When Kiwis Fly

A Sports Tour of Great Britain
Aintree Racecourse

This is the home of the race that stops the nation. The Grand National is held in April and brings the jumps season to a close.

The Aintree track is in north Liverpool, and the locals love to host a party. There are over 70,000 people on the course and they are all cheering. The race is one of the highlights of the British sporting calendar. Tickets go on sale in August and many Grand Stand badges sell out almost immediately. 
The noise on course when the race starts is incredible. As well as the huge crowds on course, every year 500 to 600 million people tune in to watch the race on TV in over 140 countries.
The race is 4 miles, 4 furlongs (or just over 7.2 kms) and the horses jump 30 fences. It is one of racing’s greatest challenges – a unique test of horse and rider. Only once this millennium, have more than half the horses which started, managed to finish.
 The Chair and Becher’s Brook are the two most famous fences on the track. Becher’s Brook has been previously described by jockeys like “jumping off the edge of the world.”
It is the most popular race in the UK and for some armchair punters it is their only bet of the year.
The most unlucky story of Aintree belongs to Devon Loch in 1956. Less than 50 yards from the finish and five lengths ahead, the horse mysteriously did a half jump and belly-flopped down on to the ground, landing on its stomach. ESB took over and won in the most remarkable finish to a horse race. Devon Loch was owned by the Queen Mother and she famously said: “Oh, that’s racing.”
New Zealand horses have traditionally done well at Aintree. Moiffa won the Grand National in 1904. The horse was bred and raced in New Zealand before moving to the UK. A myth surrounds the horse that he swam for safety after a shipwreck and was found the next day.
The reality is that it was another New Zealand horse Kiora who swam for two miles after a shipwreck off Cape Hope and competed against Moifaa in 1904. The myth developed from this coincidence.
After his Grand National triumph, Moifaa was bought by King Edward VII, became the monarch’s favourite horse and led the King’s funeral procession in 1910.
In 1991, New Zealand bred horse Seagram won the race. Seagram was bred in Waikato by Jeanette Broome at Loch Haven Thoroughbred who also bred 1998 Melbourne Cup winner Jezabeel.
New Zealand’s Lord Gyleene won the Grand National in 1997. It is the only year that the race has been held on a Monday - because of an IRA bomb threat on the scheduled Saturday. The course was immediately evacuated and thousands of people were unable to return to their cars to fetch their belongings. With insufficient hotel accommodation in the immediate area, generous Liverpudlians opened their homes to the race-going public.

Grand National Day at Aintree is one of the great days on the British sporting calendar and a must-do for any sports fan.