Grand National Betting Guide
The Grand National is short-hand for the Grand National Handicap Steeplechase.
It is a British horse race held annually in Liverpool, England, between late March and early April. It is perhaps the world’s most famous steeplechase. As such, it never fails to attract gamblers from all around the globe.
The race has its beginnings in the year 1839 when innkeeper William Lynn established it. The race adopted its current name in 1847, and it has remained in the same location ever since.
Putting it in layman’s terms, the Grand National is not a race for the faint of heart. The track is fraught with danger for all riders, amateur and professional alike.
Part of the challenge comes from the irregular geometry of the racetrack: a triangle.
This triangle must be run twice, for a distance of approximately 4.5 miles. Included in the race is a total of 30 jumps, the most treacherous of which are Valentine’s Brook and Becher’s Brook.
The race itself operates with a handicap.
Horses can be subject to weights of up to 175 pounds, which means that competing horses require an incredible amount of strength and stamina, on top of near-unstoppable speed. As a result, competing horses tend to be larger than average.
Furthermore, breeds generally have colder blood and are frequently of mixed thoroughbred ancestry. The intention here is to select those horses with the most desirable traits needed to win the notoriously brutal race.
Make no mistake; the Grand National is a race that takes grit, determination and more often than not, unbridled power to win.
Best betting sites for the Grand National
The Grand National never fails to attract both low-rollers and high-rollers alike.
Their appetite for gambling is met with a wide range of betting sites designed to cater to each type of audience. The following websites listed are designed primarily for US users, where online gambling is legal in most (but not all) jurisdictions.
Be sure to check your state’s laws before engaging in online horse race betting. After all, you certainly don’t want to fall foul of the law.
The following gambling destinations we have personally determined provide the best bang for your buck, as well as a world-class service and player bonuses.
They are also designed to be user-friendly and suitable for newcomers and veterans alike. These features make them perfect for the Grand National.
How to bet on the Grand National
The Grand National commands attention from a wide range of punters. No matter your budget, getting in on the action of this powerful horse race is a must.
Here are the ways that you can subsequently lay down a wager.
Nearly all states that allow betting on horse races allow people to bet online as well.
While some states considered this off-track betting (OTB), online horse race gambling is typically treated as a subset of online gambling, rather than horse race betting.
But regardless of where you live, there are always options to win big, even if it means betting on international races just like those held in the UK.
If you fancy a flutter on the Grand National, the easiest and most comfortable way to get in on the action is through an online bookmaker.
Betting at a teller
When you arrive at a racetrack, such as Aintree Racecourse, you’ll have to speak to a teller to place your bet.
If you’re new to horse betting, you might find that it’s challenging to make the exact kind of bet you want. When speaking to a teller, you’ll want to know your race number, the horse’s number, the amount of money you wish to bet, the racetrack you’re betting on and the type of bet you’re making.
The last part is essential if you want to make exotic wagers, such as quinella bets.
Simply approach the teller, relay the bet you want to make in the order we mentioned above, hand over the cash and you’ll be good to go.
When betting in-person, be sure to hold on to your ticket in a safe place. You’ll have to show it to the teller in order to claim your prize should your selected horse(s) win.
Off track betting
Off-track betting (OTB) facilities are designed so that you can wager on races without actually having to be at the track itself.
OTBs are useful if you live in a place far from famous racetracks or want to bet on races in other countries, such as the UK. Off-site betting facilities are sometimes regulated more stringently than track betting locations, though.
So, be sure to check your state’s laws on the matter.
Regardless of how you place your bets, you can rest assured that the facility will do its best to make you comfortable and ease you into the process. Whether you’re making small bets or going big, your experience will no doubt be exemplary at such facilities.
Some will even give you the British flavor of the Grand National experience.
Is it legal to bet on the Grand National?
Yes, betting on horse races became completely legal at the national level in 1978. Therefore, it’s easy to join the British and Canadians in enjoying all the Grand National gambling fun.
Additional amendments and legislation have not impacted that status. However, the extent to which horse betting is legal varies on a state by state basis. Currently, 41 out of 50 states allow horse race betting of some sort. If you live in one of the states that do, you have plenty of options available to you.
In-person betting and online betting are both viable choices. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to live in a state that does, you’ve still got options available. So, don’t worry; you won’t need to miss out on all the Grand National fun.
