Does Aintree Ladies Day Distract from Racing Coverage?

It’s the one day of the year that the females of Merseyside descend into Aintree for their time in the limelight.

Ladies Day at Aintree has always proved one of the most popular spectacles in not only the racing calendar, but the social calendar as-well, and although it should be a brilliant day for racing enthusiasts, there are far more reasons for the event’s popularity.

Liverpool’s ‘pretty punters’ help make the day of racing into a massive event with the balance between emphasis on the fashion and racing, rather skewed in many cases.

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Ladies squeeze into outfits they’ve been training to get it into since the turn of the year, don their specially selected headwear and stroll around sipping Prosecco, whilst (usually successfully) picking out names of horses they like, and whilst this angers a small percentage of horse-racing’s core fan base, it still makes for a seemingly successful day, each year.

Local businesses see a boost in the run-up to the big day, as everyone clambers to get the perfect look for their time in the spotlight. Emily Slater, a River Island employee based in Liverpool, states the shops are always packed with both men and women, trying to find the right attire.

“Usually we are not overly busy in the early part of the year, sales aside, but in the two weeks running up to the Grand National meeting, we are always ran off our feet. We get requests about ordering certain items in, and in some cases the men are after a bit of direction as they are just as conscious about looking the part at the racecourse.”

It is not only the men and women of Merseyside that flock to the event; people come from all around the World to visit Aintree just to soak up the famous atmosphere.  Yasmin Wong, a 21-year-old student from Dublin, comes over from Ireland every year with her family, just so they can strut their stuff on what they deem, ‘the Aintree cat-walk’.

“It’s turned into a tradition now, it’s great being able to dress up nicely for one day of the year and being able to put bets on horses, just adds to the event. It lets me check out the latest trends in the spring and what fascinators stand out. I really love the atmosphere and people’s enthusiasm of people during the event.”

The influx of local celebrities attending the event, such as Coleen Rooney, Alex Gerrard and Danielle Lloyd are added factors to the recent attendance boost, with local ladies inspiring others to get on their glad rags and mingle with their friends and celebrities.

Fashion magazines flock to cover the event, documenting the contrasting styles of the ladies on course. It adds an extra dimension to the media coverage, which doesn’t always go down very well with the entire audience.

Newspapers are keen to focus more on the fashion style than the racing, which was seen in full effect last year. The 2013 card consisted of two grade ones, two grade twos, a grade three, and two listed contests, with the highlight being Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Sprinter Sacre, who was voted ROA’s horse of the year, romping home in the John Smith’s Melling Chase. Yet, the animals played second fiddle to the fillies in the crowd, who grabbed the headlines across the board.

However the balance is still there in-terms of racing enthusiasts, and once a year punters, with opinions the two groups differing massively.

Liam Dunn, 22, a Merseyside local who has been going to the Grand National since he was 14, has recently stopped visiting for Ladies Day, after saying he feels he can not enjoy  his day as the racing is overshadowed by ‘drunken princesses’.

“When I started going, it was more about the focus on the animals. Now there is more of a focus on the animals in the crowd, than on the course. I will continue to go to Liverpool Day and Grand National day, but Ladies Day is not for me anymore.”

This is the problem that has risen over the past few years, with more and more racing enthusiasts opting to steer clear of the event, and save themselves for either the Grand National, or Liverpool Day, which takes place on the opening day of the meeting.

Last year’s Ladies Day seen a rather dramatic dip in attendance, as 45,390 passed through the gates, compared to the record 54, 009 in 2012.

There are obviously many potential reasons for the dip, bit there is a serious case made for the overall theme of the day keeping away many racing fans.

So, what can be done to bring back the racing enthusiasts who now opt out of traveling to Ladies Day?

Finding the balance in-terms of media coverage is a massive point in attempting to ensure punters aren’t scared off by the drunken escapes of a minority. Focusing on racing, with horses such as Sprinter Sacre, The New One and Teaforthree grabbing headlines is integral in ensuring the continued support to the day, by certain racing enthusiasts.

The top horses, trainers and jockeys turn up every year at Aintree, and this often proves too big a lure for many to stay away from. The constant effort by Aintree to ensure that the top horses return, is no mean feat, and this is how they can continually bring back the balance of racing enthusiasts, and once a year punters, combining the best of both worlds.

The 2014 Ladies Day tickets have been selling well, and the introduction of Bjorn Again to entertain punters throughout the day has been well received by all. So it looks as though the slump of last year may well be an anomaly, however it will be interesting to see how the day is documented once more.

One thing is for certain, there are sure to be fireworks.

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