Aintree Racecourse Guide

Aintree Racecourse at Becher's Brook
Bercher's Brook (Raymond Knapman /

Aintree is without doubt one of the most popular racecourses in the world. Home of the most famous Nation Hunt race on the planet, the Grand National, thousands of people flock to Aintree each year to see the marathon steeplechase.

The racecourse is located in Merseyside, England, and it was once served by Aintree Racecourse railway station, which closed its doors in 1962. It's now served by Aintree railway station, which is located just outside this famous old course. Only Epsom Downs has a bigger capacity (120,000) in the UK, with Aintree housing 75,000 people.

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The Course

The course is best known for being home of the annual Grand National, arguably the biggest steeplechase race in the world. The National course is highly regarded as one of the most difficult courses to complete successfully, with its 30 fences, which include renowned obstacles such as The Chair, Foinavon, Valentine's, Canal Turn and Becher's Brook. These fences have become so infamous over the years that they strike fear into the participating jockeys (and even the fans watching from the side-lines!).

Becher's Brook earned its name when a top jockey, Captain Martin Becher, took shelter in the brook after being unseated. "Water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whisky," he reflected. The Chair is the tallest fence at 5ft 2ins, and the broadest. This fence got its name as it was once alongside the seat used by the distance judge.

Within the vast National course there's also the smaller Mildway course, which contains hurdles and fences. These fences are made of traditional National Hunt material. Both courses used to share the water jump, but the water is no longer used on the Mildway course.

The Grand National course is triangular with its apex (at the Canal Turn) being the furthest point from the stands. The famous race is run over two complete circuits taking in the 16 fences first time around, and 14 on the second. Due to its size and length, the National course is best suited to talented long-distance horses.

Major Races

Obviously, THE major race at Aintree is the Grand National. The National, which was first run way back in 1839, is a handicap steeplechase run over 4 miles and 514 yards. It's the most valuable jumps race in Europe, with a £1m prize fund in 2016. An estimated 500 - 600m people watch the Grand National in over 140 countries each year.

Four other races take part over the National fences. These are the Topham Chase, the Fox Hunters' Chase, the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase and the Becher Chase. The Topham and Fox Hunters' Chase take place during the three-day festival in April. The Grand Sefton Handicap and the Becher Chase takes place in a November meeting every year.

Another notable race is the Old Roan Chase, which is a Grade 2 National Hunt steeplechase that takes place in late October every year. This particular race is open to horses aged four or over, and it's run on the Mildway course over a distance of around two miles and four furlongs. The retired Tony McCoy is the leading jockey in this race, having won on Albertas Run in 2011 and Conquisto in 2013.


Aintree Racecourse Stands
The Stands at Aintree (Rept0n1x /

Not only do thousands of fans head to Aintree each year for the Grand National, the course is still very popular during its other meetings, too. This beautiful course has plenty of places from which to watch the thrilling action unfold and take in the tremendous surroundings. You have got the Winners' Enclosure, which is the best place to soak up the atmosphere. This is where the winning horses are reunited with their owners and where the trophies are presented.

The Parade Ring, where the horses are paraded before the race, giving you a great opportunity to have a good look at your horse before it goes out for the big one. Trackside is also an excellent place to see the action. If you want to get up close and personal, this is the place to be. The Red Rum garden is accessible with all purchased tickets and badges. Here you get a chance to look at arguably the most iconic horse in Aintree history, as a statue of none other than three-time Grand National winner Red Rum lights up the spectacular garden.

Aintree has plenty of stands and enclosures for you to choose from. On National day, you have the Tattersalls, West Tip Seats, Steeplechase Enclosure, Princes Royal Seats, Platinum Lounge, Queen Mother Seats, Earl of Derby Lower and Upper, Lord Sefton Lower and Upper, Princess, Queen Mother and Lord Daresbury Roof, as well as the Lord Sefton and Earl of Derby Terraces. Be fast though, as the majority of stands for the Grand National Festival sell out extremely quickly.

Useful Info

Dress Code

There is no official dress code at Aintree, but smart attire is preferable and often adopted. Aintree is renowned for its fashion, with gentlemen opting to wear suits and the ladies showcasing their favourite raceday outfits and hats. Although there's no official dress code, be advised, at the Grand National Festival, sports clothes and fancy dress are not permitted.

Ticket Prices

Ticket prices vary between meetings. Whereas a regular meeting will be cheaper, the Grand National is the most expensive day on the calendar. On Grand Opening Day, Tattersalls tickets are priced at £23.20 - £29. The Earl of Derby and Lord Sefton Terraces start a £36. Ladies Day (the Friday) is more expensive, although you can still pick up Tattersalls tickets for under £40.

The Grand National is obviously the most expensive day, with the cheapest Tattersalls tickets being £51 and the Platinum Lounge setting you back £150. However, they do offer Steeplechase Enclosure tickets for as little as £24.30. Nevertheless, whether you are on a budget, or splashing the cash, Aintree has something for everyone.

Getting There

The course is located on the A59, a mile away from the M57 and M58, which link the M62 and M6. The easiest way to Aintree, however, is by train. The nearest mainline station is Liverpool Lime Street. Liverpool Central Station is just a short walk from Lime Street, where you can catch a train everything 15 minutes to the course – trains run more frequently during the Grand National Festival.


There is car parking for up to 1,000 cars. Car parking is available for free at Aintree, excluding the Grand National Festival. For the National Festival, car parking is limited and must be purchased in advanced.


Aintree Racecourse is one of the most iconic courses in the UK, and arguably even the world. Horse racing has been a popular sport in Merseyside since at least the Tudor times. In the 18th century, Nicholas Blundell organised races on the sands of Crosby, and the Derby was run there in 1780.

Grand National

Crowds arriving for the Grand National at Aintree in 1955
Aintree Grand National 1955 (Ben Brooksbank /

The Grand National was organised by William Lynn, an innkeeper and owner of the Waterloo Hotel Liverpool. He advertised for the race to be run on February 29th 1836 – the first official Grand National took place three years later.

In 1993, Aintree was home of the Grand National that never was, when under starter's orders, a series of incidents occurred which resulted in one jockey being tangled up in the starting tape, which caused the tapes to fail to rise correctly. 30 of the 39 jockeys did not realise the false start and continued to race. Seven horses completed the course, forcing a void result.

In 1997, the Grand National was run on a Monday, after two coded bomb threats were received at Aintree. The course containing jockeys, race personnel and 60,000 people were evacuated on the Saturday. The race was run 48 hours later, with meeting organisers offering 20,000 tickets with free admission. Lord Gyllene went on to win it.

For lovers of horse racing, little compares to highs and lows, and thrills and spills of the Grand National. Even for people that are not into their racing, everyone seems to take note of horse racing's most recognisable showpiece. And Aintree in Liverpool does one hell of job of hosting the Grand National, which just keeps getting better and better each year.

Motor Racing

In addition to horse racing, Aintree Racecourse was used for motor racing in the 1950s and 60s. The F1 British Grand Prix was staged there on five occasions, in 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1962. It's also housed music concerts, with the likes of Michael Jackson, McFly, Kaiser Chiefs and The Chemical Brothers performing at the grand venue. The racecourse also contains a nine-hole golf course and driving range.