again was one of the best days of my life.


Sadly, Billy passed away in 2013. My grief was somewhat eased by the fact that I’d had the opportunity to spend that one extra day with him.

I’m actually still in touch with Sam, and will be forever grateful to her for sharing Billy with me one last time.

Me and Billy in 2005, and reunited in 2011. ❤️

2.       Bobby ❤️


After Billy was sold, it took me a good few years to find another favourite pony.

I think I was trying to find Billy in every horse I rode after him, but I was inevitably always let down. My confidence was constantly knocked, and I even had a few short breaks from riding.


In 2010, I changed stables and started riding at Rostherne School of Equitation in Knutsford. This move proved to be a gamechanger, and my riding confidence soared under the supervision and knowledge of my amazing instructor, Joe Gate.


Bobby couldn’t have been any more different to Billy. He was fast, fiery, and unpredictable. He petrified me, and I spent my first few lessons on him shaking like an actual leaf, too scared to even attempt a canter.

As my confidence grew, I began to relish the challenge of riding Bobby. He was never going to be as steady or reliable as Billy, but it didn’t matter so much anymore. My riding had improved, and I was finally ready for a different kind of pony to bring me on even further.


After a couple of months, Bobby became so much more to me than my favourite pony – he became my rock.

I often blog about the whirlwind of excitement that was my college years.

Bobby was my anchor throughout this period. He kept me grounded through the madness of growing up, parties, nights out, first boyfriends, exam stresses and everything else that comes with being a teenager. He was my one constant in a sometimes scary, ever-changing world.

Bobby. ❤️

(PS: braces on that...! Thank God I grew into my teeth!! 🥴🤣)


3.       Taffy ❤️


The first time I ever rode Taffy, I said never again. He was 15.2hh, and the strongest horse I’d ever ridden. My hands were red raw from holding him back.

He was ferociously bold, and if he wanted to run, you’d have no chance of stopping him. I’d seen him bomb off with other riders often enough.

I quite literally lived in fear of Joe putting me on him in my weekly lesson. Each time I did ride him, it was a battle of wills, and I always ended up losing. He was such a sensitive horse – if you made one mistake, he’d sulk the whole lesson and refuse to anything that was asked of him. He tested my riding more than any horse ever had.


In the summer of 2012, I suffered an expected bereavement which left me in complete shock.

My stables hosted a weekly evening hack out in Tatton Park for experienced riders, and Joe said that I was finally ready to join. It came at just the right time.

Those Thursday nights in Tatton were a real lifeline at a very difficult time. Surprisingly, it was Taffy who provided my therapy week after week during that bittersweet summer.

Taffy was a completely different horse out in the park. He was a lot more relaxed, and instead of fearing his relentlessly fast pace, I found myself delighting in it. Galloping into the wind alongside the lake was the remedy to my lingering sadness, and I thew myself at it full pelt.


They do say that horses are fine-tuned to their rider’s emotions, and I firmly believe this to be the case with Taffy that summer. It was almost as although he understood that I needed to escape. He couldn’t have been more gentlemanly if he’d tried.

Tatton Park became my bolthole, safe place, and paradise, and my unspoken bond with Taffy blossomed beyond comprehension.

Taffy. ❤️


4.       Campero ❤️


We went on family holidays to Tenerife each year throughout my childhood, and there was a riding school 10 minutes from our apartment.

Year after year, I rode this gentle giant. He was an absolute sweetheart both on the ground and to ride.


He and I would go for long ride outs across the mountainous landscape under the blistering sun, and I could always trust him to look after me.

He was very slow and we often got left behind at the back of the group.

When he did break into a reluctant trot, it was extremely uncomfortable – almost comparable to being on rickety old Big Dipper at Blackpool. I didn’t care; I absolutely adored this horse.

 I remember bawling my eyes out on the plane home after every holiday, already counting down the days until I could see Campero again.

Campero - an absolute teddybear of a horse! ❤️

5.       Diamond ❤️


After Campero came Diamond.

I know, I know: he’s out of this world beautiful, isn’t he? 😍

Diamond was a 16hh purebred Andalusian dressage stallion, and he was sensational.

Despite being a stallion, he was quite possibly the most placid horse I’ve ever ridden.

He had the kindest heart; there wasn’t a mean bone in that horse’s body. I could trust him with my life.

I rode Diamond for a couple of years on the trot while holidaying in Tenerife, and I could never quite believe my luck. He was just every rider’s dream.

The stunning Diamond. ❤️

(Forgot to pack my riding boots, so was wearing the classic 2011 fashion staple of TOMs!)

Cara Jasmine Bradley ©


bottom of page