Aintree would be little more than a small village in Merseyside, had it not been made famous by hosting the Grand National Steeplechase since 1839.
Aintree has been home to horseracing since 1829 when the land was leased to Lord Sefton. He created a course and grandstand and staged the first flat fixture in the summer. The first Grand National was won by a horse called Lottery. At this time the course had a stone wall where the water jump is now located, a stretch of plough-land and two hurdles to finish.
In 1949 Lord Sefton sold the course to the Topham family, the matriarch set about making some changes and the Mildmay course was born in 1953. It was at this same time that the motor-course was created around Aintree racecourse and it was used to stage the Formula One British Grand Prix jointly with Silverstone for a number of years in the 50s and 60s.
The future of the Grand National at Aintree seemed in doubt throughout the 1960s when the course was sold to a property developer. In 1975 the Grand National suffered its lowest recorded numbers after ticket prices were increased three-fold.
In the latter months of 1975 the owner Bill Davies signed the management over to bookmakers Ladbrokes. They were determined to keep the Grand National going, but Davies wanted to sell Aintree. Eventually in 1983 the Jockey Club paid Davies’ price after a series of donations and in 1984 Seagram Distillers provided solid sponsorship to keep the Grand National alive.
Martell Cognac took over sponsorship in 1992 and visitors to the Grand National rapidly increased; in 2004 Martell Cognac discontinued their sponsorship and 150,000 people turned out to watch the final race backed by the company.
Nowadays Aintree racecourse is not only home to the Grand National, but also provides opportunities for wedding receptions and exhibitions; it is also home to a large golf course.
Unusually for a racecourse, Aintree circuit is split by Melling Road, so horses have to cross the closed road twice in each race. The course length is four miles and four furlongs with 30 fences. The most famous of these are Beechers Brook (fences 6 and 22), the Chair (fence 15) and the Water Jump (fence 16).
The Enclosures and Facilities
The Tattersall Enclosure
This is the largest of all the enclosures at Aintree, and features the new Aintree Pavilion with a variety of bars, music and betting facilities, with all the races being shown on large screens. There is also access to the Aintree mound where you can watch the final fences of the races, as well as excellent opportunities to view those in the Parade Ring and Winners’ Enclosure.
This allows you to see the jockeys and horses before and after the races. There are also plenty of bars in the Princess Royal Stand, the Parade Ring Bar and the Red Rum Garden. For a slightly higher price, you could sit in one of the West Tip seats in the Tattersall Enclosure, which provide fantastic views of the home straight.
The Platinum County Lounge
You’ll find the newest bar experience offered at the racecourse here. This gives ticket-holders great views of the infamous water jump as well as the Winning Post. Tickets to this area provide you with a reserved seat, private entrance, champagne bar, free race-card and a souvenir badge.
The Bulmers Original Cider Bar
Featuring its own private bar, a selection of free finger food and an arrival drink, as well as a badge of your choice.
The Earl of Derby Stand
This area has the option for standing and seated tickets and was opened in 2007. The two-tiered seated area is the highest of all those at Aintree and offers views across the entire course. Ticket-holders for this stand also have access to a private bar above the Parade Ring and horse-walk tunnel. The standing terrace area allows you to get closer to the action than anywhere else on the course, but it is set at a lower angle than other areas.
The Lord Sefton Stand
This stand is located right next to the Earl of Derby Stand and also offers excellent views of almost the entire course. The terrace area is right next to the horse-walk tunnel so you can be one of the first to congratulate the winning horse and jockey on their return.
The Princess Royal Stand
Located between the Chair and the Water Jump, this stand provides great views of the final 200 metres of the course. The roof area allows you access to the private Tommy Wallis Suite and provides fantastic views of the final parts of the races.
The County Stand
This is often one of the most sought after locations because its roof arguably provides the best views of the course, including a birds-eye view of the Winning Post so you can be sure of the winner before anyone else.
The Queen Mother Stand
The stand is located right by the starting and finish line so you feel like you are right in with the action.
The Steeplechase Enclosure
This enclosure is open on Saturday only and has no formal dress code, so it is the most relaxed of all the enclosures at Aintree. It offers the best viewing of the first few fences of the course, as well as a variety of bars, food and betting facilities.
Entrance fees depend on where you wish to view the race from and what day you want to go. Tickets for the Grand National sell out extremely quickly so it is best to book them in advance.
- Tattersall Enclosure tickets cost from £17 for adults and are free for children on Thursday or £10 on Friday or Saturday.
- West Tip Seats cost from £18.
- Platinum County Lounge tickets start from around £50.
- Bulmers Original Cider Bar tickets cost from £60.
- Tickets for the Earl of Derby, Lord Sifton, Princess Royal, County and Queen Mother Stands start from £37.
- Steeplechase Enclosure tickets are free for children and £16 for adults.
To book tickets online or for the Ticket Office telephone hotline visit Aintree Ticket Information.
Aintree racecourse is easily accessible by road, rail and air. It is located on the A59, which is only a mile from both the M57 and M58, which link the M62 and the M6.
When travelling in from the South you should come off the M6 at Junction 21A and join the M62 West. Then leave the M62 at Junction 6 to join the M57 and the racecourse is clearly signposted from there.
If you are travelling from the North you should leave the M6 at Junction 26 and join the M58, following signs to the racecourse.
Car parking is free at Aintree Racecourse, except during the Grand National when it has to be booked in advance. Aintree also operates a park and ride system, which is especially useful for the Grand National. This runs from Brookfields School in Kirkby, which is located just off Junction 6 of the M57.
The nearest mainline railway station is Liverpool Lime Street, a short walk from Liverpool Central Station. Direct trains run from Liverpool Central to Aintree Station, which is directly opposite the racecourse.
The nearest airport is Liverpool John Lennon Airport, which is a twenty minute drive from Aintree racecourse. Manchester Airport is around 45 minutes drive.
Tel: 0151 523 2600
Fax: 0151 523 2920