All channels open for the people's race – #RHGN2018, or whatever it is
Robin Gibson surveys the digital road to Aintree
Did you know #GN2018 is all over? Seriously. Granite Noir, Aberdeen's new crime writing festival, wrapped up in February. "It's all over for another year, thanks to everyone who came," they say @GraniteNoir, ignorant of their more famous tagsake.
And it's not just a few tweeters. No. #GN2018 was all over the medium in February. One contributor even said: "This is going to be absolutely brilliant. AND there'll be booze. Get on it!" Which is how a lot of people will be thinking about the real #GN2018.
Aintree (@AintreeRaces) doesn't seem to be using a hashtag. Not right now – but earlier in the year they joined in with #RHGN2018. That one's taken off like the deflating Card Factory birthday balloon that's been dancing the slow death of the last wasp of summer outside my kitchen window. Haven't got the heart to burst it.
It must have been Randox Health that instigated #RHGN2018, because @AintreeRaces didn't seem that wholehearted about it. They're a bit mysterious, Randox Health. You never hear anyone say, "Yes, I'm getting my hip done by Randox Health," do you? You never hear anyone mention Randox Health.
The Google knowledge panel (that box at the side) names the Grand National sponsor as Randox Laboratories, which sounds not just mysterious but sinister – the sort of organisation you'd find hidden in a mountain in a Christopher Brookmyre novel, with a crazed, one-armed genius scientist and a power-thirsty overlord who'll stop at nothing for whatever he's after.
Not that Randox is anything like that. No. According to the website, it just provides full body health screening. And anyway, Randox Health is not the same as Randox Laboratories. As often, the knowledge panel is lacking in knowledge.
The labs have got their own website. Interestingly, the home page announces: "We condemn slavery or human trafficking in any form and we support the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act." I noticed the Jockey Club saying the same thing the other day. It's on their website too. There's a statement about it.
Is it compulsory now to state your opposition to slavery, or just good form? I'm against it myself. With some kind of sinister lab hidden in a mountain run by a power-thirsty overlord and so on, fair enough, you'd want to know which side they're on. But the Jockey Club?
Anyway it's Grand National week this week and Randox Health (sponsors, in case you didn't know) have been going mad about it for months. Look at this from January: "Make sure you #follow @RandoxHealth and #like us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram for exclusive #RandoxHealth #GrandNational at @AintreeRaces news."
That's a lot of liking. Still, you'll get the news direct, whereas scanning #RHGN2018 won't get you too far. The hashtag throws up the likeable Randox Grand National trophy tour, which has been taking the trophy and designer, silversmith Shannon O'Neill, around primary schools in Northern Ireland for a trophy-making masterclass.
There are other interesting National-related videos knocking about. For instance, this one, about which bags you can bring into the meeting. Top tip: don't bring a bag. Or if you do, make sure it's no bigger than 30x20x10cm. Also: don't bring a suitcase. Leave your suitcase at home. LEAVE IT. BA and easyJet should show a video like this to their cabin-clogging trunkdraggers with the 18-wheeler hand baggage.
Anyway, the thrill of it all can't be diminished by a limit on holdalls. It might be diminished if Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins send out the 1-2-3-4, which is not an unimaginable prospect.
It'd be a fair old achievement all right, but will nobody think of the children? Or at least the figuratively little people, like last year's connections of One For Arthur? The all-clobbering festival kings have five of the first 12 in the betting at the moment. And of the 72 still in the race, Mullins has six and Elliott five.
They're busy men, but they still find time to be on the internet. Surf & Turf has been to Mullins' website long ago, when it was unexpectedly cutting edge, despite his hat. It's still good and it's interesting to read the race previews, which are for previous races. Especially about Penhill. Top tip: always read previews beforehand.
If you can't remember his website address, you can buy a wpmullins.com jacket for €115 (tested by "some of the toughest guys in the business"). More importantly there are loads of good pics and some videos, including a nice one of Mullins's expansive facility. Sounds a bit boring, but it's good.
All we need now are the Anitree previews. Mullins is on Twitter (@WillieMullinsNH) and so is Elliott (@gelliott_racing). Elliott is a bit busy, retweeting loads of interesting stuff, while Mullins is relatively staid.
You couldn't say either trainer is frothing about their domination of the entire world. Perhaps they're a bit embarrassed. The stats on Mullins' site only gives a breakdown for the Irish jumps (last season).
Elliott's site is equally presentable, opening up in a rival-ish way with a big video of his equally expansive facility.
But he's even more coy about his stats. The site gives his training record as 0 Ire NH winners, 0 UK NH winners, 0 total career wins, €0 prize-money 2017/18 and 0 Flat winners. Probably just doesn't need any more horses. Trying to put you off.
The gallery of the Elliott team is great, with each pic flipping for a mini-bio (Jack Madden, Aubrey McMahon and Jack Wildman: awaiting details).
Talking of good videos, ITV had a great one to promote the National last year, with a profound voiceover by old punk poet John Cooper Clarke. Good as it was, that was then, but this is now.
Hunting for Grand National videos on YouTube is fascinating. Top result is a home for sale at 461, Grand National Lane, Elgin (South Carolina, not Scotland).
More sensibly, there's a lot of stuff on the Aintree channel. And a great promo video.
And then there's this year's ITV effort. It's got a poem, but no poet.
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