A common alternative that you can look at is international horse race betting.
Because federal law does not ban the practice, it’s usually legal to bet upon races that occur outside the US as long as they are properly regulated and licensed.
The only places where you can’t do that are in Washington state and Connecticut. That’s because all forms of online gambling are illegal there, and not just horse race betting. If you want to win big, you’ll have to exit the state and gamble outside of the states’ borders, which is quite the hassle.
Types of Grand National bets
In horse race betting, there are two types of wagers: traditional and exotic.
- Traditional bets are the win, place and show wagers. The odds are that you are probably well aware of these.
- Win bets involve betting upon the horse that finishes first.
- Show bets pay out if your horse wins first or second.
- Place bets only require a third-place finish or better, sometimes lower than that if you can find a generous bookie. As you can imagine, a show bet pays the least out of the three, due to the relatively low risk involved in making such a wager.
- In exotic pools, you can wager upon the horses that finish in exact places.
- An exacta bet requires predicting the first two winning horses in the correct order.
- Trifecta wager requires predicting three horses finishing in the correct order.
- In a superfecta bet, you must predict the first four placing horses in the correct order.
- A super high five wager requires naming five horses in the correct order.
The odds of winning a superfecta bet at the Grand National are extremely low due to the strict standards required to win. That does means, however, that the payout from winning such a bet will be immediately life-changing.
A superfecta win can multiply winnings by 50,000 times over. As you can imagine, these types of wins can easily make headlines for the lucky winners.
An example bet
Let’s look at an example Grand National wager, the popular each-way bet.
Say you back Tiger Roll at 25:1, betting $10 at these odds each way, your total wager will cost you $20. If he romps home and claims the win, you’ll bag $320; $10 at 25:1 worth $250, and $10 on a fifth of 25:1, which equals an additional $50.
As per any winning bet, you’ll also get your original $20 stake returned, with this all equaling a $320 payout. Should Tiger Roll fall short and finish between second and sixth, you’ll see a reduced return.
The win bet would be a loser, and the show portion of the wager kicks in, getting you a $60 return, a fifth of the 25:1 odds plus your original stake.
Grand National odds
Betting on the Grand National is a sort of unofficial national pastime in the UK. That’s even the case for those who don’t usually care about the sport. Every person you speak to will have their own “system” for maximizing their odds of a payout, too.
Superstition guides the judgment of a lot of people who commonly wager on nothing more than a gut feeling or a lucky number. In other words, few people will study records and trends or the horses and jockeys competing to make an informed decision.
Who needs statistics when you’ve got luck on your side, right?
That being said, after the Grand National weights are announced for each horse, the odds will change. Make sure to keep abreast of these changes before placing your wagers, since sometimes the shift is significant.
Don’t be afraid to hold off on your bets until the day of the race in order to maximize your chances of winning.
The following are the current odds for the Grand National, so you can get a grip on how far your dollar can go:
Past winners of the Grand National
Since its inception in 1839, the Grand National has grown to become the single biggest annual horse racing event.
The four-mile racetrack has witnessed some incredibly exciting and nail-biting races over the years, too. For instance, wins by horses such as Foinavon and Red Rum have earned a place in the annals of the sport’s history.
Unfortunately, there have been a few interruptions in the race’s history.
In the years 1916-18, the race’s location was moved to the Gatwick Race Course due to World War I. The race was branded the “War National” during those years.
Additionally, from 1941-45 no races were held at all due to World War II. And, the 1993 renewal of the race was declared void as there was an unrecognized false start at the race.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the winners in past Grand Nationals:
The road to the Grand National
Reaching the starting post at the Grand National is less about performance and more about meeting the credentials laid out by race organizers.
An entrant has to prove that it’s a top-quality horse by having run in at least three registered chases. Also, securing a fourth- or higher-place finish in three or more of them.
On top of that, the horse must be 7 years or older and meet the minimum handicap standard. Sometimes this isn’t even enough to make the cut.
In fact, organizers usually have to cut a list of 100 plus horses down to 40. The road to the Grand National is often just as bumpy as the race itself.
How the Grand National runs
The Grand National is held each year at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool.
The race is run over a total of 4 miles, with each lap being 2-miles long. This length makes the race one of the longest of its type in the UK.
There are 16 fences for the horses to jump, 14 of which the racers must jump over twice. The race is designed to be as much a test of stamina as speed, and the horses selected to race must be able to complete the race before tiring out entirely.
