This weekend sees arguably the biggest weekend in the sports betting calendar as across the country, families get together to place a wager on who will win or be placed in one of the world’s biggest and best loved sporting events: the Grand National.
Before we take a look at this year’s runners and riders in a bit more detail, let’s learn a little about this long history of this famous race, as well as some of the most famous horses, jockeys, trainers and owners that have made this event become an integral part of the UK’s cultural identity.
History of the Grand National
The first Grand National races, although they were not called that at the time, were contested in Liverpool during the 1830’s, with several races run prior to what is officially the first ever Grand National Race in 1839.
The first winner of what most historians regard as the first Grand National was an appropriately named horse – Lottery.
There have been many memorable races, including the 1928 Grand National where out of 42 entrants, only one managed to get around the course without falling, the 100/1 outside Tipperary Tim. Though, Billy Barton finished second after he fell at the last fence and jockey Tommy Cullinan remounted to lead the horse home in second.
Another famous race occurred in 1956 when the Queen Mother’s horse, Devon Loch, was romping home several lengths clear of the field when the horse inexplicably tried to jump a fence that wasn’t there, falling onto its stomach in the process and allowing E.S.B in second to overtake it just yards from the winning post.
In 1967, another strange incident occurred when at the 23rd fence a loose horse, appropriately named Popham Down, suddenly veered across the track in front of the majority of riders who all pulled up, unseated their riders or refused the jump. At the back, one horse, previously 100 yards behind the rest, managed to avoid the equine pile up and Foinavon passed into folklore. The 23rd fence is now named after the most unlikely winning horse.
In recent times there has been the Race That Never Was, when a faulty start saw 7 horses run the entire race, only to be told that the race had been declared void after the second faulty start. In 1997, after a coded bomb threat, the race was run on a Monday.
In almost 200 years of existence, the Grand National has never been dull and each year millions of punters have their one annual bet a year on which of this year’s runners will be the next name into the history books.
Famous past winners
In addition to some of the most notable winners of the race that I have already mentioned, there are several other horses whose names are synonymous with the Grand National. None more so than Red Rum, the Ginger McCain-trained local horse that won the race a record three times and finished second in his other two appearances.
Red Rum’s victory in 1973, when he came back from 30 lengths behind the leader Crisp, is still one of the most stirring and emotional moments in British sport, as the tired Crisp was overhauled by Red Rum in the last few strides of the race for an incredible win.
Aldaniti’s story in 1981 is equally resonant and tinged with poignancy, the horse suffered with chronic leg problems early in life and its jockey, Bob Champion, had previously been given months to live after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1979. Champion made a full recovery and was teamed with Aldaniti to win the 1981 race in one of the most moving and evocative moments in British sport, which was subsequently brought to life in the 1983 film Champions.
In recent times, Mon Mome was a shock 100/1 winner for trainer Venetia Williams and jockey Liam Treadwell in 2009, while in 2010 Tony McCoy earned his first victory in the race on Don’t Push It.
Neptune Collonges (33/1) became only the third grey horse to win the race in 2012, and in 2013, Auroras Encore took the win at 66/1, the third long priced favourite to win the race in the past five years.
Who will win it this year? Let’s take a closer look.
This year’s contenders
Ante-post favourite this year is Teaforthree, the Irish horse finished 3rd last year and while his form has not been outstanding this year, he has not fallen in either of his three runs and has been set up for this year’s race. Another Irish horse, Colbert Station should go well, though a fall last time out at Leopardstown does not bode well for the much tougher fences at Aintree.
Long Run, likely to be ridden by amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, was impressive when winning at Kelso last time out and he’ll certainly be amongst the favourites as will the experienced Tidal Bay and Monbeg Dude.
It is noticeable that three of the last five races has seen winners priced at 33/1 or above, so expect there to be lots of interest in the mid level horses, Rocky Creek and Burton Point at 20/1 shots look worth a look, as does 25/1 shots Balthazar King, Wyck Hill, Big Shu and Double Seven.
Other horses worth a look at 33/1 include Chance du Roy, Shakalakaboomboom and The Rainbow Hunter.
Winner tip: Triolo D’alene 20/1 with Bet365 Sports
Experience may count for lots at Aintree and this is the only thing this horse lacks. Trained by Nicky Henderson, this 7-year old gelding comes into the race having placed 3rd or better in 7 of 11 races, winning four.
He was well beaten in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but the longer distance at Aintree should suit him, especially if the ground is a little firmer underfoot. His trainer and owner reckons that his Gold Cup outing will have tuned him up nicely for Aintree and at a current price of 20/1, he looks a solid choice.
Each way tip: Double Seven 25/1 with Bet365 Sports
This 8 year old gelding has a real chance at Aintree, after a miserable 2012, he stormed back to form in June 2013, winning in Kilburn and has since racked up six wins in his last seven races. The only blemish, a loss last time out at Leopardstown, when he finished sixth.
If he gets it right he could be a race winner contender but at 25/1 he is outstanding value for an each way bet.
There’s still time to join Bet365 prior to the event! Even better, new bettors are eligible for $100 in free sports bets from Bet365 Sports.