Grand National & Aintree Festival 2018: Betting Tips, Stats & History

View of Aintree Racecourse

The Grand National is widely regarded as one of the biggest and best races in the world. The race itself attracts a worldwide audience of over 600 million, which in itself is virtually unrivalled. But, the race is a part of a bigger meeting in the Grand National Festival, which is often overlooked due to scale of the single race.

The venue for it all is Aintree Racecourse, which is in Liverpool, England. The meeting lasts over 3 days, starting on the Thursday and concluding on the Saturday, with the feature racing taking place on the final day. The race has been run since 1839 and is now a part of British Racing culture, attracting massive of horse racing fans and people who aren’t particularly interested in the sport alike.

Grand National Festival Betting Tips For 2018

Not long now until the first flat classics of the 2018 season at Newmarket, but National Hunt racing isn’t ready to shuffle from the centre of the stage just yet. This week sees another jump racing bonanza, this time on Merseyside, as Aintree plays host to its Grand National meeting. The Scousers certainly know how to put on a party and this is invariably one of the most popular and well attended Festivals of the year.

As the title of the meeting would suggest, all roads lead to the big one itself on the Saturday, but there’s plenty more to look forward to besides. A total of 21 races are spread over the spectacular three days of action, with no fewer than 11 top level Grade 1 contests to get stuck into. With top handicapping action, bumpers and a foxhunters’ chase, Aintree in April is a meeting not to be missed. Here we take a look at the highlights on each of the three days.

Day One – Thursday 12th April 2018 – Grand Opening Day

The novice chaser’s set the ball rolling on the opening day in the Big Buck’s Celebration Manifesto Novices’ Chase. Brain Power and Petit Mouchoir would be interesting if stepped up in trip having chased home the brilliant Footpad in the Arkle, but we wouldn’t be surprised were it to be the Paul Nicholls runner Cyrname who started favourite on the day. This one hacked up by 11 lengths on his most recent start and looks to have skipped Cheltenham to wait for this.

The hurdlers take to the track in race two, the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle. Nicky Henderson boasts a strong hand here. Apple’s Shakira let her supporters down on her big day in the Triumph Hurdle and will be bidding to get back on track. Chief amongst her rivals though is stablemate We Have A Dream. This Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned runner is another to have skipped the big one in March, but arrives seeking a five-timer and looks sure to be involved.

There’s no doubt about the horse racegoers will be most looking forward to seeing on the opening day. He also hails from the yard of Nicky Henderson, and goes by the name of Might Bite. Winner of the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at this meeting last year, this year’s gallant Gold Cup runner up rocks up for the Betway Bowl Chase this time around. He’s sure to start a short-priced favourite on the day, but won’t have things all his own way with the likes of Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos and a post wind-op Bristol De Mai amongst the potential opposition.

Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae looks sure to be warm order if lining up in the day’s big event for the hurdlers: the Betway Aintree Hurdle, but also holds an entry in the Liverpool Hurdle later in the week. This may however prove the ideal race for Nigel Twiston-Davies’ ever-popular runner The New One to get back on track following his disappointment in the Stayers’ Hurdle last time out.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:45 Manifesto Novices’ Chase Grade 1 / 2m 4f Finian's Oscar
14:20 Doom Bar Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle Grade 1 / 2m 1f Apple's Shakira
14:50 Aintree Bowl Chase Grade 1 / 3m 1f Might Bite
15:25 Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 / 2m 4f Supasundae
16:05 Foxhunters’ Chase Class 2 / 2m 5f Wonderful Charm
16:40 Red Rum Handicap Chase Grade 3 / 2m Gino Trail
17:15 Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Grade 2 / 2m 1f Getaway Katie Mai

Day Two – Friday 13th April 2018 – Ladies Day

Day Two’s Top Novices’ Hurdle has a pretty impressive roll of honour, with the likes of Buveur D’Air, My Tent Or Yours and Darlan featuring on the list of previous winners in the past decade alone. Keep an eye out for Ben Pauling’s Global Citizen this time around. Two from two since joining Pauling, this one made quite an impression when laughing at the opposition in a Grade 2 at Kempton last time out and looks to have every chance of making his presence felt on his first crack at a Grade 1.

