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11 April 2022

This year’s Randox Grand National Festival celebrated local community and charities

This year’s Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree saw numerous community and charity initiatives. Local charity Park Palace Ponies provides Liverpool’s inner-city children with the opportunity to learn to ride. The 5:15 on Friday first day was ‘Park Palace Ponies Handicap Hurdle’. The #LovetheRacehorse stand was home to Racing Together, Racing to School, Retraining of Racehorses, National Racehorse Week, The Horse Welfare Board, British Horse Society and World Horse Welfare. 

The first day of the Grand National Festival was dedicated to the NHS and was called ‘Liverpool’s NHS Day.’ Aintree handed out 10,000 free tickets to NHS staff. The complementary tickets were split across Merseyside NHS providers. The initiative was announced back in 2020 when the Grand National was cancelled due to the pandemic. In the racecard a ‘thank you’ graphic was created using the names of all 10,000 NHS workers who attended the day to recognise the hard work and commitment of the dedicated NHS staff and carers who worked tirelessly to care for COVID-19 patients. 

Retraining of Racehorses had a parade on the opening day. Barbers Shop who was trained by Nicky Henderson led the parade. The ex-racehorse won eight races during his racing careers and was placed in the 2009 King George VI Chase and at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival. Since being retired from racing he has been with Katie Jerram-Hunnable and has become one of the leading former racehorses including having a hat-trick of wins at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of Aintree’s partnership with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Part of this partnership includes Grand National Jockeys paying a visit to the Hospital which has not been able to happen in recent years due to the pandemic. This year 2012 Grand National winner Neptune Collonges and jockeys including Harry Skelton and Ruby Walsh were on hand to meet some of the children, young people and staff. Although jockeys could not enter the wards due to COVID-19 they were able to spend time in the gardens meeting staff and families. The honorary 41st runner initiative was created to raise awareness and funds for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. This year four-year-old Betty Batt was named the 41st runner. Alder Hey has been treating Betty and supporting her family for years. Betty needed constant treatment when she was born in June 2017. Her parents were left devastated when doctors discovered that her bowel had perforated in two places, and Betty was transferred to Alder Hey Hospital for emergency surgery. Betty’s parents Staley and Martha were determined to reunite Betty with her brother and sister at home. With help from the team of professionals at Alder Hey who trained them to support Betty’s medical needs, they were able to get her home for the first time after 13 months in hospital.  

On Ladies’ Day Aintree Racecourse and Women in Racing hosted the Grand Women’s Summit. This was the seventh running of the event and this year it was hosted by BBC presenter Karthi Gnanasegaram who was joined by a guest panel including Alice Plunkett and Chrissie Wellington to discuss mental resilience. Part of this year’s Grand Summit included announcing the winner of the Merseyside Community Sportswoman Award. The award was created in memory of Aintree’s late chairman Rose Paterson who sadly passed away in 2020, and was presented by daughter Evie to Bridget Hackett, Co-Founder and Director of Park Palace Ponies. The award aims to recognise a woman from Merseyside who is making a difference to grassroots community sport.    

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