Grand National prize money set at £1m as large crowds expected at Aintree
The total prize fund for this year’s Randox Grand National will return to £1 million for the first time since the pre-pandemic period, as reported by the Racing Post.
The horse racing and betting news outlet was informed by Aintree racecourse on Wednesday that not only will the total value of the 9 April race return to pre-COVID levels, but the traditional weights ceremony will also be reintroduced.
Last year’s prize money for the event stood at £750,000, when the title race was famously claimed by Rachael Blackmore on Minella Times, whilst the previous year saw the event cancelled due to the onset of the pandemic, instead being replaced by a virtual version.
“We’re delighted that we’re putting the race back to £1 million with Randox’s support,” said Jockey Club North-West Regional Director Dickon White. “The prize-money level across the three days is incredibly important to us. We want to reward the best horses to come and run at Aintree.
Also of major significance, the total attendance for the event will return to a ‘full house’, after being staged behind closed doors last year – with no fans in attendance to watch Blackmore’s historic win as the first woman to claim the Grand National trophy – and of course with no fixture occurring at all in 2020.
The 2021 Grand National predictably proved to be a hugely successful week for bookmakers, with Smarkets recording a 21% increase in betting volume from 2019 to reach a total trading sum of £92.8 million. Meanwhile, Scientific Games reported over 50 million bets placed through its OpenSports platform – utilised by a range of online and retail operators – with over 19 million bets staked on the Grand National race itself.
This year’s event will be broadcast to local betting operators by Racecourse Media Group (RMG), under the terms of a five-year licensing agreement signed between the company and the festival organisers to provide audio and visual content.
White continued: “The demand for admission tickets and for hospitality is higher than it’s ever been before. We’re really thrilled with the interest in people coming to attend and we’re planning towards a full crowd but we are in constant discussions with our local authority and our director of public health about the COVID situation in and around Merseyside. We’ll ensure we have the protocols in place to deliver what’s required.”
In a separate turn of events in the south of England, the capacity at this year’s Royal Ascot will instead see its capacity reduced, with the Post reporting that festival organisers made the decision based on attendee feedback from 2021 – when the event went ahead with a total attendance of 12,000 as part of the government’s pilot Events Research Programme.
The Royal Enclosure will be reduced to 12,500 from 13,500, whilst the number of spectators at the Queen Anne and Windsor Enclosures will fall by 4,150 and 2,000 from the 2019 attendance figures of 20,750 and 17,000.
These changes will see the total attendance fall by 14% from 51,500 in 2019 to 44,100 for this year’s event, although Felicity Barnard, Royal Ascot Commercial Director, informed the Post that ticket sales have remained strong since last summer and the track expects a positive turnout due to 2022 being a Platinum Jubilee year.
“We’re really pleased to be making these customer-focused changes to Royal Ascot this summer,” Barnard remarked. “They’ll provide an improved experience for our racegoers across the three main enclosures, ensuring a more enjoyable atmosphere and better access to facilities throughout the site.
“A key message in the feedback last year, when the attendance was limited to 12,000 daily as part of the Events Research Programme, was that people really appreciated the benefit of additional space.
“This set us on a journey to look at how we could reduce density to improve comfort across the site going forward in a ‘normal’ scenario. Incorporating feedback from previous years and other race days, it became clear we needed to make a fundamental change in terms of the capacities across the site.”