The Grand National is almost upon us, and as fans of anything to do with horses, we’re excited about it. This race is one of the most watched in the world, with more than 600 million people tuning in for the race each year, not to mention the 150,000 who attend in person.
With that in mind, it’s worth learning a little about this monumental race’s history. We’ve prepared this guide to absolutely everything you need to know about the Grand National so you can enjoy the event and wow your friends with your knowledge.
History of the Grand National
As with the history of many of the UK’s great races, the history of the Grand National is cloudy, mainly because it first began so long ago.
Racing experts agree that the race was first run in 1836, as this is what most evidence suggests. However, some racing historians believe it was first run in 1839. If you agree with the earlier start date, the first winner was The Duke, ridden by Captain Martin Becher (after whom Becher’s Brook was named). As it happens, The Duke would also win the race again in its second year.
Although the first three runnings of the race are seen as unofficial, they remain the first Grand Nationals run at Aintree. Since the beginning, the National has been run every year except for one year during WW1, another during WW2, and then during the global lockdowns of 2020.
While one might imagine that the Grand National is the oldest race in the UK horse racing calendar, that accolade actually goes to the Kiplingcotes Derby, which has been running since 1519.
The Grand National Today
Today, the Grand National runs on a course that is still four miles and two furlongs long, and many of the original fences remain. In recent years, some fences have been altered to improve safety for both horses and riders, making the race less dangerous for everyone. The maximum field stands at forty horses (and riders); most years, all 40 of these places are filled.
The Grand National is perhaps mostly known for offering the highest prize in the National Hunt Calendar. In 2023, horses will compete for a share of the £1 million prize pool, with £500,000 being awarded to the first past the post.
Placing a Bet
One of the things that people enjoy the most about the Grand National is being able to bet on the race. There are often sweepstakes held amongst groups of friends or even in places of work. Whether you’re part of a sweepstake or you want to place a bet on your own, knowing more about the process is helpful.
It’s possible to place a win-only bet on whichever horse you think will win outright. You can also back a horse each way, where you wager that it will finish in the first five; this will cost you double your stake.
If you’re considering placing a bet on the race this year, there are plenty of grand national free bets to choose from, which can help your wagering money go further.
Noble Yeats is the current favorite but still has reasonable odds at 8/1, representing good value even as an each-way bet.
As the Grand National is so popular, there are often special bets that you can place, such as betting on which trainer might win, particularly if they have more than one horse running in the race. Some people like to bet on the first three horses to come past the post, whereas others want to bet on winning margins.
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