All fixtures at Aintree attract large crowds as most meetings are run at the weekend, however, the three-day Grand National meeting in April draws spectators from across the globe for numerous top class races over hurdles, fences and, of course, over the Grand National obstacles. This is the race that Aintree is really known for, although it hosts a number of other huge contests as well.
Aintree is in Merseyside, about five miles north east of Liverpool city centre and is easily accessible via road as it lies on the A59 between Maghull and Walton. On the railway system, Aintree station is directly adjacent to the racecourse and has a direct train from Liverpool Central.
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Aintree is used exclusively for National Hunt racing and is one of the best venues in the UK. It is obviously associated by most with the world famous Grand National, a test like no other. It has large spruce fences, and is a stamina-sapping 4 miles, 514 yards over a variety of 30 very different jumping tests for both horse and rider.
The National is known for its torturously long run-in and much can change in the closing stages here, but a long run for home is a feature of all the circuits at this course. Whilst front-runners may be favoured, it is vital they remain on the bridle for as long as possible.
Aintree also has a hurdles course that is probably second to no other in racing, and a chase course known as The Mildmay course that is equally as impressive. All tracks at Aintree are run left-handed and very rarely does the ground turn up heavy as there are only eight scheduled race days (based on 2020). These are well-spaced throughout the season too, giving the clerk of the course ample time to get the ground as near to perfect as possible.
Aintree Hurdle/Mildmay (Chase) Course
The hurdles course, like the Mildmay chase course, is 13f in circumference and is almost entirely flat. It has six flights to a circuit and the obstacles are equally spaced giving the horses a good sight of each hurdle which gives them time to get organised well in advance.
The hurdles course, as its contours suggest, is a speed track like no other and massively favours front running horses who get from A to B as quickly and as economically as possible. Any horse that likes to race from the tape going up generally loves racing at Aintree. Horses that have previously been successful on the flat and have subsequently gone hurdling, also like Aintree, statistically speaking.
The Mildmay course is even sharper than the hurdles course as it is positioned on the inside of that layout, making the turns even tighter. There are eight fences to a circuit and without doubt, when racing at such pace, the second last, the final open ditch in the straight, is by far and away the most difficult on the track. The horses here generally race at a good gallop so quick, nimble horses with a sharp action are suited by such a speed test.
Aintree Grand National Course
This course is arguably the best-known on the planet. A single circuit is a whopping 2m2f in distance, with steep fences which have a drop at the landing side. There are 16 fences to a circuit and the largest on the course is The Chair, positioned right in front of the grandstands. The smallest is the water jump which is taken shortly after and these two are both jumped only once, being missed on the second circuit.
Other key fences are Valentines, Becher’s Brook and Foinavon to name but a few. This course is generally flat and it is the jumping that is the key to winning here. The obstacles have certainly been made easier over the years but they remain an incredible challenge given the crowded nature of the race and its distance.
Clearly horses must jump impeccably but equally as important they must be clever and quick to react. Due to the high number of fallers, statistically it suits prominent racers here as there is less chance to be caught up in trouble. Such tough fences also bring stamina in to play and horses must obviously have that in abundance. Aintree takes no prisoners and is not for the faint hearted, be they horse, jockey, owner or fan.
In total five races are contested over these unique obstacles, the other four being the Topham Chase (a Grade 3 of 2m5f) and the Fox Hunters’ Chase. These are both run during the National meeting. Later in the year, during Aintree’s December meeting, the fences again get a run-out for the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase and the 3m2f, Grade 3 Becher Chase.
Major Races at Aintree
|Last Run||Race||Grade||Last Winner|
|10th Apr 2021||Maghull Novices' Chase||Grade 1||Shishkin (1/8)|
|10th Apr 2021||Mersey Novices' Hurdle||Grade 1||My Drogo (5/4)|
|10th Apr 2021||Ryanair Stayers Hurdle||Grade 1||Thyme Hill (5/2)|
|10th Apr 2021||Grand National||Grade 3||Minella Times (11/1)|
|9th Apr 2021||Sefton Novices' Hurdle||Grade 1||Ahoy Senor (66/1)|
|9th Apr 2021||Mildmay Novices' Chase||Grade 1||Chantry House (11/8)|
|9th Apr 2021||Top Novices' Hurdle||Grade 1||Belfast Banter (9/1)|
|9th Apr 2021||Marsh Chase||Grade 1||Fakir D'oudairies (2/1)|
|9th Apr 2021||Topham Handicap Chase||Grade 3||Livelovelaugh (15/2)|
|8th Apr 2021||Juvenile Hurdle||Grade 1||Monmiral (10/11)|
|8th Apr 2021||Manifesto Novices' Chase||Grade 1||Protektorat (17/2)|
|8th Apr 2021||Aintree Hurdle||Grade 1||Abacadabras (5/1)|
|8th Apr 2021||Aintree Bowl Chase||Grade 1||Clan Des Obeaux (5/2)|
|5th Dec 2020||Becher Chase||Grade 3||Vieux Lion Rouge (12/1)|
|5th Dec 2020||Grand Sefton Chase||Class 2||Beau Bay (20/1)|