Aintree Grand National Festival
The Grand National Festival - The World's Most Famous Steeplechase
The marathon Aintree Grand National Festival headlines 3 days of jump racing at the Aintree Grand National Festival near Liverpool in April every year, culminating with a 40-runner steeplechase that is by far the single biggest race on the Jump Racing calendar and the UK’s biggest betting event. A British sporting institution, the Aintree Grand National attracts over 150,000 race-goers for this race alone. Over 11 million viewers tune in to watch the race on TV.
No other horse racing festival can match the excitement at Aintree over 3 extraordinary days of the Festival. Days 1 and 2 of the 3-day festival – the Grand Opening Day and Ladies’ Day – provide the build for the big race on Day 3; the Aintree Grand National, when the whole country seems to grind to a standstill to watch this iconic race. The Grand National is run on the National Course over a distance of 4 miles and 4 furlongs; the longest of any National Hunt race in Britain. The race is open to horses over 7-years rated 120 or more by the British Horseracing Authority, previously placed in a recognised chase of 3 miles or more. With a total prize fund of nearly £1 million and over half going to the winner, this handicap race carries a maximum weight 11 st 10 lb. The Grand National is seen as a natural next target for horses that win or are placed at the previous season’s Cheltenham Festival, or being targeted at Punchestown in April.
GRAND OPENING DAY 1
The curtain rises on the Festival’s Grand Opening Day with the prestigious Aintree Hurdle (switched from Day 3) with a record prize fund of £200,000 + family entertainment (live music, dance & the Red Devils Parachute Display Team) – a great way to kick off the Easter holidays. Children under 17 enter Tattersalls FREE accompanied by a paying adult.
LADIES DAY 2
Day 2 of the festival is Ladies Day, when the unique highlight of the day is the fashion on display with a style contest that rewards the most stylish lady with a host of prizes. It’s the biggest social gathering on the Liverpool Calendar. Ladies Day racing action includes the Melling Chase & Topham Chase over the Grand National course + the Handicap Hurdle.
GRAND NATIONAL DAY 3
The festival culminates on Day 3 with the Grand National. Probably the world’s greatest ever horse race, millions watch it on TV. Over 150,000 race-goers witness the race first-hand at this major 3-day racing festival. The atmosphere starts early on Grand National Day with the Maghull Novices’ Chase and Aintree Hurdle building up to the world’s greatest steeplechase.
Home of the Grand National Steeplechase
Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool is best known as the home of the Grand National, the best known of all UK National Hunt Chase championships and probably the most famous steeplechase in the world. Now owned by the Jockey Club, Aintree was opened in 1829 as a flat racing course. Jump racing did not start until 1839 and the Grand National 10 years later- now a national institution!
30+ years of continuous sponsorship has secured the future of the Grand National and facilitated investment in track infrastructure, a spectacular new grandstand complex, a modern conference / event center, an equestrian center, 9-hole golf course and a 30 bay floodlit driving range, helping to make Aintree the finest venue in the region for conferences, parties and other events.
|Address||Aintree Racecourse, Ormskirk Road, Aintree, Liverpool, L9 5AS|
|Tel.||0151 523 2600|
|Rail||Nearest station is Aintree. Services every 15 minutes on racedays from Liverpool Lime Street.|
|Driving||Aintree Racecourse is located on the A59, one mile from the M57 and M58 and 6 miles north of Liverpool, which was awarded the title ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2008.|
History of the Grand National
Since Lottery won the first National in 1839, winning it has been the ultimate ambition for owners, trainers and jockeys. The Grand National is regarded as one of the most testing National Hunt chases in the world. With up to 40 runners lining up for the Grand National each year, this 4.5 mile race is one of the biggest and most competitive events of the UK sporting calendar attracting everyone from regular racegoers to those having a ‘once-a-year’ flutter.
The Grand National has had five sponsors since 1984. Drinks giants Martell + parent Seagram sponsored it for 20 years to 2004. John Smith’s took over for 9 years to 2013 and Crabbies for 2 years from 2014-2016. From 2017 Randox Health will sponsor the race.
