In an era where jump races often take a backseat to flat racing, the Grand National still casts a spell on fans and bettors. For nearly two centuries, this famous National Hunt race held in Liverpool, England, captures the attention of both diehard racing fans and the casual fans who watch a single race in a year. There is nothing quite like how it combines antiquated charm with undeniable excitement year after year.
The Grand National has been in existence since 1839 (some say 1836) and has continued mostly unabated since then, with most of the runnings held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. That is part of what makes it so special, as it takes place right in a residential area, unlike many of England’s other top races. Of course, there is still a lot of pomp and prestige that goes along with the race, so much so that it is a major cultural event in the country.
Because of the distance of the race (over four miles) and the fences which the horses must leap throughout the race, the Grand National is much more unpredictable than a traditional flat race. As a result, it makes for a great betting opportunity with the chance to make a good chunk of change with just a small wager. That’s why many people, either in person or through the use of online sites, make it their only horse racing wager of the year.
How the Grand National Works
The Grand National is what’s known as a “National Hunt” race, which is another term for a steeplechase or a jump race. What that means is that the horses who compete periodically have to jump over certain fences during the course of the race. That is what makes the race such a difficult test, as the horses have to possess the stamina to handle the jumps even as the race gets lengthy.
Speaking of the length, the current distance for the Grand National is four miles and 514 yards. The riders and their horses have to make it two full laps around the course. On the course, there are 16 fences; horses have to jump over 14 of them twice and the last two just once for a total of 30 jumps.
When they come to the last two jumps on the second lap, the horses who have made it that far steer away from the jumps and head for the finish line. This is known as the run-in portion of the race. It’s this last stretch that has produced many of the most memorable finishes in Grand National history.
Another important characteristic of the Grand National is the fact that it’s a handicap. This means that race officials assign more weight to horses who are deemed to be top competitors. By doing this, the hope is that all of the horses in the field will have an equal chance of winning.
The Grand National takes place in early April and is held, as it has been in most editions of the race since its inception, at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. It’s contested by seven-year-olds and older who have achieved a certain level of performance in hunt races, as determined by British racing officials, or have finished in the top three of certain qualifying races. The purse for the race currently sits at one million pounds, while the betting handle for the race often approaches 100 million pounds.
Betting on the Grand National
The Grand National is fun to watch, but it’s even more fun when you have a bet on the proceedings. There are so many horses in the field, much more than in a typical flat race that even the favorites generally have odds that will pay decent if the horse wins. Favorites only win the race about 10% of the time which means long shots are always in play.
For that reason, there are few races more popular, for betting purposes, than the Grand National. Learn how you can take part.
How Do You Find a Betting Site for the Grand National?
It’s important to realize that you can find any number of horse racing betting sites that will take your action on the Grand National. Only a handful of those, which we’ve listed here, stand out above the rest. That’s because these sites are established and have excellent reputations among their customers.
Of course, you might have your own requirements for the site you choose. Maybe you’re looking for a certain type of bonus, or you want relaxed policies on withdrawals and deposits. Whatever the case, your best course of action is to do your research and visit the possible sites to determine which are truly a good fit for you.
What Kind of Bets Can Be Made on the Grand National?
Straight bets are the most popular type of bet on this or any other horse race. With these wagers, you can choose a horse to win or to place, the latter meaning the horse finishes somewhere in the top three in the order of finish. An each-way bet gives you exposure to both the win and place.
In terms of straight bets, they are simple and straightforward. Accumulator bets can get much more complex, often involving many horses coming in different orders of finish. Accumulators can only be won if each and every part of the wager comes in, meaning that they are difficult to win.
However, if you can score with an accumulator, the financial rewards can be great. The same can be true with win or place wagering, albeit to a lesser extent. Because the Grand National’s fields are so big, most horses will have odds that are quite tempting.
What Strategy Should I Use on the Grand National?
The strategies for a hunt race are much different than they would be for a race on the flats. Remember that the only way you can win the Grand National is to finish it. That might sound obvious, but the truth is that many horses fall out of the race each year.
That’s why you should first look for horses that have run in other hunt races at long distances and stayed on through the finish with regularity in those races. Such experience will bode well for their chances of lasting through the Grand National, which at least gives them a chance to win it.