Henderson’s Terrefort brings the best of the Cheltenham form to the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase having chased home Shattered Love in the JLT Novices’ Chase. Cheltenham can sometimes take a bit of getting over though, and having been beaten by a mare last time out, he may find himself vulnerable to another here. Alan King’s Mia’s Storm had won four in a row prior to her fall last time and arrives here a fresh horse having skipped the March madness.

Unfortunately we won’t get to see the magnificent Altior stepping up in trip in this year’s Melling Chase as some had predicted. We do nevertheless look to have a cracking contest in store. Champion Chase runner up Min heads the betting, whilst this is another of the week’s options for the improving Balko Des Flos. Chief amongst the British challengers are Politologue from the yard of Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch.

We get our first glimpse of the famous fences in the big one on Day Two as the runners and riders line-up for this year’s Topham Chase. At 2m5f, this isn’t quite the war of attrition that the National is, but it still takes some getting and an ability to handle these unique obstacles is one of the number one pre-requisites for success. Boasting form figures of 812P3 over these fences, he may be 12 years old now, but James Moffatt’s Highland Lodge could be well worth a look for those seeking an each way bet at a decent price. He’s a 16/1 shot with Bet365.

The final Grade 1 of the day looks like a Nicky Henderson benefit at present, with the Champion Trainer currently responsible for the first four in the betting in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, including Albert Bartlett second and third Ok Corral and Santini.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:45 Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 / 2m 4f Landin
14:20 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 / 2m ½f Global Citizen
14:50 Mildmay Novices’ Chase Grade 1 / 3m 1f Coo Star Sivola
15:25 Melling Chase Grade 1 / 2m 4f Min
16:05 Topham Chase Grade 3 / 2m 5f Theatre Territory
16:40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 / 3m ½f Sam's Gunner
17:15 Weatherbys Private Bank Standard Open NH Flat Grade 2 / 2m 1f Mister Fisher

Day Three – Saturday 14th April 2018 – Grand National Day

There probably aren’t that many horses in training that can give the mighty Samcro a race, but Tom George’s Black Op very nearly did in the Ballymore Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last time out. A repeat of that effort would make him very tough to beat in the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle here. Chief amongst the opposition is Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side who is unbeaten in four to date and looked most impressive when scoring by nine lengths at Sandown last time.

They do hold entries earlier in the week, but the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase looks the most likely destination for Arkle second and third Brain Power and Petit Mouchoir. Connections will no doubt be relieved there is no Footpad to contend with this time and the pair may be tough to split. Brain Power finished in front in the Arkle in what was a big career best, but Petit Mouchoir was the better hurdler and probably did too much in front that day.

The build up to the big one continues with the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle. Sam Spinner had looked a star in the making prior to his disappointing effort at Cheltenham last time. He looked to hand the race to the fast finishers that day though by setting such slow fractions and surely won’t make the same mistake again.

And so to the big one. The penultimate contest at this year’s Festival is, as ever, the most famous horse race in the world. A big field, big fences and big drama are always guaranteed in this marathon staying chase that is the Grand National.

Ireland look to boast a strong hand this year, being responsible for three of the first four in the betting market. No surprise that the all-conquering yards of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott are well fancied for success. Mullins has the current favourite for the race in the form of the hugely progressive Total Recall, but will he be over his fall in the Gold Cup last time? Elliott meanwhile sends the superstar that is Tiger Roll. A scorer at the Cheltenham Festival yet again this year, he will stay every yard of this, but being a small sort, how will he take to the fences?

The home team won’t be giving up the biggest prize of the calendar year without a fight though. Leading the charge is last year’s fourth, Blaklion, from the yard of Nigel Twiston-Davies. Brilliant in the Becher this season, the question remains, does he really stay this far?