The length of the race, combined with the handicap weights and numerous obstacles, make it one of the world’s most challenging races to run.
Aside from the race’s unique history, the entire process surrounding the Aintree’s preparation of the race is certainly of interest.
Preparation of the course begins three weeks before Grand National. The Lake District supplies the more than 150 tons of spruce trees needed to build the fences and obstacles for the race. The spruce is what gives the fences their distinctive green color.
These obstacles will prove to be the ultimate test for horses and their jockey. The length of the course, the number of obstacles, and the peculiar triangular geometry of the course make it exceptionally challenging even for seasoned veterans of the sport.
People who don’t follow the sport closely, for instance, may have heard of the notorious Becher’s Brook and The Chair fences. In fact, the results of these potentially deadly jumps have proven fateful on several occasions.
Becher’s Brook is named after Captain Martin Becher, who fell off of his horse, Conrad, while attempting to ride around the ditch during the first Grand National in 1839.
He was famously recorded as saying:
“Water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whiskey.”
These words have helped give the obstacle the name that it bears to this day.
Initially, there was a brick wall at the obstacle, but this was subsequently removed in 1844 due to the sheer devastation it was causing.
Prior to the race’s renewal in 2013, several of the fences were changed so that they were less treacherous for the jockey and the horses. The actual obstacles themselves remain the same as before: birch fences and ditches.
However, the 13th and 14th fences have had their original wooden frames replaced with plastic birch to be less rigid. The third and 11th fences still retain their ditches, but now have natural birch fences that are less dangerous to hit.
How to watch the Grand National on TV or via live stream
So, where’s the best place to watch the Grand National in 2020? If you live in the UK, then that’s easy: ITV is the place to be.
ITV recently signed a £30 million deal to air the races live for the next four years. In addition to TV, you can also watch the races through ITV’s mobile app or website.
The great thing is, you can view this race anywhere in the world, provided you’ve got an active internet connection.
If you aren’t in the UK, you can still watch through ITV or other sports channels in your country. You need a virtual private network (VPN) to do so, as online streaming is your best option.
More than 600 million people watch the race each year from around the world. In fact, nearly every country has some option for you to watch the Grand National.
This is equally true with placing bets. If you’re wagering money on the race, rest assured you’ll be able to watch the race on the day, too.
History of the Grand National
Before the Grand National acquired its current name, it was referred to as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase. The race was run starting in 1836, but it wasn’t until the 1839 race that it would begin to be called the Grand National.
At the time, the starting line of the race was located next to Melling Road. The race’s format was similar to what it is today; the race was 4-miles long, and horses had to jump over 16 obstacles on a partially plowed field.
Obstacles consisted of dug ditches, brick walls, two brooks and several naturally occurring banks. The race was no less exhausting than its modern-day incarnation, and a lot of luck was required even to finish, let alone win.
Horses at the time weren’t bred for such a physically demanding course, either. Perhaps it is a divine coincidence that the first horse to win the race was named Lottery.
Martin Becher’s legendary fall
Lottery was the 5:1 favorite at the time, so perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that he romped home in first place.
However, his legacy as the first Grand National winner is somewhat overshadowed by the fall that Conrad suffered along one of the ditches.
Martin Becher’s horse fell into a ditch while attempting to dodge the obstacle. He was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, and was one of the key organizers behind the race, contributing greatly to its modern-day format.
Becher was close friends with the owner of Aintree, William Lynn. He hoped that the race would become one of the most popular steeplechases in southern England.
It is quite unfortunate that Becher is not remembered for his not-inconsiderable contributions to the Grand National, nor for his efforts to promote horse racing in the UK.
Instead, he is best remembered as falling off of his horse at the obstacle now known as Becher’s Brook. He was in second place at the time.
While his horse was subsequently traversing the racetrack, he stumbled on the fence near the brook and fell into a ditch. Becher was then forced to hide in the ditch as the other racers passed him. He was recorded as stating that he didn’t know how dreadful water tastes without the benefit of whiskey.
The first race was spectacular, both in its intensity and for the falls that happened (including Becher’s). From that day, it was evident that the Grand National was much more than a typical horse race.
While Becher did not live long enough to see it for himself, the race he helped bring into existence would become a national phenomenon in the years to come.