Traditions of the Grand National
For many years, the Grand National was mostly populated by horses who were guided by amateur jockeys. Many were hobbyists in charge of the horses they owned. This practice has largely subsided with professional jockeys taking over, as there hasn’t been an amateur jockey to win the race since 1990.
Another famous tradition of the race is the way that certain fences on the Aintree track have gained wide renown. Many have achieved this status for the important role they played in determining the winners (and losers) of past races. Fans refer to these fences by their names instead of the number where they appear on the course.
The Grand National, like many famous horse races, is as much about the fans in attendance as the participants. Fancy attire and elaborate hats are very much in evidence throughout the crowd. In addition, the betting action is fast and furious, as novice fans and hardcore bettors all come up with their own unique strategies for picking winners.
Grand National History
There is some debate about when the first Grand National was held. There were three similar hunt races held from 1836-1838 in Great Britain, but many scholars don’t believe they were held in Liverpool. As a result, most histories of the race begin with the 1839 edition which was won by a horse named Lottery.
That was a time when Liverpool was becoming a hub of activity due to a newly installed railroad that worked its way into the town. This meant the possibility of many more people becoming aware of this new race. A hotel owner named William Lynn leased the land at Aintree for the race location.
Some interruptions to the race have occurred throughout history. During World War I, Liverpool was unable to host the Grand National, leading to an alternate race being contested at Gatwick Racecourse from 1916 to 1918. World War II prevented any editions of the race, so there was a hiatus from 1941-1945.
In 1993, a mishap at the beginning of the race caused great confusion. The race was abandoned because many riders had already hit the course, preventing officials from being able to start again as required. Meanwhile, in 1997, the race was moved from Saturday to Monday due to security threats.
Famous Grand National Races and Winners
Previous Editions of the Grand National
1841: Charity becomes the first mare to win the Grand National.
1850-51: Abd-El-Kader becomes the first horse to win the race twice.
1869-70: The Colonel wins back-to-back editions under the guidance of George Stevens, the jockey who won the race a record five times.
1897, 1899: Manifesto wins these two editions. He would set the record for the most appearances in the race with eight.
1900: Ambush II makes history as the first Irish-trained winner of the race.
1911: Glenside overcomes 20-1 odds and the fact that he was blind in one eye to capture the Grand National.
1923: Sergeant Murphy wins the race, becoming the first horse bred in the United States to deliver a victory.
1928: In one of the most memorable editions of the race, a large pileup at one of the fences leads to only one horse escaping the mishap on the course. That horse, Tipperary Tim, wins at 100-1.
1929: Against the largest field in race history, 66 horses, Gregalach comes home a winner.
1938: Battleship, who won the American version of the Grand National four years earlier, takes the British version as well. He was the son of Man o’ War, a superstar American flat racer who won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes among many great victories.
1956: With the finish line yards away, Devon Loch, owned by The Queen Mother, does an inexplicable leap and falls, causing E.S.B to come from behind and win.
1967: Foinavon was well behind the pack, which was a good thing when most of them fell on the same jump. Avoiding the problems, he went on to win at 100-1.
1973, 1974, 1977: Red Rum becomes the greatest champion in Grand National history by winning the race three times. He finished second in both 1975 and 1976.
1981: Jockey Bob Champion captures the Grand National with Aldaniti just a few years after he had been diagnosed with cancer and given months to live.
1983: Jenny Pitman becomes the first woman trainer to win the race thanks to a victory by Corbiere.
1990: Amateur jockey Marcus Armytage wins the race aboard Mr. Frisk. No amateur has won since.
2001: During a race held in lousy weather, only two horses are able to complete the course without falling or refusing a jump. One of those two, Red Marauder, wins at 33-1.
Recent Editions of the Grand National
|2014||Pineau De Re||Leighton Aspell||Aspell was a last-minute edition as jockey when another rider chose a different mount.|
|2015||Many Clouds||Leighton Aspell||Aspell becomes the first jockey to win two straight races aboard different horses in 61 years.|
|2016||Rule The World||David Mullins||Rule The World wins as a novice, which means he had never won a jump race until that year.|
|2017||One For Arthur||Derek Fox||Becomes only the second winner of The Grand National trained in Scotland.|
|2018||Tiger Roll||Davy Russell||His sire, Authorized, was a racing star on the flats, once winning the classic British race, the Epsom Derby.|
|2019||Tiger Roll||Davy Russell||Becomes the first back-to-back winner since Red Rum (1973 & 74).|