A lot of our posts highlight adventurous travel ideas designed to inspire you to explore off the beaten path. But adventure comes in various forms, and sometimes a day trip to take in a unique sporting event can be just as enjoyable as hiking across an active volcano.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to look ahead at some of the most entertaining sports spectacles in the world: the UK’s spring season horse race festivals, and specifically the famed Grand National.
Held every April at the Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England, the Grand National is one of the oldest and longest-running sporting events in the world. First contested in 1839, it is steeped in history with a rich background of past champions and a thoroughly developed tradition that extends to a knowledgeable and fun-loving crowd.
The grounds themselves are almost impossible not to enjoy. To begin with, the towering grandstands that overlook the main tracks are state-of-the-art in quality and offer a comfortable but closely packed (and therefore enthusiastic and exciting) spectator experience.
Beyond the actual seating, Aintree is overflowing with perks and activities for fans to enjoy. At the grounds, there’s a bevy of food and drink options, including the Golden Miller Restaurant, which offers views of both the parade ring (where you can see champion horses off the track) and the race track for diners.
Just aside the racecourse, for those inclined to take a day or an afternoon off during the three-day racing festival, the golf centre can be a welcome retreat. It makes for something of a country club atmosphere complete with world-class racing competition and crowds of spectators who feel like anything but a country club crowd!
As enjoyable as the location itself is, however, it would be nothing without the competitions it showcases. Those, in turn, would be only ordinary if not for the quality of the horses and the extensive betting activity that keeps fans closely engaged with the action. For anyone familiar with the pedigree of the Grand National, it almost goes without saying that it tends to attract some of the biggest names in European horse racing.
But those who haven’t attended may not be as familiar with the volume and intensity of fan involvement via betting. Betfair’s horse racing section is loaded up with a brief preview of the 2015 race, and it is also carrying the very latest odds for the signature Grand National race.
For those with an interest, Shutthefrontdoor is listed as the early favourite (at 22/1), with 2014 winner Pineau De Re at fifth (27/1). These odds may shift as the race approaches, but consider it an indication of how much the betting scene factors into Aintree that odds are already posted at all. Indeed, part of the experience of the Grand National is having a stake in the outcome, even if it’s just a small bet for the sake of interest.
Racing fans stir an atmosphere of excitement when placing their bets, although this is nothing compared to how thoroughly some of them invest in the idea of horse racing fashion. Viewed as anything from fashionable to gaudy, horse racing fashion is an extravagant concept unique among style-based events or occasions. It calls for men and women alike to sport the latest in high fashion, with elaborate accessories and often particularly bright colours. This concept has become such a deeply rooted tradition that it’s almost an aspect of spectator participation to dress up!
Metro’s look back at the 2014 Ladies Day—the one day of the festival specifically dedicated to fashion—can give you an idea of what to expect in this regard. Some of the images almost make a trip to Aintree resemble a pageant of sorts! Nevertheless, the act of dressing for the occasion seems to be one of the very reasons for the infectious enthusiasm of the racegoers.
Altogether, these factors make for a different brand of adventure. A trip to the Grand National is not a wild or physically demanding experience in the traditional sense. But the history of the event coupled with its spectacular venue, unique fans, and competitive nature make Aintree a particularly interesting destination, especially for those inclined to travel for events.
Have you attended a horse racing event, did you place a bet?!