Why the Grand National Festival is More than Just One RacePublished March 27, 2017
Everybody knows about the Grand National. It’s the biggest horse race of the year and one of Britain’s biggest sporting events.
People up and down the country stop whatever they’re doing during the race to see how the horse that they backed because they like the colours gets on.
What people are less aware of is that the Grand National is just one race in top class three-day meeting held every year at the Aintree Racecourse. The festival at Aintree gets overshadowed by the Cheltenham Festival the previous month but that does not mean that it is a substandard meeting by any means.
Here’s our list of reasons why the Grand National Festival is more than just one race.
Many of the Same Horses Compete as Cheltenham
Everybody knows that the horses aimed for the big races at Cheltenham are at the very top of their game but the same can be said of those competing at Aintree. In fact, many of those who made the trip to Prestbury Park will also travel up to Merseyside to compete over the three days.
The two courses have their own quirks and pose the horses different challenges but there is no question that horses must be top quality to even stand a chance of bagging a win at the Grand National Festival.
Just Look at All Those Grade 1s
Over the course of just three days’ racing, racegoers at Aintree get treated to a remarkable 11 Grade 1 races as well as three Listed Races and a smattering of Grade 2s and 3s, lots of opportunities to get in on the Grand National betting.
Trainers only send their best horses to Grade 1s and it is not easy to reach the level required to even get an entrance. Over the years, Gold Cup victors and winners of the showpiece events at Cheltenham have won again at Aintree. The Grand National Festival also offers those who failed at Cheltenham a shot at redemption.
Horses Are Targeted Specifically for Aintree
If you follow the National Hunt season in the media you will often hear trainers talk about targeting specific horses for specific races. Of course, everybody wants to train a Gold Cup winner, but there are plenty of big prizes on offer for trainers who are savvy enough to aim their horses at races at the Grand National Festival.
Horses are often talked up as having a great shot at the Topham Chase, the Aintree Hurdle or the Betfred Bowl. These are major races in the National Hunt calendar which attract the biggest trainers and the best horses.
There’s a Great Variety of Races on Show
One of the beauties of National Hunt racing is the number of different types of races that take place over the course of the season. There is certainly a huge variety of racing for anybody who visits Aintree, and a number of chances to make the most of any of the Grand National free bets that will be going around.
There are long, stamina-sapping chases, fast paced hurdles where the younger horses can show their physicality and speciality races like the Foxhunters Chase on day one of the festival.
This variety is part of the reason why so many top trainers, big named jockeys and well fancied horses make the journey up to Aintree.
The People Watching Is World Class
Each racecourse has its own vibe. At Cheltenham 80% of people are dressed in tweed, at Ascot most people turn up, get drunk and have a fight and Aintree certainly has a vibe all of its own.
Many of those who visit Merseyside for the meeting a hardened racegoers with subscriptions to the Racing Post but plenty turn out for the social side of things.
This is most obvious during Ladies’ Day on Friday. Women walk through the turnstiles with dresses of every colour under the sun in a bid to be named Aintree’s best dressed while the men put on their sharpest threads to try and attract a filly.
If you ever have the good fortune to visit Aintree for the Grand National Festival, make sure to find yourself a comfy spot to watch both the racing and the people.