The big green fences are now built and for the time being they will sit quietly after being delicately made up by the loyal hardworking ground staff that help put this famous show together and make it what it is.
No other event quite captures the emotion than the Grand National in the world of horse racing,year after year the questions of what’s got the best weight?,who will stay the trip? and what will the ground be like? never get boring and it’s a testament to how well this race and indeed meeting has kept itself going and evolved into a festival that is loved by not just jumps fans but sports fans in general.
I have been going to the first two days of Aintree since 2002 and having spent many a good hour reminiscing I am reminded of seeing horses in the flesh such as Florida Pearl,Barton,Monets Garden,Native Upmanship,Moscow Flyer,Big Buck’s,Kauto Star,Denman and The New One as some of the superstars of the winter game that have graced the lush green turf at Aintree,some without actually winning,but still have raced in front of the huge crowds that pour into Aintree for this three day bonanza and the amazing thing is that all these horses named all form part of the support cards of the National!
From the moment you get off the train at Lime Street in the morning on the opening day you realise just what this meetings means to the people of Liverpool, it’s not just a race but a way of life that encapsulates everyone as they welcome the hoards that come to this part of Merseyside for that yearly get together where the class system is firmly broken down,especially on the train which takes you on that six or seven mile journey from the city centre to the course.
Sporting events for me no matter what the sport it is,offer so much in the way of a good story,emotional bonds between fans and competitors and that unique way in a matter of seconds to either have you jumping for joy in sheer elation or brining you back down to earth with a huge thud and no other event does that than the Grand National does it?
The gods that look down on Aintree like to put you through the mangle at the best of times and over the years that certainly has happened,from seeing the mighty Moscow Flyer record his two wins in the Melling Chase to getting a text saying that the lovely Exotic Dancer has just moved on to that great stable in the sky,Yet it is treating things like this as part and parcel of the game that you love in equal measures as being happy and sad all come as one.
Looking ahead to this year meeting and while their is a change of sponsor the event is as strong as ever,the fences may be slightly different than before but they still have to be jumped by the runners to win,Last year saw a tough performance from Auroras Encore to take the lead as he jumped the last to get his head down and fight on up that punishing run in under Ryan Mania, as for this year well no doubt in the various media outlets and especially on Saturday all the pundits will mention a different reason as to why they think a certain horse will win,for my money the two that I like are Battle Group and Lion Na Bearnai.
As ever all I want is for all the horses and jockeys to return safe and sound,of course that always doesn’t happen but it’s still the best thing anybody can ever hope for as we slowly approach the three days of pulsating action in that little suburb Merseyside.