The 2017 Grand National: A beginner's guide
It's the most high profile race of the year but what happens during the Grand National, how can you have a bet on it and are there any tricks to finding the winner of the Aintree spectacular? Mike Norman is here with all the answers...
To Win the Grand National (NRNB);
11/1 -Vieux Lion Rouge
11/1 - Definitly Red
14/1 - Blaklion
14/1 - Ucello Conti
14/1 - Cause Of Causes
16/1 - One For Arthur
16/1 - Pleasant Company
16/1 - The Last Samuri
20/1- Saphir Du Rheu
EW Terms: 1⁄4 Odds, 5 Places (but you can get up to 7 with Betfair's Each-Way Edge)
*odds correct as of Thursday, April 6
What is the Grand National?
Yes, silly question, we know. But just like there is always someone who has never heard of Elvis, or some teenager who has never seen a Harry Potter film, there will always be some misinformed soul who believes the Grand National is just another race, or worse still, has never even heard of it.
So just for those select few, in a nutshell the Grand National is a National Hunt horse race, held every year at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. It is raced over four miles, three-and-a-half furlongs with the maximum number of 40 runners jumping 30 fences, some of which are famous for their size and difficulty to clear like Becher's Brook and The Chair.
The Grand National is a hugely exciting spectacle, watched by an estimated worldwide audience of over 600 million people, and it is popular with once-a-year and occasional punters just as much as those who like a flutter every day, making it one of the biggest betting events in the sporting calendar.
When is the Grand National?
It's nearly here! This year's Grand National will take place on Saturday, 8 April at 17:15 and it can be watched on ITV. If you can't get to a TV, Betfair will be live streaming the race for free - you just need to have a funded account.
However, the Grand National meeting itself is a three-day meeting starting on Thursday, 6 April, with races over the Grand National course taking place each afternoon - all available on Betfair Live Video.
How to bet on the Grand National
Your options are endless, but the most popular wagers for beginners are the Win (back any horse to win the race) and Each-Way (back any horse to finish in the first five place positions) bets.
You don't have to place just one bet either, you can have as many as you like, or if you're feeling ultra brave then try the forecast and tricast wagers where you have to select the first two (forecast) or first three (tricast) horses to cross the line. These bets offer huge rewards for just small stakes.
The Exchange is likely to offer the best odds if you just want to back a horse to Win or to Place, but the Betfair Sportsbook will have a plethora of novelty markets on the day, like how many horses will finish the race, the age of the winning horse, and winning distance betting for example.
You can also take advantage of a generous offer throughout the whole of the Grand National meeting on all races shown live on ITV: Back a winner at 3/1+ SP and get a free bet up to £/€25.
And new for this year, and exclusive to Betfair, we have Each-Way Edge, a revolutionary new product which allows you to alter the place terms of your Each-Way bet (Sportsbook bets only). With Betfair you can now choose to add extra places for a small decrease in price, or remove places to increase your potential return - all from within the betslip. So you can get up to SEVEN places on the National with Betfair.
For more on Each-Way Edge, take a look at our video...
Best Grand National horses to bet on?
That's entirely up to you. The exact 40-runner field won't be known until a few days before the race so if you don't want to place your bet(s) until the day of the Grand National then that's a sensible option, and at that point you can bet on whichever horse(s) you choose.
However you can actually bet on the Grand National right now if you have an idea of who you want to back and you like the price, or if you wait until Monday 3 April to place a bet you'll be safe in the knowledge that should your horse become a non-runner then you will get all of your stake back.
*Here's the Betfair Sportsbook's Grand National market (Non-Runner No Bet from Monday 3 April).
Can you help me find the winner?
Sure we can, just follow these three simple instructions;
1. Take any Grand National pull-out from a newspaper and open it on the page of the runners.
2. Carefully hold your lucky pin (use your opposite hand for a more random approach).
3. Close eyes, lower hand to paper, and stick your pin in.
And there you have it. Whatever your pin lands on it has to be worth a small bet if it's the first time you're betting on the Grand National. Many a winner has been found this way, and with beginner's luck on your side you never know.
