A crowd of more than 67,000 attended Aintree on John Smith’s Grand National day last year, with a further 600 million people watching the race worldwide.

And Aintree racecourse has announced that this Saturday (6 April) has been a sell out of 70,000 — indicating that the race is not losing its appeal.

But four horse deaths in the past two years have left many viewers with a bitter aftertaste and put the race under intense scrutiny.

Last year, crowds witnessed one of the most exciting finishes in recent history when Neptune Collonges snatched victory from Sunnyhillboy by just a nose. But his win was tarnished by the deaths of two popular horses — Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According To Pete.

With many new safety measures in place for this year and a high-energy ad campaign from Channel 4 igniting excitement about the race, racing hopes a “clean” year will make the Grand National hit the headlines for the right reasons.

Main changes

  • New plastic, softer cores in fences (see video below)
  • Start moved 90yd forward
  • Increased irrigation
  • Landing levelled off at Becher’s Brook
  • Three mounted horse catchers
  • Corral pen at fence four

H&H 4 April 2013