Aintree Racecourse is well known the world over for the famous Grand National Steeplechase but very few people outside of racing realise that the venue also hosts horse racing at other stages throughout the year.
In fact a total of eight racedays take place in all, so keep an eye out for horse racing betting odds throughout the season.
An Aintree Year
The Aintree season officially kicks off in October with the Merseyside track holding one Saturday meeting and one Sunday meeting one week apart, with the latter incorporating the Old Roan Chase.
Fast forward just over one month, and horse racing tips followers and competitors descend once more for Becher Chase Day at the start of December.
The day sees not one, but two races run over the Grand National fences- those being the Becher Chase and the Grand Sefton Chase.
After four long months of perpetration it’s then time for the Aintree Festival itself in April. The fixture is spread across three days – Thursday (Liverpool Day), Friday (Ladies Day) and Saturday (Grand National Day).
Come teatime on the Saturday, the heady crowd begins to ebb away and the big clean-up operation begins.
At one time that used to be it for the season, however in the last decade a couple of Friday music/race nights have been added to the Aintree roster – one in May and one in June and they have extended the Aintree year marginally into the summer.
In 1829, the owner of the Waterloo Hotel in Liverpool approached Lord Sefton (William Philip Molyneux) about leasing some land at Aintree to stage flat racing events. Lord Sefton, a racing fan himself, agreed to the lease. William Lynn of the Waterloo Hotel then made plans to build a grandstand, and on February 7th 1829, Lord Sefton laid the first foundation stone of the new stand.
The very first staged meeting at Aintree racecourse was on July 7th 1829. The first race that day was called the Croxteth Stakes, run over 1 ¼ miles and was won by a horse called Mufti. With strong support from the Jockey Club racing committee, the brand new Aintree Racecourse went from strength to strength.
By 1839 the popularity of those early flat races, with a few hurdles races thrown in, inspired Lynn to add a Steeplechase to Aintree’s annual itinerary. After an interesting discussion with Captain Martin Becher about the spectacle that was the Great St. Albans Steeplechase, a four-mile point-to-point race, the pair of them decided they would set about bring a steeplechase event to Aintree.
The race was called ‘The Grand Liverpool Steeplechase’ and is considered by many to be the original version of the ‘Grand National’. The inaugural race was aptly won by a horse called Lottery and so was born the Aintree Grand National.
The National has been staged at Aintree every year since 1839, excluding periods during the First and Second World Wars, plus there was no race in 2020 due to a global health emergency.
It’s not only horses which have raced around Aintree. The British Grand was held at Aintree five times between 1955 and 1962, with Stirling Moss becoming the first Briton to win it in 1953. Motor racing came to an end at Aintree in the early 1980’s.
There are two courses at Aintree – the Grand National course and the Mildmay course. The Mildmay Course stages all but four of Aintree’s annual races and is a flat course with two long straights.
The four races not held on the Mildmay are of the course, the Grand National Steeplechase, the Topham Chase, the Becher Chase and the Grand Sefton Chase. These are all held on the Grand National course over the National fences.
The Grand National course is triangular in shape with its apex being at the Canal Turn - the furthest point away from the grandstands.
The Grand National itself is run over two complete circuits taking in sixteen specially constructed spruce fences on the first lap and fourteen on the second, making it one of the toughest jumping tests ever devised for both horse and rider.
The run in is 494 yards long and includes an elbow (”The Elbow”) which has now become synonymous with the climax of the race.
Key Aintree Meetings
The inaugural running of the Becher Handicap Chase was in 1992 when the Sue Smith-trained Kildimo beat Four Trix. For the twenty years prior to the introduction of the Becher, the Grand National meeting was Aintree’s only horse racing fixture of the year.
The 3m 2f Grade Three contest is run over the same fences as the Grand National and has become a recognised stepping stone towards the National itself. Amberleigh House and Silver Birch both went on to lift the National after taking the Becher.
On the same day as the Becher, also over the National fences, is the two miles five furlongs Grand Sefton Chase.
The Grand Sefton originally ran from 1865 to 1965 but was discontinued when the fortunes of Aintree took an unfortunate downturn. The race was thankfully revived in 2003 when the venue was well on the up again.
And lastly, run over a distance of two and a half miles, the Grade 2 Monet's Garden Old Roan Chase in October is another of Aintree’s annual crown jewel races.
Established in 2004, the race had the name Monet’s Garden added to it in honour of the Nicky Richards-trained grey who won the race on three occasions between 2007 and 2010.
Aintree Races Tips:
You can find Cheltenham tips here at 888sport, as well as via one of the following: Jockey Club App, Racing Post, Liverpool Echo, Mull It Over Blog.
Aintree Results Today:
Check the latest Cheltenham results via one of the following: Jockey Club App, Racing Post. Sportinglife, Racing TV, Attheraces.
Aintree Dress Code:
Aintree is a spectacle of colour for all three days of the festival, especially Ladies Day on the Friday of the Grand National Meeting. It’s a great opportunity to showcase your favourite raceday outfit.
Official tickets will go on sale in due course, register your interest here.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Jon Super / AP Photo*