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Gruelling battles: five tough races around the world to rival the Grand National

Runners in the Pardubicka - the most famous race in the Czech Republic
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The 4m2½f Grand National is the longest race in Britain and horses need stamina, tenacity and guts to triumph. Here are five races around the globe where such virtues are also required

La Touche Cup

The final marathon in the Irish cross-country calendar in April, the La Touche Cup at the Punchestown festival is often contested by the winner of the Glenfarclas Chase at Cheltenham.

Banks supremo Enda Bolger has an exceptional record in the 4m1½f event. The trainer has combined with owner JP McManus to saddle four winners and multiple placed runners in the last decade, in a race which tests balance, endurance and poise.

Four in a row: the field for the La Touche Cup, won by Auvergnat (right), take one of the banks

Auvergnat, who fended off stablemate Josies Orders in the 2018 running, provided yet another big-race one-two for the pair.

Uncle Junior's 2015 tough-as-teak victory as a 14-year-old provided one of the most heartwarming tales in recent years, with the veteran gamely getting up to deny the Bolger-trained Quantitativeeasing in a thrilling finale to regain his banks title.

Mongol Derby

From the legacy of Genghis Khan's horse messenger system, the Mongol Derby is a ten-day equine adventure event and is marketed as 'the longest and toughest horserace in the world'. 

The Derby has no marked course and spans 1,000km of the Mongolian wilderness. It contains 25 horse stations at 40km intervals, where you swap horse and refuel, with a large team of vets monitoring the condition of horses to ensure they have been well treated. 

David Redvers (right) completes the Mongol Derby in joint-seventh

Qatar Racing's head honcho Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and his racing manager David Redvers are two familiar names to have competed in the unique race in recent years. 

This year's race begins on August 7, with the final raceday and closing ceremonies due on August 16. 

Palio di Siena

An annual highlight in the Italian sporting calendar, the Palio di Siena is a bareback race which takes place on a dirt course circling the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Tuscany, on average lasting around 75 seconds.

It dates back to the 6th century according to some sources and takes place twice a year – on July 2, to honour Madonna of Provenzano and on August 16, to honour the Virgin Mary. 

The city is divided into 17 districts, ten of which are represented by a horse in the race, with the seven omissions prioritised in the next renewal. Competing jockeys negotiate three laps of the Campo and each risks sustaining serious injury if unseated. 

The contest attracts thousands of visitors who gather in the centre of the course to create a charged atmosphere, with bragging rights and local pride at stake.

Prix Anjou-Loire Challenge

First staged in 2005 and run over a longer trip than the Aintree Grand National, the stamina-sapping £100,000 Prix Anjou-Loire Challenge is a Listed 4m4½f cross-country chase at Le-Lion d'Angers in western France.

Romain Julliot can afford early celebrations aboard Posilox at the end of the 2017 Anjou-Loire Challenge at Le Lion-D'Angers

The Challenge generally occurs in May and its roll of honour includes in 2013 Toutancarmont, who was sent off 9-2 favourite when running out in the 2015 Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival behind Rivage D'Or.

The Etienne Leenders-trained grey Chriseti, who landed consecutive runnings in 2011 and 2012 under Wilfrid Denuault, remains the sole dual winner of the race. 

Velka Pardubicka

The focal point of the Czech Republic racing calendar, the 4m2½f Velka Pardubicka is a cross-country race where horses are required to negotiate 31 obstacles, and generally takes between nine and ten minutes to complete.

Velka Pardubicka: jockey Jan Kratochvil celebrates as Jamie Osborne's former modest Lingfield winner lands one of Europe's most daunting steeplechases

The spectacle has gained overseas appeal in recent years, with British-based riders Leighton Aspell, Andrew Glassonbury, James Best and Thomas Garner all participating in 2018.

Pardubice, which hosts the showpiece event, is around an hour-and-a-half drive from Prague and the race falls on the second Sunday of October each year. 


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From the legacy of Genghis Khan's horse messenger system, the Mongol Derby is a ten-day non-steeplechase equine adventure event
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