Liverpool has a rich sporting heritage, with football, golf and rugby amongst the top class sports you can watch in the Merseyside area.
However, the city’s most famous event worldwide is undoubtedly the Grand National Festival staged at Aintree Racecourse each spring.
The highlight of the meeting is the Grand National Steeplechase, a gruelling handicap race featuring 40 horses jumping 30 fences over a distance of four miles 514 yards.
The race has been a British sporting institution since 1839. A horse called Lottery won the inaugural National and that was an apt name given some of the surprise results since then.
Horses such as Red Rum, who won the race three times during the 1970s, and Foinavon, who took advantage of a pile-up a fence amongst his rivals to finish first at odds of 100/1 in 1967, are etched into Grand National folklore.
Described as ‘the ultimate test of horse and rider’ at grandnational.org.uk, Aintree has some of the most fearsome obstacles in horse racing, with fences like Becher’s Brook, The Canal Turn and Valentine’s Brook providing thrills and spills on an annual basis.
The National is hugely important to the economy on Merseyside, with local hotels enjoying a big financial boom during the event. Restaurants, bars and visitor attractions are also packed, while local transport is stretched to the limit both before, during and after the meeting.
It has been estimated that the local travel and hospitality economy benefits to the tune of around £10 million due to the National, while Aintree itself has a turnover of more than £30m from the three-day event.
Sponsorship, broadcasting rights and betting revenue all contribute to the revenues generated, making it an extremely lucrative festival for the local region.
The three-day meeting compares favourably with other top class horse racing events staged in the United Kingdom each year.
Aintree hosts over 150,000 racegoers across the three days, while an estimated worldwide audience of over 600 million people tune in to watch Saturday’s main event on television.
Royal Ascot attracts around 300,000 people over the course of its five-day meeting in June, while the Cheltenham Festival and Epsom Derby boast a similar average over their respective three-day events.
However, the Grand National has a global appeal that cannot be matched by any of its contemporaries and it is unquestionably the number one event in the UK horse racing calendar.