With most of those towards the head of the market having question marks of one sort or another, we wouldn’t be surprised were this to fall to one of the outsiders this year. Captain Redbeard is one who seems to be developing a bit of momentum in the market, which is often a positive sign. Colin Tizzard’s The Dutchman beat that runner doing handstands at Haydock earlier in the campaign though and may be worth a speculative punt at 33/1 with Coral.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:45 Gaskells Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 / 3m ½f Mr Big Shot
14:25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 / 2m 4f On The Blind Side
15:00 Maghull Novices’ Chase Grade 1 / 2m Petit Mouchoir
15:40 Betway Handicap Chase Listed / 3m 1f Wakanda
16:20 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle Grade 1 / 3m ½f Sam Spinner
17:15 Grand National Grade 3 / 4m 2½f Tiger Roll
17:15 Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle Class 2 / 2m ½f Unison

The Grand National: Race Format

The course has almost become a celebrity in its own right, with many punters recognising the name of fences and sections of the track that are being navigated at any one time. It’s a gruelling track that they have to run, based over 4 miles, 514 yards, making it the longest National Hunt track in the UK.

Whilst the length of the track is monstrous, even in steeplechasing terms, it’s the 30 times that horses are asked to jump over fences that really sorts the men from the boys. In total, there are actually only 16 fences, with the first 14 of these fences being jumped over twice throughout the race.

A few interesting facts about the course is that for many years it was run over 4 miles 856 yards, but from 2013 the start was actually moved forward 90 yards in order to keep the start away from the grandstand and thousands of punters. It was decided that this would make it easier to first of all calm the horses before the race, but also for the jockeys to hear instructions from the starters about when the race would start. On top of that, after the horses have jumped over the final fence, the run in to home is one of the longest in the game, measuring a massive 494 yards.

When the race first started in 1839 and even for many years after, to accommodate the size of the race and length of the track, the majority of the race wasn’t actually run on the actual race course. Instead, they would have to navigate the horse’s cross-country style, with markers and posts signifying where they need to run. The canal that runs adjacent to the course was used a reference point for the track, before then re-entering the race course for the final section.

Today, the cross-country section is now part of Aintree racecourse, but many of the old-school commentators and people within the industry still refer to sections of the course as “the country”.

Handicapping

Horse with Saddle

Handicapping is a major role in all horse racing, but probably more so in the Grand National than any other. The bottom line is that all horses must be at 10 stone or above. So, even if they were weighed in at 9st 5lb, they would still be given the extra weight to make the grade.

It’s the role of the handicapper (in the case of the Grand National, Phil Smith) to try and make the race as fair a fight as possible. This means that he needs to take in affect things such as horses form, ground, previous performances on that track and other factors. By doing this he then adds weight to certain horses to try and make it as even as possible. Whilst impossible, his goal is to make it so all horses cross the line at the same time, just to give you an idea of what he’s trying to achieve.

The race is limited to that 40 entrants, but in reality, there are hundreds of horses that might have been put forward to race each year. The application process starts around 2 months prior to the start of the race in February. A process that’s called ‘scratching’ occurs in the weeks leading up, which basically means where the organisers remove horses or even trainers decide to remove horses from the running.

As the race gets nearer, the handicapping committee will start to step in and look at a number of key factors including:

  • Age – Horses must be aged 7 and up to race
  • Form – Must have previously raced 3 or more recognised chases and also finished in the top 4 of a 3mile race or longer
  • Handicap – The horse must be rated at 120 or more by the British Horseracing Authority

These guidelines are mainly in place for the safety of the horse and to prevent novice horses from partaking in what is essentially the toughest race in the world. But, even if horses do meet these guidelines, there is still no guarantee that they will gain entry, with the handicapper having the final say in which horses will make the final 40.

But, you will also find that the race might start with fewer entrants than the 40 advertised. This is usually down to horses pulling out in the days or even hours before a race, usually down to injury or not suiting the current ground for the race.

