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Memorable Grand National Races

The first official races at Aintree were organised by the owner of Liverpool's Waterloo Hotel, Mr William Lynn. Lynn leased the land from Lord Sefton, laid out a course, built a grandstand and staged the first Flat fixture on July 7, 1829.

On Tuesday February 26, 1839, Lottery became the first winner of The Grand National. In those days the field had to jump a stone wall (now the water jump), cross a stretch of plough land and finish over two hurdles.

Here at Grand National Free Bets we've looked at some memorable races for the greatest steeplechase in the world, the magnificant Grand National held at Aintree very year...

The Topham Years

The Topham family owned substantial tracts of land around Aintree and had been involved with the management of the course since the early years of the Grand National.

In 1949 Lord Sefton sold the course to the Tophams who appointed ex-Gaiety Girl Mirabel Topham to manage it.

A forward thinker and doughty character, Mrs Topham built a new track within the established National course and named it after Lord Mildmay, an amateur jockey and Grand National lover.

The Mildmay course opened in 1953, the same year as the motor circuit which encircles track.

The motor circuit was another of Mrs Topham's innovations and it quickly gained a reputation as one the best in the world hosting a European Grand Prix and five British Grand Prix. Stirling Moss won his first Grand Prix on it in 1955 while Jim Clark won the 1962 event.

The Last National

Aintree suffered some lean times in the post-war years and in 1965 it was announced that the course would be sold to a property developer.

Thus started one of the longest periods of speculation in the history of British sport - every year brought solemn warnings of "The Last Grand National".

In 1973 the Tophams finally sold the course to property developer Bill Davies who gave a commitment to keep the race going but his heart never quite seemed in it.

The attendance at the 1975 Grand National was the smallest in living memory (Davies had tripled the admission price) and the great race reached its lowest point.

Rescue Campaign

Late in '75 Ladbrokes, the bookmakers, stepped in, signing an agreement with Davies allowing them to manage the Grand National.

Cynics condemned the move as bookmakers protecting their own interests but although the race attracts by far the largest share of betting stakes the result for bookmakers seldom brings a windfall.

Ladbrokes, like all true racing professionals, had a genuine love for the National and were determined to keep it alive.

Their task stretched over the next eight years and they set about it admirably but Davies was reluctant to renew their contract. He was determined to sell Aintree.

Racing and the public in general finally realised that after so many years of "crying wolf" the threat was serious and a huge campaign was launched to rescue the race once and for all.

Jockey Club Win Through

Donations from the public helped the Jockey Club pay Davies' price and in early '83 he finally sold the racecourse.

That year the Grand National was sponsored by the Sun newspaper but in '84 Seagram Distillers stepped in to provide the solid foundation on which Aintree's revival has been built.

Seagram chairman, Ivan Straker, started the ball rolling after reading a passionate newspaper piece by Lord Oaksey who, in his riding days, had failed by just three quarters of a length to win the 1963 National on Carrickbeg.

The last Seagram-sponsored National was in 1991 when the race was won by a horse which chairman Straker twice had the opportunity to buy; the horse's name was Seagram.

Martell Backing

The Seagram subsidiary, Martell Cognac, took over sponsorship in 1992.

Over the course of Martell's sponsorship, the race has again experienced a boom, with record attendances over the last few years.

In 2004, the race was to be the very last Martell Cognac Grand National meeting, with Martell's priorities changing and therefore not renewing its sponsorship.

In 2004, around 150,000 people were at Aintree to witness the last Martell backed race.

The Great Revival

Aintree racecourse is now enjoying its most successful period in modern times.

While many courses rely on subsidies, the Aintree management is very much commercially minded and on non-racedays all of Aintree's grandstands host wedding receptions, conferences and exhibitions.

In the heart of the racecourse the belongs the Aintree Golf Centre, featuring a superb driving range and one of the longest nine-hole courses in the UK.

Future plans include a new grandstand, as well as a redeveloped Parade Ring and Winner's Enclosure. Aintree's £30million plan will be complete for the next Grand National meet.