The Grand National remains a highlight of the UK’s horse racing calendar and is arguably the most famous race in the country. The day of the race is one of the few days of the year when horse racing dominates media coverage, and many people who would never normally bet will place a wager on this event.
The iconic race has attained such status in the UK that it is often simply referred to as ‘the National’, as though people were talking about an old friend. It has certainly produced some of the nation’s great sporting moments through the decades, with some famous and renowned horses and jockeys producing inspiring and amazing performances. We’ll look at some of those moments here, as well as give you some tips for shaping a successful betting strategy for the race that you can use at horse racing sites. Read on to find out more!
- 1 What is the Grand National?
- 2 Famous Winners of the Grand National
- 3 Betting on the Grand National
- 4 A Strategy for Grand National Betting
- 5 Conclusion
What is the Grand National?
The Grand National is a National Hunt race that is staged each year in April at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool in England. The first edition of the race was held in 1839, and it is run over a distance of four miles and two and a half furlongs, or approximately 6.907 kilometres.
The horses run two laps of the course, and it is a real test of endurance for both them and their jockeys, with 30 challenging fences to jump over. Each year, many horses fall or fail to finish, such is the testing nature of the event. This can make betting on it much more volatile than for many other races.
This race tests the fortitude, stamina and courage of both horses and jockeys in a way that few other races can match. No wonder, then, that it has produced so many iconic winners over the years. Next, we’ll take a closer look at three great horse and jockey combinations that have triumphed in the Grand National.
Famous Winners of the Grand National
This race has a way of defining the careers of great horses and jockeys, almost like no other race can, such is its popular appeal. Here are three great horse and jockey combinations who have produced heroic performances to claim victory in this great race.
Brian Fletcher on Red Rum in 1973
Red Rum occupies a special place in the history of the National, and in the hearts of many fans of horse racing in the UK and beyond, especially Ireland, where he was foaled. This amazing horse won the National three times – in 1973, 1974 and 1977, as well as coming second in 1975 and 1976. Although his third triumph, in 1977, was voted the 24th greatest sporting moment in history in a British poll in 2006, it was his victory in 1973 that established him as a great horse.
The 1973 race had been led by the Australian horse Crisp for most of its duration, and he was 30 lengths clear as the race headed into its closing stages. Crisp cleared the last fence 15 lengths clear of Red Rum, but the Irish-born great stormed to victory by three-quarters of a length, ridden with tremendous courage by his jockey Brian Fletcher. Such is the affection in which Red Rum is held by the racing public that his grave is located next to the winning post at Aintree Racecourse. The racecourse bar at Aintree is called The Red Rum. The horse’s trainer was the late, great Ginger McCain, who was named as one of the Grand National Legends who has their name engraved on commemorative plaques at Aintree.
Bob Champion on Aldaniti in 1981
The 1981 edition of the Grand National saw events that could melt the heart of even the most cynical and hard-bitten of racegoers when Bob Champion rode Aldaniti to victory. Champion had undergone treatment for testicular cancer in 1979, while Aldaniti had had to recover from a serious leg injury, also sustained in 1979. For both to return from such adversity gave their 1981 victory a special flavour.
After starting as the 10/1 second-favourite behind Spartan Missile, Aldaniti took the lead at the 11th fence and stayed there until the finish line, fighting off a game effort from Spartan Missile to triumph by four lengths. Aldaniti and Bob Champion are unusual in horse racing, in that their feats inspired a Hollywood feature film, Champions, released in 1983. Aldaniti played himself in the movie, while John Hurt also starred.
Davy Russell on Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019
It is no surprise to anyone familiar with horse racing in the UK that there have been many Irish winners of the National throughout its history. Davy Russell, an Irish jockey, rode an Irish-bred and trained horse, Tiger Roll, to consecutive victories in 2018 and 2019. Tiger Roll’s victory in 2018 was his first attempt at the race.
The horse started at odds of 10/1 and won by a photo finish after a late challenge from rival Pleasant Company. Tiger Roll repeated his feat of winning the race in 2019, this time winning by two lengths from Magic of Light. This made him the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win back-to-back Nationals. In the 2020 virtual horse racing form of the National, which happened due to COVID-19, he started as the 5/1 favourite but finished fourth.
Betting on the Grand National
You can place the same types of bets as you would expect to be able to do on the National. Many people will bet on horses to win, and some punters will deliberately pick unfancied horses at long odds. This is because the race’s challenging nature means that many of the more favoured horses fall or have to retire.
You should also seriously think about placing Each Way bets on the National. This is because there is a big field, and bookies will often extend the number of places for which an Each Way bet will be successful. Strong horses might also finish in the top three or four of a large field, even if they do not go on to win outright. The odds for the National can often seem eccentric too, something we’ll touch on next.
A Strategy for Grand National Betting
Anyone looking to formulate a winning Grand National betting strategy needs to remember that this is not a typical horse race. It is one of the few races that almost everyone in the UK takes an interest in, with many people placing a bet. Sometimes, the only race on which someone will ever bet is the Grand National, such is the event’s iconic status.
This means that odds can fluctuate more rapidly and noticeably than for other races, as vast numbers of the public place bets on specific horses. This means that spotting good value odds becomes even more important. Keep a close eye on your horse racing odds checker in the run-up to the race, and make sure that you find the best possible odds – much of this comes down to the timing of your bets, so trust your instincts if you see a good price for a horse you favour.
Knowledge is still king in horse race betting
The most important part of any betting strategy, whether you are wagering on the Grand National or another race, is knowledge. Given the challenging nature of this race, and the way that it can often throw up unlikely winners, your knowledge of the runners and riders needs to be very sharp indeed. An unfancied horse can emerge from the field and take victory, especially if some of the more fancied horses fall or retire from the race.
Look out for free bets for the Grand National
Another important part of your strategy should be to look out for bonus offers that provide free bets for the Grand National. Many bookies look to take advantage of the wide interest in the race from the general public by offering tempting promotions, and you can make use of these wherever possible. Some offers will relate to specific types of bets or will offer some kind of bonus if a specific horse or trainer does well, so keep an open mind when you see any such offers.
The National, as many people affectionately refer to it, remains one of the UK’s truly iconic horse races. An estimated five to six million people watch the race worldwide on their television screens each year, and its popularity means that people who would never normally bet will place a wager on it. It has produced great winners like Red Rum, and inspiring stories, such as that of Bob Champion and Aldaniti, and looks set to retain its place in the English horse racing calendar for many years to come. As a piece of great sporting theatre that can inspire and excite, it is hard to find anything to equal the National.