18th Apr 2012
We went to Aintree on Saturday to show our four children the track and the fences. We joked that we needed to do it before the race became a flat race. A few interesting points for me included the very fact that for the next generation the race was not the centre of their TV world. Where us adults had recited commentary and knew the Andy Pandys and Spanish Steps’s as if they were our own, the next wave have many other televisual events competing for their attention. It is unlike any other horse race and it is still great, but the position of horse racing in the firmament may not be what it was.
Aintree nearly closed down twenty years or so ago but now it is like a mini-Cheltenham with bright new stands and hospitality tents stretching in every direction. How much money has been invested in infrastructure on British racecourses in the last twenty years? Billions at a guess. Think of Newmarket, Ascot, Newbury, York, Epsom, Doncaster and keep going through the tracks and it is an enormous investment when totalled. Somebody believes in us! The crowds are there too- 30,000-40,000 crowds are commonplace in Britain and the big events are double that and rising, so the customer responds to the investment in facility. The expectations rise too and customer service is at a very high level and rising.
The Grand National itself received a lot of coverage. The BBC were our hosts for the last time and as Alastair Down points out, they can now choose to join in with the noisy brigade of critics for whom the National is a touchpaper. Those opposed will never understand or condone. The loss of Synchronised and According To Pete was sad and unfortunate. In fact the winner touched down over Beecher’s shoulder-to-shoulder with According To Pete and avoided being brought down by inches. That is the fine line that the horses tread. They tread it in an environment of adulation as the culmination of a lifetime of care. Is it better to be loved and lost than never to have existed?