The final declaration for the race will be held 2 days prior to the start of the race. This is why that in the days or weeks leading up to the race you may see betting markets with more than 40 horses to choose from as basically it hasn’t been finalised who will be running.

The Fences

Over the 175+ years that the Grand National has been running, there are many famous aspects to the race that people remember, but few are as iconic as their fences. There are very few races, if any, that non-horseracing fans would be able to name famous horses, let alone famous fences, but that’s why the Grand National is different.

The key thing is that, from the 16 fences that they need to navigate over and the 30 jumps in total that the horses need to make, there are no easy jumps. The horse and jockey needs to be on their limits for each jump, which is why it’s one of the greatest achievements to win this race in the sport. The only two fences that are jumped the once in the race is that of The Chair and the Water Jump.

Below is a list of all the fences and the order in which they are jumped:

  • 1 & 17 – Thorn Fence – The first of the gruelling track stands at 4ft 6in high and 2ft 9in wide. Whilst not a particularly large fence in the grand scheme of the National, the fact that 40 horses are all getting to it within a few seconds of each makes for one of the most exciting fences. Often bookies will run markets about how many fallers there will be at the first.
  • 2 & 18 – One of the few unnamed fences a small bit of rest bite for the horses, standing at just 3ft 6in high.
  • 3 & 19 – Westhead – The first of the ditches and a huge test for the horses standing at 4ft 10in in height and 6ft drop on the other side.
  • 4 & 20 – Plain Fence – The ironically named fence for a long time stood as the tallest on the course, but a reduction of 2in in 2012 means it now stands at 4ft 10in and widely regarded as one of the toughest on the track.
  • 5 & 21 – At 5ft high, one of the biggest on the course. Also stands at 3ft 6in wide, making for a daunting jump.
  • 6 & 22 – Becher’s Brook – There are few more famous fences in the horse racing world than Becher’s Brook. To stand from the racing side the fence actually only sits at 4ft 10in, but a drop off of 6ft 9in, a water beck and the fact it’s on a left-hand turn all combine to make this one of the hardest jumps. Simply navigating this jump twice in the race is as tough a test as you will find in racing.
  • 7 & 23 – Foinavon Fence – Made famous by Foinavon in 1967, this rather innocuous fence sits at just 4ft 6in high and is one of the smallest on the track. But, it’s rise to fame was when Foinavon became the only horse to make the jump and go on to win the race.
  • 8 & 24 – Canal Turn – Another brute of a fence with the horse having to navigate the canal directly after it and instead having to make an immediate 90 degree turn to carry on in the course. A real make or break jump!
  • 9 & 25 – Valentine’s Brook – At 5ft high, one of the highest fences on the course and coming in fairly quick succession at Canal Turn, resulting a tricky few fences to navigate over.
  • 10 & 26 – Thorn Fence – A pretty straightforward fence, standing at 5ft high
  • 11 & 27 – Booth – The horses must clear a 6ft wide ditch prior to take off…and then also get over the 5ft high fence.
  • 12 & 28 – Another 5ft high brute and similar to Booth, except this time the ditch is on the landing side, totally blind to the horse.
  • 13 & 29 – The penultimate fence on the final lap standing at 4ft 7in high is actually fairly innocuous, considering what’s gone on before. After almost 4 miles of racing though, it’s tough enough!
  • 14 & 30 – A very similar layout and style to the previous fence.
  • 15 – The Chair – The tallest jump on the course is that of the chair. The horse actually takes off across a 6ft ditch, but actually lands about 6 inch higher than when they took off, often throwing the horse a little.
  • 16 – The water jump – From the largest to the smallest fence at just 2ft 9 inches. This fence is a pretty straightforward for the horses, but does include a 10ft water splash at the other side, measuring 15cm deep.

How to Pick a Horse

Favourites

The 2017 Grand National was the 170th running of the famous race, of which only 26 times has the favourite for that race come out on top. This is a fairly low number, but when you consider the reasons why, it does make sense.

