As the home of the Grand National, which annually attracts a global television audience of 600 million, Aintree Racecourse is, arguably, the most instantly recognisable horse racing venue in the world. The Grand National Course consists of 16 idiosyncratic spruce fences, 14 of which are jumped twice during the world famous steeplechase, which is run over a distance of 4 miles, 2 furlongs and 74 yards.
The most famous fences on the National Course are Becher’s Brook which, at one point, feature a steep 3’ drop on the landing side, the Canal Turn, which marks the furthest point from the grandstand, alongside the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, and immediately after which horses must negotiate a near 90° turn, and The Chair, which is the penultimate fence on the first circuit and jumped only once, but the highest fence on the course at 5’2”. Other features of Aintree Racecourse, such as the Melling Road, which horses the cross twice during the Grand National, and the famously long, 494-yard run-in, with its equally famous ‘Elbow’ a furlong or so from the winning post, are familiar to viewers worldwide.
Of course, the Grand National is not the only race run on the National Course at Aintree. The other races are the Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase and the Topham Chase, which are both run over 2 miles, 5 furlongs and 19 yards at the Grand National Meeting in April and the Grand Sefton Chase, run over the same distance, and the Becher Chase, run over 3 miles, 1 furlong and 188 yards, in December.
Aside from the Grand National Course, the Aintree Racecourse complex also includes a traditional, ‘park’ course, known as the Mildmay Course. The Mildmay Course is a left-handed oval, about a mile-and-a-half around, laid out inside the National Course. There are eight traditional birch fences, or six hurdles, to a circuit but, despite remedial work on the bends in the late Eighties, the Mildmay Course remains sharp in character. Notable races on the Mildmay Course include the Betway Bowl, Melling Chase and Aintree Hurdle, all Grade One events run during Grand National Meeting in April.