In the history of the Grand National, no obstacle has caused more controversy than Becher’s Brook. Jumped as the sixth and twenty-second fence on the National Course, Becher’s Brook is named after Martin William Becher, a.k.a. Captain Becher, who was thrown into the brook by his mount, Conrad, during the inaugural running of the Grand National in 1839. In its heyday, Becher’s Brook consisted of a stiff, five-foot high post and rail fence with an eight-foot wide, water-filled ditch beyond and a three-foot drop on the landing side. In fact, it was once likened to ‘jumping off the edge of the world’.

However, Becher’s Brook has been significantly modified, in the name of safety, down the years and, despite being described by the RSPCA as a ‘killer fence’ as recently as 2012, is no longer the formidable obstacle that it once was. Three decades ago the ditch was partially filled in and the fence straightened and, more recently, the landing side of the fence was levelled, on more than one occasion, to make the obstacle more accommodating to horse and rider.

Nevertheless, the apparently innocuous – at least, from the take-off side – 4’10” fence still features a drop of between 5″ and 10″ on the landing side, such that horses descend, steeply, from an effective height of 6’9″. Getting in close and ‘fiddling’ over the fence is not really an option for jockeys, because of the difficulty in keeping horses balanced on landing, so Becher’s Brook remains a daunting obstacle.