On Saturday, more than 600 million people will tune in to watch the richest horse racing taking place in Europe this year.
The Grand National at Aintree has captured the public’s imagination thanks to its daunting trip, its chaotic nature and the collection of fiendishly difficult fences to be jumped. It takes place over 4 miles and 514 yards and the horses have to clear 30 fences, including Becher’s Brook, Canal Turn, Water Jump and The Chair. Many will fail to complete it, and the winner will go down in history. The £1 million prize purse and the sheer prestige associated with victory always ensure a strong field of long-distance chasers gathers, and this year’s renewal is no different.
There are four horses vying for favouritism – Anibale Fly, Blaklion, Tiger Roll and Total Recall – but they are all priced around the 10/1 to 12/1 mark. Anything greater than 4/1 is good for an each-way bet, as you will get your money back at that price if it places. If it places at 12/1, you treble your money. Most bookmakers pay a quarter of the odds for the first five horses home, but Bet Victor is offering a fifth of the odds for the first six horses, and 188Bet will pay out on the first eight. They can afford to offer that because there are 40 chasers in the race and it is notoriously difficult to predict.
Blaklion was the ante post favourite for a while. He finished seventh in 2016 and was favourite last year, but could only finish sixth. However, simply finishing the Grand National twice is an achievement in itself, as so many horses falter. The fences are challenging, the trip is epic and the going is often tough – this year it will be soft, heavy in places, due to the rain – and you see plenty of fallers. Blaklion is now approaching his prime and could go better this time around, and he is 12/1 with Paddy Power and 888 Sport.
Tiger Roll won the Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival over 3 miles and 6 furlongs for the last two years in a row, so he has plenty of stamina, talent and jumping ability. He is 12/1 with Betway and Black Type. Total Recall has already won the Munster National and the Ladbrokes Chase and is priced at 12/1 with William Hill, 10Bet and Black Type. The best price you can get on Anibale Fly is 11/1, with Sky Bet, William Hill and various others, so he is probably the overall favourite, but several bookmakers have Blaklion, Tiger Roll or Total Recall as their favourite, and the betting will shift dramatically.
This is one of the biggest betting events of the year in Europe, particularly in the UK, where it attracts bets from people that have zero interest in horse racing for the majority of the year. We have seen plenty of long priced winners in recent years – since 2012, there have been two 25/1 winners, two 33/1 winners and a 66/1 winner, with 14/1 the shortest price – so it pays to look further down the card.
Horses aged 8 to 11 are the sweet spot, and ideally not carrying too much weight as this is a handicap. You want to find horses than have run in the past 50 days as fitness is crucial, and they must have won over more than 3 miles before.
Captain Redbeard looks good at 25/1 with Paddy Power, Betway and various others, as he is on a steep upward curve and he has won some competitive long-distance chases over the winter. Virgilio, a 100/1 shot with most bookmakers, has a great record at Aintree and on flat tracks where the going is soft, so that could be a real long shot. Vieux Lion Rouge and Alpha Des Obeaux both look good at huge odds. But it is an extremely competitive race and several long shots are in with a chance, so it pays to study the form and find the one that feels right for you.