The Grand National is one of the biggest sportive events in the world. Held every year at Aintree racecourse, the meeting attracts tens of thousands on the day and millions watching globally.
From a betting perspective, there are few sporting events that get the casual punter excited to place a bet as the Grand National does. Whilst we don’t have exact figures, we would estimate that the majority of people who bet on the race may not place another bet for the rest of year, highlighting just how unique it is.
What’s great about the race is that everyone’s got their own story to tell. It might be the time they got one of the few 100/1 winners over the years or even combined with a friend to win enough to pay for a holiday.
Another relatively unique aspect to the race is that most professional bettors tend to avoid it or at least refrain from their usual stakes. You see, the race is highly unpredictable, which makes it so interesting for the casual bettor due to the lack of research or knowledge into the race that’s needed.
That being said, there are still a few nuggets of information we want to make you aware of and in this guide on betting on the Grand National, we hope that you’ll be able to find a few more winners from what’s the most exciting jump race in the world.
Picking a horse
Picking your horse is the most exciting time in the Grand National for us. You buy all the Saturday morning papers, look at sites like the Racing Post and just generally try to get a feel for which horse you think has a good chance.
Below we have listed a couple of ways that you can get started when picking your horse.
Look at the odds
Each horse will be assigned certain odds for the race. The odds are essentially the chance that the bookmaker thinks the horse has of winning the race. The lower the odds the greater the chance, with the higher the odds the less chance.
For example, a 5/1 (6.0) shot should have a better chance of winning than a 100/1 (101.0). The bookmakers essentially do the work for you here as they offer odds for each horse. A good strategy is simply looking at horses within a certain price bracket and then going from there.
It’s easy for you to just simply go with the favourite as this is essentially who the bookies are saying has the best chance of winning. But, as the Grand National is so unpredictable and so unique that the favourite is actually pretty irrelevant in the race. In fact, the favourite has only won three times in the last 20 Grand Nationals that have taken part.
A good rule of thumb is to try and come up with an average odds price of past winners and then try to determine which horses start to fit the bill. Let’s take a look at the last 12 winners and their starting price.
|2017||One For Arthur||14/1|
|2016||Rule The World||33/1|
|2014||Pineau De Re||25/1|
|2010||Don’t Push It||10/1 J/F|
|2008||Comply Or Die||7/1 J/F|
As you can see from the table the range of odds is massive. In 2009 Mon Mome won at odds of 100.00, which is the joint highest price for a winner of the Grand National of all time. Given that it’s been running since 1839, this is a pretty incredible feat to see that these sorts of results still occur in the modern day’s racing.
Let’s take the average of all those prices and see what comes out. To work it out, we simply add them all together and divide by 10:
(4 + 10 + 14 + 33 + 25 + 25 + 66 + 33 + 14 + 10 + 100 + 7) / 10 = 28.42
So there we have our average odds of 28.42. We’d state that if you’re just starting horses priced from around 20/1 to 40/1 should all have a pretty good shout.
To take it to the next level, you need to start looking at past performances. There is tons of information online about all the horses taking part. Some will be in their first Grand National, others may have ridden several. If you can get information on previous runs within this race, then great, but if not, it’s not the end of the world.
Pretty much all newspapers and online betting sites will include a race card of some sort. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with them as we are going to look through how to read them next. The race card includes a decent amount information on each horse, including recent form, which is the area that we want to be looking at.
Above is a look at a typical racecard. It may seem quite daunting if you aren’t used to racing, but I assure you it’s all very straight forward. The bit that we really want to concentrate on are the numbers next to the horse and jockey number, represented for Decorated Knight (name of the horse) as 21-1161.
These are basically the last races that the horse has run in, working from right as the most recent, to left. Obviously, what you want to be looking for are horses that are in good form, ideally with recent wins under their belt. You may nocte a dash ‘-‘ which simply represents races from the previous season. Also, you can see a slash ‘/’ for some, which signifies 2 or more seasons ago.
