Aintree Racecourse

Address:
The Racecourse, Ormskirk Road, Aintree, Liverpool, L9 5AS - Map & Directions
Telephone:
0151 523 2600
Welcome to Aintree Signage
Welcome to Aintree Signage (Paul / commons.wikimedia.org)

Home of the Grand National steeplechase, arguably the most famous horse race in the world, Aintree Racecourse in Merseyside is located approximately five miles from Liverpool City Centre. Now owned by the Jockey Club, Aintree opened in July 1829 and was originally a flat racing course although steeplechasing was introduced in 1839 and it is now regarded as one of the most difficult racecourses in the world. In addition to the Grand National, which is held annually in April, Aintree hosts a further five race days throughout the year.

Served by Aintree Railway Station, with good motorway links and situated only 20 minutes’ drive from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Aintree is easily accessible and can hold up to 75,000 spectators on Grand National day. Thanks to a £35m redevelopment project the racecourse now boasts two new grandstands, a new parade ring and winners’ enclosure and an impressive visitor centre (open May-October).

Ticket Prices

Adult tickets for non-Grand National race days range from £16 to £22 with concessions from £12. Prices for the Grand National are higher, although for the 2015 renewal the cheapest Grand National tickets are still only £23 in the Steeplechase enclosure (no access to the Parade Ring side of the course but still boasting its own bars, catering, betting facilities and big screen viewing facilities). Tickets in the Tattersalls Enclosure start from £49.00 on Grand National day, admission to the Lord Sefton Terrace is £90 and dining and hospitality packages are available from £280.

The Course

Aintree Racecourse
Aintree Racecourse (ruth e / geograph.org.uk)

Now a jumps-only venue, there are two courses at Aintree, both left-handed – the two mile and two furlong Grand National circuit and the shorter Mildmay Course (one mile and three furlongs). You’d be hard pushed to call the latter an easy course due to its sharp nature and the increased fence stiffness but it’s certainly the less testing of the two housed at Aintree. Unlike for most of the Grand National fences, the Mildmay obstacles are purely birch as is typical among most National Hunt tracks.

The Grand National course is quite unique in this aspect as most of its fences all except the water jumps are covered with spruce. Around 14 to 16 inches of the greenery can be knocked off each obstacle by the horses during the Grand National so it’s quite forgiving compared to the construction of some fences.

There’s little else forgiving about the course though, particularly during the Grand National itself. Riders twice face the Canal Turn during the four and a half mile marathon – a notoriously difficult jump as it’s placed immediately before a near 90 degree left-handed turn.

National Fences Under Scrutiny

The Canal Turn, so-called because the Leeds-Liverpool canal, is just beyond the boundary of the course, is far from the only serious challenge jockeys on the National course face. The most famous (infamous really) jump of the lot is Becher’s Brook. Named after Captain Martin Becher who fell there during the first official National back in 1839, this demanding obstacle ended the chances of many horses over the years.

After the fence took two lives in the 2011 running of the National, the British Horseracing Authority issued a review to examine the safety of the obstacles. Their findings discovered that 53% of fallers fell on one of the first six fences, Becher’s Brook being number six. In order to make the fences safer for horse and rider, levelling work took place on the first jump while the fourth jump was lowered. Becher’s Brook also underwent a significant adjustment, reducing the gap between take-off and landing.

Two years later and after more casualties, Aintree further increased its safety measures on the National course. They did so by introducing plastic birch, which had never previously been used on a British racecourse bar for two trial events on the Merseyside course. The new material replaced the wooden posts that previously formed the solid middle of each of the fences. Thanks to the changes, horses catching the fences with their hind legs would most likely only be slowed down rather than be stopped completely.

Despite the alterations having gone a long way to improving the safety for the race participants, the Grand National fences remain unsuited for the more faint-hearted jockeys. Horses without quality jumping ability will fare just as poorly too, as this still remains one of the most challenging National Hunt venues around.

Travelling Ability Essential

There’s no questioning that horses coming to Aintree need to be very solid jumpers but they also need the legs to go the distance. Those that are off the bridle during the closing stages regularly end up getting into trouble as it’s a very long way from the final turn to the line. The run in of 494 yards in regularly where horses that are out of juice find themselves overtaken so remember that leads are very rarely safe here. Those that do survive the test are likely to also fare well at courses such as Fontwell, Newton Abbot, Southwell, Kempton and Market Rasen. Likewise, previous course success at one, or ideally more, of those venues, may well translate well at Aintree.

Not Just for Racing

A special feature of Aintree’s course that you may not be aware of is that it contains a 9-hole golf course and driving range within its boundaries. It’s also been used as a venue for motor racing – the British Grand Prix was staged there on five occasions in the 1950s and 60s.

Major Meetings at Aintree

Promotion of 2016 Aintree Grand National
Promotion of 2016 Aintree Grand National (illu / Bigstockphoto.com)

Five race days are held at Aintree an addition to the Grand National; these include the Old Roan Chase Day in October and the Becher Chase Day held in early December. It is, of course, worth noting that the Grand National is actually a three-day festival with the Saturday hosting the feature race on Grand National Day.

Dining and Hospitality

For Non-Grand National meetings the racecourse operates a one enclosure ticket policy giving access to all public areas and open grandstands. Hospitality is available in the Platinum Country Lounge, an over 21s suite accessible with the purchase of a wristband.

The dining and hospitality options for the Grand National are vast and start from £280 for the Early Mist Restaurant Package which includes admission, car parking, a gourmet buffet lunch and cash bar. £540 will get you the Sunloch Restaurant Package which includes a three course lunch with house wines, complimentary bar and waitress service throughout the day.

There are numerous fast food and drink outlets situated across the course available for the rest of the spectators.

Map

Swap Start/End

Grudge Matches