The Grand National horse race is something of a sporting institution that has captured the public’s imagination. It’s estimated that two-thirds of adults place a bet on the Grand National in the UK each year. Its significance cannot be understated, then. There are also lots of other events besides the Grand National race with seven each day. On this page, you’ll find key information about all of those taking place during the Grand National Festival. We also talk about value betting tips and give you the latest Aintree news and a whole lot more.
Grand National Event Guide
When it comes to the Grand National horse race itself, there are 40 runners taking part and that makes getting a handle on all of the form difficult – even for seasoned punters. We’re here to help, as we provide comprehensive coverage of all the races on both the Mildmay and Grand National course over the whole Festival. Whether you’re looking for the winner of the Liverpool Hurdle, Topham Chase or the Aintree Grand National, we’ve got the action covered. Our Grand National event guide really hones in on all the runners with insight and opinion from the same horse racing experts who provide our betting tips. You will do very well to find a more detailed service on the Grand National in the UK, so please make the most of it as you engage with the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Aintree Grand National Festival News
Information on the Aintree Grand National is available as soon as the end of January when entries close and are revealed. The weights are then revealed by the middle of February, so there is plenty to keep an eye on in the run-up to the big race. We are across all of that with horse racing writers on hand to give you all the latest news relating to the Grand National Festival. The special ratings given to horses heading to Aintree can make or break their chances, so it pays to know all about that as soon as possible. After all, what’s the point in backing a badly handicapped horse? With a marathon four-and-a-quarter miles and 30 fences to cross, knowing what weight a horse will carry around the Grand National course informs your betting choices. Declaration stages also whittle down the size of the field until we get to the maximum of 40 which is announced a little over 48 hours before the Grand National race is off. We keep you in the picture as who is running, which horses miss the cut and those that are withdrawn. You can rely on us for the latest Grand National Festival news from Aintree.
The Grand National Course
Getting to know what the Grand National horse race is all about helps you have a greater understanding of the world-famous event. There are two complete circuits of the Grand National course taken in the race. Becher’s Brook is the first named fence and sixth obstacle jumped on the track, after Captain Martin Becher – an amateur jockey and professional soldier who rode in the early years of Aintree. Following that is the Foinavon fence which is one of the smallest on the course. It seems to catch some horses and jockeys out, having just put in a big leap to get over Becher’s. The Canal Turn is taken where the course in the Grand National turns at a right-angle left-handed. That is followed by Valentine’s Brook, which has a similar profile to Becher’s. The Chair is fence 15 on their way round and the tallest fence on the circuit, but only jumped once. It’s the same with the Water Jump in front of the packed Aintree stands. Fences three, 11 and 12 which all have to be cleared twice are ditches.
Aintree Grand National Sponsors
Did you know the Grand National in the UK has had various sponsors partnering it down the years? In modern times, John Smith’s – the premier product of the Tadcaster brewery across the Pennines from Aintree in Yorkshire – is perhaps the best known. Martell Cognac, a subsidiary of previous Grand National race sponsors Seagram of Canadian distillery fame, also enjoyed a partnership with the race for many years. From 2017, however, the Grand National ended its long association with alcohol brand sponsors when Crabbie’s – best known for their ginger beer – were replaced by Randox Health. This happened as a result of an increased awareness of the need for equine welfare relating to the race. Other events during the Festival retain sponsorship in the brewing industry. Doom Bar partners a number of Aintree races, as do bookmakers Betway. Given the huge prize money on offer across the Grand National Festival, which has only increased in recent times, this outside investment in jumps horse racing is essential to help make Aintree into the spectacle that it has become.
Grand National Betting Online 2021
Read below for the complete Aintree Grand National schedule, or jump straight into our betting guide which you will find by clicking the above link.
Aintree Grand National Festival Day 1
What races traditionally take place on the Thursday, the opening day, of the Grand National Festival? Let’s take a look
Manifesto Novices’ Chase
A Grade 1 contest over about two-and-a-half miles on the Mildmay course, this novice chase is open to horses aged five and over. First run with Grade 2 status in 2009, it was upgraded in 2012 and is the next step in the programme for horses who ran in the Arkle Challenge Trophy or Marsh Novices’ Chase during the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle
This juvenile hurdle is restricted to horses aged four only run over a distance of about two miles and a furlong. It has held Grade 1 status since 2005, but was first run way back in 1960 when there was a dead-heat. The Anniversary is the next race for horses who contested the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. Famous winners include Katchit, Binocular, Zarkandar, Apple’s Jade and Defi Du Seuil.
