Aintree Grand National 2018 bets, tips and odds | Everything you need to know about Grand National Day
The Best Grand National 2018 Guide online
Its estimated that a quarter of the UK adult population will bet on the Randox Health sponsored Grand National 2018. Most people will have a small each-way bet on a horse they fancy from the list of Grand National runners 2018 for no other reason than the fact that they like the name. Of course there’s nothing wrong with picking a horse for that reason, as pre-race favourites have a dire record in the race.
The Grand National 2018 is famed for its unpredictable nature and rightly so, in the past century five 100/1 shots have triumphed over the famous fences. However, the Grand National is far less of a lottery than many people believe.
Trends and statistics have emerged over the last 20 years which can help you identify those runners who have the potential to run a big race. Whether you decide to follow the trends and stats or choose your horse based on its name, silk colour or jockey riding we can tell you everything you need to know about this year's hopefuls.
A TV audience in excess of 10 million will tune in to watch the drama of the 2018 Grand National unfold on the 14th of April at 5:15pm. Along with those watching at home a 70,000 strong crowd will be at Aintree racecourse to cheer on the horses from the first fence to the final furlong.
Grand National Runners 2018 - Tips | Favourites | Info
** As soon as the final line up is announces we'll have that information and analysis for you right here **
Horses that have run in previous Aintree Grand Nationals are always a good place to start. When it comes to looking for horses that will run well in the 2018 race, this trend is up with 5 of the last 16 winners of the Grand National having been unplaced in the previous year’s race. Here are our best Grand National tips for 2018’s favourites or at least the ones we expect to make the cut. The Grand National runners 2018 are as follows.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Blaklion, who ran a gallant fourth in the 2017 Grand National, heads most of the bookmaker markets around the 25/1 mark. But many of the layers are going much shorter (14/1 – 16/1). This horse will be 9 years-old come April 2018, which is the perfect age for this race. 14 of the previous 27 winners were aged 9 or 10 years-old. The Twiston-Davies yard have also won the race twice in the past, with Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002).
They certainly know what’s needed to prepare Grand National horses. With another year on his back, we can expect Blaklion to be stronger this time. Being only 8 ¼ lengths back from the winner – One For Arthur – in 2017, we know he stays this 4m 2 ½ f trip well.
We can expect his handicap mark to be higher this year, but having proved he can tackle the tricky Grand National fences suggests his connections will aim at giving him another crack in April. Being placed before though does, however, mean he’s got a big negative trend to overcome that has seen just 1 winner or placed horse from the previous year’s race go onto win 12 months later. But he could still be one for the each-way backers. However, as soon as the ‘once-a-year’ punter remember his name from last year, there is also a big chance his 25/1 price will be a lot, lot shorter on the day. Don’t forget 12 months ago he was sent off as the 8/1 favourite! Our Grand National tips would be to back him now, with the view to his price being a lot shorter on the day.
At the time of writing this Jonjo O’Neill-trained runner is yet to taste the National fences, but after running second to Sizing John in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup is another that, if making the final line-up, would add a bit of class to this years Grand National. The yard won this race in 2010 with Don’t Push It – another JP McManus-owned runner – and at just 8 years-old there should be a lot more to come from this classy chaser.
Having said that, he’s not started his 2017/18 campaign well with heavy defeats at Punchestown and Cheltenham, so he’d need to bounce back from those efforts if he’s to be considered at this stage. He’s also won just one of his 11 chase starts, at the time of writing – with his last victory coming back at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
With that in-mind, he’s a horse that has gone well more often than not at Prestbury Park so connections may well prefer a tilt at the Cheltenham Festival again, rather than running in this race – we’ll see.
The Last Samurai
Many people will recall this horse being the runner-up in the 2016 Grand National. He would have cost the bookmakers a few quid that day after being well-supported into 8/1 joint-favourite.
He’d won the Grimthorpe Chase (a recognised Grand National Trial race) by an easy 10 lengths the month before. He figured in the 2017 Grand National too, but could only manage 16th, but to his credit he was burdened with a massive 11-10 that day. Since 1978, 120 horses have tried to win with more than 11-5, with just two winners; Many Clouds (11-9) in 2015 & Neptune Collonges (11-6) in 2012.
This race will certainly be a target again and being that he’s got round in the last two renewals then he’s becoming a regular in the race. We can expect the handicapper to relent a bit on his mark. So, our Grand National tips would include watching that closely. A lot will depend on the handicapper. But he returned to the track this season with a decent second at Kempton over an inadequate trip to show he’s still in love with the game.
Another horse that is proving to be popular in the Grand National betting market. If Native River makes the race, he would certainly be a class act in the line-up. This Colin Tizzard-trained runner will only be 8 years-old by April but he’s already a Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National winner. He also rounded off last season with a decent third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He’s won at Aintree in the past, but he’s yet to tackle the Grand National-style fences. This may be seen as a negative with 7 of the last 15 winners having tasted these fences before.
That said, he’s a good jumper that heads into the 2017/18 off the back of 10 chase runs and he’s yet to finish out of the first three in these, let alone fall in any of them! Our Grand National tips are that he’ll be a big player if connections opt for this route, rather than the Gold Cup. Though, if he does head to Aintree for this race then a lot will depend how much weight the handicapper gives him – we’ll know that later in the season.
Cause of Causes
A horse that went from strength-to-strength last season and many racing fans will remember him winning the unique Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017. Having won over those tricky obstacles, the National fences looked sure to suit. This proved right in the 2017 Grand National after finishing a 4 ½ length second to One For Arthur. He was sent off at a well-fancied 16/1 12 months ago so the 33/1 on offer now looks a tempting price.
He’s another that will have the negative trend of past placed horses to overcome and is sure to have more weight this time. However, his ability to handle the course is a big plus. With the gap between the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree in 2018 being almost 4 weeks then there is a good chance this Gordon Elliott-trained runner can try and defend his Cheltenham Cross Country crown before heading to Aintree once again.
Vieu Lion Rouge
The Pipe Pond House stable that are certainly no strangers to landing this race. They won the prize in 1994 (Miinnehoma) and 2008 (Comply Or Die). This horse will be 9 years-old by April and is another that punters might recall after running a fair sixth last year. He was eventually 27 lengths behind the winner. But that was still a top effort for at horse that had only run 10 times over fences. He actually went second after three out but failed to sustain that effort. So, many will look at that with stamina concerns.
He was 7th in the 2016 running so the fences and getting round don’t seem to be an issue. It’s just whether he fully gets this 4m2f trip. At this stage, the 40/1 price with Coral looks about right. With another year on his back then he may return this season a stronger horse. The Grand National tips point to take away could be that he’s in another race that he gets round but finds 5 or 6 too good again.
If there is a horse still in training that deserves to win a National it’s this fella. He’s run well in four Grand Nationals now, and has finished 2nd and 3rd in two! This horse will be 12 years-old by April. But with four Grand Nationals already under his belt, he’s becoming a regular fixture in this world’s greatest steeplechase. He was a gallant third 12 months ago and only beaten 8 ¼ lengths. While in 2016 he was pulled-up, finished 2nd in 2015 and 9th in 2013. He’s raced at Aintree many times before too and seems to love the flat nature of the track. So, our Grand National tips point will be to keep his age in mind. Providing it doesn’t catch up with him, he’s another to have on your radar. Though, probably more in terms of grabbing another place, rather than winning.
From the Paul Nicholls yard that have won the Grand National once before (2012, Neptune Collonges).
This horse will be 9 years-old by April, but punters will also might remember him from last year as he was sent off 16/1 in the 2017 running. However, he got no further than the first fence that day after coming to grief under jockey Brian Hughes so that might put some people off backing him again. However, it’s worth noting he’s a National winner in his own right too after landing the Scottish version in 2017 after that fall and has returned to the track in 2017 in similar form with a decent return run at Cheltenham in November. The handicapper is sure to give him a chance and if he’s got anything near the 10-10 in weight he had 12 months ago then this improving staying chaser is certainly one to consider.
Another horse Grand National fans might remember from 2017. This Brian Ellison-trained runner was almost sent off as favourite (10/1). Punters backed this improving stayer into that price from around 20/1 on the morning.
Despite failing to reward his followers he did have his excuses. His saddle eventually slipped and was pulled-up. But before that he had been badly hampered at the 6th fence (Bechers Brook) and never really recovered from that.
He’ll be 9 years-old come April so is another that looks to be the perfect age now. Providing he has an injury-free season, this race certainly looks a firm target for him. Our top Grand National tips here are that he’s sure to be a lot shorter in the day than the 33/1 being offered now. Especially once the novice punters recall his name from 12 months ago.
This Willie Mullins-trained runner was backed down to 11/1 from much bigger prices on the day. He ran well, too, after finishing 9th that day and despite being 28 lengths back from the winner. He did lose all chance when stumbling badly at the 25th fence. The horse stayed on well after that under Ruby Walsh.
But after proving he’s another that can handle the fences then he’s one to note. Again, his current price of around 40/1 looks big considering his was backed into 11/1 last year. He’ll be 10 years-old this time, while that track experience from last year would have taught him a lot. It’s hard to know if he’ll give the race another go. But barring any injuries, we feel that this would certainly be a race on his agenda this season.
This horse could be one to have on your radar and follow as the season progresses.
It’s hard to 100% know at this stage if the horse will head to the Grand National, or other targets. But this is another from the Jonjo O’Neill yard that won the race in 2010. This horse will be 9 years-old come the race, which looks the perfect age and having returned to the track. This season, with two wins at Fontwell and Ascot, he’s clearly a horse still on the up.
He’s a front-running sort so if he doesn’t head to the National he’ll have to do it the hard way from the front. But the plusses surrounding that are that he’ll stay out of trouble and any loose horses. He’s also tasted these fences in the past when 17th (of 29) in the Topham Chase at the Grand National meeting 12 months ago. That race might also be a possible target too. The trip would also be a bit of an unknown as the furthest he’s gone to date is 3 miles. Though, he’s caught the eye so far this season and looks a horse to note.
How are the Grand National 2018 Runners Chosen?
