Grand National: Off-course spectators offered a novel view

GRAND NATIONAL: The death of two horses darkens an occasion when the frayed and the defiant march on Aintree
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The Independent Online
It sounded too good to be true. Turn up, courtesy of the IRA, and watch the Grand National for nothing, writes Dave Hadfield.

It even appealed to someone who had not been to the races for 20 years. And, yes, it was too good to be true, because most of Liverpool seemed to have the same idea.

A train sprint from Bolton and the main gates on the Ormskirk Road were reached an hour before race time. The queues, however, stretched 200 yards in each direction and a lone policeman was doing a "finger in the dam job".

With diminishing hopes of seeing Lord Gyllene and the rest making up for lost time, some of us back-tracked along the Melling Road, to a point where the police road-blocks allowed a view of a couple of furlongs of the course and one jump.

We counted them out on their warm-up canter, and we counted them back to the start. "Look at the gee-gees," said dads to toddlers perched precariously on a garden fence. And, sure enough, when the field thundered past for the second time, there was Lord Gyllene in the lead. As far as the Melling Road Grandstand was concerned, he was always the winner.

A little later, in a pub in Kirkby, His Lordship's victory was confirmed. I could have told the punters ripping up their betting slips: "I was there."

Well, almost.