Other letters that are common in the race card represent:
- F – fell
- U – Unseated rider
- B – Bought down (by another horse)
- R – Refused to jump or race
- P – The horse was pulled up by the jockey and didn’t finish
For the sake of the Grand National and for not wanting to overwhelm you with information that really isn’t needed for this race to get you started, the rest of the race card, in terms of strategy, can pretty much be disregarded.
Just to quickly finish up on the form from a race card, this can be a big tool for picking winners. Simply seeing if the horse has been able to win or not previously could be huge. What you will find is that the last couple of races have usually been races that are prepping the horse for the Grand National, which means similar distances and similar number of hurdles, highlighting that the distance in the race shouldn’t be an issue.
The last point of this section is that we want to state that there are very few ‘bad’ picks for the Grand National. Horses need to navigate a 4m 3 ½ furlong track with 30 hurdles in total. Anything could happen and usually does to be honest.
Whilst the bookies do their best with the favourites and trying to price horses as well as they can, the reality is that it’s one of those races where they are pretty much powerless over choosing a winner. It’s a rare thing for the bookies, but as there are next to no races like the Grand National, it’s hard to then decide how horses will react.
It means that as a punter you if you want to choose a horse because it’s name, then you can do. If you like the colour of the jockey’s silks, then go with that. If you think the sound of the jockey’s name is pretty funny, go with that. If we are being brutally honest, you could shut your eyes, stick a pin in the paper and your pick will likely have as good a chance as the favourite.
This is why we stated earlier why you should probably favour higher odds horses compared to just the favourites. Anything goes with the Grand National and as Mon Mome’s 100/1 win in 2009 highlighted, anything can happen.
Choosing Your Bet Type
You’ve done the time researching your bet (or wielding your pin whilst shutting your eyes) and you’ve decided on the horse that you want to bet. Congratulations! This is often the hardest part. Oh, and once you’ve decided don’t go changing as we can guarantee that horse will do well and you changed last minute!
The next step is to decide what type of bet you want to put on. That’s right, there are different bets that you can place in horse racing and it’s important you choose correctly.
The three main bet types are:
- To win
- Each way
The win market is probably the most obvious of the three and this is where you simply place your stake on the horse that you think will win the race. If they don’t win, then you get no other returns for your bet. In the trade, this bet is called ‘on the nose’.
This market will guarantee you the highest winning should your horse win. The returns can be huge from a very small stake. We know we keep mentioning Mon Mome in 2009, but one punter apparently had £10 on the horse to win in their first ever bet on the Grand National simply by going off the horse’s name relating to the time he spent in Paris whilst studying at University. The £10 bagged the punter £1,000 for their troubles!
The downside of the win market is that it does only cover the win. The 40-strong field make it a minefield to pick the winner, as we’ve already stated, so you should approach this market with caution. Our tip would be to target the shorted priced horses for the win, around the 10/1 mark, up to 16/1 maybe.
Each way is going to the best most popular market on the day. The casual nature of the typical Grand National punter means that the each-way market allows them to get some return on investment even if the horse doesn’t win.
As brief overview, the each-way bet is essentially split into two bets. The first part is on the horse to win and the second is for the horse to place (finish within a certain number of positions, usually around 5 for the Grand National and at a fraction of the original odds, usually 1/5th). Your stake is split between the two, so half goes on the win and half goes on the place. So, if you get £5 each way, your total stake would be £10 (£5 on the win, £5 on the place).
The longer odds horses make each way betting a no brainer. It gives you a good chance of recouping at least some of the money you have staked and also a chance of making a net win.
For example, let’s say you stake £5 each way on a horse at 50/1. The horse finishes third, which means that you lose your win bet, but win your place bet. So, 1/5th of 50/1 is 10/1, 10 x £5 stake = £50, making £55 with the place part of your stake on top. Not a bad return for finishing 3rd, right?
It’s worth noting that if you bet each-way and your horse wins, you get paid on both the win and the place bet. The example above would be £50 from the place, plus £5 x 50 = £250 from the win (£255 with the stake, totalling £310 returned, with £300 of that winnings. Hence why this market is so popular.
