Head groundsman Mark Aynsley has sown two areas of the hallowed two-mile track with the Regenerating Perennial Ryegrass (RPR) mixture. His hope is that the unique creeping growth habit of the new blend's star cultivar Barclay II will provide improved wear tolerance and recovery, as well as better stability and tensile strength.
"We've sown two areas of track with RPR a couple of times as part of our May and June renovations," he reveals. "We've focused on the jump take-off and landing areas as well as the bends as these get the heaviest wear. We're hoping it will help with the recovery and integrity of the soil profile, with the creeping ryegrass particularly good for divot repair. You can have the hardest-wearing grass in the world, but nothing can recover from horses' hooves sinking it six inches deep into the soil!"
Mark is monitoring the performance of the RPR, but - as a firm fan of the original BAR 7, which he currently uses as his standard mixture - he is eager to switch to this enhanced version from next year.
"We favour BAR 7 because it's reliable, has a great colour and it gives the fineness of leaf we like. We've considered switching to the harder-wearing BAR Sprint, but, as a televised venue, that fineness of leaf is important to us. Once the ryegrass is fed and cut, it really stands upright and has a great sheen when it's been striped, making it 'spark up' on television. It looks the business for the National. BAR 7 is a great blend of grasses, as far as I'm concerned. It works, it grows - that's what we need."
While Aintree is host to five additional race days throughout the year, preparing for the Grand National in April is, of course, the main focus for Mark. He therefore takes advantage of Barenbrug's cool temperature germination mixture BAR 50 SOS to achieve coverage during the winter months in the run up to this iconic race.
"We use the combination of Barenbrug mixtures to build up to that April cover, with the aim being total coverage," he continues. "I've been using BAR 50 SOS for a few years now and think of it as my 'get out of jail free' card! It grows like the clappers in winter, helping support the BAR 7. All in all, we use Barenbrug because it's just good grass. The service is spot on, too, and it's good to know the company is on the front-foot in terms of research and development with all the trials work."