Aintree Racecourse is one of the most famous racecourses in the world and is located on the A59 at Ormskirk Road, Aintree (Anglo-Saxon for 'one tree'), in the northern suburbs of Liverpool, just 6 miles from the city center.
The racecourse occupies more than 250 acres and has two left-handed chasing circuits. The rectangular Mildmay Course is the first and was opened in 1953. It is nearly one and a half miles in length, with sharp turns and steeplechase fences.
The Grand National course isn't as sharp as the Mildmay course but is much more demanding which is why it is known as one of the toughest races in the world, one which all horse trainers aspire to gain entry to. The Grand National course is far longer than the Mildmay, at almost two and a quarter miles, and is completely flat, with fences that have a drop on the landing side lower than the take-off side.
William Lynn is the man responsible for bringing racing to the village of Aintree. Lynn was the landlord of the Waterloo Hotel and started racing on the land which he leased from the Earl of Sefton. He started to build the grand stand in 1829 and after five months the first meeting for flat races was held.
Hurdle racing did not begin until 1836, when the first Liverpool Grand Steeplechase was held at Aintree on February 29th. This race is considered by some as being the first ever Grand National and was won by The Duke, ridden by Captain Martin Becher.
However, the more documented Liverpool Grand Steeplechase of 1839 is more commonly identified as the first Grand National, and was won by Lottery, ridden by Jem Mason. The race of 1839 was a four miler, across country, and the rule was that 'no rider to open a gate or ride through a gateway, or more than 100 yards along any road, footpath or driftway'.
The racecourse was handed over to the War Office in 1915, and after the 1940 National it was again requisitioned by the military. Racing resumed in 1946 and in 1949 the racecourse was bought by Messrs Topham Ltd; who had leased the land for almost a century; from the Earl of Sefton for £ 275,000. Mirabel Topham, an enterprising soul, went on to create the Mildmay course and a motor-racing circuit which held the European Grand Prix and five British Grand Prix.
Bill Davies bought the racecourse in 1973 for £ 3 million and in 1975 Ladbrokes saved the Grand National, which was in danger of dying out, by managing and administering it for seven years at a yearly rent of £ 250,000. In 1983 the racecourse was deemed secure when the Jockey Club bought it.
Aintree has come a long way from the days when it could only be accessed by rail or paddle boat. Now, improved rail and network links means that fans can travel by any means to reach the wonderful racecourse. There is even a six acre enclosure for landing by helicopter on site or the alternative option of John Lennon airport twenty minutes drive away, meaning that those both home and abroad can come share in the magnificent Aintree festivities.
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