Every year a maximum of 40 horses line up at the start of the Aintree Grand National and 600 million people worldwide tune in to watch them tackle the 30 notoriously difficult fences in a bid to put themselves into the history books. But how do those particular runners and riders make it to Grand National day?
A horse will be entered into the Grand National runners 2018 if it meets the minimum criteria for qualification and the owner and trainer feel that their horse is capable of handling the race. Not all horses are suited to the long Aintree course or have the necessary jumping ability. Even if a horse gets entered that doesn't guarantee a place at the starting line.
The race is open to horses aged seven and upwards that have been placed first, second, third or fourth in a chase of three miles or more and who are allotted a rating of at least 120 by the BHA Handicapper.
The entry date for the race is always at the end of January, with the names and numbers announced by the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) the following day. In 2017 there were 110 entries, 2016 had 126 entries, an increase of 28 on the 98 entered in 2015.
The BHA Head Of Handicapping then takes the list of entries and frames the weights. In other words, he decides which horses will carry the heaviest weights and which will carry the least. The handicap system is designed to give every horse a fair chance of winning the race, good horses will carry more weight than those perceived to have less ability.
The maximum weight any horse can carry in the 2018 Grand National will be 11st 10lbs and the minimum is 10st. Each runner's weight will be largely determined by their OR (Official Rating) and the higher the rating, the higher the weight. Although the Grand National is the only race in Britain in which the Handicapper can ignoring the official ratings if he wishes, often to the consternation of owners and trainers.
Horses are then put in descending order from the highest to the lowest weighted and that also determines their race number. The top-weighted horse is number one, second heaviest weighted horse is number two and so on.
The weights are then announced, in 2017 it was on February 14th, and from then on a series of ‘Declaration Stages’ take place. At each of these stages, horses can be withdrawn from the proceedings by their trainers and as they are removed and the entries get whittled down so even horses that have not initially made the Top 40 may now do so as entries above them are taken out.
The very last declaration stage takes place at 10am on the Thursday immediately before Grand National 2018 day. This is the point where the top 40 horses will be near completion along with four additional reserves.
The following morning, Friday, at 10am any non-runners must be declared and be replaced by one of the four reserves. This is also the point where any horses who were previously allocated weights of less than 10st will have their weight increased to meet requirements.
Criteria for Jockeys Wishing to Participate
The criteria for professional or amateur jockeys wanting to take part in the race are very specific. They must have ridden not less than 15 winners in chases or hurdle races under the Rules of Racing and/or the Rules of the Irish National Hunt Committee and ridden not less than 10 of these winners in chases.
A champion jockey like A.P. McCoy who primarily rode horses for super owner J.P. McManus had his pick of horses in the race before he retired. Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty are other top jockeys who can often choose their rides and odds will tumble on any horses chosen by the pair.
Amateur jockeys are now a rarity in the Grand National compared with races early days. Sam Whaley-Cohen is probably the most famous amateur rider in recent years and he enjoys a record over the Aintree fences which is the envy of many a professional.
Other jockeys will usually ride for the yards that retain them or a trainer will engage their services just for this race. In recent years a number of high profile jockeys have missed the race due to injuries picked up at the Cheltenham festival which is the last major National Hunt meeting before Aintree.
Don't be put off backing a less well known jockey or even one who has never ridden the course before. In 2013 jockey Ryan Mania won the race at his first attempt!
Grand National History
The Grand National at Aintree has been a British sporting institution since 1839. A horse called Lottery won the inaugural race and Captain Becher fell at a now world famous brook. In those days, horses jumped a stone wall, crossed ploughed land and finished over two hurdles. Read about the legends and key moments that have gone down in Grand National History.
The course was founded by William Lynn, a syndicate head and proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel. He leased land in Aintree from William Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton. Lynn set out a course and built a grandstand. Lord Sefton laid the foundation stone on 7 February 1829. The race was then known as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase.
Early Grand National HIstory
There is actually much debate regarding the first official Grand National. Some leading historians, including John Pinfold, assert that the first running was in 1836 and won by The Duke. This same horse won again in 1837, while Sir William was the winner in 1838. These races have long been disregarded because of the belief that they took place at Maghull and not Aintree.
Some historians have unearthed evidence that suggest those three races were run over the same course at Aintree. Also, that they were regarded as Grand Nationals up until the mid-1860. Contemporary newspaper reports place all the 1836-38 races at Aintree although the 1839 race is the first described as “National”. To date, though, calls for the Nationals of 1836–1838 to be restored to the record books have been unsuccessful.In 1838 and 1839 three events transformed the Liverpool race from a small local affair to a national event.
Firstly, the Great St. Albans Chase was not renewed after 1838. This left a major hole in the chasing calendar. Secondly, the railway arrived in Liverpool, enabling transport to the course by rail. Finally, a committee was formed to better organise the event.These factors led to a highly publicised race in 1839. It attracted a larger field of top horses and riders, greater press coverage and an increased attendance. Over time, the first three runnings were forgotten, securing 1839 its place in Grand National history as the inaugural race.
By the 1840s, Lynn’s ill-health blunted his enthusiasm for Aintree. Edward Topham, a respected handicapper and member of Lynn’s syndicate, began to exert his influence. He turned the chase into a handicap from a weight-for-age race in 1843. He took over the lease in 1848 and one century later, the Topham family bought the course outright.
Grand National Fact Box
It was over 40 years ago that Red Rum recorded the first of three victories in Grand National History. This earned him pride of place in the record books forever. He remains the only horse to have won three Grand Nationals and, was known to be a phenomenon.
Bred to be a sprinter, Red Rum won the grueling four-and-a-half mile chase in 1973, 1974 and 1977. He finished second on his other two starts, to become the greatest Grand National performer ever.
The Grand National Runners Horse Race is often called the world's greatest steeplechase. The race is one of the most famous steeplechases in the world. It is a unique test of horsemanship for the rider and also a test of a great significance for a horse.
Before the Turn of the Century
The following year the race was held in Maghull (Still in Liverpool) This race was also won by The Duke but this time was ridden by Mr Potts as Captain Becher could not get to the course as the previous day he had been riding at St Albans, of course in those days travel was slow and it was almost impossible to get to the course. This year the race was named as .
The following year again at Maghull was another success. The Duke was again running being ridden by captain Becher but on this occasion he finished third and the winner of the race is not clear as official records show the winner as Sir Henry however there was no horse called Sir Henry running. The race was actually won by Sir William.
The following year (1839) was to be what every official record shows as the even though at this time it was still called the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase. The race was won by and he goes down in the history books as the first winner of the race. was also running that year but fell into the brook at the fence that now holds his name.
Since these early years there have been many changes and stories of The Grand National horse race. In 1839 the name of the race was changed to The Liverpool and National Handicap Steeplechase and as the name suggests the race became a handicap race. In 1847 the race was given the title of . A name it still holds today.
1850/1851 saw the first duel winner of the race when was the winner on both occasions. 1869 was to see the first , The Lamb who also went on to win the race three years later. This was nothing short of miraculous given that the horse had been suffering from a wasting disease in the time between these races. 1893 saw another remarkable story when a horse called won the race by .
In 1895 a very good horse, from Borneo won the race and his stuffed head is still at the course in the room that has been used to interview the winning connections. The late 1800's also saw the greatest of all horses to run in , the duel winner .
Redrum Making History in 1977
After the Turn of the Centuary
Soon after the turn of the century it was a horse called Moifaa was the remarkable winner in 1904 when a ship bringing him to the race from New Zealand was lost and the horse had to swim ashore, 50 miles it was said, to an island, he was later recovered and when on not only to run in the race but to win the race.
The outbreak of the Great War was not to stop the race and it was held at the racecourse at Gatwick now the site of one of London's busiest Airports. The 1920's saw the introduction of Radio to the race when in 1927 the B.B.C. brought the race to it's biggest ever audience to date when Sprig was to be the victor.
The Second World War was to see the only interruption of the race. The race was not run between 1941 and 1945 and the course at this time was used for military purposes. In 1946 as soon as the military were gone the operation was put into place for that year's race and on the 5th of April Lovely Cottage won the 1946 Grand National.
The following year 1947 was to see the race run for the first time on a Saturday, at the request of the Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who was said to have suggested the move would be "in the interests of British industry". Caughoo was the winner that day. Up until this time the Aintree racecourse had been owned by Lord Sefton but in 1949 he sold the course to Tophams Limited for a sum of 275,000 pounds.
In 1952 the Tophams had a dispute with the B.B.C. over the radio coverage and this lead to the family doing their own commentary of the race, if anybody is ever in any doubt that race commentary is a difficult job then a brief listen to this commentary will tell you different. It can only be described as dreadful and it was soon handed back to the professionals.
1960 was the year when the B.B.C. was to show the race "live" on Television for the first time. Merryman II won that year and the B.B.C. have been doing a great job ever since. 1963 was a year of note when the horse that came 7th, bore a very well known owners colours that of the film star Gregory Peck.
1967 saw the biggest price winner; Foinavon won the race after he was the only horse to jump a very small fence in the race. There was a great pile up at the fence and this horse ridden by John Buckingham when on to score at odds of 100/1. The fence was later named after the horse.
The late sixties and early seventies saw a good number of good horses win the race, Red Alligator ridden by Brian Fletcher, Gay Tripridden by Pat Taffe, Well to Do ridden by G. Thorner, but it was 1973 when one of the greatest stories started. All the talk this year was of one of the greatest steeplechasers ever The great Crisp.
He was to carry top weight of 12 st and this he seemed to do easily. Crisp was way out in front for a long way until caught close home with a horse carrying almost 2 st less. But history was to show that then young pretender that day would turn out to be the only horse in The Grand Nationals history win follow up his win with two others and was to become the most famous Grand National horse of all time, of course it was Red Rum.
In the 1974 Grand National, Red Rum was now the top weight with 12st to carry but he won again. He was to wait another three years to taste victory again in 1977 when he became the only three times winner of the race. Between his wins he came second twice. First in 1975 to L'escargot and then in 1976 to Rag Trade.
1977 was also another landmark year as it was to see the first ever female jockey in the race, Charlotte Brew may not be a well known name in racing today but back in 1977 she was the person all the commentators wanted to interview as she has the title as being the first Woman to ride in the Grand National.
