Go And See The World’s Greatest Steeplechase In Person
It might come as a surprise to you to learn that horseracing is Britain’s second most popular spectator sport (football, of course, comes in at number one). If you don’t happen to be into racing, or have a family that is, then the world of horseracing may have pretty much passed you by. However, no matter how little you know about the sport, you’ll have heard of the Grand National – the biggest race in the National Hunt calendar.
Taking place every April, the big race draws crowds in their thousands to watch it in person – 150,000 attended in 2016 – and over 600 million are estimated to watch it live on TV worldwide. It’s the most popular race for people to have a wager on – and £150 million is bet on the outcome of the race every year. Even people who are unlikely to have a bet at any other time, will have a flutter on the Grand National.
Although 40 horses start the four-mile, 514-yard race, it’s such a gruelling course with 30 fences, that there are never 40 finishers, so picking your winner can be a bit of a lottery. Even those runners that racing pundits think have the best chances can face an upset on the day. However you decide which horse to back, whether it’s picking a name that you like, or actually reading up on the form and stats of the different horses, if you have a little money riding on the outcome, it makes the race doubly exciting to watch.
As it’s such a huge occasion on the racing calendar, going to watch The Grand National at Aintree can also be a fantastic day out. As well as seeing all the horses in the parade ring before the races, it’s a great opportunity for people-watching too. Tickets can be purchased through ticketing websites such as viagogo or directly on the Aintree website. Getting to the racecourse is easy; it’s only a five-minute walk from Aintree train station.
Not only will you be able to soak up the excitement in the build-up to the big race at 5.15pm, but there are other races going on throughout the day such as The Gaskells Handicap Hurdle and the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (The Liverpool Hurdle). Away from the horses, there’s a choice of restaurants and bars or you can fill up ‘on the hoof’ by buying food at one of the many street food stands dotted around the racecourse.
What to Bring
Taking place in April, you could be standing watching the racing in glorious sunshine, or the pouring rain. It’s even been known to snow on Grand National Day. So make a point of checking the weather forecast before deciding what to wear, and take a brollie with you.
Don’t go without a racecard, which will have all the racing info on it. You can buy it at the course, or in advance.
Don't forget to take your phone, to keep in contact with who ever you go with: it can be hard to find people in a crowd of over 150,000. You’ll also be able to place any bets online if you don’t facing queuing in the betting ring. Finally, of course, you can take photos on your phone to document your day out.
Watching horseracing in person is exciting, but you don’t get the same close-up views you’ll be used to on TV. A pair of binoculars will ensure that you can keep track of your horse’s progress around the course. If you don’t fancy lugging them with you all the way from home, they are available to hire on the day
If you’ve never been to watch the Grand National in person, it’s definitely a day out worth working into your diary, and if you can't make it this year, there's always next year to plan ahead for.