Making the most of your day at the Grand National
Anyone who has watched the Randox Health Grand National on TV knows what a thrilling spectacle the race is and just how extraordinary the participating athletes, both equine and human are.
There’s nothing like seeing the great race for yourself though. A trip to Merseyside to join the throngs on the first Saturday in April will blow your mind. Guaranteed. Here are a few tips for making the most of your Grand National day out.
Book early to avoid disappointment
A few decades ago the crowds attending the Grand National weren’t always the vast thong that we see today. You’d turn up on the day, buy a ticket for which ever enclosure suited your budget, and that was that.
These days the event is such an international sporting spectacle that demand for tickets is great, so booking online is a recommended move to ensure you reserve places for you and your friends to enjoy what is always a historic occasion.
Let the train take the strain
Once you’re sure you’ve got entry to the event covered, you can set about arranging how to get to the track. First racing certainty of the day; there will be huge numbers of people flocking to Aintree and the roads will be congested. Taking the train is a good option with a station very close to the track helping avoid traffic jams. Setting off bright and early takes much of the pressure out of Grand National day, and even you arrive ahead of the main crowds you’ll have the opportunity to take in impressive, upgraded grandstands, paddock and winner’s enclosure. Then take yourself off for a walk of the course – a tradition for all die-hard Grand National fans.
Walk the course and see the giant fences
It’s only when you are up close and personal with the enormous fences that you realise just what a feat it is for the forty horses to take on such a physical challenge. The traditional spruce fences have been reduced in size over recent years for safety reasons but still represent a unique challenge for both horse and rider.
The Chair, close to the main viewing area, is the biggest fence on the course and you don’t have to walk far to see it, but it’s also worth taking in famous fences such as Becher’s Brook, the Canal Turn, and the smallest fence on the course, Foinavon, an obstacle which surprisingly catches out more horses then you might think.
Dress appropriately and keep an eye on the weather
Another racing certainty is advice to dress up warm and wear a comfortable, solid pair of shoes. Chances are you’re going to be on your feet for most of the day, and if you do go out onto the course, the ground may be soft so bear that in mind. Of course, for many ladies in particular. A day at the races is also about fashion, so for those keen to dress to impress it’s worth taking in the Aintree dress code advice.
As the main event draws near you’ll sense the atmosphere building up. The £1million Randox Health Grand National is viewed live by hundreds of millions of people across the world, but the tens of thousands who will be at Aintree itself will truly experience something special at this unique sporting occasion.
See the horses saddle up
It’s well worth watching the horses saddle in the pre-parade ring where you’ll get a sense of just how well (or otherwise) they are coping with the hubbub surrounding them. From a punting point of view there’s plenty to be gleaned by observing the horses there and in the main parade ring itself where you should seek to arrive early and get a good viewing point. You’ll be able to take a close look at the market fancies, as well as spot famous jockeys, trainers, owners and you could quite easily run into sporting and media celebrities who are always round and about on this great occasion.
Be sure to get to your place in the grandstand a good ten minutes before the advertised off time. It’s something else to see the horses coming out to parade on course before they go to post, and when they finally set off from the starting tapes the inimitable Aintree roar will never be forgotten.
You may have been to FA cup finals, Test matches, grand prix races, or Wimbledon, but believe me, being there for the Randox Health Grand National is an occasion that will live long in your sporting memory.