The forecast and tricast bets are some of the hardest bets to bring home in any race, never mind the Grand National. To be honest, given the field size and given the difficulty it is picking a winner from 40 horses, we would advise against it, but if you like a challenge, then it might be your thing.
The forecast is where you pick the first two horses in the correct order. The tricast is where you pick the first 3 horses in the correct order. There are also variations of the bet which are called reverse forecast (2 bets) and combination tricast (6 bets in total), especially. Essentially these are just where you need to pick the first two (reverse forecast) or first three (combination tricast) in any order. These are probably much easier to call than the straight forecast bets mentioned at first.
The good thing about these bets are that they will pay out huge sums if you get it right. Most bookies will allow you to place the bets and we would recommend that you stake small if you’re going to try it.
Take a Price or go for the SP (Starting Price)
As punter you have two choices before selecting your horse; take the current price or take the Starting Price. Taking the current price is a pretty simple concept in that you take the price that’s on offer at the time. So, if a horse was 20/1 and you place your bet, this would be the price you get.
The other option is taking the SP. This where you tell the bookmaker that you want to back that horse, but you want to take the price that the horse starts at, which might be different from the current price. As prices change quite a lot in horse racing leading up to a race, this can fluctuate quite a bit. There might be times where the starting price is actually higher than the current price, but then the flip side is that the price could be shorter, which means you get less for your money.
The only time that you really want to be taking the Starting Price is when you aren’t available nearer the start of the race to place the bet and you think the odds are or are going to, drift. For example, you might be heading in to work an hour before the race, but the odds for your horse are starting to lengthen, meaning that the starting price could be bigger.
But, we would actually advise that you don’t take the starting price and always take the current price. This is because of an offer that so many bookmakers provide these days in the form of BOG (Best Odds Guaranteed). Always check about this before placing your bet however to avoid any disappointment.
For this offer the bookies essentially say that if the starting price for the horse you have backed is bigger than the price that you took, then they will pay out at the larger starting price. Pretty neat if you ask us!
If you took the starting price it could be that the price is lower than the at the time of betting and this offer wouldn’t be applicable to this bet, meaning you lose value.
Let’s run through a quick example. You back a horse at 10/1 an hour before the race using a bookmaker that is offering up the Best Odds Guaranteed promotion. The horses starting price actually goes off at 15/1. The horse wins the race. If you didn’t have this offer then you would be paid out at 10/1, whereas this offer will actually pay out at 15/1, 50% more than you would have got.
Let’s say that at the time of betting the price was 10/1 and you decide to back the horse at its Starting Price. The odds shorten to that of 5/1, which means you’ve missed out on 50% of your potential winnings from not taking the original price. With Best Odds Guaranteed, you lock in just that, the best odds possible for that horse at the time you place your bet.
Now, it’s worth noting that not all bookmakers will offer this promotion. The majority of the bigger ones do, and many smaller ones bring it in for the Grand National, but don’t assume it’s a given.
Finding a Bookie
The Grand National is pretty epic time for the punter. Bookies are keen to gain your business and also to get potential new punters through the door. The problems that the bookies have is that player value for new bettors on the Grand National is pretty low.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that the Grand National is going to be one of the few bets you place all year, right? This is absolutely fine, great in fact, but for a bookmaker, you don’t offer them an awful of value compared with someone who is going to be placing daily or even weekly bets throughout the year.
In more recent times a lot of bookmakers actually alter their welcome offer for the Grand National. A typical welcome offer might be a long the lines of Bet £10 and get £30 in free bets. But, for the Grand National, they tend to alter this to something like, get 6 places paid for Each Way Grand National bets or price boosts on specific horses if you register an account with them. It means they aren’t giving away free bets, but punters still get rewarded for the main reason they are joining with that bookie, which is to bet on the Grand National.
As a bit of advice, if you are looking to get some free bets or bonuses for the race, open your accounts a few days or even the weekend prior to this. The usual promotions will still be running then and it’s likely the only time that you’re going to be able to take advantage them prior to the big race.
