Oscar Whisky wins at Aintree 9/04/2011

The last two Aintree Hurdles have been won by Oscar Whisky (left)

  PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)  

Grand National meeting to have record prize fund

AINTREE has announced total prize-money for the Grand National meeting in April will be at an all-time high of over £2.7 million.

Thirteen of the three-day meeting's 21 races have been boosted with the £2,725,000 total up £185,000 from last year.

However, the Grand National - to be run under the sponsorship of John Smith's for the final time this year - remains £25,000 adrift of seven figures. Twelve months ago the big race's pot was swelled to £975,000 from £950,000.

In other changes, the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle, won the last four seasons by Big Buck's, will no longer be the opening race of the meeting as it has been switched to the Saturday.

In reverse, the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, won last year by Oscar Whisky and in the past by the likes of Dawn Run and Istabraq, has been moved to the third race on Thursday from its traditional Saturday slot.

"We are confident that this switch will greatly strengthen Thursday's card and thereby provide a big additional star attraction on the opening day," said Aintree's clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch.

"It is a formidable day's racing with the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl, the Grade 1 Matalan Anniversary 4-Year-Old Hurdle and the John Smith's Fox Hunters' Chase over the Grand National fences also on the Thursday card.

"Prize-money for the Thursday is £695,000, up £130,000 on last year, and we are putting a lot of effort into increasing the attendance towards the very high levels seen on the other two days."

As sporting sights go, few match the sheer excitement of 40 horses thundering towards the first fence at Aintree for the John Smith's Grand National.

A race steeped in history that always provides a story, the Grand National is the ultimate test of endurance and skill for both horse and jockey, as the pairing must navigate 30 treacherous fences, and then still have enough stamina to make a challenge on the run-in.

To manage a clear round in the 4m4f epic is no mean achievement, with the fences notoriously difficult and offering unique challenges.

Over the years, there have been countless memorable moments, Devon Loch's phantom leap in the 1956 contest, Foinavon's shock 100-1 win in 1967 and the brilliance of Red Rum, who took the chase on three occasions in 1973, 74 and 77.

In 1981 Aldaniti and Bob Champion completed a heartwarming tale when winning the race, as Aldaniti had recovered from a career-threatening injury while jockey Champion had battled back from cancer.

In 2011 the race provided another fairytale story as Donald McCain emulated his father and Aintree legend Ginger when winning with Ballabriggs - and that came just a year after champion jockey Tony McCoy finally gained victory in the race at the 15th time of asking.