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Sunday , 17 December 2017
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Grand National 2017

Aintree card could be undervalued

There are two races over the Grand National course at Aintree on Saturday, the Becher Chase and the Grand Sefton Chase. They are both great spectacles, jumping Becher’s, the Canal Turn, Valentine’s and the Chair. However, the TV coverage the Aintree card receives may be less than it deserves. ITV’s cameras will be at Sandown for the Tingle Creek Chase. That card is sure to have priority.

Do you recall the North West Masters weekend with Haydock on the Saturday and Aintree on the Sunday? It had the Betfair Chase on Saturday and the Becher Chase on Sunday. It was first held in 2005 and boosted local tourism by more than £1.7 million. Courtesy buses ran from Haydock after racing to a free music event in St Helens. It had a great start. Sadly, it did not last long, just four more years. It finished in 2009 because Channel 4 decided it did not want to show racing on a Sunday. Without terrestrial TV coverage, the event was doomed. Thus, the Aintree card was pushed back two weeks and since then has clashed with the Tingle Creek.

Sandown card and Aintree card race timings

This Saturday is less than two weeks from the shortest day. That’s a problem for racing coverage. The Grand Sefton is due to start at 3.10pm. The start time for Sandown’s London National is 3.30pm. The Grand Sefton is over the Grand National fences but the light may be fading by then. The Sandown race is over an extended 3m 4f and often run in the gloom as darkness descends. Both cards have a two-mile hurdle race covered by ITV. Why not run the hurdle races after the chases? That would make far more sense. It would also be safer for the horses and riders.

The Sandown card and the Aintree card both have good entries. Fingers crossed everyone comes home safely as day turns to night.

About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including ‘A Long Time Gone’, chronicling Britain’s lost racecourses, and ‘Go Down to the Beaten’, stories of jockeys who didn’t win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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