Aintree Racecourse is situated in the village of the same name on Merseyside less than seven miles from Liverpool city centre. Aintree is, of course, famous as the home of the Grand National, first run in 1839.
For racegoers, Aintree offers a single enclosure with an admission price of £20, although there is a concession for pensioners and free admission for children accompanied by an adult. Corporate facilities include rooms suitable for conferences, exhibitions and meetings of almost any size.
Private boxes and syndicate rooms are available for smaller meetings, while the Equestrian Centre is a modern pavilion with over 50,000 square feet of floor space, capable of accommodating 3,500 seated or 10,000 standing delegates. Aintree offers flexible catering options, free Wi-Fi Internet access across the site, complementary parking for up to 1,800 vehicles and a dedicated events management team to make sure that corporate events run smoothly.
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What's unique about the course at Aintree?
Some of the characteristic features of the racecourse, such as the Melling Road, which the Grand National runners cross twice during the race and names of fences such as Becher's Brook, the Canal Turn and the Chair have become household names. The triangular Grand National course covers two and a quarter miles and inside it is the easier, sharper Mildmay course, which is one and a half miles in circumference.
Aintree is, of course, steeped in history and barely a year goes by without the Grand National throwing up a story of some kind. In 1956, for example, Devon Loch, owned by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and ridden by Dick Francis, was 10 lengths ahead just 40 yards from the winning post, only for his hind legs to buckle and him collapse onto his stomach.
Despite Francis' best efforts, Devon Loch could go no further and his nearest pursuer, ESB, strode by to win. Various theories have been put forward to explain what happened to Devon Loch, including cramp, a sudden heart attack and the fact that he was distracted by the water jump on another part of the racecourse, but Francis believed he was simply overwhelmed by the noise from the crowd.
The shortest-priced winner of the Grand National was Poethlyn, ridden by Ernie Piggott, grandfather of Lester Piggott, who started 11/4 favourite in 1919. All in all, there have been five 100/1 winners of the Grand National, Tipperary Tim in 1928, Gregalach in 1929, Caughoo in 1947, Foinavon in 1967 and, most recently, Mon Mome in 2009. Undoubtedly the most famous of these is Foinavon, whose jockey John Buckingham managed to avoid a pile-up at the twenty-third fence, which brought the rest of the field to a standstill. He was nearly a furlong clear of the field before any of the others could give chase and eventually won by 15 lengths. The fence at which the pile-up occurred now bears his name.
The only horse ever to win the Grand National three times was Red Rum, trained by Donald “Ginger” McCain. His first victory came in 1973, when he managed to reel in Crisp, who was more than 15 lengths ahead jumping the last fence, on the long run-in to win by three quarters of a length. Red Rum won the National again in 1974 and, after finishing second in 1975 and 1976, returned to Aintree as a 12-year-old and won his third National by 25 lengths. When he died in 1995, he was buried at the winning post at Aintree and a life-sized bronze statue was erected in his honour.
The Race That Never Was
In 1993, Aintree suffered what commentator Peter O'Sullevan called “the greatest disaster in the history of the Grand National.” Initially, the race was disrupted by animal rights' protesters, who staged a demonstration at the first fence, but 30 of the 39 jockeys failed to realise that a second false start had been called and carried on around the course. The “race that never was”, as it became known, was won by Esha Ness, trained by Jenny Pitman and ridden by John White, but the race was declared null and void. John White said afterwards, “I could see there were only a few horses around, but I thought the others had fallen or something.”
Top Owners, Jockeys and Trainers
In terms of the number of winners ridden, A.P. McCoy and Ruby Walsh are jointly the most successful jockeys during the last five seasons with 18 winners apiece, although McCoy has had 122 rides in that period to Walsh's 84.
Trevor Hemmings, owner of two Grand National winners, Hedgehunter in 2005 and Ballabriggs in 2011, is the most successful owner at Aintree during the last five seasons with 11 winners from 71 runners. John McManus, Andrea and Graham Wylie and the Stewart Family have all recorded 7 winners in the same period.
Among the training ranks, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls lead the way with 21 winners from 132 runners and 21 winners from 155 runners respectively, although they're only just ahead of Peter Bowen with 20 winners from 120 runners.
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