The main thing to consider is that of the number of runners for the race. With 40 in the field it’s a bit of a minefield when picking to be honest, plus given how tough the course is, just getting around is an achievement in itself.

The favourite for the race usually goes off at around 10/1, although they have been as low as 11/4 and as high as 20/1. In 2017 the favourite was that of Blaklion, starting at just 8/1.

The table below shows the last 5 years favourites and their finishing positon:

YearHorsePosition
2017 Blaklion 4th
2016 Many Clouds & The Last Samuai 16th (last to complete) & 2nd
2015 Shutthefrontdoor 5th
2014 Teaforthree & Double Seven Fell & 3rd
2013 Seabass 13th

Due to the massive field size and competitive nature of the race, it’s not uncommon to see some real long priced winners of the race. The longest Starting Price that’s ever been recorded with the Grand National is that of 100/1, coming from 5 horses, which include Mon Mome, Foinavon, Caughoo, Greglach and Tipperary Tim.

There have also been plenty of winners priced around 66/1 and 50/1 respectively. But, the shortest priced wined came back in 1919 when Poethlyn won the race at odds of just 11/4. These days it’s unlikely that we will ever see odds as short as this given the popularity and size of the race.

Greys

The hoodoo over the grey horse is one that has been running since the start of the Grand National. The first grey horse didn’t actually win the race until 1868, when The Lamb won some 29 years after the first running of National. It has to be mentioned that the horse also went on to repeat the victory 3 years later in 1871.

Only 2 other winners of the National have since been grey horses; Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and most recently Neptune Collognes in 2012.

Horse welfare

For all the good the Grand National has done for the profile of horseracing, the race itself is actually one that is quite controversial and one that comes under a lot of fire from activists to make the sport safer for both jockeys and horses.

The race itself is a brutal test of strength, speed and stamina. Many campaigners think that it pushes the horses too hard and the risk to their health is increasing with each year. In the period between 2000 and 2010 6 horses have sadly passed away in the race, spreading more fuel on the fire for animal rights campaigners wanting even safer races or even the abolishment of one of the most iconic races in the world.

As a result, the BHA and Aintree racecourse have put measures in place to make the race safer. One of the key things is by reducing the size of the fences and also by making run offs for the horses should they either not want to jump or for the jockeys to safely retire from the race. Whilst modifications have always taken place throughout the years on many of the fences, it’s only been over the last few years where these measures have been stepped up to ensure horse safety.

Some of the fences have come under question more than others, with Becher’s Brook being one of the fences that campaigners have wanted removed after two deaths at the same fence in 2011 and 2012. But, people within the racing community and plenty of names held in high regard, such as Ginger McCain have argued that the altering of the course allows horses to run faster, thus making them more likely to fall.

Either way, the pressure that the race is under is something that needs to be addresses, and likely sooner rather than later. The death rate from the race is falling, with no reported deaths as a direct result of the race since 2012, highlighting that the changes are having a positive effect on the race and overall, the horses.

Aintree Festival

Whilst the Grand National definitely takes the limelight, the Aintree Festival, for which the Grand National is essentially a part of, has a high calibre of racing over its three days in its own right. Throughout all three days (Thursday to Saturday) there are 6 races to view each day, with a total of 10 Grade 1 races in that period.

Day 1 – Grand Opening Day

The Thursday plays apart to 4 of those Grade 1 races, with one of the most competitive line ups of the entire jump season. The highlight of the day comes in the form of the Aintree Hurdle, which has an impressive prize pool of £200,000 with £112,260 of that money going to the winner.

Some huge names in the horseracing industry have won it previously including Jezki, Oscar Whiskey, Al Eile, Morley Street and Daring Run, to name but a few. Since the race began in 1976 it’s been Ruby Walsh who’ the most successful jockey with 5 wins to his name and leading trainer that of Toby Balding, with 4 of those winners coming from Morley Street throughout the early nineties.

The other Grade 1 races on that day are the Betway Bowl, Anniversary Novices Hurdle and Manifesto Novices’ Chase.

