For many, the Grand National is the one time a year that they open up the purse strings and have a little flutter in an attempt to back the winner.
You may even have a go on the office sweepstake, but if you select a dud – while smug Julie from Accounts picks the favourite out of the hat – then you might have even more interesting in having a punt on the Aintree showpiece.
Well, it’s nearly that time of year folks, with the Grand National meeting kicking off on Merseyside on Thursday, before the big race itself unfolds on Saturday at around 17:15 GMT.
In the past, you might have simply bet on the horse wearing your lucky number, or the jockey bedecked in your favourite colour. Perhaps one of the names has made you laugh, or you’ve had a ‘tip’ from father-in-law.
Those are all fine strategies for a bit of fun, but if you want to really have a chance of rubbing Julie from Accounts’ face in it on Monday morning, here’s everything you need to know about how to bet on the Grand National.
Who knows, it might just help you pick the winner….
What are the Key Things I Need to Know About the Grand National?
The race is the world’s richest handicap race, with a total prize fund of £1 million and the winner trousering their connections a cheque for a cool £575,000.
It is run at Aintree, which is not a million miles from Liverpool, over the specially designed National course.
The track is some 32 furlongs long, which is four-and-a-bit miles in common parlance, with some rather large fences – including the infamous Becher’s Brook, The Chair an the Canal Turn – acting as the main obstacles to the 40 or so runners who will compete for the win.
Punters in the UK can watch the drama unfold on ITV, or listen in to Talksport on the radio.
Doesn’t the Favourite Always Win the Grand National?
Erm, no, nothing could be further from the truth!
If we go back to 1999, we find that only three favourites have triumphed in the Grand National since.
The first was Hedgehunter in 2005, legendary trainer Willie Mullis’ last winner in this race, before Comply or Die took the spoils in 2008 as a joint favourite.
And the last favourite to win the Grand National was Don’t Push It in 2010, who finally gave A.P. McCoy a winner in the famous race.
So why don’t more favourites win the National? It’s a good question, and one which has a myriad of answers. Remember, this is a handicap race, so the horses are given weights in an attempt to balance out the quality of the field.
Typically, the better horses will receive a higher weight than their less illustrious opponents, which can impact upon their chances of doing the business. Also, the size and scale of the fences in the National are also more demanding than anywhere else; few in the field will have encountered anything quite like it.
So Why Does the Handicap Matter?
If you were asked to run a 100m race, record your time, and then run the same race again with 10lb on your back, which do you think will be quicker?
That’s why the Grand National betting odds shift so markedly after the weights are announced. Those given top weight will typically have less support from punters than those with a nice handicap, and this should be a key consideration.
The weightings are decided based on ratings, with the handicapper deciding which of the stronger horses need to be ‘penalised’ for their speed and stamina. The idea is to create as close a race as possible.
Generally, horses carrying over 11 stone have struggled, and while there are examples to the contrary it is usually wise to avoid those carrying such a weight.
When the Going is Good
You may have heard the term before, but what exactly is ‘the going’?
In short, this basically refers to the softness of the ground at the racetrack. If the going is good, the ground is said to be dry and ‘quicker’; usually as a result of a dry winter or a sunny spell.
Conversely, rain softens the surface and can produce soft going or, in extreme cases, heavy going. This is where the four-mile jaunt of the Grand National becomes a real test of stamina!
There has been some 10mm of rain at Aintree this week, with more to come according to the forecast, and that should leave the going somewhere around the soft mark.
Make sure any horses you shortlist are comfortable running on such a surface.
Backing a Grand National Winner
The Grand National can be carnage, and often the unexpected becomes a reality in one of the most thrilling renewals in world racing.
But those having a bet on the Aintree showpiece are advised to do a bit of home work before parting with any cash. Consider the going and the handicap allotted to your chosen horses, and make sure they have achieved some level of success over the 32f + distance in the past.
Do that, and you might just solve the puzzle of backing a Grand National winner!
Pick Your Horse
Now you know the how’s, what’s and why’s all that’s left is to pick a horse from the race card below – good luck!