Every April, at 4.15 on a Saturday afternoon, millions of people suddenly become racing aficionados and cheer on whichever horse they gained in their office sweep.
Last year, it was a little-known son of Galashiels, Ryan Mania, who swept to victory in the sport's most gruelling endurance test and the winner's surname was appropriate, such was the outbreak of hysteria which followed his success. But what barely anybody noticed was another Borderer, Hawick-born Wilson Renwick, finishing eighth on a 100-1 outsider, Tarquinius, on his third way round Becher's Brook and all the other fiendish fences at the Liverpool circuit.
Renwick is accustomed to life out of the spotlight, but, as one of the most assiduous professionals on the turf, the 32-year-old will be in his element today when he tackles the National course again. Once more, it is on a little-fancied mount, Kruzhlinin, which is priced at between 80-1 and 100-1, depending on which bookie you consult. And yet, if ever there was an event capable of providing surprises, twists and shock results, it is this annual orgy of choreographed mayhem. Others may bemoan the dangers posed to the equine participants, but Renwick appreciates everybody is at risk once the action commences. He fell at the second fence on his debut, was well out of the running the next time, and has witnessed sufficient competitors being injured and breaking limbs to appreciate this is not a challenge for the faint-hearted. But none the less, he loves it and soaks up the myriad sights and sounds of this piece of pageantry.
"It's part of the fabric of British life, isn't it, and although we try to treat it as just another race, it's not very easy," said Renwick, who receives valuable sponsorship backing from Straightline Construction. "In the build-up, you know there is lots of attention in the media, and among the public, and the crowds at Aintree are always huge, so you can't ignore the hype. But, from a jockey's perspective, you have to focus on your job and that is to get round the course and beat the other 39 jumpers.
"It's a big challenge and there's no escaping the fact these are tough fences. In fact, you don't really think about where you are in the standings until you manage to get over Becher's safely the second time. But this is our job and we have to be as professional as we can. I haven't ridden Kruzhlinin before, but I've heard good things. It has been trained by Donald McCain, who has an impressive Grand National pedigree and none of us would be taking part in this race if we didn't think we had any chance of winning it. We don't really look at the odds. Instead, we concentrate on the things we can control and the history of this event shows you what can happen at Aintree."
Renwick might be described as a journeyman in some quarters, but these competitors, who regularly put their bodies on the line, deserve plenty of credit. Not everybody can boast the pedigree of an A P McCoy or Paul Carberry or Ruby Walsh, but as Mania highlighted in 2013, where his weekend brought triumph and then near-tragedy, stars can emerge from the unlikeliest of places and come crashing down with equal rapidity.
Renwick can't afford to be effusive about Mania or anybody else - "When you are in the same race, these other jockeys are your rivals, and if they beat you, that is no reason to celebrate" - but he realises there is something special about the whole National week, whether or not it turns into a lottery. It compensates for all the wet midweeks participating in front of small crowds at Uttoxeter, Wincanton . . . the length and breadth of the country.
"I wouldn't keep returning if I didn't believe I could do myself justice and the whole day is great, because the National is a brilliant event to be involved in and the atmosphere is tremendous," said Renwick. "Kruzhlinin has won twice this year already, so, while this is a big step up, that is true for the majority taking part. On any of these days, everything can go right or a tiny little thing can go wrong. But you go out and give it your best and, all being well, you and your horse will come through safely at the end."
Hope springs eternal for these combatants. Renwick has gained enough wins to know how it feels. What wouldn't he give to follow in Mania's footsteps . . .