THE GRAND National is due to take place tomorrow, with a Barnsley resident having played a key part in the preparation for the world famous event.
Martin Greenwood, 56, is a senior handicapper for the British Horseracing Authority with specific responsibility for framing horses’ weights at steeplechases including the Grand National at Aintree.
The race, which was first run in 1839, is thought to be watched on television by more than half a billion people each year, with roughly a third of UK adults betting on it.
Martin said: “As a racing fan since I was a young boy, it’s an honour and privilege to be even a small cog in an event like the Grand National.
“I watched it on Grandstand as a young boy in the 70s and 80s.
“It’s probably the most famous race in the world.
“People who aren’t into horseracing will watch it.”
This will be Martin’s fifth Grand National in his current role, although one did not take place as it was called off due to Covid-19 after he had set the weights.
His job is to ensure as close a race as possible by adjusting the weight each horse is carrying.
“Handicapping in a nutshell is nullifying ability by weight.
“I ask the best horses to carry more weight on their backs than the lesser horses.
“It’s just the weight of the jockey and the saddle, not the actual weight of the horse which is irrelevant.
“If the jockey doesn’t make the required weight on the day, then we put lead plates in the saddle to take him to the required weight.
“When he comes back in, we weigh everything again – with a slight tolerance for sweat and mud – because in theory riders could throw stuff out during the race.
“The theory is that every horse should cross the line together in a very close finish. Otherwise the best horses would just win every race.”
So what will Martin be looking for on the day?
He said: “I will be hoping for the best finish possible.
“A good result for me is a close race.
“But we have a big weight launch in February and the weights are set in stone for two months.
“Some horses have run since and I would probably handicap them differently now but that’s the way it is done for the Grand National.”
Martin has been involved in the horse racing industry for 40 years.
“People my age tended to follow their dads into sport.
“He loved racing and I was going to racecourses from the age of four.
“I left school at 16 with no real qualifications and joined a firm called Timeform which was a private tipping magazine to do with horseracing. I was a private handicapper trying to beat the system using figures.
“Then I moved across to the British Horse Racing Authority to go from poacher to gamekeeper.”
Martin is originally from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire but has lived in Barnsley since 1990, mainly in Higham. As well as horse racing, he also loves football.
“I am a big Burnley fan but Barnsley is my second team.
“Michael Duff (Reds head coach) was one of my all time favourite Clarets.
“He has Martin Paterson (assistant) with him who played in the same side. Bobby Thomas is on loan from Burnley.
“Duff comes across as an amazing guy and I am so pleased he’s doing well.”