Sponsored by the likes of Betfair, Betfred and Betway, this Grade 1 steeplechase over about three miles and a furlong is open to horses aged five and over. The Aintree Bowl was first run in 1984 as a consolation race for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It has held Grade 1 status since 2010 and previous winners include Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid, See More Business, Florida Pearl, Silviniaco Conti and Cue Card.
First run in 1976, the Aintree Hurdle became an instant hit with punters following the sensational dead-heat in 1977 between legendary duo Night Nurse and Monksfield. It is a Grade 1 contest over about two-and-a-half miles that is open to horses aged four and over. The Aintree Hurdle is the next test for any Champion Hurdle winner following on from Cheltenham. Its illustrious roll of honour includes Dawn Run, four-time race victor Morley Street, Istabraq, Oscar Whisky, Annie Power and Buveur D’Air.
The first of three races run over the Grand National course, the Foxhunters’ Chase is open to horses registered as hunter chasers aged six and over. This event used to be over the same distance as the Grand National race itself, but was reduced to its current trip of about two miles and five furlongs. It is ungraded, but targeted by many more mature horses over the age of 10.
Red Rum Handicap Chase
Aintree icon Red Rum has a Grade 3 handicap chase on the Mildmay course over about two miles named after him during the Grand National Festival. This event is open to horses aged five and above. Originally called the Aintree Chase, the race was renamed after Red Rum in 1997 in recognition of his memorable three Grand National wins during the 1970s.
Nickel Coin Mares’ Bumper
A Grade 2 National Hunt Flat race restricted to mares only completes day 1 of the Grand National Festival. No obstacles are jumped in this event run over about two miles and a furlong with fillies and mares aged between four and six involved. Nickel Coin is one of a select few mares to have won the Grand National, doing so in 1951. First run in 2005, this bumper had Listed status but has been a Grade 2 contest since 2016.
Aintree Grand National Festival Day 2
Ladies Day or the Friday of the Grand National Festival sees the horse racing action continue in earnest. What races are traditionally run on day 2 of the meeting? These seven:
Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle
A Grade 3 handicap hurdle first run in 1989 and promoted to its current status in 2014, this is a competitive way to start Ladies Day at Aintree. This is open to horses aged four and over.
Top Novices’ Hurdle
The first of the Grade 1s on day 2 of the Grand National Festival is the Top Novices’ Hurdle over about two miles and half-a-furlong. This is the next race in the programme for horses aged four and over that contested the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. It has held Grade 1 status since 2016 and previous winners include My Tent Or Yours and Buveur D’Air.
Mildmay Novices’ Chase
Stamina is tested in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase over about three miles and a furlong on the Mildmay course. Horses aged five and over are eligible for this and it’s the next race for those who ran in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. First run in 1981, the Mildmay has been won by some big names of steeplechasing – including Bregawn, Burrough Hill Lad, Like-A-Butterfly, Silviniaco Conti and Native River.
The feature race is the Grade 1 Melling Chase which was first held in 1991. Run over about two-and-a-half miles on the Mildmay course, it is open to horses aged five and above. This is the next race in the calendar for those who ran in the Queen Mother Champion Chase or Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. Past Melling Chase victors include Viking Flagship, Native Upmanship, Moscow Flyer, Albertas Run, Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Don Cossack.
The Grand National course is used for the Grade 3 Topham Handicap Chase, a handicap for horses aged five and over at a distance of about two miles and five furlongs. This can be a first taste of the unique fences for Grand National horses of the future. Always Waining won the Topham in three consecutive years in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle
First run in 1988, the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle became a Grade 1 in 1995. Open to horses aged four and above, it is run over about three miles and half-a-furlong. Those who contested the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival can go on to this race. Thistlecrack is arguably the most famous winner of the Sefton.
Aintree Champion Bumper
An open National Hunt Flat race to compliment the one for mares on the opening day rounds off Ladies Day. This Grade 2 contest over the same distance of almost two miles and a furlong is open to all horses eligible for championship bumpers aged between four and six. First run in 1987, the Aintree Champion Bumper has held its current status since 1995.
Aintree Grand National Festival Day 3
Grand National day itself has six other races besides the big one. Here’s the lowdown on all the horse racing taking place at Aintree on the third and final day of the Festival:
Gaskells Handicap Hurdle
A Grade 3 handicap hurdle over about three miles and half-a-furlong starts Grand National day off. Open to horses aged four and above, you need stamina to win this competitive handicap with winners commonly being in the six to eight-year-old bracket.
Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
A Grade 1 since 2014, the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle is contested over about two-and-a-half miles. That makes it the next race in the programme for horses aged four and up that contested the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Wayward Lad and Best Mare are two of the most famous horses to have landed the Mersey at Aintree.