Promotions aside, there are a few key areas that you want to be looking out for when choosing which bookmaker to bet with.
The price of your horse is going to be the best place to start as this is going to offer you the highest return on your investment. We’ve spoken previously in this article about the range in prices for horses that have won and highlighted that just in the last years they have been as short as 7/1 right up to 100/1.
As winners are so hard to predict it means there are huge discrepancies in the prices that are on offer. It just so happens that as we write this article, the 2018 Grand National is right around the corner. We are going to take the price of two horses (these odds may have changed), both that fit into our sweet spot of price (20/1 to 40/1) as mentioned in the strategy section above and show you how much price can differ.
Horse 1 – I Just Know
Horse 2 – Gas Line Boy
As you can see from both the examples above, a huge discrepancy in price. With Horse 1, a £10 stake at 888 Sport would get £110 more than if you placed the same bet at Marathon Bet. Horse 2 follows a smaller but still substantial shift, with a £10 stake at BetVictor getting you £80 more than if backed the same horse at Ladbrokes.
Whilst promotions and offers will be flying around Grand National day, the best value is often found by the punters who are willing to do just a little research into who’s offering the best price for their horse. There are countless ways you can do this, with odds comparison sites being your best route, but just make sure you take a little time. £100 more for just a few minutes work seems more than worth it for us.
Whilst the numbers look big for the win market, they also filter down to place or each-way betting, of which we talk about next.
Number of places
As prices of horses differ massively, another key area to keep an eye out for is the number of places that the bookmaker is paying with the each-way market. This is a pretty simple concept and all it means is that some bookmakers will offer more places than other.
For example, generally you will find bookmakers offering 5 places for an each-way bet. This means if your horse finishes within the top 5 they qualify for a payout, but should they finish 6th or lower, they won’t. Ideally you want to find bookies that are offering up as many places as possible.
On Grand National day a common promotion is that a bookmaker will pay an increased number of places, up to as many as 10, which is a quarter of the field. Not all will offer this but keep an eye out for the select few that do.
This gives you a much better chance of coming in the money for your bet and is often a ‘promotion’ that is available to both new and existing customers as well. Another thing to keep an eye out for is the percentage that they will pay out for your bet. The majority of bookie are 1/5th or your original stake, but some you may find to be around the 1/4th mark. It’s a small increase, but financially it can be quite significant.
Best Odds Guaranteed
We’ve already spoken about the Best Odds Guaranteed promotions, but we really, really want to hammer home the importance of this. For those of you that have skim read and missed the section above, first off, shame on you, second of all, listen up, this is important!
The best odds guaranteed is a feature that a lot of bookmakers run now. It allows you to place a bet on a horse in advance and if that horse goes off at a larger starting price than the price that you took, they will pay out at the higher price.
For example, you back a horse at 20/1 thirty minutes prior to the start of the race. The horse drifts before the start, with its Starting Price being that of 33/1. Without Best Odds Guaranteed, there would be nothing you can do, you would have to take the price your originally took some 30 minutes before the start. But, this offer means that the bookies are in fact going to pay out at the 33/1 starting price, instead of the 20/1 price you originally took. It’s essentially extra money!
Not all bookies offer this promotion, but lots bring it in for the Grand National meeting. It’s an easy promotion to take advantage of as there is literally nothing you need to do. The bookmaker will adjust the odds accordingly. But, we do think it’s wise to just make a note of the price you took and the starting price, to make sure that no oversights are made on behalf of the bookmaker. Whilst this generally never happens, it’s also worth making sure you’re getting the money you deserve.
You’ve won the Grand National! Congratulations! You’ve achieved something that most of the punters won’t have on the race and you’ve managed to bag a nice little net win as a result. But, what happens next?
Due to the scale of the Grand National and the sheer volume of bets that the bookmaker will have to both register and payout, the time it takes to get your money could take a little longer than most bets.
