The home of the Grand National, Aintree Racecourse is the jewel in Merseyside’s horse racing crown. Opened way back in July 1829, Aintree was originally a flat racing course, but steeplechasing was eventually introduced a decade later. It’s now widely regarded as one of the stiffest challenges on the UK National Hunt circuit.
Fences such as Becher’s Brook, The Chair and The Canal Turn are some of the most renowned obstacles in British steeplechasing. Many of the world’s best thoroughbreds and jockeys alike have come unstuck at Aintree’s adrenaline-fuelled track.
The triangular-shaped National circuit boasts a circumference of two miles and two furlongs, with a run-in of 494 yards after the final fence. The more conventional Mildmay course is rectangular in shape, with sharp bends favouring handy types around the 12 furlong track, as opposed to long striding sorts.
The jumps on the National course have been modified somewhat over the years in a bid to minimise the number of human and equine injuries. However, Becher’s Brook remains a heart-in-mouth obstacle, with the landing side considerably lower than the jump side. All Aintree’s fences – aside from its water jumps – are covered with spruce, which is unique among the other UK National Hunt circuits.
In addition to the Grand National, five race days are held during the jump racing calendar, including the Old Roan Chase Day and the Becher Chase Day.
The most successful ever Grand National horse was Red Rum, trained by Donald “Ginger” McCain. Red Rum prevailed three times around Aintree, in 1973, 1974 and 1977. When he passed away in 1995, he was buried at Aintree’s winning post with a life-sized statue erected in his honour.
Geegeez says: “It can be difficult to know which courses to use as a yardstick for race form going into an Aintree meeting. Similar courses where form could be replicated at Aintree include Fontwell, Kelso, Bangor, Newton Abbot, Southwell, Kempton Park and Market Rasen.
“The horses have to jump 30 fences in all in order to prevail in the Grand National, so it is imperative that you have a horse that’s not only capable of staying the distance but also a confident jumper given the sizeable field they will have to encounter.”
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