Day 2 – Ladies Day

The most glamorous of the 3 days and one where people are encouraged to turn out in their Sunday best is that of Ladies Day. With three Grade 1 races to choose from, it’s the Melling Chase that catches the eye on the Friday, with a prize pool of £200,000 and the winner picking up £112,788 for their troubles.

Another race that has seen some of the best horses over hurdles to have won it, including the likes of Don Cossack, Albertas Run, Master Minded, Moscow Flyer and Viking Flagship. Barry Geraghty is the most successful jockey with 4 wins and leading trainer that of Nicky Henderson. 4 horses have won the race 2 times, including Viking Flagship, Direct Route, Native Upmanship, Moscow Flyer and Voy Por Ustedes.

The other Grade 1 races include the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle and the Midmay Novices’ Chase.

Day 3 – Grand National Day

The Grand National Day isn’t just the biggest day of the meeting, but one of the biggest days in horse racing. The main even is obviously the Grand National itself, pulling in over 600 million viewers worldwide. The race has a massive prize pool of £1,000,000, paying out £561,300 to the winner.

Aside from the main event, there are also 3 other Grade 1 races that day, with the pick of the bunch coming in the form of the Liverpool Hurdle. The race has a prize pool of £150,000 with £84,405 of that going to the winner. Since its first race in 1974, there have been some standout names that include Big Buck’s, Mighty Man, Thistlecrack, Sweet duke and Shell Burst.

Big Bucks has been the most successful horse, with 4 wins to his name, and the most successful jockey being that of Peter Scudamore, with 5 wins in total. Martin Pipe has 5 wins as trainer, from 1992 up to 2003.

Key Statistics

One of the most iconic horses to have run the Grand National, and the only horse to have won the race 3 times is that of Red Rum. His last victory was back in 1977, which also coincided with the fact that this was the last time the horses legendary trainer, Ginger McCain, had his last win as well.

But, in 2004 he was back, this time with 16/1 Amberleigh House. After what was a pretty chaotic race, Amberleigh House, ridden by Graham Lee, managed to overtake Clan Royal on the run in to win one of the most welcomed in Grand National history. It allowed McCain to equal the record of most Grand National winners, with 4 to his name.

The 2009 Grand National would see another upset on the cards, with 100/1 outsider Mon Mome winning the race. The result would mean that the horse was the longest priced winner for 42 years, winning the race by 12 lengths in what were considered to be tough conditions.

Our final shout out comes just a year later when, at the 15th time of asking, legendary jockey Tony McCoy finally got his first Grand National win on the back of Don’t Push It. It was the one race that McCoy had desperately wanted to win, but never been able to and the nation got behind him to see his 10/1 JF, trained by Jonjo O’Neil romp home.

YearNameAgeWeight
2017 One For Arthur 8 10-11
2016 Rule The World 9 10-07
2015 Many Clouds 8 11-09
2014 Pineau De Re 11 10-06
2013 Auroras Encore 11 10-03
2012 Neptune Collonges 11 11-06
2011 Ballabriggs 10 11-00
2010 Don’t Push It 10 11-05
2009 Mon Mome 9 11-00
2008 Comply or Die 9 10-09

Race History

As we’ve mentioned previously, the race dates back to the early 19th century and was founded by that of William Lynn. At the time, Lynn was a hotelier and with it had big plans to build a new racecourse in Aintree, which he completed in 1829.

The actual running of the race is still one that is widely debated today, mainly about where it was. There are some that claim the race was first held in Maghull and not Aintree.

By 1838 the race had started to really take off and Liverpool was a city that was buzzing on the back of its success. They were able to attract some of the biggest horses of the time and was often seen as a hot bed for the rich to purchase up and coming horses to add to their stables. The first official running of the Grand National came about in 1839 and has since been a staple at the Aintree racecourse.

The popularity of the race is one that is unprecedented in the industry. There is no other horse race in the world that attracts as many people from outside the sport as the Grand National does. The majority of the crowd will likely not watch or even bother with another race all year, but when the Grand National on, they are glued to their screens.