But we know that this isn't really the sort of help you want, the above is just a reminder that the Grand National, for beginners and occasional bettors at least, is a bit of fun and it really doesn't matter how you arrive at your selections; whether it be a name you like, your lucky number, or your favourite colour, as long as you're happy with who you bet on then that's all that matters.
Having said all that, in recent years the Grand National is a race where some strong trends have started to emerge, so consider the following;
Experience: All of the last 25 winners had run at least eight times over fences (referred to as Chases), and each of the last 51 winners had raced at least once since New Year's Day in the year that they won. So what you don't want to be backing is horses that haven't had a prep run, or horses that have had long absences away from the track meaning they don't have the experience to handle a fast-paced, hurly-burly type race like the Grand National.
Age: 18 of the last 21 winners have been aged 9, 10, or 11, though with around 75% of the runners usually falling into this age bracket it's not as big a trend as it first appears but it is something definitely worth bearing in mind.
Stamina and Form: Horses that have run well in various other Nationals - Midlands, Kerry, Ulster, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish for example - and/or other big Handicap Chases like the Hennessy are usually the ones to concentrate on. Last year's winner Rule The World had previously been placed in both the Kerry and Irish Nationals, while 66% of the previous 18 winners had been at least placed in a National or the 4m+ Eider Chase.
Oh, and don't worry about;
Weight: While it is true that prior to 2010 just one horse carried more than 11 stone to victory in the previous 25 renewals of the Grand National, in recent years, the handicap being compressed in addition to some of the fences being modified to make the course easier, and therefore safer, has resulted in weight no longer being an issue. Four of the last seven winners carried 11 stone or more, while Many Clouds shouldered 11st 9lb to victory two years ago, the most weight any horse has carried to success since the great Red Rum in 1974.
What do the experts think?
Who are the Grand National favourites?
The current favourite at 10/1 is the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge. This improving eight-year-old has both form and course experience in the book after finishing seventh in last year's renewal before winning the Beecher Chase in December (raced over the Grand National course). On his latest outing he won a classy-looking Grand National trial at Haydock, beating Blaklion who also heads to Aintree next week as the 14/1 joint second favourite.
Betfair Ambassadors Paul Nicholls and Gordon Elliott are responsible for some of the market leaders in Saphir Du Rheu (Nicholls), Cause Of Cause and Ucello Conti (both Elliott), and all three look to have outstanding claims after some excellent prep runs.
Last year's runner-up The Last Samuri is back for another crack at the race, while in-form horses like Definitly Red and One For Arthur are at the top of their game and represent bang in form stables.
Who are the top Grand National jockeys?
Arguably the best one riding at present is Irishman Ruby Walsh who has won the Grand National twice before. He rides for the powerful Willie Mullins yard which means he is likely to have a choice between a number of horses to ride come race day.
Richard Johnson is currently the top rider on these shores and he did finish second in the Grand National three years ago, but generally he has a poor record in the race and has the unwanted tag of being the jockey with the most rides (20) without riding a winner.
How much do I win if my horse wins or places?
That all depends on how much you stake and at what price. But for Win purposes it's all a bit of simple maths - you just multiply the amount you stake by the price, so if you had £1 on a 20/1 shot and it wins then you get £21 back (£1 x 20 = £20, plus your £1 stake).
It gets a little more complicated for Each-Way returns, as your 'place' part of the bet gets returned at 1⁄4 of the Win odds, but we've devised a few examples below so you can see how it works;
- £1 E/W on a 12/1 and your horse wins = £17 returned (£13 for the win part, £4 for the place)
- £1 E/W on a 12/1 and your horse places = £4 returned (1⁄4 of 12/1 = 3/1, £1 on a 3/1 = £4)
- £5 E/W on a 20/1 and your horse wins = £135 returned (£105 for the win part, £30 for the place)
- £5 E/W on a 20/1 and your horse places = £30 returned (1⁄4 of 20/1 = 5/1, £5 on a 5/1 = £30)
Is there anything else I need to know?
Other than to enjoy the whole process; arriving at your selection and watching the race, then no, but if you think of something at a later date that you'd like to ask us then please leave a comment below and we'll answer all questions as quickly as possible.
And that just leaves us to wish you the very best of luck on this year's Grand National, we hope you find the winner.
For all the latest Grand National betting tips and previews, check out our dedicated category