“No dress code” the Grand National’s other test of stamina


Aintree’s nobbier end

Aintree’s two crowds

Aintree yesterday looked balmy on the telly (and my photo), but it was 8° on my phone when we showed up , fresh from the shuttle from Liverpool Central.

8º and a biting wind, and the world had once again turned orange

Now this blog’s not going down any dirty rabbit holes, so don’t expect more photos of naked flesh. Suffice it to say, the ladies who braved these conditions with light garments did so with a fortitude that would have been beyond me. There were some seriously brave women in the 70,000 crowd.

These , and their besuited beaux , found themselves “outside” -even in the aircraft hanger of the Aintree Equestrian Centre that may have sold more pints of Carling than Cheltenham sells in Guinness .

Dressage was not on yesterday’s agenda as this story explains. ( verified by your blogger who was an eye-witness of the novel sport of wheelie-bin diving).

The acceptable face of the Centre

“Inside” the Earl of Sefton and Lord Derby Stands  were the racing folk in their tweeds , gloves and hats donned for rare excursions to view the horses as owners, trainers and horse-lovers. They were about 1% of a crowd who by and large represented the public.

There were indeed two crowds  at Aintree for the Grand National and we flitted between the two , finding ourselves neither inside the parade rings or outside in  Aintree’s Equestrian Centre which served as a drinking den for 3-4,000 increasingly drunken souls!

Liverpool has always been known as tribal (football, politics, religion) and Aintree’s no different, here the tribes are from the racing elite (representing the shires) and the urban proles (dressed or undressed)

The two tribes sort of came together at the end of the day as we partied in the 45 minute queue to get back to Liverpool. It feels a bit warmer amidst the throng, though most of the tweedies seemed to be heading for their drafty-looking helicopters, bless them!

Dispersing such a crowd is quite an achievement. The ladies have access to flee flip flops to relieve tired feet and creaking heels. Gents have a supporting role (literally for some ) as tired and emotional colleagues try to stay the final furlong. Amidst the frolicking are some of the tweedy – looking a little needy.

Well done Merseyside Metro and the Aintree officials – a great – safe – event.

Racing’s two cultures

The Grand National is of course, the only race that anyone remembers, despite the supporting card having line-ups that would have featured at any other meeting  except the Cheltenham Festival.

This year’s National winner was a popular family called the Waley-Cohens, who are the poster clan for the owners and trainers.


It was Sam Whaley-Cohen’s last race and the victory looked quite a retirement present. There were a few dry eyes in the house, most of whose were staring at betting slips without “Noble Yeats” on them.

The TV pundits try to make us feel we are moving in these privileged circles but , standing a few yards from Tony McCoy as Sam received his trophy as winning jockey, I couldn’t see much empathy. The Waley-Cohen English amateur and the ruthless Irish professional seemed a world apart. The rival between British and Irish racing is fierce. I sense that McCoy and Nick Fitzgerald are on another page from Olly, Alice and Francesca on the ITV racing team.

Extreme fun

The gruelling Grand National day involves necessary intoxication. We do not normally drink at 8am but as our carriage pulled out of Euston, most tables had their open bottle.

Leave at 7 home at 11 – it’s a grand day out, a grand national celebration of how we just about all get on – thanks to the horses!


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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