Pre-Millennial Grand National History of Note
Good winners of the 80's included Ben Nevis, Grittar, Hallo Dandy, West Tip but two horses where going to make their connections famous in this decade. The 1981 Grand National saw a previously crocked horse making his big race entry named Aldaniti and a jockey who had recently recovered from cancer Bob Champion win the race this caused tears of joy to a whole nation of race lovers.
1983 was another landmark year when the first ever woman trainer won the race when Corbiere put Jenny Pitman's name on the role of honours. Mr Frisk won the 1990 race on fast ground in a record time. He was also ridden by an amateur, Mr. M.Armitage.
The 1991 Grand National was to see a horse called Seagram win the race. His name was the same as the race sponsors who did not own the horse. However they were asked if they wanted to purchase the horse some time before the race but declined the offer. In 1992 was another memorable winner. There was to be a general election in the UK and by coincidence this year saw a giant of a horse called Party Politics win.
The following year 1993 was again to be a landmark year as the race had to be declared void after a second false start was not heard by half of the jockeys who went on to complete a full circuit of the track. A number of jockeys actually did a second round and they did not know until the end of the four and a half miles that the race would be declared void for a false start.
This may seem strange but around this time there were a lot of protests being held on the course and the jockeys ignored the officials trying to stop them as they thought wrongly that they were protesters. The horse that finished first that day was Esha Nessnow known as the horse that won the National that never was.
The 1994 Grand National saw another famous win when top UK comedian Freddie Star's horse Miinnehoma won the race. Although Freddie was not at the course he was interviewed on the phone for the TV cameras in one of the most bizarre interviews on TV when the viewers could only here one side of the conversion that of his trainer.
The 1995 Grand National saw Jenny Pitman win the race for the second time with Royal Athlete. The 150th running of the race in 1997 was another bizarre story when a bomb scare meant that the course had to be evacuated and the race postponed until the Monday, to allow the course to be searched. The winner on this famous occasion was Lord Gyllene.
The 1998 Grand National saw the Aintree press manager win the race with his syndicated horse Earth Summit. The race in very soft ground. Earth Summit also won the Scottish and Welsh Nationals in his career. 1999 saw a remarkable father and son win the race, Tommy Carrbury a previous winner as a jockey was the trainer, saw his son Paul partner Bobby Jo to victory.
A Big Start to the New Millennium
The year 2000 race unbelievably was the same another father and son combination win when the trainer Ted Walsh saw his son Ruby win on Papillon. 2001 Saw Red Marauder win in good style in a race ran in bottomless conditions. All the horses fell with the exception of two horses the winner and the second Smarty.
The 2002 Grand National was won in good style by Bindaree who won as so many horses do, by catching a horse on the run in. The 2003 Grand National was the turn of Monty's Pass to win the race but his win was to be overshadowed by one of his owners who had bets on the horse to win a total of over 800,000 pounds.
Grand National Fact Box
The course is nearly two and a quarter miles in length and has 16 unique fences including the famous Bechers Brook. The fences have an added problem for horses, the famous drop fences where the landing side of the fence is lower than the take off side, this means the horse approaching the fence is unaware of the drop until in the air.
At The Chair Fence the reverse of this occurs. It is the biggest fence on the course and the landing side is higher than the take off.
In the Grand National the horses have to complete almost two circuits of the course and jump 30 fences and then complete a long 494 yard run in which has been the downfall of many in the past. There are two fences that are jumped only once and this is on the first circuit and they are the famous Chair and the water jump.
Historical Grand National Statistics
More Stats than you'll know how to Analyse
Important Horse Stats
- Red Rum is the most successful horse, winning the Grand National three times: 1973, 1974 and 1977.
- The oldest winning horse was Peter Simple, aged 15 (1853); the youngest were Alcibiade(1865), Regal (1876), Austerlitz (1877), Empress (1880), Lutteur III (1909), all aged 5.
- Abd-El-Kaderwas the first horse to win back-to-back Nationals, in 1850 and 1851. The Colonel, (1869 & 1870), Reynoldstown (1935 & 1936) and Red Rum (1973 & 1974) have also retained the crown.
- Moiffawon in 1904. As one of the strangest Grand National stats, he disappeared a year earlier. On a trip to Liverpool from New Zealand, Moiffa’s ship was wrecked. The horse was presumed lost at sea before turning up on an outcrop south of Ireland.
- Golden Millerwon in 1934 and became the only horse to complete the Cheltenham Gold Cup-Grand National double. Garrison Savannah narrowly failed in 1991.
- Manifestoran in more races than any other horse. Between 1895 and 1904, he ran eight races, winning two and coming third three times. He only failed to finish once.
- Two Russian horses, Reljefand Grifel, competed in the 1961 Grand National, but neither finished. Horses from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Norway have also run with similarly disappointing results. Hungarian chaser Buszke was pulled up in 1868. While Czechoslovakian Gyi Lovam (1931), came to grief at Becher’s. He was remounted but fell again four fences later. Czech-trained Essex, Fraze and Quirinus carried automatic top-weight but didn’t complete. The 2000 renewal saw the first Norwegian-trained runner, Trinitro, fall at the first fence.
- Japanese thoroughbred, Fujino-Ocaptured four consecutive renewals of the prestigious Nakayama Daishogai. He was sent to Britain to be trained for Aintree by Fulke Walwyn in 1966. He was given the automatic top-weight but failed to get competitive.
International Horses and Mares
- Five winners were bred in France — Alcibiade(1865), Reugny (1874), Lutteur III (1909), Mon Mome (2009) and Neptune Collonges(2012). Mely Moss, runner-up to Papillon in the 2000 Grand National. The 1996 and 2015 runners-up Encore Un Peu and Saint Are, were also French bred.
- In 1998, Earth Summit, owned by a six-strong partnership, became the first winner of the Grand National who was also successful in both the Scottish and Welsh Grand Nationals.
- Only three greys have won the Grand National – The Lamb(1868 and 1871), Nicolaus Silver (1961) and Neptune Collonges (2012). Suny Bay finished second to Lord Gyllene in 1997 and filled the same spot behind Earth Summit in 1998. King Johns Castle was second in 2008.
- Thirteen mares have won the Grand National, but the most recent was Nickel Coinback in 1951. Since then, the mares Gentle Moya (2nd 1956), Tiberetta (3rd 1957 and 2nd 1958), Miss Hunter (3rd 1970), Eyecatcher (3rd 1976 and 1977), Auntie Dot (3rd 1991), Ebony Jane(4th 1994) and Dubacilla (4th 1995) have all finished in the first four.
- In 1923, Sergeant Murphybecame the first US bred horse to win. He is also the joint-second oldest horse to win, at 13, alongside Why Not (1884). The US bred Battleship, son of the famous Man o’ War, became the first (and so far only) horse to have won both the Grand National (in 1938) and the American Grand National (which he won four years earlier).
- 1991 was the seventh and final year that the Grand National was sponsored by Seagram. Aptly, the race was won by a horse named Seagram, bred in New Zealand. 1997 saw another New Zealand-bred winner in Lord Gyllene.
Important Jockey Stats
- George Stevens is the most successful jockey in the history of the National with five wins. His final triumph came in 1870. Stevens died three months after finishing sixth in the 1871 race.
- Together with the Lincoln Handicap run on the Flat at Doncaster, the Grand National forms leg two of the ‘Spring Double’. The only jockey to have won both contests is Dave Dick, who captured the Lincoln in 1941 and the Grand National in 1956.
- Bruce Hobbs was the youngest jockey to have won the race. The 17-year-old triumphed aboard Battleship in 1938.
- The late Dick Saunders is the oldest winner of the Grand National, partnering Grittar to victory in 1982. Saunders was 48 and the first member of the Jockey Club to partner a Grand National winner.
- Brian Fletcher (1968 Red Alligator, 1973 and 1974 Red Rum) shares a 20th century record with the legendary Jack Anthony (1911 Glenside, 1915 Ally Sloper, 1920 Troytown), both jockeys having ridden three National winners.
- Plenty of riders have won the Grand National on their first attempt. The most recent are Ryan Mania (2013 Auroras Encore), Liam Treadwell (2009 Mon Mome), Niall ‘Slippers’ Madden (2006 Numbersixvalverde), and Ruby Walsh (2000 Papillon).
- Ruby Walsh holds the best record of current jockeys, having won the Grand National twice, in 2000 and 2005.
International Jockey Stats
- Jockey William Watkinson recorded the first success for Australia in 1926. He was killed at Bogside, Scotland, less than three weeks after winning the Grand National.
- Prince Karl Kinsky, an Austro-Hungarian nobleman, was the first jockey from outside Britain and Ireland to ride, winning on board his own mare Zoedone in 1883.
- Tsuyoshi Tanaka, became the first Japanese jockey to ride in the Grand National in 1995, although he fell at the first fence on The Committee.
- American amateur Tim Durant was 68 when 15th on Highlandie in 1968 (although he remounted at Becher’s second time).
- Peter Scudamore technically lined up for thirteen Grand Nationals without winning but the last of those was the void race of 1993, so he officially competed in twelve Nationals.
- Many other well-known jockeys have failed to win the Grand National. These include champion jockeys such as Terry Biddlecombe, John Francome, Josh Gifford, Stan Mellor, Jonjo O’Neill (who never completed) and Fred Rimell.
- Three jockeys who led over the last fence in the National but lost on the run-in ended up as television commentators: Lord Oaksey (on Carrickbeg in 1963), Norman Williamson (on Mely Moss in 2000), and Richard Pitman (on Crisp in 1973). Pitman’s son Mark also led over the last fence, only to be pipped at the post when riding Garrison Savannah in 1991.
- As a least inspiring Grand National stats, in 2012, Richard Johnson beat the record for the most rides in the National without a win. He has now ridden in the race 19 times without bettering the runner up spot in 2002 on What’s Up Boys. There are 12 other riders who have never won (or have not as yet won) the National, despite having had more than 12 rides in the race.
