The Grand National meeting gets underway without crowds as Aintree lies deserted at the time thousands of punters would usually be piling through its doors ready for a beer and bacon sandwich!
- The Grand National’s first meeting will take place without fans on Thursday
- Aintree racecourse was empty ahead of the event with the UK still in lockdown
- The races went ahead virtually last year as it was hit hard by the Covid pandemic
- The scenes compare drastically to the 33k in attendance on 2019’s opening day
It’s normally the scene of jam-packed stands filled with punters and guests, but Aintree racecourse looked eerily empty on Thursday as the Grand National prepares to get underway without fans for the first time.
The world famous festival in Liverpool starts with Liverpool’s NHS Day, featuring seven races – the first starting at 1.45pm, but jockeys will hear nothing but silence from the terraces that usually hold around tens of thousands of spectators.
Last year’s event went ahead virtually as a result of the UK plunging into its first lockdown amid the Covid pandemic – using CGI technology and based on the algorithms of the 40 horses most likely to have competed.
The Grand National Festival got underway at Aintree on Thursday with the course deserted as spectators are still banned as the UK gradually comes out of lockdown
The Early of Derby stand – which is usually packed to the rafters – was left eerily empty
It makes quite a drastic comparison to the last festival in 2019 – where tens of thousands were in attendance for the opening day
The world famous faces usually see punters arrive in hordes, with 33,000 arriving for the start of the last event that allowed crowds
The hordes of empty seats makes quite a drastic comparison to the 33,000 fans that were in attendance on the first day of the 2019 festival.
But this year – with the races allowed to go ahead as the UK gradually comes out of lockdown – pictures from Aintree painted a subdued scene.
The Early of Derby Stand that overlooks the racecourse was completely empty, compared to two years ago when it was packed to the rafters for the opening day.
Not a spectator is in sight from the view of the finish line at Aintree on Thursday morning
A lone groundsman in one of the only signs of anyone present ahead of the first meeting
The entrance to the racecourse is shuttered off with the Grand National being forced to go ahead without fans in attendance
A road is closed off to deter punters and spectators from gathering outside the grounds
Elsewhere around the course, the front entrance was completely shuttered off with no guests allowed through the doors, while the road leading to Aintree was also closed to deter any punters from gathering outside.
A lone groundsman mowing the track was one of the only early sign of anyone at the course ahead of Thursday’s first meeting.
Liverpool’s NHS Day will be marked with a River of Light Rainbow Bridge in the city which reads ‘thank you NHS’.
It will be followed by Ladies Day on Friday, with Grand National Day wrapping up the festival on Saturday.
LIVERPOOL’S NHS DAY RACE SCHEDULE
1.45pm – The SS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Steeple Chase
2.20pm – The Doom Bar Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle
2.50pm – The Betway Bowl Steeple Chase
3.25pm – The Betway Aintree Hurdle
4.05pm – The Rose Paterson Randox Health Foxhunters’ Steeple Chase
4.40pm – The Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Steeple Chase
5.15pm – The Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat