Grand National: The Yorkshire barrier-breaking farrier judging Best Shod at this year's Aintree event

Thousands are set to flock to Aintree this weekend for the return of England’s most celebrated race, the Grand National.

But while punters up and down the land will be weighing up which horse to have a flutter on based on their form, their history and in some cases – their name – farrier Sarah

Mary Brown will be judging the line-up on a very set criteria: how well shod they are.

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Ms Brown, 39, is the first woman to be appointed judge of the prestigious Best Shod award, which will be given to the owner and farrier of the horse deemed to have both the best-fitting and the safest shoes.

Sarah Mary Brown, 39, is the first woman to be appointed judge of the prestigious Best Shod award, which will be given to the owner and farrier of the horse deemed to have both the best-fitting and the safest shoes.

The judging for Saturday’s race – which will see 40 jockeys compete over a punishing course of 16 fences – takes place before horses make their way to the start point.

Ms Brown said: “When we judge the shod, I don’t know which any of the horses are – all we’re given is a stable number. That keeps it transparent, I don’t know who has shod them. It keeps it level and it means you really are just judging what you see.

“Over the three days, we’re going to be looking at just under 100 horses to see if they’re shod suitably for the ground they’re running on. They’ve got to be shod for the right length – they’re travelling at a fast pace over deep ground so we don’t want to see any shoes coming off.

“If a horse is well shod, they’re going to have more traction and grip on landing and ability to keep on track.”

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The Northallerton-based farrier is no stranger to breaking barriers, as she was the first female farrier to achieve the Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers – the trade’s

highest qualification held by fewer than 40 people globally.

Ms Brown said: “It’s taken us a long time for us to recognise that far from being important that I’m female, it doesn’t matter at all.

“I want to inspire girls and boys that actually it doesn’t matter what you are.

“If you put the effort and you sacrifice and you try and get to the top of your job in your industry, then the rewards are there.”

Ms Brown, whose husband Steven Beane is also a farrier, found a passion for horses at a young age, and trained at Oatridge College in Scotland, despite a careers adviser warning her the trade wasn’t “ladylike” enough.

“I think what captures the imagination about the Grand National is the horses themselves want to win,” she said.

“They have this in-built ability to be brave, to be courageous, to be fast and athletic.

“There’s a really big tie between human and horse. We admire these animals who are naturally competitive themselves.”