UNLUCKIEST JOCKEYS IN GRAND NATIONAL HISTORY
|Jockey||Years Competing||Result||Number of Attempts|
|David Casey||1997-2015||Finished 3rd once||15|
|Jeff King||1964-1980||Finished 3rd once||15|
|Robert Thornton||1997-to date||Never top three||14|
|Bill Parvin||1926-1939||Finished second once||14|
|Tom Scudamore||2001-2015||Never top three||14|
|Graham Bradley||1983-1999||Finished second once||14|
|Chris Grant||1980-1994||Finished second three times||13|
|Stan Mellor||1956-1971||Finished second once||13|
|David Nicholson||1956-1971||Never top three||13|
|George Waddington||1861-1882||Finished second once||13|
|Walter White||1854-1869||Finished second once||13|
|Andrew Thornton||1996-2013||Never top three||13|
GRAND NATIONAL STATS – FEMALE JOCKEYS
- Charlotte Brew became the first in 1977. Female jockeys have participated in 19 Grand Nationals. Brew attracted media attention when partnering her horse Barony Fort. Grand National stats and figures show that she was a guest on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show and the Daily Mirror. She was also unseated in the 1982 race.
- Geraldine Rees became the first to complete the course (albeit in last place) in 1982. She fell at the first a year later and went on to train for 12 years in Lancashire, before retiring in 2010.
- In 2012 Katie Walsh (sister of Ruby Walsh) achieved the best placing by a woman to date – 3rd place on Seabass. In 2013, she rode Seabass as favourite, but only finished 13th. She also led up Papillon, trained by her father and ridden by Ruby to win in 2000.
- National winning trainer, Venetia Williams, also rode in the race, falling at Becher’s first time when riding 200-1 chance Marcolo in 1988.
- Nina Carberry, now assistant to Noel Meade, is the most experienced female rider, finishing on four of her five starts.
- Gee Armytage had to pull up her mount, Gee-A, in 1988. A dual Cheltenham Festival-winning rider, she is the sister of Marcus Armytage – rider of the 1990 winner Mr Frisk – and became personal assistant to multiple champion jump jockey A P McCoy.
- Rosemary Henderson finished fifth when aged 51 on her own 100/1 shot Fiddlers Pike in 1994. She subsequently wrote a book, ‘Road To The National’, about her exploits.
- There was huge media interest in Carrie Ford when she finished fifth in 2005 on Forest Gunner. The horse was trained by her husband Richard. Ford, then 33, had given birth to her daughter 10 weeks earlier.
FEMALE JOCKEYS THROUGH GRAND NATIONAL HISTORY
|1977||Charlotte Brew||Barony Fort||200/1||Refused, 26th fence|
|1979||Jenny Hembrow||Sandwilan||100/1||Fell, 1st fence|
|1980||Jenny Hembrow||Sandwilan||100/1||Pulled up, 19th fence|
|1981||Linda Sheedy||Deiopea||100/1||Refused, 19th fence|
|1982||Geraldine Rees||Cheers||66/1||Completed, 8th & last place|
|1982||Charlotte Brew||Martinstown||100/1||Unseated, 3rd fence|
|1983||Geraldine Rees||Midday Welcome||500/1||Fell, 1st fence|
|1983||Joy Carrier||King Spruce||28/1||Unseated, 6th fence|
|1984||Valerie Alder||Bush Guide||33/1||Fell, 8th fence|
|1987||Jacqui Oliver||Eamons Owen||200/1||Unseated, 15th fence|
|1988||Gee Armytage||Gee-A||33/1||Pulled up, 26th fence|
|1988||Venetia Williams||Marcolo||200/1||Fell, 6th fence|
|1988||Penny Ffitch-Heyes||Hettinger||100/1||Fell, 1st fence|
|1989||Tarnya Davis||Numerate||100/1||Pulled up, 21st fence|
|1994||Rosemary Henderson||Fiddlers Pike||100/1||Completed, 5th place|
|2005||Carrie Ford||Forest Gunner||8/1||Completed, 5th place|
|2006||Nina Carberry||Forest Gunner||33/1||Completed, 9th & last place|
|2010||Nina Carberry||Character Building||16/1||Completed, 7th place|
|2011||Nina Carberry||Character Building||25/1||Completed, 15th place|
|2012||Nina Carberry||Organisedconfusiong||20/1||Unseated, 8th fence|
|2012||Katie Walsh||Seabass||8/1||Completed, 3rd place|
|2013||Katie Walsh||Seabass||11/2||Completed, 13th place|
|2014||Katie Walsh||Vesper Bell||40/1||Completed, 13th place|
|2015||Nina Carberry||First Lieutenant||14/1||Completed, 16th place|
GRAND NATIONAL STATS – TRAINERS
- Vincent O’Brien trained three successive winners – all different horses – in the 1950s. The roll of honour read Early Mist (1953), Royal Tan (1954) and Quare Times (1955).
- The last permit-holder to train the Grand National winner was the late Frank Gilman. The Leicestershire-based farmer was responsible for Grittar in 1982.
- Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams and Sue Smith are the only women to have trained a Grand National winner. Pitman captured the race for the first time with Corbiere in 1983. She succeeded for a second time with Royal Athlete in 1995 and finished second with Garrison Savannah in 1991. Superior Finish took third spot for the trainer in 1996. The last of her 39 runners, Nahthen Lad in 1999, came 11th. She also trained the winner of the National that never was – Esha Ness. Venetia Williams was successful with Mon Mome in 2009, whilst Sue Smith trained the 2013 winner, Auroras Encore.
- According to Grand National stats, Fred Rimell and George Dockeray are is the most successful National trainers. Each guided four different horses to victory. Rimell trained ESB (1956), Nicolaus Silver (1961), Gay Trip (1970) and Rag Trade (1976). Dockeray trained Lottery (1839), Jerry (1840), Gaylad (1842) and Miss Mowbray (1852). Ginger McCain also had four winners, but with two horses, Red Rum (1973, 74 and 77) and Amberleigh House (2004). His son, Donald, joined the roll of honour by training 2011 winner, Ballabriggs.
- Fred Winter has a unique place in jump racing history. He won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Grand National as a trainer and jockey. Winter trained two Grand National winners – Jay Trump (1965) and Anglo (1966). He partnered two victors, Sundew (1957) and Kilmore (1962) during a remarkable career.
- Two French-trained horses have won the Grand National, Huntsman (1862) and Cortolvin (1867). Both were trained by Yorkshireman Harry Lamplugh, who also rode Huntsman to victory. Lutteur III, noted as a British-trained Grand National victor, held plenty of allegiance to France. His jockey Georges Parfremont and owner James Hennessy were Frenchmen. The horse only arrived at the Epsom yard of trainer Harry Escott that season to get accustomed to English racing.
- The only Welsh-trained horse to win was Kirkland in 1905. Although, Evan Williams has remarkably had a horse placed in five consecutive renewals.
- Rubstic, trained by John Leadbetter in Roxburghshire, became the first Scottish-trained winner, with victory in 1979.
- Irish-trained horses have enjoyed by far the most success of international participants. There were 16 winners since 1900, including six since 1999. Also, a number of Irish-bred horses (including Red Rum, Golden Miller and Many Clouds) have won under English trainers.
- Since 1900 five successful jockeys went on to train Grand National winners as well. These are Algy Anthony, Tommy Carberry, Aubrey Hastings, Fulke Walwyn and Fred Winter.
- Martin Pipe broke many records during his training career. He had more runners in a Grand National than any other trainer. He saddled 10 of the 40-strong field in 2001, with the remounted Blowing Wind doing best in third place.
GRAND NATIONAL STATS – HORSE OWNERS
- The Prince of Wales (King Edward VII), owned 1900 Grand National winner, Ambush II.
- A number of other famous names have owned a National winner. These include Freddie Starr (Miinnehoma, 1994), Anne, Duchess of Westminster, (Last Suspect, 1985), Teasie Weasie Raymond (Rag Trade 1976), Gregory Peck (Different Class 1968) and Fred Pontin (Specify, 1971).
- In 1950 Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother had her first runner in the race in Monaveen. Six years later she would witness her Devon Loch collapse just yards from victory.
- Grand National stats show Trevor Hemmings, enjoyed his hat-trick win in the race. He owns Hedgehunter (2005) Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds.
- Hemmings is now one of the leading owners are alongside James Machell and Noel Le Mare.
- The first success for an American came in 1923. Sergeant Murphy had been bought by John Sanford, and given to his son, who was at Cambridge University.
- Jock Hay Whitney was one of the unluckiest owners in the history of Grand National stats. Whitney was responsible for 14 runners between 1929 and 1951. Sir Lindsay finished third in 1930 and Thomond II occupied the same position in 1934 and 1935. The multimillionaire had the opportunity to buy future dual Grand National winner Reynoldstown.
- American sewing-machine heir F Ambrose Clark sold the seven-year-old Kellsboro’ Jack to his wife Florence for £1. Trainer Ivor Anthony thought it would bring luck. Kellsboro’ Jack, who started at 25/1, won by three lengths.
- Jim Joel was 92 when Maori Venturi won the 1987 Grand National. Noel Le Mare was 89 when Red Rum gained his record-breaking third Grand National in 1977.
- Bryan Burrough, a 23-year-old stockbroker owned Corbiere, who was trained by Jenny Pitman, to win in 1983. Brian Walsh was 26 when Silver Birch took the 2007 renewal.
2018 Grand National Colours and Silks
When picking a horse to back for the Grand National, many times the form book goes out of the window. This is often the case with ‘once-a-year’ punters preferring to keep things simple. These punters often opt for the best-looking jockey silks or even side with their favourite colours. If you follow horse racing, you’ll know that the colours a jockey wears won’t impact the chance of winning. If you’ve studied the form, you won’t care if the jockey is wearing pink polka dots on his silks. Here’s a little more on Grand National colours.
GRAND NATIONAL COLOURS – WHY DO JOCKEYS WEAR DIFFERENT SILKS?
