The Grand National has been one of the world’s leading horse races since its first running in 1839. A National Hunt steeplechase, the Grand National is run over 4 miles 2½f and 30 fences, which include a variety of obstacles such as the famous Becher’s Brook and Canal Turn.
Held at Aintree Racecourse in the north-west of England over three days 12-14 April, the prize money for the 2018 Grand National is £1 million, with £561,000 going to the winning connections. Over the three days, more than £3.2million in prize money is up for grabs.
In the early ante-post betting for the 2018 Grand National, no genuine clear-cut favourites have yet emerged. The top weight is Definitly Red at 11st 10lb, with the Brian Ellison-trained 9-year-old also being considered for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Much fancied before the 2017 renewal of the race, he was pulled up on the first circuit, but this season has been in good form with a win in the Cotswold Chase in January.
Second in the weights is Joseph O’Brien’s Edwulf at 11st 9lb, followed by Outlander at 11st 8lb. Edwulf, who collapsed after the National Hunt Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and almost died, has made an incredible recovery to return to racing, capped off by a win in the 2018 Irish Gold Cup, a first Grade 1 victory. Gordon Elliott’s Outlander, a 10-year-old gelding who ran second to Edwulf at Leopardstown and is also a likely runner in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, looks in good form with a win in a Grade 1 chase at Down Royal last November.
Other contenders amongst the top weights include Jonjo O’Neill’s Minella Rocco at 11st 7lb, who is also being set for the Gold Cup, Sub Lieutenant, trained by Henry de Bromhead, with 11st 5lb, and Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly, winner of the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in January, carrying 11st 4lb.
Although making Grand National betting tips can be a precarious business, with the demanding nature of the race and the course making it hard to take a punt with any confidence, there has been a lot of research done over the years as to what it takes to be a Grand National winner, and there are some characteristics in terms of age, form and experience that you should look out for when you’re scouring the form
1 – Look at the individual horse’s form rather than the jockey and trainer. There have been some riders who have won first up for instance, while other hugely experienced jockeys have had limited, if any success at Aintree. And although it’s always a good idea to pay attention to yards with a proven track record with regard to staying chasers, not all great National Hunt trainers have had great success in the Grand National.
2 – Take a close look, too, at horses who have run over hurdles this year, as part of their specific preparation for the Grand National. Some trainers who think they have a staying chaser capable of winning the National might opt to run them in hurdle races to protect their chasing handicap.
When you’re selecting your Grand National betting tips, age is crucial. The race is demanding and requires enormous stamina that is very often beyond younger horses. Also, experience is important too — a horse needs to know how to manage itself around Aintree, and this only comes with having competed over fences for some time. Ideally, look for horses in the 9-12 age bracket — no horse younger than 8 has won the Grand National since 1940.
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Because of the large fields and the exacting demands of the race, betting on the Grand National is always far more open than on other comparable races.
In the early ante-post betting, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion (carrying 11st 6lb) is the favourite at a best price of 14-1, despite a disappointing loss on heavy ground at Haydock in February. Total Recall, trained by Willie Mullins, is second favourite wth a current price of 16-1, after winning the William Fry Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown in February.
One to watch in the betting may well be Bristol de Mai, another of Twiston-Davies’ charges. Originally thought to be a Gold Cup horse, connections are reconsidering his programme after a disappointing third in the Costwold Chase behind Definitly Red at Cheltenham in January. You can currently get 33-1 ante-post on Bristol de Mai, which looks good value this far out from the Grand National.
The Grand National has been a fixture on the National Hunt racing calendar for almost 180 years, and during that time has produced many memorable stories full of heroism, heartbreak and shocks.
It’s unusual for a 100-1 shot to get up in a major race, but that is why the Grand National is a race like no other, as it has produced more than its fair share of upset winners. Tipperary Tim (1928), Caughoo (1947), Foinavon (1967) and Mon Mome (2009) all won at odds of 100-1, no doubt bringing much joy to the thousands of once-a-year punters who have a bet on the National.
In terms of heroic comebacks, it’s hard to go past Bob Champion’s win on Aldaniti in 1981. Having been diagnosed with cancer the year before, Champion went through a debilitating series of treatments to fight his way back into the saddle, and his win abroad Aldaniti remains one of racing’s most famous moments.
Probably the greatest Grand National horse of all time is Red Rum, the only three-time winner of the race. His first win in 1973 was memorable for the last gasp run down of the Australian top weight Crisp, who led by as much as 15 lengths at the final fence before Red Rum caught him on the line. Another win followed in 1974, followed by second place in 1975 and 1976, and then Red Rum’s legendary status was assured when he came back to take the title again in 1977.
One of the most surprising statistics thrown up by Grand National is that it was only ever won once by the legendary jockey, Sir A.P. McCoy. Despite being the dominant National Hunt rider for almost twenty years, during which time he rode over 4,300 winners, A.P’s only triumph at Aintree came in 2010 aboard Don’t Push It, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, in what was his fifteenth attempt to take the title.
The Grand National meeting, held at Aintree just outside of Liverpool, will be run over three days from Thursday April 12 to Saturday April 14. There are seven races each day, including a large number of Grade 1 events.
Highlights on Grand National Thursday (April 12) include the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl chase and the Aintree Hurdle, as well as the Fox Hunters’ Chase, a 2 miles 5f race over the Grand National fences that is open to amateur jockeys only.
Ladies’ Day is on Friday 13 April and is the day when high fashion comes to Aintree. Racing highlights on the day include the 2 mile Topham Chase and the 2 mile 4f Melling Chase, both of which are Grade 1 races.
The 2018 Grand National, which is the last race of the festival, will be held on Saturday 14 April, with the race scheduled to jump at 5.15pm. There is a maximum field of 40 (about 120 nominations are initially received), with a top weight of 11st 10lb. The race distance is 4½ miles and horses jump 30 fences in total on their two circuits around the Aintree course.
The Grand National fences all have their own unique characteristics, with some of the best known including Becher’s Brook (6th and 22nd fence), Valentine’s Brook, The Chair (the tallest fence on the course), and the Canal Turn where horses make a sharp left turn after the jump.
As a spectacle, there is nothing to beat the Grand National, but as a punting race, tipping a winner is never straightforward. With a big field, challenging fences and a demanding 4½ mile distance, a lot can go wrong which is why the race has produced more than its fair share of big priced winners. As a Grade 3 race, the very best UK and Irish chasers don’t compete in the Grand National, and a combination of both durability and luck are required to win.
However, this does mean that Grand National horses rarely go off at prohibitively shorts odds, so there are always some good value bets to be had on the day.