First run in 1839, here’s a quick guide to the key dates, horses, jockeys and sponsors that have made the Aintree Grand National one of the greatest horse races on the planet:
1839: The First Grand National is run at Aintree – Captain Becher fell!1916-1918 + 1941-1945: Aintree closes due to World Wars I & II.
1934: Golden Miller wins the Grand National & Cheltenham Gold Cup, setting a record that lasted until Red Rum in 1973.
1956: Devon Loch collapses on the run-in after near certain victory
1967: 100/1 shot Foinavon wins after avoiding the pileup at fence 23
1973: Red Rum wins his first Grand National
1974: Red Rum wins the Grand National again for the 2nd time
1977: Red Rum wins his third Grand National in 1977
1990: Mr Frisk wins in 8 minutes 47.8 seconds – a course record
2004: Ginger McCain wins his 4th Grand National with Amberleigh
2010: Tony McCoy finally wins the Grand National on Don’t Push It
In one of the most famous Grand Nationals of all time HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s horse Devon Loch ridden by the late Dick Francis is just yards away from the finish line and undoubtedly about to win the race when Devon inexplicably jumps up and falls to his stomach. It looks as though the horse sees a fence in front of him. ESB, the horse behind, swoops past Devon Loch who is still scrambling to his feet and wins the Grand National. The Queen Mother famously said, “Oh that’s racing!”.
Aintree's Two Racetracks
Aintree Racecourse is a National Hunt racetrack with 2 left-handed courses, the National and the Mildmay, both used for different races.
MILDMAY COURSE: The easier Mildmay Course, situated inside the Grand National course oval, is 1 miles 3 furlongs in length, also flat, but the fences are not nearly so big as the Grand National course. Intended as an introduction for new horses to the National course with smaller versions of the National fences, the Mildmay course fences are constructed of traditional birch and hurdles. The Mildmay course is used for all the other races on the Grand National meeting racecard and other race meetings during the year.
GRAND NATIONAL COURSE: The Aintree Grand National Course is 2 miles 2 furlongs round around and virtually triangular in shape, flat with BIG fences with a drop on the landing side and a long run-in. The Grand National, run on the National Course, is a handicap steeplechase of 4 miles 514 yards (6.907 km) with 30 fences and 2 laps of the 2.25 mile National course. All fences bar the Water Jump are covered with spruce, unlike any other Jumps track. With prize-money of just under £1 million the Grand National is the longest, hardest, richest Jumps race on the UK racing calendar.
Four other races run on the Grand National Course: the Topham Chase and the Fox Hunters’ Chase at the Grand National meeting + the Grand Sefton Handicap and Becher Chase at the November meeting. The shorter, easier Mildmay course sits in the middle of the larger National course. With a circumference of 1.5 miles, it includes traditional National Hunt material hurdles and fences.
In the interests of safety, following several horse fatalities and jockey injuries, significant changes were made to the construction of the Grand National fences before the 2013 running of the Grand National Steeplechase. The starting tape position was also moved further from the crowd noise in an attempt to reduce excitement and speed coming to the first fence. The notorious steep drop after Bechers Brook has been levelled to reduce the drop and landing levels reduced on a further 3 fences.
Grand National Fences
Aintree’s famous fences, are almost as well known as the Grand National run over them every April on the biggest most exciting day in UK racing. The ultimate test of horse and jockey, the Aintree Grand National race comprises two full circuits of the unique 2¼ mile National Course, with 30 of the most testing fences in Jump Racing. The left-handed roughly triangular track has 16 fences, the first 14 of which are jumped twice.
With famous obstacles including The Chair, Becher’s Brook, Foinavon, Valentine’s, Canal Turn and the Water Jump, even the names strike fear in the most professional of jockeys.
The Chair and the Water Jump, are jumped on the first circuit only. Each fence is made from a wooden frame and covered with the distinctive green spruce.
Many of the fences on the course are household names. Here is a quick guide to the most difficult and most well known fences that your horse will have to clear if you’ve got any chance to taking a few quid off the bookies.
WESTHEAD is the first severe jump of the race. Standing 5 feet high it has a 6 foot deep ditch in front.
BECHER’S BROOK is one of the toughest jumps in national hunt racing. At 5ft high it appears straightforward on approach, but conceals a 6ft 9in drop over a stream on landing; almost 2ft lower than on take-off.