The Jockey Silks Are To Help Commentators and Punters – The main reason why jockeys wear different colours is so punters (and the race commentators in the modern era) can tell the horses apart. The Jockey Club first introduced jockey silks in 1762 after many racegoers complained that they didn’t know which horses were which. Imagine having 40 horses in the Grand National and all jockeys are wearing black. You’d be none the wiser if your horses was winning, fallen or in last place!
WHAT DO GRAND NATIONAL COLOURS MEAN AND HOW ARE THEY CHOSEN?
In the early days of jockey silks the Jockey Club introduced plain colours to keep things simple. But in the modern era there are hundreds of different styles and colours, plus some more recognisable than others.
The silks are actually associated with the owner of each horse and not the jockeys. Therefore, if a jockey has 6 rides at a meeting on a particular day there is a good chance they will be getting changed into new silks for each race.
Once an owner registers his colours with the jockey club then each horse they own will run in those colours.
WHAT IF THE SAME OWNER HAS MORE THAN ONE HORSE IN THE SAME RACE?
It’s actually more common than you think. Yes, the business of owning a race horse is an expensive one. But there are also a lot of very wealthy owners in the sport that have a whole string of horses.
Therefore, there is every chance these big owners will have more than one runner in certain races – so what happens?
It’s simple, they just change the colour of the cap. So, they will run with the same main silk colours (design). But depending on how many horses that owner has in the race, each jockey will wear a different colour cap so punters can still tell them apart.
The jockey wearing the original colour cap will generally be thought to be riding what the owner thinks is his best chance in the race. But it doesn’t always pan out like that – after all this is horse racing and anything can happen!
A recent Grand National example of this would be in the 2016 running of the race as the eventual winner – Rule The World – who is owned by one of Ireland’s biggest owners – The Gigginstown House Stud. They actually had three horses in the 2016 Grand National – First Lieutenant, Sir Des Champs and the winner – Rule The World. However, the winner was actually wearing a blue cap (not the original first choice maroon star), or even the second string white cap that Sir Des Champs wore.
The other main jumps owner that punters will recognise are the green and gold horizontal stripes of popular Irish owner JP McManus. He’s won the Grand National once before (Don’t Push It, 2010), and actually had four runners in the already mentioned 2016 Grand National. So, 17.5% of the 40 runners that year were owned by either McManus or Gigginstown!
ARE THERE ANY LUCKY GRAND NATIONAL COLOURS?
With 40 runners heading to post each year then it’s not really the kind of race you see the same horse winning – after all the last horse to win back-to-back Grand Nationals was the mighty Red Rum in the 1970’s. However, whereas we’ve not seen a repeat winner for over 40 years ,we have had an owner that’s won the race three times since 2005!
Step forward – Trevor Hemmings.
His famous green and yellow quartered silks were worn by the 2005 winner – Hedgehunter, the 2011 hero Ballabriggs and most recently in 2015 by Many Clouds. All three were trained by different stables too as Mr Hemmings likes to spread his horses around. Hedgehunter was trained by Willie Mullins in Ireland, while Ballabriggs was for Donald McCain and Many Clouds gave trainer Oliver Sherwood his first Grand National winner.
PICKING YOUR GRAND NATIONAL WINNER BY THE JOCKEYS SILKS
Over the years, whether you are a ‘once-a-year’ punter or not you will start to remember certain Grand National colours popping up year-after-year. We’ve already mentioned the big owners like Trevor Hemmings, JP McManus and Gigginstown House Stud so racing fans will always latch onto horses that are running for these powerful owners.
However, some Grand National bets will simple be placed on a horse that has a jockey wearing a set of silks that stand out, or even a favourite colour. The same rule applies to certain names of horses with non-racing fans latching on to memorable names that might have a connection with their own lives. If your favourite colour is pink and you spot a horse with a jockey wearing pink then there is every chance you might be drawn to that runner.
SOME JOCKEYS ARE RETAINED BY CERTAIN OWNERS
Once an owner has a horse that makes the final 40 runners in the Grand National his next job is to find a jockey that will ride it. It goes without saying – just like in any sport – the top jockeys with plenty of experience, or ones that have ridden winners in the race before, will be hot property.
However, some jockeys don’t get much of a choice. Big owners – like JP McManus – might have what’s called a ‘retained jockey’ and this means that jockey will ride all their horses. Yes, if – like we’ve mentioned – that owner has a few horses in the race then that retained jockey will have a choice to make on which horse to ride – and they don’t always get it right!
Preventing Grand National Deaths | Horse & Jockey Safety and Welfare
In the build-up to the Grand National, there are always safety and welfare issues that are raised. The 2018 Grand National is expected to be no different. Since the year 2000, there have been eleven Grand National deaths. But in general, deaths in horse racing are still fairly rare. On average, one horse dies for every 250 races run. Having said that, the figures for the Grand National are a lot worse. Between the years 2000 and 2010 there were seven fatalities from the 439 horses that went to post.Over the years Aintree race officials and the British Horse Racing Authority have introduced a number of safety-related changes to the Grand National to make the race safer. This is not only focused around the horses, but also the jockeys. 40 horses running over 30 of the most demanding fences naturally comes with it’s risks. Animal welfare
organisations had long been lobbying for the race to be altered, or even banned altogether.However, in recent times, things have certainly improved on the safety and death toll front. The last of Grand National deaths being Synchronised in 2012. The 2017 race saw just four horses unseat their riders and another four fall. This means 32 either finished the race or were pulled-up without taking a tumble or losing their jockey.
GRAND NATIONAL HORSE WELFARE STATISTICS
PREVENTING GRAND NATIONAL DEATHS – HORSE SAFETY MEASURES
This recent improvement has been put down to several factors. These include altering the fences and also reducing the actual length of the race.
From 2016, the Grand National distance was shortened from 4m4f (4 ½ miles) to 4m2f. The thinking behind this was to reduce the length of time it took to get to the first fence. There are 40 horses that are revved-up at the start of the race. Therefore, there was a tendency to head towards the first fence too quickly, resulting in mistakes and falls.
Other alterations to the fences have included adding in plastic inserts to make the centre of certain obstacles more forgiving. With 16 fences, 14 of which are jumped twice, these changes have clearly made a big difference. Another area the welfare campaigners have focused on in recent times has been the landing side of certain fences being lower than the take-off side. This clearly adds to the difficulty for both horse and jockey with those against it seeing this as a way of tricking the horses. To combat this the Aintree track have made various alterations to the landing side of certain key fences – like Bechers Brook – making the landing side level a lot closer to the take-off side.
The welfare surrounding the Grand National is also not just during the race, but after the contest. The Aintree track and racing officials have put ‘hosing down’ facilities in place to quickly cool down the runners.
In a race like the Grand National there is always going to be people that oppose the race. However, with changes to the length of the course and certain fences, it’s clear these have made a positive impact to the reduction of Grand National deaths in recent years .
The Grand National is billed as the world’s greatest steeplechase. The event provides a stern test for both horse and jockey. Of course, everyone inside and outside of racing wants to make the race as safe as possible, but officials also have to strike a balance that keeps the test of winning the Grand National a unique one and at the moment it looks like they are achieving just that.
What time is the Grand National 2018?
You can watch the Grand National at 5:15pm on Saturday 14th April 2018 on ITV1
So, when is the Grand National 2018?
This year, the tapes go up on the 2018 Aintree Grand National Meeting on Thursday 12th April with the Grand National Start times first race at 1:45pm and broadcasting beginning for the race at 2:20pm on ITV1. The Aintree Grand National Festival is always spread over three days (Thursday-Saturday) with the Grand National staged on the Saturday. The gates open at 10:30am each day so racegoers have time to get into the course. The action continues over the three day event. Friday 13th April is Ladies Day and Grand National Day is the sell out day on Saturday 14th April 2018.
WHAT DATE AND TIME IS THE GRAND NATIONAL?
In recent years the Grand National start times have been put back to 5:15pm and is now shown on ITV1. The later race time is mainly to attract more viewers as when the race was run around 4pm there were generally a lot of other sporting events – like football – going on at that time too. So now you can watch the Grand National at 5:15pm on Saturday 14th April 2018.
As the Aintree gates open around 10:30am each day, racegoers will have plenty of time to get into the course before the first race. With bars and restaurants open all day, plus corporate boxes and suites offering lunch before the racing starts, then many racegoers will flock to the track between 10:30am and 11am in order to make the most of their day.
The track will also have other entertainment going on so if you are attending the 2018 Grand National Meeting on any of the three days then be sure to explore. Generally, there are shops and stalls onsite that will sell anything things like racing fashion or racing memorabilia like pictures or books.
Also look out for competitions dotted around the track – for example ‘Best Dressed Lady’, Best ‘Dressed Man’, or ‘Best Dressed Couple’. There can often be some decent sponsors prizes for the winners, like cash or even a car! To help you plan your Grand National Day here are the expected running times for each race over the three days.
Grand National Thursday – A Day for Champions
In 2018 the opening day of the Aintree Grand National Meeting will also have a new look and feel. Grand National Thursday is set to honour the local sporting talent that’s come out of Merseyside with a ‘Champions Lounge’.The three-day Aintree gets going each year on the Thursday. Despite the crowds being nowhere near as big as Grand National Day, it’s still a hugely popular day on the jump racing calendar. The Aintree racecourse can still expect around 35,000 people to come through the turnstiles and outside the Cheltenham Festival this is one of the most popular racing days for jump racing fans. The racing gets going on Merseyside at 1:45pm and with seven top-class races to enjoy the Thursday card always attracts runners from National Hunt yards from both the UK and Ireland.
WHEN IS GRAND NATIONAL THURSDAY?
The date of the Aintree Grand National Meeting can often vary and this is mainly due when Easter falls each year. In 2018 the three-day meeting is actually a bit later that usual with Easter Sunday being on April 1st this year. This is great news for both trainers and punters though as the gap between the Cheltenham Festival and the Aintree Grand National Meeting in 2018 is longer than some previous years.
With the 2018 Cheltenham Festival finishing on Friday 16th March, and the opening day of the 2018 Aintree not until the 12th April then there is a full 26 days between the two. This gives horses, that would have raced at Cheltenham, a little bit longer to recover, plus it also gives trainers more time to prepare their runners – meaning there’s a much better chance we’ll see the top horses running at both these big festivals in 2018.
