Becher’s Brook has been a fixture of the Grand National course at Aintree since the inaugural running of the Liverpool Grand Steeplechase, as the Grand National was originally known, in 1836. In fact, at the time of the first ‘official’ running of the Grand National, in 1839, the obstacle – which is jumped twice, as the sixth and twenty-second fence – was known simply as the ‘First Brook’. That was, of course, before Captain Martin Becher famously took refuge in the brook after parting company from his mount, Conrad, and the fence was renamed in his honour.
In its modern incarnation, Becher’s Brook stands an unremarkable 4′ 10″ high – by contrast, the tallest fence on the Grand National course, The Chair, stands 5′ 3″ high – and if followed by a 2′ wide brook, filled with just 1″ of water. Although apparently benign, at least from the takeoff side, Becher’s Brook still features a steep drop, of up to 10″, depending on where jockeys elect to jump the fence, on the landing side. The sudden, unexpected descent can cause horses to come down too steeply and thereby crumple, or pitch forward, on landing. In the past, Becher’s Brook has been likened to ‘jumping off the edge of the world’ and, while the fence has been significantly modified, in the name of safety, in recent years, it remains a formidable obstacle.
The drop on the landing side, on the inside of the track, was previously 2′ or 3′, but was regraded, albeit slightly, in the Fifties, while more significant modifications to Becher’s Brook took place from the late Eighties onwards. The ground on the landing side, leading into the brook, has been levelled off, more than once and the brook, itself, was partially filled in, before being completely remodelled and equipped with rubber mats for the protection of stricken horses.