Aintree Racecourse

Published: 08/10/2013

Aintree Racecourse is one of the world’s most famous racing venues, owing to its long association with the Grand National, which takes place annually in April. Its National Hunt facilities are located in Merseyside about six miles from Liverpool City Centre. The left-handed track measures 2¼ miles in length, marked by 16 challenging fences. Apart from the Grand National, the course hosts five additional race days throughout the racing calendar.

Renowned for Jumps and Jumpers

In the early 19th century, the Aintree property was the site of events organized by a local innkeeper named William Lynn. In 1820, he arranged a hare coursing competition that he called the “Waterloo Cup.” By 1829, he had leased some land at Aintree from Lord Sefton and, with the assistance of Lord Molyneux, set up a grandstand for flat racing of horses, kicking off with the first nine-furlong Croxteth Stakes. Three meetings a year were offered through 1835, when Lynn decided to install hurdles and inaugurate the area’s first jumps contest, the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, in 1836. Three years later, the first Grand National debuted at the Aintree Racecourse.

The first running, in 1839, was a weight-for-age event covering two circuits of the course and 30 jumps in total. It was won by rider Jem Mason on a horse named Lottery. The favourite for that race had been Conrad ridden by Captain Martin Becher, but the horse threw his rider into the water at the sixth fence and that obstacle has been known as “Becher’s Brook” ever since.

Other hurdles on the Aintree track have gained appropriate nicknames over the years, too. The ninth barrier, for instance, is called “St. Valentine’s Brook,” named for a horse that corkscrewed over it in 1840. And the seventh jump is known as the “Foinavon Fence,” honouring the single horse that cleared it in 1967, when all other runners refused.

In 1943, the Grand National adopted its current handicap format. Five years later, local handicapper Edward Topham took over Aintree’s land lease before purchasing the property outright in 1849. Among the famous steeds to have won the Grand National, Manifesto is considered first among the “Legends” of the course. Between 1895 and 1904, the mighty bay with a white star on his head ran the race eight times and won it twice, in 1897 and 1899. Another acknowledged Legend was Red Rum, winner of the Grand National three times, in 1973, 1974 and 1977.

By 2004, some 150,000 people were turning out to see the spectacle of the Grand National in person. In 2010, the Aintree event became the first horse race ever televised in high-definition in the U.K.

Racing at Aintree Today

In addition to the famous Grand National Meeting in April, other fixtures scheduled at Aintree include the May and June racedays, Old Roan Chase Day and Family Funday in October, and Becher Chase Day in December. For the autumn races, in particular, a single general admission ticket gives access to all public grandstand areas. As an indication of pricing, Steeplechase Enclosure tickets are free for children and £16 for adults, while Platinum County Lounge tickets start from around £50.

Among the many facilities that have been developed at Aintree, the best views are available from the County Stand just ahead of the finish post and from the Aldaniti Stand just after it. The course’s prime location, of course, is the Queen Mother Stand, which is situated right by the starting and finish line. The Tattersall Enclosure is the largest of all the enclosures, featuring the new Aintree Pavilion with a variety of bars, music and betting facilities, and all the races are shown on large screens.

Also facing the action is the Earl of Derby Stand opened in 2007 with its two-tiered seated area providing views across the entire course. Adjacent to it is the Lord Sefton Stand, and the Princess Royal Stand is located between the Chair and the Water Jump, offering excellent views of the final 200 metres of the course. Packages including admission into the racecourse and dining in a chosen restaurant are available, along with a complimentary racecard, cash bar with waitress service, Tote betting and free car parking.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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