WHY GO TO GRAND NATIONAL THURSDAY?
The event will open day one with a new name ‘A Day For Champions’ with the main attraction being a Champions Lounge where racegoers can chat to sporting heroes from both past and present. The lounge will be hosted by BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker next to the Aintree parade ring. Q&A sessions with rumoured stars like Michael Owen, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Sharp and Olympic gold medallist Sam Quek ready to mingle with the Aintree race goers.
Some say this is the BEST day on the UK Jump Racing calendar offering FOUR grade one races. A number of Merseyside sporting champions will be there for the new Opening Ceremony, and attending the new Champions Lounge. Aintree will also use this day to collaborate with the RAF for their centenary celebrations.
GRAND NATIONAL THURSDAY RACE TIMES & RUNNING ORDER
- 45 The Merseyrail Manifesto Novices’ Steeple Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f 100,000
- 20 The Doom Bar Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f 100,000
- 50 The Betway Bowl Steeple Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f 150,000
- 25 The Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f 200,000
- 05 The Randox Health Foxhunters’ Steeple Chase (Class 2) 2m 5f 40,000
- 40 The Betway Red Rum Handicap Steeple Chase (Grade 3) 2m 90,000
- 15 The Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat (Grade 2) 2m 1f 45,000
Aintree Grand National Ladies Day
The three-day Aintree Grand National Meeting continues each year on the Friday with Ladies Day. This day, in modern times has been earmarked by many as the ‘fun day’ of the the Grand National festival. Dubbed #FabulousFriday, you can expect a sea of fashion, bubbles and famous faces. With a bigger 45,000 crowd expected at the Grand National Ladies Day 2018, attendance ramps-up from the opening day. While there are high calibre races to bet on, it’s generally party-time for much of the afternoon.Of course, there is top-class racing to enjoy too with seven decent contests that start at 1.40pm. But for many of the 45,000 crowd, the attention is primarily on the other side of the track, with events like the ‘Style Award’. Style Ambassadors mingle with the crowds in the the Red Rum Garden to find the winner of this coveted award. With big prizes like cars, holidays and cash up for grabs, Grand National Ladies Day is a hugely popular day in the UK Jump racing calendar.In 2018 the day also falls on Friday 13th, so let’s hope it’s not an unlucky one for punters! In recent years, the day has also become famous for celebrities, mainly in the Liverpool and Manchester areas, making an appearance at the track – with Coleen Rooney being a current example. With many tabloid newspapers covering the day, this day has a certain hype for the who’s who of the glossy magazines.
WHAT IS THE GRAND NATIONAL LADIES DAY DRESS CODE?
Believe it, or not and unlike Royal Ascot Ladies Day, there is no official dress code for Ladies Day.
However, if you did turn up on Ladies day in tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt, not only would you feel extremely out of place there is a chance you’d not be let in anyway.
Ladies Day is called that for a reason. If you are attending then you have to get into to spirit of the day and dress up. For the ladies this means colourful dress and hats, while for the men you’ll look out of place if you are wearing anything but smart trousers a shirt and a jacket!
HOW MUCH DO GRAND NATIONAL LADIES DAY TICKETS COST?
With demand up, prices are also on the increase on Ladies Day. The cheapest ticket £43 for entry into the Tattersalls Stand.
This goes up to £115 for an upper seat in the Lord Sefton Stand, or if you prefer something a bit more in the middle of the Tattersalls and the Lord Sefton Stand then the Lord Daresbury or Princess Royal Roof options at £88 might appeal.
AINTREE LADIES DAY’ – FRIDAY 13TH APRIL 2018 RACE TIMES
- 40 The Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 4f 70,000
- 20 The Crabbie’s Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f 100,000
- 50 The Betway Mildmay Novices’ Steeple Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f 100,000
- 25 The JLT Melling Steeple Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f 200,000
- 05 The Randox Health Topham Steeple Chase (Grade 3) 2m 5f 120,000
- 40 The Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m ½f 100,000
- 15 The Weatherbys Champion Standard Open NH Flat (Grade 2) 2m 1f 45,000
Getting to Aintree
Aintree Racecourse is situated on the outskirts of Liverpool, just one mile from the M57 and M58, which link the M62 and M6. Follow the A59 to Liverpool and the signs as you approach the racecourse for routes to the car parks. Many races are held at Aintree, the most important of which is the Grand National. Full address: Aintree Racecourse, Ormskirk Road, Aintree, Liverpool. L9 5AS.
GETTING TO AINTREE RACECOURSE BY CAR
- From the South:
Leave M6 at J21A and join M62 west. Leave M62 at J6 to join M57, follow signs for the races.
- From the North:
Leave M6 at J26 and join M58, follow signs for the races.
- From Mersey Tunnel:
Follow signs for Preston, then for A59, then signs for the races.
AINTREE RACECOURSE CAR PARKING
Limited on-course parking is available for the Grand National meeting. This can be booked by calling the booking line on 0844 579 3001.
Other than Steeplechase and County Car Parking, there is no other car parking in and around Aintree Racecourse. Buses, taxis, private hire and trains all operate to Aintree and special arrangements will have been made for them.
GETTING TO AINTREE RACECOURSE BY BUS
Take bus services: 300, 311, 345, 350 and 351 both to and from Liverpool. From Bootle New Strand take route 61A. For further information on bus routes, contact Traveline or visit Mersey Travel.
GETTING TO AINTREE RACECOURSE BY RAIL
The nearest mainline station to Aintree is Liverpool Lime Street. Liverpool Central Station is just a short walk from Lime Street, and from here you can catch a train to Aintree. Trains depart from Liverpool Central every 7 and a half minutes during the Grand National, and every fifteen minutes on race days outside of the Grand National. It takes fifteen minutes to get to Aintree on the train, and Aintree Station is directly opposite the racecourse.
Rail enquiries: 08457 48 49 50
Merseytravel: 0871 200 22 33
GETTING TO AINTREE RACECOURSE BY AIR
Liverpool John Lennon Airport is the nearest airport to the racecourse and is a 20 minute drive by road. Alternatively, take a bus to Liverpool South Parkway Merseyrail station where you can catch a train to Aintree (change at Liverpool Central or Moorfields onto the Ormskirk train). Manchester Airport is approximately a 45 minute drive by road.
Grand National Stands and Enclosures
GRAND NATIONAL STANDS
Aintree has five main grandstands. These include; The Princess Royal Stand, The County Stand, The Queen Mother Stand, The Earl of Derby Stand and The Lord Sefton Stand. Within the Grandstands, racegoers can purchase a choice of standing or reserved seat badges. All Grand National stands have full bar, catering and betting facilities.
PRINCESS ROYAL STAND
Seats: Always in popular demand, these seats offer excellent views overlooking the home straight. However, enhancements to the seats make this enclosure one of the most sought after places on the racecourse. Firstly, the enhancements include a newly extended and refurbished lounge with Champagne and Seafood concessions. The stand is situated between the Chair and the Water Jump, hence, offering a view of the final 200 metres. The seats in this stand are mostly undercover.
Roof: Is partially covered standing area, with the Tommy Wallis Suite as its dedicated bar. This enclosure offers a unique vantage point over the racecourse. It is the most suited of the Grand National stands for viewing the exciting final few minutes of every race.
Roof: With a birds-eye view directly over the winning post, you can always see who’s won before anyone else. A beautiful uncovered area, as well as traditional architecture ensure this standing enclosure is popular with racegoers.
QUEEN MOTHER STAND
Seats: Located close to the start and finish lines and adjacent to the Red Rum Garden, the Queen Mother Stand excellent. It is completely covered, therefore protecting racegoers from the elements. Queen Mother Seats are accessed from the front of the grandstand. Grandstand badges provide designated tote betting within each enclosure, big screen viewing and access to the Parade Ring and Winner’s Enclosure.
Queen Mother Stand Seats are the only section of Grand National stands that are also available with Winner’s Bar badges. Furthermore, the Winner’s Bar occupies the former Weighing Room. Its walls are covered with historical artefacts and tributes to Grand National legends.
Roof: Located just yards past the Grand National finish line, the Queen Mother Stand Roof offers premium standing viewing. It’s close to where the horses enter the racecourse, the Parade Ring and Winner’s Enclosure. It’s also not far from the Red Rum Garden.
EARL OF DERBY AND LORD SEFTON STANDS
Seats: Open for the first time at the 2007 Grand National meeting, the Earl of Derby and Lord Sefton grandstands were designed to offer first-class viewing facilities for the 21st century spectator. Subsequently, both stands fit the brief perfectly.
Each of these Grand National stands provide two levels of tiered, covered seating (Upper and Lower), higher than any other seated enclosure at Aintree and hence provide breathtaking views over the entire course. Both levels permit access to a private saddle bar overlooking the horse-walk tunnel and Parade Ring, ensuring racegoers are in the hub of the day’s excitement.
Set at a unique angle, overlooking the Grand National start and finish, you probably won’t want to leave your seat all day. Finally, the tiers of seats leave you with a 360° impression of the famous course – the place to be to soak up the magic that is Aintree.
Terraces: Not to be confused with roof badges, the terraces are lower than other standing enclosures but offer a prime spot, closer to the action than anywhere else on the racecourse. Located either side of the horse walk, be the first to cheer a winner on its way back to the Winner’s Enclosure as well as witness the colourful preparations of horses and jockeys at the Grand National start.
WEST TIP SEATS
Part of the atmospheric Tattersalls Enclosure, these covered, temporary seats offer great views up the home straight. With a dedicated bar for West Tip seats, you can enjoy luxury, as well as explore the rest of the Tattersalls Enclosure. These seats are always in great demand, so early booking is essential to avoid disappointment.
THE TATTERSALLS ENCLOSURE
The Tattersalls Enclosure was greatly enhanced in 2007 with the completion of the new Aintree Pavilion. This new permanent facility supplies one of the largest and most atmospheric enclosures. As well as permitting access to the new Aintree Pavilion, Tattersalls tickets allow racegoers to sample bars and catering areas within the Red Rum Garden and the legendary Irish bar within the Princess Royal Stand. Tattersalls tickets also permit access for viewing of the Parade Ring and Winner’s Enclosure, ensuring you sample the best of Aintree’s unique atmosphere during your visit.
