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World famous Grand National meeting gets underway without crowds as Aintree racecourse lies deserted

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It's normally the scene of jam-packed stands filled with punters and guests, but Aintree racecourse looked eerily empty on Thursday as the Grand National prepares to get underway without fans for the second year running.

The world famous festival in Liverpool starts with Liverpool's NHS Day, featuring seven races - the first starting at 1.45pm, but jockeys will hear nothing but silence from the terraces that usually hold around tens of thousands of spectators.

The hordes of empty seats makes quite a drastic comparison to the 33,000 fans that were in attendance on the first day of the 2019 festival.

This year - with the races allowed to go ahead as the UK gradually comes out of lockdown - pictures from Aintree painted a subdued scene.

The Early of Derby Stand that overlooks the racecourse was completely empty, compared to two years ago when it was packed to the rafters for the opening day.

A lone groundsman mowing the track was one of the only early sign of anyone at the course ahead of Thursday's first meeting.

Liverpool's NHS Day will be marked with a River of Light Rainbow Bridge in the city which reads 'thank you NHS'.It will be followed by Ladies Day on Friday, with Grand National Day wrapping up the festival on Saturday.

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