WHETHER IT will be clutching a rabbit’s foot or saying a little prayer, millions of people will be hoping their luck comes in when it comes in the Grand National.
None more so than the Dean of Wakefield, who will be hoping for divine intervention after he backed Godsmejudge at odds of 20-1. If his horse comes in, the £1,000 winnings will go towards improvement works at Wakefield Cathedral, which is set to emabark on a £2.5m renovation programme in the Edwardian East End of the Grade I-listed building.
The £100 each way bet was offered to the Cathedral by its neighbour, Ladbrokes.
The very Rev Jonathan Greener said: “Obviously we’re very grateful to the support from Ladbrokes. We’ve been neighbours for a while and it’s always nice when your neighbours get along.”
The Cathedral yesterday signed off work on a £3.3m restoration of its nave, Project 2013, which saw the Cathedral close for a year in 2013. Pews were removed to create a more flexible open space for worship, public gatherings, concert and other community activities.
In June, it will embark on Project 2015, which will see the East End of the Cathedral, which was built in 1905, fully restored with new heating, lighting and sound system. An underground crypt will also be restored.
The majority of the cost has already been raised, including a £1.8m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, but the Cathedral is currently £150,000 short of its target.
First-time gambler Mr Greener, who had never been inside a bookmakers office before Wednesday when he placed the bet, said: “We’ve done out the nave of the cathedral and now we’re just working on the rest of it. The Heritage Lottery Fund have been great but we’ve still got £150,000 to find. Hopefully Godsmejudge will come through.
“Project 2013 has had a fantastic impact, with the number of visitors going up considerably, from around 70,000 a year to well over 100,000 last year. We’re fully booked, and managing the diary is pretty hard. We’re hoping the latest work will be complete by June 2016.”
Around 150,000 racegoers and 500 million people worldwide are expected to watch the race, which starts at Aintree 4.15pm, with 40 horses taking part.
Mr Greener’s choice, Godsmejudge, previously won the Scottish Grand National in 2013, before coming second in the same race last year.
Jockey Wayne Hutchinson will ride the horse in today’s race.
But Mr Greener won’t be able to cheer on Godsmejudge in front of the television - as he will have just officiated his first wedding for 12 years, of Cathedral organist Tom Moore and missioner Heidi Smith.
“We think it’s the first time two members of staff have been married,” Mr Greener told The Yorkshire Post. “We’ll all be at the reception when the race starts, but I’ll be watching out on my phone to see if its wins.”
Ladbrokes store manager Phil Murray said: “He’s the first reverend I’ve ever seen in the shop.
“I’m not sure if any of them place bets at home or online but you don’t normally see them coming in off the street.”
Future fundraising events for Project 2015 include an Abba tribute night on May 8 and wine tasting on May 18.
For more information visit www.wakefieldcathedral.org.uk.