From the Tattersalls Enclosure, racing is mainly viewed from the large Aintree Mound in front of the Aintree Pavilion. Although this facility is not undercover, it does offer great views of the horses racing up the home straight. There is large-screen TV viewing directly in front of the mound. Live music can be found in various locations within the Tattersalls Enclosure, ensuring racegoers are entertained throughout the day.
The Steeplechase Enclosure is a great place to experience the atmosphere of the Grand National. Situated on the far side of the Melling Road, this enclosure allows great viewing of the Grand National itself. A new seating facility, overlooking the Mildmay course, has been created so this Grand National Stands offers viewing of all other races. It is open on Grand National day only. There is no access to the Parade Ring or Winner’s Enclosure from this area. However this area does have its own bars, catering, betting facilities, big screen viewing and live entertainment.
Platinum County Lounge
The newest style bar experience at the racecourse today. This exclusive lounge area offers racegoers comfort and luxury for a special day at the Grand National. With reserved covered seats in the County Stand, overlooking the Water Jump and Winning Post, you’re therefore in prime position. You’ll receive premium benefits in this VIP facility. This exclusive area features a private entrance, a reserved seat, complimentary racecard, raceday hostess plus a souvenir badge. Last but not least, you’ll have access to a dedicated Champagne bar (open for an additional hour following the final race). Although this package is not inclusive of food or drink, there is access to the luxury catering concessions.
PARADE RING AND WINNER’S ENCLOSURE
The Winner’s Enclosure at Aintree has provided some of the sport’s most memorable and compelling images. Over the years, this is where ecstatic connections have greeted their returning hero. However, 2006 marked the opening of a new Parade Ring, incorporating the Winner’s Enclosure for the Grand National. The new facilities are designed to allow many more racegoers to witness these thrilling scenes.
There is limited car parking for a fee at the racecourse. The easiest way to reach Aintree is therefore by rail, with Aintree Station directly opposite the racecourse. Limited on-course parking is available with the Steeplechase parking being the nearest car park. This can be booked from August 2011 by calling the course’s Booking Line on 0844 579 3001.
Other than Steeplechase and County Car Parking, there is no other car parking in and around Aintree Racecourse. Buses, taxis, private hire and trains all operate to Aintree and special arrangements have been made for them.
The County carpark, situated next to the racecourse, is suitable for disabled parking. However, all spaces are limited, consequently, early booking is absolutely essential for access to Grand National stands. The Princess Royal Stand and Queen Mother Stand offer the best disabled facilities. There are toilets and lift access on all floors.
Although there is no official dress code, smart is preferable. Sports clothes and fancy dress are subsequently not permitted in the Grand National stands.
Food and drink cannot be brought onto the racecourse and will be confiscated by security staff upon arrival. Aintree has a wide range of food and drink concessions on offer in all enclosures. As a result, picnics can only be consumed in the Steeplechase Car Park.
Open from 10am on each day of the meeting, get to Aintree early to make the most of your day. Make sure to allow for racecourse security procedures.
Thursday’s and Friday’s races start at 2pm, whilst on Saturday; racing begins at the slightly earlier time of 1.45pm. The Grand National itself is at 4.15pm. On each day, racing concludes at around 5.30pm.
Grand National Prize Money | Prize Fund
The Grand National is one of the world’s richest horse races in terms of Grand National Prize Money. With £1 million in total prize money again in 2018, it’s no surprise the race will attract another big field. Over the years the Aintree Grand National has had many race sponsors, Though the current supporter of the world’s Greatest Steeplechase is Randox Health.In recent years we’ve seen Canadian gin firm – Seagram Distillers – sponsor the race from 1984 to 1991. While since then we’ve had Martell (1992-2004), John Smith’s (2005-2013) and Crabbie’s (2014-2016). Plus, unlike the big championship races like the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle, the Grand National is a race that everyday horse racing owners have a chance of winning.Yes, they still need a touch of class and, of course, stamina to win the race. But being a handicap, this always makes the Grand National open to a variety of horses of different ability.
We see heavyweight owners like Trevor Hemmings, JP McManus and Gigginstown House Stud win the Grand National. But in recent years we’ve also seen Grand National Prize money going to the likes of Auroras Encore, Pineau De Re and One For Arthur. They are winning the race for everyday owners, that might only have a few horses running under their name.https://www.betkingcompare.co.uk/betting/where-can-i-get-free-bets/
GRAND NATIONAL PRIZE MONEY BREAKDOWN
In the Grand National 2017, we saw the Lucinda Russell-trained One For Arthur win the race at 14/1 for owners Deborah Thompson and Belinda McClung. These two unknown owners hit the big-time when landing the £560k first prize. With a £1million prize haul, it pays out even on the 10th-placed horse. Getting £1k for just completing the course can pay it’s way.
With 40 runners, this means only 25% of the horses will get prize money. But going down to 10th place is much further down than any other race on the racing calendar.
The winner receives a cool £561k – a life-changing amount for most horse racing owners, plus with all the spin-offs and public appearances at Grand National winner can make afterwards then many boast their earning this way too. With a £350k difference between finishing first and second, the stakes are high. Just a nose – like in 2012 when Neptune Collonges beat Sunnyhillboy can be a bitter blow for the runner-up – not just in the prestige of winning the Grand National, but also by the small sum of £350k!
Third takes home just over £100k, while 4th pockets £52k in cash, with 5th netting £26k – not a bad day’s work if you can get it!
GRAND NATIONAL PRIZE MONEY JOCKEYS
In terms of the jockeys, a National Hunt rider will receive in the region of approx £169.85 over jumps per ride, which in the whole scheme of things when it comes to the Grand National is pretty insignificant. We are sure most jockeys would ride in the race for free!!
Some jockeys have personal arrangements with owners and they receive a riders’ retainers fee for riding all that owners horses. Powerful owners like JP McManus is an example of this, who has had AP McCoy riding for him in the past for a reported £1million a year.
As well as their riders’ fees, the winning jockeys will also get a percentage of the prize money. On average this is around 8-8.5% for a winning ride, or 4-5% for a placed finish. Therefore, based on this the winning jockey of the Grand National in the present day will pocket around £45k for riding the winner!
GRAND NATIONAL PRIZE MONEY BREAKDOWN
Grand National Fences and Course
The Grand National fences are the ultimate test of horse and jockey. The race comprises two full circuits of a unique 2¼ mile (3,600 metres) course. Along the way, challengers face 30 of the most testing fences in the world of jump racing.The Grand National was originally designed as a cross-country steeplechase when it was first officially run in 1839. The runners started on the edge of the racecourse, racing out over open countryside towards the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The gates, hedges and ditches that they met along the way were flagged. These provided them with the earliest incarnation of today’s Grand National fences to be jumped along the way.
Posts and rails erected at the two points where the runners jumped a brook.The runners returned by running along the edge of the canal before re-entering the course at the opposite end. The runners then ran the length of the racecourse before the second circuit and finish at the stands. The majority of the race therefore took place not on the actual Aintree Racecourse but instead in the adjoining countryside. That countryside was incorporated into the modern course but commentators still often refer to it as “the country”. This confuses millions of once-a-year racing viewers.Nowadays, around 150 tonnes of spruce branches from the Lake District, are used to dress the Grand National fences. Each fence used to be made from a wooden frame and covered with the distinctive green spruce. However, a radical change for the 2013 renewal saw that frame replaced by a softer material known as “plastic birch”.
SAFETY CHANGES TO THE GRAND NATIONAL FENCES
Following safety reviews after both the 2011 and 2012 renewals, a number of changes were made to the course. This included some reductions in Grand National fences or the drop after fences, plus the levelling of landing zones.
Since 2013, the start of the race is now 90 yards closer to the first fence. This reduced the race to four miles and three-and-a-half furlongs, from four-and-a-half miles. Measures were also introduced to stop horses getting caught up in the starting tape.
In particular, the start now includes the ‘no-go’ zone. This is defined by a line on the track extended from 15 to 30 yards from the starting tape. The starter’s rostrum has been moved to a position between the starting tape and the ‘no-go’ zone. This reduces the potential for horses to go through the starting tape prematurely.
The tapes themselves are also more user-friendly, with increased visibility. While there is now a specific briefing between the starters’ team and the jockeys on Grand National day.
The changes to the start are aimed at slowing the speed the first fence is approached at. While moving the start further away from the crowd reduces noise that can distract the horses.
The makeup of all of the Grand National fences changed significantly in 2013. The new fences are still covered in spruce, but wooden posts have been replaced by “plastic birch”. On top of that birch, there’s fourteen to sixteen inches of spruce that the horses can knock off. The outward appearance of the Grand National fences remains the same.
Other measures included £100,000 being invested in irrigation to produce the safest jumping ground possible. This includes a new bypass and pen around fence four to catch riderless horses.
There is a hazard to overcome even before the race starts. The build up, parade and re-girthing prior to the off lasts for around 25 minutes. This is over double the time it takes for any other race.
With 40 starters, riders naturally want a good sight of the first fence. After the long build-up, their nerves are stretched to breaking point. This means the stewards’ pre-race warning to go steady is often totally ignored.
THE GRAND NATIONAL FENCES
1 & 17: Thorn fence, 4ft 6in high, 2ft 9in wide – The first often claims many victims as horses tend to travel to it far too keenly. As described above, the drop on the landing side was reduced in 2011.
2 & 18: Almost the same height as the first but much wider at 3ft 6in. Prior to 1888, the first two fences were located halfway between the first to second and second to third jumps. The fence became known as The Fan after a mare refused at the obstacle three years in succession. But it lost that name when the fences were relocated.
3 & 19 Westhead: This is the first big test with a 6ft ditch on the approach guarding a 4ft 10in high fence.
4 & 20: Plain fence, 4ft 10in high and 3ft wide. In 2011, the 20th became the first fence in Grand National history to be bypassed. It followed an equine fatality on the first circuit. In 2012, it was reduced in height by 2 inches to 4 foot 10 inches (1.47 metres). It was regarded as the hardest fence on the course to jump, along with Becher’s Brook. Its landing area was smoothed out ahead of the 2013 race.