Maghull Novices’ Chase
First run in 1954 and a Grade 1 since 1995, the Maghull Novices’ Chase is run over just shy of two miles. Horses that aged five and up, and may have contested the Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham, can enter. Night Nurse, Flagship Uberalles, Sprinter Sacre and Douvan are high-profile winners of the Maghull, which is named after a town on Merseyside.
The chief supporting race to the Grand National is the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle over about three miles and half-a-furlong. Established in 1974 and run at Ascot for many, it became known by its current name when the race was switched to Aintree in 2004. The Liverpool Hurdle is open to horses aged four and above. Big Buck’s, a legendary staying hurdler, won this four times in his illustrious career.
Betway Handicap Chase
Just before the Grand National is a Grade 3 handicap chase over about three miles and a furlong. It originally held Listed status, but was upgraded in 2018. This staying handicap on the Mildmay course is open to horses aged five and above. Subsequent Grand National winner Don’t Push It won this race the previous year in 2009.
And so, to the Grand National itself. This four-and-a-quarter miles Grade 3 handicap chase is open to horses aged seven and above who meet certain conditions. They have to have proven their stamina and run in a steeplechase of just shy of three miles in the current season. First officially run in 1839, a maximum field of 40 can contest the Grand National. Red Rum and Tiger Roll are the only multiple winners in modern times.
Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle
An ungraded handicap hurdle over about two miles exclusively for conditional jockeys and amateur riders closes the Grand National Festival. This event is open to horses aged four and above.
Five Things to Look Out for Before the Grand National
We asked our horse racing experts for their top five things to look out for in a horse before the Grand National race takes place. These are the aspects they highlighted:
There’s no getting away from it, a racehorse has to stay to have any chance of winning the Grand National horse race. A marathon trip of four-and-a-quarter miles is beyond most. It’s common for less than half the field to complete the course. Thoroughbred racehorses’ pedigrees can give you an idea of whether they will stay the distance, but breeding is only a guide. Lookout for horses that have won over even greater distances than three miles to help you narrow it down.
Aptitude for Aintree
Even some horses with abundant stamina don’t take to the Grand National race itself, because of the unique demands placed upon them. The fences covered in spruce are larger than regulation obstacles and take accurate jumping. Any horse with dodgy technique should be avoided, because the Grand National takes absolutely no prisoners. Any previous good form over the course is a massive plus for horses heading to Aintree.
Grand National Trials
There are many recognised trials for the Grand National horse race, many are unofficial. Horses who have won or performed well in any of the following events could be well worth a second look:
- Becher Chase, Aintree
- Welsh Grand National, Chepstow
- Classic Chase, Warwick
- Thyestes Chase, Gowran Park
- Irish Grand National Trial, Punchestown
- Grand National Trial, Haydock Park
- Bobbyjo Chase, Fairyhouse
- Eider Chase, Newcastle
- Grimthorpe Chase, Doncaster
- National Hunt Chase, Cheltenham
- Cross Country Chase, Cheltenham
- Cheltenham Gold Cup
- Midlands Grand National, Uttoxeter
- Previous Grand Nationals at Aintree
- Irish Grand National, Fairyhouse
- Scottish Grand National, Ayr
- Boylesports Handicap Chase, Punchestown Festival
Each of these can be considered Grand National Trials either because of their distance or location. All these races are over three-and-a-quarter miles or further. The Becher and Cross Country Chases see horses jump a variety of obstacles of different sizes which helps to get horses ready for the demands of Aintree.
Even horses with stamina-laden pedigrees won’t get home in the Grand National unless the ground underfoot is right. Those who prefer a sounder surface to race on need the going to come up good, while those with the ultimate stamina may act best on soft or even heavy ground. If the weather has been fine in the run-up to the Grand National, then the clerk of the course will water to maintain good-to-soft going which is seen as best for the biggest number of runners.
High-profile racehorse trainers don’t have a monopoly on the Grand National horse race, but they may aim their most talented equine stars at the race. There are no guarantees that horses with ability over regulation fences will take to the course at Aintree. They have to prove themselves up to this ultimate test. One of the reasons why Irish trainers like Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins aim multiple horses at the Grand National in the UK is because it’s more in prize money than almost any other jumps race in the British Isles.
That is about all from our comprehensive guide to the Aintree Grand National Festival. There’s a lot of information at your fingertips on this page. The Grand National horse race matters to a lot of people in the British Isles. After all, it’s the world’s most famous steeplechase. The Grand National in the UK is watched around the world by hundreds of millions, and there’s just something about it that pulls even casual audiences in. That passion at Aintree is only matched by the vast sums of money gambled on the Grand National horse race every single year. You have all the tools you need on this page to get involved when the time comes.