The three-day Aintree festival gets underway in Liverpool on the first Thursday in April, with the showpiece Grand National race bringing the event to a close on Saturday afternoon. The meeting was first held way back in 1839 and has since grown to become one of the most popular and well-known sporting events in the world.

To give you some idea of the size of this spectacle, during race week, more than 500 million TV viewers in around 150 countries will tune in to watch the action.

To claim the ultimate prize in National Hunt racing, the winning horse and jockey combination will have to successfully negotiate two circuits of a 4 miles 3½ furlong course that features 30 fences including the notorious obstacles ‘Becher’s Brook’ and ‘The Chair.’

This festival attracts a huge amount of betting activity as millions of casual and seasoned punters try to pick a winner from the huge field of runners.

With a prize fund totally more than £1 million, this handicap steeplechase horse race is the most valuable of its type in the whole of Europe, and has been described as “the ultimate test of horse and rider.” The race attracts many punters who do not wager throughout the rest of the year and have little knowledge of horse racing.

The most famous and successful Grand National horse of all time was Red Rum. Between 1973 and 1977, the Ginger McCain-trained horse won the race three times and came second twice. The most successful jockey was George Stevens, who rode five winners between 1856 and 1870.

In 1993, the race was declared void when a series of incidents (including a jockey caught in the starting tape) resulted in a false start. However, a lack of communication between officials and jockeys prompted 30 of the 39 riders to start racing. Course officials were unable to stop them, with many jockeys believing they were animal rights protestors. Seven horses ran the entire course but the result was void.

The 1997 Grand National was postponed for 48 hours after bomb threats were received from the IRA (Provisional Irish Republican Army). The course and local area was evacuated and the grounds and vehicles were searched, although no bombs were discovered. The race was eventually run on the Monday with 20,000 spectators offered free admission.


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