Action from the Grand National earlier this year
©Healy Racing Photos
John Smith's is to end its sponsorship of the Grand National after the 2013 renewal of the race.
The beer producer has leant its support to the National since 2005 and told The Times it was a "difficult" decision to end its sponsorship of the three-day April meeting.
John Smith's spokesman David Jones said: "We will continue to be involved with the sport at other courses, including York, Newcastle and Brighton.
"The Grand National has been one of the jewels in our sponsorship crown and this decision was difficult.
"We will be exploring ways in which John Smith's can continue to be involved in the three-day meeting and talks with Aintree will take place in the coming months."
Aintree chairman Lord Daresbury is confident the meeting will not be short of suitors.
He said: "I'm sad about it. With a new management team in place, it comes at a bad time and puts more pressure on us all.
"It would naturally have been easier if John Smith's had been willing to extend the contract again, but I am completely confident the race will attract plenty of new interest.
"I genuinely believe it is a commercial decision. The image of the race has patently been a consideration, though I'm sure it was not the overriding one.
"I'm sure they got tremendous value out of the sponsorship and the branding exposure at the course was unprecedented."
John Smith's brand manager Karen Crowley said it was "the right time to move on" after a nine-year association with the National meeting.
She said: "We end our long association in the knowledge we have created a successful and significant sponsorship model that will serve Aintree and its new sponsors well in the future.
"We've enjoyed nine exciting years as the title sponsor of jump racing's flagship event, during which time we have seen the John Smith's Grand National achieve record TV viewing figures and attendances.
"However, we felt that now was the right time to move on, reflecting changes in the ale market and the development of the John Smith's brand.
"We will continue to be involved in racing through events such as the John Smith's Cup at York and the Northumberland Plate, both televised on Channel 4, and hope that we can find ways to continue being involved in the Grand National meeting in some capacity after 2013."
John Baker, regional director for Jockey Club Racecourses North responsible for running Aintree, believes the Heineken-owned ale brand has created a lasting impact on the Grand National.
He said: "The team at Aintree and indeed the whole of racing are indebted for the fantastic support we've received from Heineken and the John Smith's team.
"They have been instrumental in delivering exciting marketing initiatives and bringing the narrative of the Grand National to life.
"Throughout their time, through their invaluable contributions to the race meeting, we've seen prize-money, attendances and viewing figures grow.
"We are in the process of finalising our sponsorship strategy to ensure the event remains one of the 'crown jewels' in the worldwide sporting calendar but our focus now is to ensure that in 2013 John Smith's are given a fitting farewell to the sponsorship of the Grand National."