Forty runners, ages eight through 12, faced the starter in Aintrees Grand National this past Saturday. But after 4 miles and 30 fences, only 13 horses finished. More than 150,000 fans packed the stands to witness the Worlds Most Famous Horse Race, an event first run in 1839 for a purse of 100 guineas. This year, $790,000 went to the winner, who, by the way, was named Silver Birch, a 10-year-old gelding that triumphed at 33-1 odds.

The reason steeplechasing doesnt catch on in the USA is because the sport we call steeplechasing here isnt steeplechasing. Its long distance racing or horses with stamina over a few simple jumps. The huge payoffs that result from the large fields in Europe come about because in the races there anything can happen. The risk is delicious something the American horseplayers find daunting. You can make money there by betting a handful of runners to increase your chances.

Racetracks on this side of the world are draining the variety out of racing to wit, Polytrack. Our level-surfaced ovals make jump racing, with right and left turns and up and down hills, out of the question. Pretty soon guessing which vets are using what drugs will be the only sport left for the bettor.