The Everyday Lore Project

4 April 2020 – Virtual Grand National

4 April 2020 – Virtual Grand National

Today I’ve been to the virtual races. The Virtual Grand National to be precise. Obviously Other Life kiboshed gathering in a packed stadium to watch some frisky gee-gees, so the famous Aintree race was brought to us via the magic of computer animation, complete with commentary and the sound of hoof on hedge. And spoiler alert, I will be revealing the winner. 

I’m not a racegoer, despite hanging out at the Epsom Derby when I was a child. And I have almost next to no knowledge about what I’m supposed to look for in a runner, or how odds are calculated (thank you if you’re tempted to tell me, but I really don’t need to know). So I asked the good folks of Twitter how they went about picking their ponies:

With this trotting along, I looked up some equine folklore to see if there was any further guidance. And there was. Both Horse and Hound and Great British Racing had riffs on this rhyme about horse trading:

One white sock, buy him
Two white socks, try him
Three white socks, sell him to your foes
Four white socks, feed him to the crows

The less said about the crows, and the more sexist version, the better. There’s also the belief that the horse’s overall colour is lucky or unlucky, although this seems to be down national lines, a bit like black cats. Then there’s actual racing folklore that states big eared horses have a good attitude for racing, plus those with wrinkled eye bags make for better jumpers, thus creating a perfect combination for the Grand National. It’s also said the last horse to leave the parade ring before a race will be the first one back afterwards. And watch for the dirtiest jockey, as to have pristine colours is very bad luck. 

So, from all the information above I made a list of how, if I were a gambling woman, I would approach picking the winner:

  1. The classic folklore divination method of sticking a pin in the list of runners and riders – Yala Enki
  2. Picking the one I thought had the best name as per 66.1% of Twitter voters (at time of writing) – Beware the Bear
  3. Seeing which horse seemed the saddest as per Dr Valentina Bold‘s top tip (wrinkled eye bags, maybe?)
  4. Checking out which horse left the paddock last
  5. Looking for a horse with one white sock

Expectation thrumming, I turned on ITV at 5pm to watch the race only to discover there were no horsey close ups, so I crossed out No. 3, plus there was no paddock action, so I crossed out No. 4, and it was only when the race was underway could I crack a look at the horses’ legs. 

I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed when the simulation started, and rather horrified that they recreated horses falling at the fences, one of them, Aso, in close up. And it did seem to go on and on. But then, Potters Corner took the lead. Potters Corner of the one white sock. Come on Potters Corner. Come on Potters Corner! COME ON POTTERS CORNER! And Potters Corner took the crown. No idea where Yala Enki or Beware the Bear placed, certainly not in the top five at any rate. 

But the horse with the one white sock proved the folklore rule. So should I return to the track and fancy a flutter, that’s the first thing I’m going to look for .


Header: The Kelpies, at The Helix, Scotland – Beninjam200 / CC BY-SA (

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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