Aintree Racecourse History
Aintree racecourse is the home of arguably the greatest event in horseracing, the Grand National 2012. The course is also one of the most formidable in the United Kingdom and the names of some of its fences and obstacles have become household names.
The history of Aintree Racecourse is inseparable from the history of the Grand National. The land at Aintree was first leased by innkeeper William Lynn to host horseracing, and the first horse race held on the track was the Croxteth Stakes.
Despite competition from the nearby Maghull Racecourse, Aintree grew steadily in popularity, attracting tens of thousands of spectators. In 1936 William Lynn made the decision to host the first Hunt race at Aintree, intrigued by the success of London’s St. Alban’s Steeplechase. The race was organised over a circular course, allowing the spectators to witness both the start and finish of the race.
For two years after the first Aintree National Hunt race the steeplechase championships were moved to Maghull, and if it weren’t for the poor turf conditions and swamp-like conditions after the rains the race may well have remained at Maghull to this day. Fortunately, in 1839, the race was back at Aintree marking the advent of the Grand National era.
Aintree racecourse history was not without incident. Following the Second World War, Aintree fell onto hard times and attendances dropped at its premier event, forcing the owners of the course to sell it to property developer Bill Davies in 1973.
Although Bill Davies agreed to let racing continue, for a while it seemed that both Aintree Racecourse and the Grand National had no future. Fortunately in 1975 the management of the course was taken over by a sports betting company and the course’s prospects improved overnight.
Bill Davies decided to sell Aintree in the early 1980s and despite the positive developments of the past few years it seemed all might be lost. The course was finally saved in 1983 when the Jockey Club, assisted by public donations, bought Aintree from Davies.
Within a few years the fortunes of Aintree had improved. Several powerful corporate sponsors injected money into the course and its events, and the crowds returned. Today Aintree Racecourse history is at the heart of National Hunt racing, and plans are afoot to redevelop the historic course.
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