Jockeys must sit back in their saddles to counter-balance the steep drop at Bechers. Competitors surviving Becher’s then need to make a hard right turn. Over the years many horses have died here, so it was modified recently to reduce risk. Still 2 horses died at Becher’s in 2011.
CANAL TURN is an awkward fence. Riders must take a 90 degree turn on landing or risk a swim in the canal, forcing jockeys to risk jumping it on an angle to improve the chance of winning.
VALENTINE’S BROOK is the next major challenge with a 5ft high fence concealing a brook on the landing side.
THE BOOTH is one of the most hazardous jumps requiring horses to clear a 5ft 3in fence with a 6ft wide ditch in front.
THE CHAIR is situated by the main grandstand. At 5ft 3in with a 6ft ditch in front + a landing side 6in higher than take-off, the challenge is great. Jumped once.
THE WATER JUMP looks deceptively easy on approach at 2ft 9in but conceals a 6ft wide ditch on landing. Jumped once.
The run-in is long at 494 yards with a sharp turn midway; a huge challenge for tired horses who’ve already raced 4+ miles.
Many Grand National bets have been won & lost on the gruelling approach to the finishing post, which is what happened when Devon Loch collapsed on 19956 Grand National run-in!
Aintree Racecourse Enclosures & Grandstands
There’s more to Aintree Racecourse following the building of a new Grandstand complex and creation of a unique ‘Festival Zone’ allowing you to create your own unique Aintree experience depending on the ticket you choose. A Festival Zone pass gives you access to racing, live music, food and drink, entertainment and Parade Ring viewing in a choice of enclosures and stands.
Tattersalls Enclosure is the largest enclosure at Aintree, with access to view the Parade Ring and Winner’s Enclosure and enjoy the café bars on Red Rum lawn. Ticket holders have access to the Irish Bar, live music in the Aintree Pavilion, tote betting + big screen viewing. Aintree Grand National mound provides viewing of the closing stages of each race.
WEST TIP SEATS
West Tip Seats are located within Tattersalls Enclosure; offering covered seating, terrific views of the last fence + access to a Private Bar and Tote facilities.
Open on Aintree Grand National Day only; steeplechase enclosure provides prime views of the early Grand National Course fences. Unreserved seating with a relaxed dress code offers a unique outdoor Grand National experience. While this enclosure has no access to the Parade Ring side of the course, it has its own bars, catering, betting facilities, big screen viewing and live entertainment.
PRINCESS ROYAL STAND
Princess Royal Stand situated between the Chair and the Water Jump, offers 2 choices; reserve a seat in the main grandstand or stand on the roof terrace which gives a terrific view of the of the racecourse and has its own private bar. The covered main grandstand offers excellent views of the final furlong of the Aintree Grand National and has a private bar.
QUEEN MOTHER STAND
Queen Mother Stand offers 2 choices; book a seat under cover in the Queen Mother grandstand or stand on the terraced roof. Located just past the winning line, the roof gives excellent views of the parade ring and racecourse. Big screen viewing is also available along with Tote facilities.
EARL OF DERBY & SEFTON STANDS
Earl of Derby & Sefton Stands are located either side of the parade ring with seating on 2 levels. Upper levels are the highest on the course and offer stunning views of the track. The terraces are in front of the stand and close to the action in the closing stages of the Aintree Grand National.
PLATINUM COUNTY LOUNGE
Platinum County Lounge is an exclusive new lounge bar style experience offering racegoers comfort & luxurious surroundings for their visit to the Aintree Grand National Festival. With reserved covered seats within the County Stand, overlooking the famous Water Jump and Winning Post, this is a prime location with VIP facilities.
Ticket-holders enjoy a private entrance, dedicated champagne bar, reserved seats, complimentary race-card, race-day hostess and souvenir badge. While no official dress code; smart is preferable.
County Stand is a standing area high up overlooking the finishing line, with easy access to both the Parade Ring and the Winners Enclosure. A popular stand with breath-taking views across the course and a big screen to view the race and is within easy access to both the Parade Ring and the Winners Enclosure.