The money will automatically be applied to your betting account. We would suggest that most bookies pay out within an hour or so of the race finishing, but to be honest, most will be within minutes of the official result being announced. Don’t forget that if there is a steward’s inquiry into the race, funds may be held until an official announcement is made. This won’t take more than 10-15 minutes though usually, but it will add to the time it takes to get your money.
A bit of advice on Grand National is that to be a bit more patient than normal. This race is like no other, it receives multiple millions in stakes for most bookies and it takes time to process. The more you hound them for your money by calling or Tweeting them, the longer it could take them. If nothing is in your account within an hour or so, this could be the time to contact them.
How do I get my funds?
You’re going to be able to withdraw your funds from your betting account back to the payment process that you used to deposit. Typically, this takes 3-5 working days for most bookmakers and payment methods, such as debit cards.
Alternatively, if you used an e-wallet, such as PayPal or Neteller, then this process is often much quicker and back in your account within 24 hours. In fact, some are processed within an hour or so, with the possibility of getting your funds on the same day as the race finishes.
There are also some bookmakers, that offer a store card that you can link to your online account and your high street betting shop. This means that you can literally withdraw funds straight from your online account at the high street betting shop as soon as they have cleared. This is always going to be the fastest way to get any winnings that you receive, providing that your bookmaker offers this service.
Beware of the bonus terms
We’ve already spoken about bonuses and offers that you can get for Grand National day when opening accounts. A lot of these offers will come with what’s known as qualifying terms. This means that you may need to wager through a certain amount of money before you can withdraw your funds.
A typical example might be form a bet £10, get £30 in free bets. They may state that you need to wager through your deposit and your bonus amount once before being able to withdraw. If you wagered £10 on the race and it won, then for the purpose of withdrawing funds, you’d then need to wager a further £30 to make your withdrawal.
These terms tend to differ from bookmaker to bookmaker, so it’s worth noting this before you sign up. If you think this isn’t something that you would be interested in, prior to registering your account, you can of course opt-out of any offers, meaning that you are free to bet and withdraw funds as you wish, without having to meet any qualifying terms.
Inaugurated in 1839, the Grand National has been one of the biggest horse racing in the events for some time. The race takes place at Aintree Racecourse and welcomes over 50,000 through their turnstiles every year.
It’s prestige in the sport of horse racing is almost unrivalled and it’s now the richest jump race across Europe, with a staggering prize fund of £1million, with £561,300 of that going to the winning horse. Whilst an important race for the industry, it’s also unlike any sporting event in the world, in its huge popularity from people who have very little interest in the sport at all.
The course is one of the many highlights of the race and comes in at a staggering 4 miles, 514 yards. To give you an idea, the race takes almost 10 minutes for the horses to run, many of which fail to complete such are the extreme strains that are put on the horses.
To top it all off, the horses need to navigate over 30 fences in total, each with their own hazards to include with that. Many of the fences are famous in their right, and most are named, with the most iconic being that of Becher’s Brook, Foinavon, Canal Turn, Water Jump and The Chair, each creating theatre adding to the drama of the race.
In the UK, the Grand National has been a constant of terrestrial TV and has been shown since 1960, via a mixture of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. It is estimated that over 500 million people watch the race around the world in over 140 countries, which is a staggering number compared to the likes of other, even high-profile, horse racing events.
The meeting has had some iconic horses win years gone by, but none have outdone the work of Red Rum throughout the 1970’s. Trained by Ginger McCain, Red Rum is the only horse to have won the race on 3 separate occasions in 1973, 1974 then again in 1977. Multiple winners of the Grand National are pretty rare, but for a horse to win it three is a feat that may never be beaten.
In what was one of the more popular winners of modern the modern era, Ginger McCain was brought back into the limelight in 2004, when Amberleigh House was crowned the winner, some 27 after his previous victory with Red Rum. McCain’s four victories has made him the joint leading trainer of all time, along with George Dockeray and Fred Rimell.
- Grand National Fences – A guide to the fences at the Grand National, including individual break downs of each fence and historical stats on how many horses ended the race at that fence.
- Grand National Non Finishers – Information on the different reasons why horses may exit the race, as well as stats broken down by year.