Whilst the eyes of two sides of Merseyside’s football fraternity will be on London, the rest of the U.K. will have its pupils focused on one of horse racing’s yearly spectacles taking place on the banks of the Irish Sea. Ever since Lottery won the inaugural running of the Grand National back in 1839, the race has been unmatched in terms of the wide variety of bettors that decide to have a flutter. Winners can sometimes have astronomical odds stretching as high as 100/1 and it all goes to show why the general public feel this is the occasion to have that one yearly punt.
If there was ever a race that housewives up and down the country follow then this Saturday is it. Statistics show the usual heavily male-dominated legion of horserace bettors you might expect to see at Cheltenham is transformed into one that sees women making up a third of all those placing bets on the race.
Two horses succumbing to their injuries in last year’s running has meant a number of alterations being made to the course to make it a safer place. Landing areas at the first fence and Becker’s Brook have been levelled and the fourth fence has been lowered. It’s all to try to prevent the 40-horse field being significantly trimmed down before they near passing the post. To the once-a-year bettor the course changes won’t matter a jot to the way they bet. The changes to the way horses qualify for the race could.
British Horseracing Authority (BHA) consultations changed the entry requirements so this year could be the most competitive national ever run. Every runner must have placed in the first four of a three-mile or longer chase by 20 March and have a BHA rating of 120+. This is in addition to being a minimum of seven years old to complete the 4.5-mile, 30-fence course.
Parallels with this event are drawn with last month’s Cheltenham Festival at every turn and this year is no different. There’s a direct correlation between horses that hit good form at the West Country track and those that do well here with many tipping Gold Cup winner Synchronised to hand AP McCoy his second win in the national. One thing may stand in his way – the going being heavy.
The sudden influx of wet and windy weather might have the water companies yelping for joy but horse racing’s community of trainers, jockeys and the horses themselves will be bracing themselves for an unpredictable weekend. Bettors that usually rely on Cheltenham form could also suffer. It means the sports books that take in around £300 million in bets on the race will be that little bit more confident that taking a gamble will pay off.
Syndicates, like the won that landed a £1 million profit on their own horse Monty’s Pass, have shown that money can be won on this race. It’s largely a bit of fun for offices up and down the country though with sweepstakes kits the norm in most workplaces. This could be one of those years that a treble-figure odds horse takes the prize so if you’re looking for a horse to wager on look for the funny named 100/1 shot and go for broke!