Randox Grand National's officials say are better prepared to deal with any protests

Sports correspondent Chris Hall attended the annual weights lunch in Liverpool.

Officials at Aintree believe they are better prepared to deal with protests that may occur at this season’s Grand National, after last year’s race was delayed by animal rights activisits.

More than 100 protesters from Animal Rising were arrested after some managed to get onto the course.

The Jockey Club, which owns Aintree, was able to put more stringent plans in place by the time of the Derby at Epsom in June, when it secured an injunction which made it illegal for anyone to attempt to get on the track.

Aintree clerk of the course, Sulekha Varma, said: “We’re lucky that we’ve got a very good relationship with the police and we will take guidance from them.

“We learned a lot last year, and we saw that at Epsom, so we are going into this year with a different outlook.”

Dickon White, Aintree and North West regional director of the Jockey Club, said: "We’ve had nothing at all [threat of protest].

"We’re still reviewing last year’s incidents, as we would through the normal planning process with Merseyside Police and our security advisers.

"But there’s nothing at this stage which tells us there is going to be anything different to previous years. At this stage we’re not planning to do anything different."

This year's Randox Grand National will have more stringent safety measures. Credit: PA

Nicholas Wrigley, outgoing chairman at Aintree, felt the incident emphasised just what place the race still holds in the public consciousness.

“What last year showed was how important the Grand National is, not just to racing but to the general public," he said.

"It triggered a National debate which went on for days. It showed what the future is and what the future may hold for jumps racing.

"What was clear was the one thing that was at the front of everything was the safety of the horse.

“It’s why we’ve spent so long discussing everything, making everything safer for the horse because that is vital for the future of the race.

“We need people to focus on the horse rather than looking back in time at what has gone before so we’ll be asking people to get behind the changes.”

Those changes involve a new start time of 4pm, moving the first fence nearer to the starting tape and perhaps more significantly reducing the field to 34 from 40 runners.

“The changes were made on the back of the review, which happens every year, and my thought is always how do we keep the race moving forwards,” said Varma.

“The biggest change is the reduction to 34 runners and that is down to the way the race is run. Since the changes to the fences 10 years ago as it has altered the speed of the race.

“We couldn’t move the start so we’ve moved the first fence 60 yards closer and that worked in the Becher and Grand Sefton. The change in race time is also helpful as it stops some of the build up of pressure.”

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