5 & 21: Spruce dressed fence, 5ft high and 3ft 6in wide. Its landing side was also levelled in 2013. It was bypassed on the final lap for the first time in 2012. Medics needed treat a jockey who fell from his mount on the first lap and had broken a leg.
6 & 22 Becher’s Brook: Although the fence looks innocuous from the take-off side, the steep drop on the landing side, together with a left-hand turn on landing, combine to make this the most thrilling and famous fence in the horse racing world. The fence actually measures well over 6 ft on the landing side. A drop of between 5 and 10 in from take off lies on the other side. Horses are not expecting the ground the disappear under them on landing. Riders need to sit back and use their body weight to act as ballast to keep the horses stable.
As described above, there have been a number of alterations to make it fairer and safer for horse and rider. The whole field managed to clear the obstacle on the first circuit last year.
Becher’s Brook earned its name as one of the most famous Grand National fences when a top jockey, Captain Martin Becher, took shelter in the brook after being unseated. “Water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whisky” he reflected.
7 & 23 Foinavon Fence: Basically an ‘ordinary’ fence (4ft 6in high and 3ft wide) that was made famous in 1967 when Fionavon was the only horse to scramble over it at the first time of asking, following a mass pile-up. The jump is the smallest on the course. Though, coming straight after the biggest drop, it can catch horses and riders out.
THE CANAL TURN
8 & 24 Canal Turn: Made of hawthorn stakes covered in Norway spruce, it gets its name from the fact that there is a canal in front of the horses when they land. To avoid it, they must turn a full 90 degrees when they touch down.
The race can be won or lost here. A diagonal leap, taking the fence at a scary angle reduces the turn on landing. With 30 or more horses often standing at this point, not every rider has the option to take this daring passage. Before the First World War, it was not uncommon for loose horses to continue straight after the jump. They’d end up in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal itself. There was once a ditch before the fence but this was filled in after a mêlée in the 1928 race.
9 & 25 Valentine’s Brook: The third of four famous fences to be jumped in succession. It is 5ft high and 3ft 3in wide with a brook on the landing side that’s about 5ft 6in wide. The fence was originally known as the Second Brook. But it was renamed after a horse named Valentine was reputed to have jumped the fence hind legs first in 1840.
10 & 26: Thorn fence, 5ft high and 3ft wide that leads the runners alongside the canal towards two ditches.
11 & 27 Booth: The main problem with this fence, which is 5ft high and 3ft wide, is the 6ft wide ditch on the take-off side.
12 & 28: Same size as the two previous fences, but with a 5ft 6in ditch on the landing side, which can catch runners out.
The runners then cross the Melling Road near to the Anchor Bridge. It’s a popular vantage point since the earliest days of the race. This also marks the point where the runners are said to be re-entering the “racecourse proper”. In the early days it was thought there was an obstacle near this point known as the Table Jump. It may have resembled a bank like those seen at Punchestown in Ireland. In the 1840s the Melling Road was also flanked by hedges and the runners had to jump into the road and then back out.
13 & 29: Second-last fence on the final circuit, it is 4ft 7in high and 3ft wide. This is the other obstacle to have had its landing side smoothed out ahead of the 2013 renewal.
14 & 30: Almost the same height as the previous fence and it is rare for any horse to fall at the final fence in the Grand National.
15 The Chair: The final two jumps of the first circuit form the only pair negotiated just once. They couldn’t be more different. The Chair is both the tallest (5ft 2in) and broadest fence. It has a 6ft wide ditch on the take-off side.
The landing side turf is actually raised six inches above the take-off ground. This has the opposite effect to the drop at Becher’s. After having stretched to get over the ditch, horses are surprised to find the ground coming up to meet them. This is spectacular when horses get it right and, for all the wrong reasons, when they don’t.
This fence is the site of the only human fatality in the National’s history. Joe Wynne sustained injuries in a fall in 1862. This brought about the ditch on the take-off side of the fence. The fence was the location where a distance judge sat in the earliest days of the race. On the second circuit he would record the finishing order from his position. He would declare any horse that had not passed him before the previous runner passed the finishing post as “distanced”, a non-finisher. The practise ended in the 1850s but the monument where the chair stood is still there.
The fence was originally known as the Monument Jump but The Chair came into more regular use in the 1930s.
16 Water Jump: This 2ft 9in fence brings the first circuit to an end. The sight of the runners jumping it at speed presents a terrific spectacle in front of the grandstands. The fence was originally a stone wall in the very early Grand Nationals. On the final circuit, after the 30th fence, the remaining runners bear right, avoiding The Chair and Water Jump, to head onto a “run-in” to the finishing post.
The 474-yard long run in from the final fence to the finish is the longest in the country. It has an acute elbow halfway up it that further drains the stamina reserves of both horse and jockey.
For numerous riders, this elongated run-in has proved mental and physical agony. The winning post seems to be retreating with every weary stride.
Don’t count your money until the post is reached as with the rest of the Grand National course. The run-in can, and usually does, change fortunes. The likes of Devon Loch, Crisp and Sunnyhillboy have all famously had defeat snatched in heat breaking fashion.
No visit to Aintree would be complete without taking the opportunity to see some of these famous fences close up. The whole course can actually be walked on the morning of the race (subject to ground conditions and security requirements). Walkers should leave an hour to do a circuit, which must be completed one hour prior to the first race. Maps, guiding racegoers to the start point, are located around the racecourse.
GRAND NATIONAL HANDICAP HISTORY
Historically, the allocation of weights for the Grand National was crucial for the prospects of trainers, jockeys and owners. The Grand National Handicap has cleared the path to big-race glory or produced a burden too heavy to overcome.
Unlike the other most prestigious steeplechase of the year, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Grand National is a handicap race. This means horses carry differing weights according to their previous form. The idea behind the Grand National handicap is to make for a more even race. The handicapper’s ultimate (though unfeasible) aim is for all horses to pass the winning post in a dead heat.
The Grand National is the only race where the British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, can use his discretion to determine the weights. He can personally select what each horse will carry and can deviate from the normal handicap ratings.
The “best” horse in the race is given the top weight (about 11st 10lb). The weights allotted to the other horses are set in relation to this. This means if the top-weighted horse drops out, the weights for others may alter but will not change in relation to each other.
GRAND NATIONAL HANDICAP MINIMUMS
Even if a horse is allotted 8st 12lbs, it must carry 10 stone, the required minimum. This means some horses will be carrying possibly a stone more than they should be (known as being out of the handicap). This disadvantage should suggest they are likely to perform less well than their rivals. Many punters will automatically put a line through horses who are out of the Grand National handicap. As the quality of the horses has improved, few horses if any are running off anything other than their mark.
In allocating a weight to each horse, handicapper Phil Smith must take a variety of factors into account. This includes form – a horse’s recent/previous performances and the course: the so-called ‘Aintree Factor’. This begs the questions, does the horse like the track? Is (s)he proven over long trips?
The final field is determined by each contender’s rating. The highest-weighted horses given preference in a maximum field of 40.
Until Many Clouds, no horse carrying more than 11st 7lb had won since Red Rum‘s 1977 third victory, (11st 8lb). However, in the 25 runnings between 1984 and 2009 only one winner (Hedgehunter, 2005) carried more than 11st. The win in 2010 of Don’t Push It carrying 11st 5lb clearly heralded a change in this trend. Many Clouds shouldered 11st 9lbs.
CHANGES TO THE GRAND NATIONAL HANDICAP
Five of the last seven winners in the Grand National Handicap have carried at least 11st. There is now a widespread view that horses at the top are no longer at a big disadvantage. In part, it’s due to a new formula for handicapping the National devised in 2001. Essentially the handicap has been compressed, decreasing the gap between the top and lowest weighted horses, creating a more competitive race.
According to Phil Smith: “Looking back over the history of the race, we realised that the highly weighted horses had a moderate record, so we thought something needed to be done to try to not overburden the better horses.”
Some 15 years ago, the Grand National field was still largely made up of horses out of the handicap. They were carrying the minimum 10st weight. On the final race card these could sometimes account for 70% of the field. But, as we’ve already said, in the past few years, every horse has got into the handicap proper. In 1999, the lowest-rated horse in the race had an official rating of 110. In the 2011 renewal, the lowest-rated horse, Golden Kite, has a rating of 135. So, the quality of the field increased by 25lbs in that 11 year period. Last year’s bottom weights had a mark of 139.
The result is that the top weighted horses will have only a few pounds more than their rivals. Officials will be giving no more than a stone and a half to any runner. It’s a far cry from a century ago, when Manifesto, the 1897 and 1899 winner, gave 48lb to some horses in the 1900 race.
GRAND NATIONAL HANDICAP COMPRESSING
All of this means that shouldering a burden of 11st or more – previously considered insurmountable – is no longer the task it used to be. When Hedgehunter carried 11st 1lb in 2005, he was the first National winner to carry over 11st in 22 years. But 2009 winner, Mon Mome, carried 11st to win the race in a year in which the top four horses all carried 11st or more, whilst the 2010 winner – Don’t Push It – carried 11st 5lb and the runner-up – Black Apalachi – carried 11st 6lb.
In a single, idiosyncratic race like the National, there will always be outsiders. But it is likely that Aintree has seen the last of winners such as Bobbyjo who, carrying 10st in 1999 and racing from 14lbs out of the handicap, streaked to victory by 10 lengths. In fact, the recent dramatic increase in the quality of horses taking part means Bobbyjo wouldn’t have made the starting line in any of the past 10 runnings. According to Smith: “Weight is important but it’s not the be all and end all, it’s just the trainers who think it is.”
Thus, whilst Red Rum remains the last horse to win the Grand National Handicap off top weight (and the first since the 1930s), it may not be long before that achievement is repeated – 2013 winner, Neptune Collonges, was the fifth top weight, whilst only former Gold Cup winner Lord Windamere had more weight than Many Clouds.
As sporting sights go, few can match the sheer excitement of 40 horses thundering towards the first fence at Aintree in the Grand National.