These days the history, the glamour and the money surrounding the race is an easy sell, but the early attraction wasn’t so clear, given that there were so many high-class races about. We think that it was likely seen as the ability to prosper for the underdogs against more established names. Over the 4m track and 30 hurdles they need to jump, literally anything can happen and pretty much everything has happened.

The numbers involved are quite staggering. Over 600 million people around the world will be tuning in and with it, over £250million worth of bets wagered across the UK alone. This makes it the biggest betting day of the year and can literally be make or break for some bookmakers’ entire season.

The prizemoney on offer in 2017 was that of £1,000,000, with £561,300 going to the winner. Interestingly, this is still some way behind the richest horse race in the world, that of the Dubai World Cup, hosting a massive £7.99million in prizemoney alone. But, it is the richest steeplechase in the world!

Vincent O’Brien

Vincent O’Brien was one of the most iconic trainers in the Grand National’s history. He won the race 3 times in 3 consecutive years between 1953 and 1955. The most impressive thing was that the 3 wins all came on three different horses; Early Mist, Royal Tan and Quare Times.

But, the Irishman was more than just a Grand National hero, he had trained dozens of winners running around the world in a career spanning over 50 years within the industry. He was voted the greatest National hunt trainer of the 20th Century, but he was later voted the same award for the flat section as well. This highlighted not only the mans dominance, but also the success he’d seen over the years, winning pretty much major race in the UK, Ireland, France and even the US in the process.

Devon Loch

Devon Loch is one of the most famous horses to have taken part in the Grand National, but for all the wrong reasons. Leading the 1956 Grand National and owned by the Queen Mother, for some reason just a few furlongs from home, the horse jumped into the air and landed flat on its belly, to go on and not complete the race.

One of the things that many people aren’t aware of for this race is that Devon Loch was actually on course to set a new record, with the horse finishing second, E.S.B finishing just a few hundredths of a second outside of it.

Red Rum

It’s hard to think of any other horse other than Red Rum when you think of the Grand National. A lot of horses will go down as legends of the sport for winning major titles, but no other horses has been able to win the hardest and most prestigious steeplechase in the world on 3 separate occasion, other than Red Rum.

The horse, trained by Ginger McCain, is a bit of a freak in that regard. His victories came in 1973, 1974 and 1977. Many people thought to win it back to back was an impressive feat, but to go away and come back 3 years after his second win and do it all again, is nothing short of miraculous.

Red Rum was initially bought for the meagre sum of £420 in 1966, but it was McCain who saw the potential and bought it for £6,300. But, just a few days after the purchase it was McCain who noticed that Red Rum was actually lame. He decided to try a then new technique of training the horse in sea water to combat this, which clearly worked like a charm.

Whilst McCain was able to pick up the plaudits at the time of the win, he wasn’t to see success in the National again until a surprise victory for Amberleigh House in the 2004 race. This would give the trainer his fourth win and put him tied at the top with the most ever wins in the Grand National.

The race that never was

In 1993 one of the most iconic events in Grand National history took place, and for all the wrong reasons. The race went off as a false start, but due to communication breakdown throughout the track and the fact that some riders were ignoring the frantically waved flags thinking they protestors, 30 out of the 39 ran the full race in its entirety.

As only 7 of the horses finished the race, it was deemed void. Although interestingly, the race time, by Esha Ness was the second fastest in history!

Tony McCoy and Don’t Push It

Tony McCoy is widely regarded as one of the best jump jockeys of his era. He’s won pretty much everything there is to win in the sport, becoming Champion Jockey 20 separate times…..in a row!

But, there had been one thing missing from his collection, and that was a Grand National winner. He’d ridden in 15 different races before he picked up his first win in 2010 on Don’t Push It. After the race McCoy described the win as relief and went on to win the 2010 Sports Personality of the Year award for his efforts. Since then he was knighted in 2016.

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