Aintree – Colin Lane from Liverpool Echo
Even if you’ve gone about your daily business all this long winter without every succumbing to one of the multiple bugs on offer, you’ll catch something this Saturday. Oh yes you will. Along with the rest of us you’ll come down with Nationalitis. It can take several different manifestations. In some it engenders a desire so strong to be in the open air that it can only be satiated by spending the afternoon with 150,000 others in a country park on Merseyside. In others it has the opposite effect; they batten down the hatches, take their phones off the hook (corr. switch their mobiles to silent) and close the curtains to banish all afternon sunlight from their living rooms. If you are out on your High Street early Saturday morning, you cannot help but notice the number of folk pausing at the thresholds of Turf Accountants taking a deep breath and then venturing in. A motley crew of what look like Clergy, Piano-Tuners, Octogenarians & Librarians. Definitely not your usual Probalility Theory Practitioners. All struck down with Nationalitis. These are just the terminal symtoms of the disease at its most virulent. For days before many of the victims will have been engaging in esoteric divination rituals e.g. blindfolding themselves and randomlysticking pins in the newspaper or chanting a bizarre mantra of names ‘Big Fella Thanks…Ballabriggs…Or Noir de Somoza’ until one sounded the right note. Do not confuse Nationalitis with Nationalism. It’s quite the opposite. In fact there’s every chance the Priest will be looking for a French solution and the Pian0-Tuner an Irish one. But they have one goal in common to identify anytime before 16.15 [GMT] on April 9 the winner of the 2011 Grand National. This then, not cricket or soccer, is our national sport. Unlike our colleagues on Mainland Europe we don’t go in for gondola racing, bull-running or windmill-tilting instead every year on a certain Saturday in April we mount our armchairs and tackle the four miles, four furlongs and 30 fences that make up our national steeplechase.