Memorable Grand National stories
No matter how “standard” a Grand National race is, there’s always a story to tell.
For some, the most memorable story is the time the longshot Foinavon managed to finish first. For others, Devon Loch’s shock defeat stood out the most in their collective memory. Whichever way they finished, numerous Aintree racers have left their mark on the sport’s history.
As a result, many names from past racers are immediately recognizable to the public. These include Papillon, Corbiere, L’Escargot, Bobbyjo and Golden Miller.
Red Rum and Crisp
One particularly famous race was held in 1973. That’s when Australian horse Crisp managed to catapult himself to a seemingly unbeatable 33-length lead. But to everybody’s surprise, he did not win.
Instead, Red Rum managed to sprint ahead of Crisp just before the finish line. This feat then led to one of the most shocking and triumphant wins in the sport’s history.
Crisp is remembered for being the most impressive loser the sport has ever seen. Red Rum’s streak wasn’t finished; he went on to win two more Grand Nationals.
That’s a record that has yet to be broken today. Not all horses are so fortunate. Wyndburgh managed to place second three different times, but never won a single race.
But of course, the Grand Nationals isn’t just about the horses; the jockeys and trainers are every bit as necessary.
They form a team that must work together to win the biggest prize in UK horse racing. It is a sign of the Grand National’s popularity that jockeys and trainers can become household names within a matter of minutes.
Success in the race can mean millions of dollars in endorsements and breeding rights for the horse. This accreditation is on top of the £1 million ($1.23 million) purse that winners can claim.
Regardless of whether they win or not, these horses, jockeys and trainers are a part of history in every race.
Grand National News & Events
Grand National FAQ
The next Grand National will be on Saturday, April 4, 2020. Make sure you circle the first Saturday in April on your calendar.
Once qualifiers finish, a total of 40 horses will qualify to run in the race, plus four reserves in case some of the qualifying horses cannot compete.
With 40 horses at the starting gate, the hustle and bustle are a guarantee in the Grand National. It’s a busy field, to say the very least.
The winner receives approximately half of the £1 million purse (£561,300 in 2019), and that’s just the base winnings.
This doesn’t include endorsements, advertisement deals, breeding rights to the horse, public appearances and all the other benefits that come with being a winner of the UK’s biggest horse race.
Second place wins £200,000, and the value drops even further the lower you finish. This can be particularly painful if the difference between first and second place is just a nose.
In 2012, for instance, the gap between Sunnyhillboy and Neptune Collonges was barely a fraction of a second. As a result, the second-place finish for Sunnyhillboy was much harder to swallow.
The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race that is held once a year at the Aintree Racecourse, a world-famous flat track located in Liverpool, England.
Horses must complete two laps on a triangular racetrack and jump over 30 different fences, with the track being 2.25 miles in circumference. It’s safe to say that Aintree as a racecourse pulls no punches, with it able to push even the toughest of horses to the limits.
Post-time has changed many times throughout the years.
Of late, however, the race has been held at later times to accommodate people’s work schedules better. The Grand National races have been held at 5:15 p.m. GMT over the last several years. They will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future.
A total of 13 mares have won the Grand Nationals since its inception. But, no horse has won since Nickel Coinback’s victory in 1951.
Several mares have managed to finish in the top four since then. These include:
- Gentle Moya finishing second in 1956.
- Tiberetta in third in 1957 and second in 1958.
- Misshunter in third in 1970.
- Eyecatcher in third in 1976 and 1977
- Auntie Dot in third in 1991.
- Ebony Jane finishing fourth in 1994.
- Dubacilla placed fourth in 1995.
This doesn’t mean that a mare’s victory won’t happen again. Nevertheless, it’s probably a better bet to put your money on a stallion to win.
Tickets start from £45 for Grand National Thursday. Ladies Day will set you back £70, and it’ll cost you £95 for Grand National Day.
Obviously, if you have more cash to splash, you can look to book terrace and roof access, and take in the day with a little more luxury and arguably better views of the action.
There is no set time that the race will run. But based on more than 170 years of historical data, the Grand National will likely take between nine and 14 minutes to finish.
The fastest time recorded was achieved by Mr. Frisk, who managed to record a stunning time of 8:47.8 back in 1990.
The slowest recorded time was by the first-ever winner of the Grand National, Lottery, who managed to finish in 14:53 seconds.