The Grand National is widely considered to be the best and most famous steeplechase in the world of horse racing. Held annually at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, the National attracts television viewers from around the globe. In past years as many as 700 million have tuned in to the event; an amount equivalent to about 10% of population of the entire world!
The Grand National itself is one race, but there are actually a few days worth of races in the build-up to the main event. Sometimes people forget about these races, favouring the big one, yet there is some good money to be made if you’re canny about your betting choices. Here I’ll tell you a little bit more about the days around the Grand National as well as other useful information you might want to consider before placing your bets.
Grand National New Customer Free Bets
First things first, you need to know about free bets. Bookmakers know that the Grand National is an event that millions of people bet on, even folk who have never placed a bet before in their life. Strangely however many betting sites are scared of the Grand National as they fear they could get battered if they offer a free bet and one of the favourites win.
Luckily there are plenty of good bookmakers that do offer new customers free bets and bonuses, and all of these are shown in the table at the top of this page.
There are often some brilliant offers that you can take advantage of in the build-up to the big race. The beauty of these offers is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a first-time bettor or a long-time friend of betting world, as a new user you will be able to take advantage of them.
There are two key things you’ll want to consider when it comes to looking at the offers being made by a bookie. Is the offer a bonus or a free bet?
That may sound like semantics but actually the difference can be key when it comes to trying to make use of your winnings. Free bets tend to be ones where you get, for example, a £5 token that can be used on the Grand National itself. Normally you’ll have to pick a horse that meets certain minimum bet requirements and you won’t get your stake back with any winnings that you earn, but the winnings themselves are in real cash with no conditions.
Bonuses, on the other hand, tend to be given out proportionally to what you deposit. So a free bet might be “Deposit £10 and get a £10 free bet on the Grand National!”, whilst a bonus will be along the lines of “Deposit up to £100 and we’ll match whatever you put into your account!”. Bonus money often needs to be ‘rolled over’ or bet again a certain number of times before it can be withdrawn as real cash. These rollovers also usually have minimum odds so you can’t just put it all on a dead cert.
Typically speaking bookmakers will ask you to deposit a certain amount of money into your account in order to get given either the free bet or the bonus. You may also have to place a bet that meets minimum odds requirements, such as Evens or greater. There might be a limit to how much you can win, too. The bookie may, for example, say that you can place a £10 free bet token on whatever you want but you won’t be able to win more than £1000.
Some bookies might offer you a ‘Risk Free Bet’ and that might tempt you. Bear in mind that this means you place your bet and if it wins then great, you keep the winnings! If it loses, however, then you’ll get your stake back (or a portion of it) in free bet tokens that can be used on other races as long as you meet the minimum requirements.
These are all the sorts of things that you should be keeping an eye out for when you’re looking around the bookmakers to see who has got the best offers at Grand National time. The final thing I’d recommend that you look out for is how you actually claim the offer. Some bookies will credit your account with the free bet or bonus as soon as you meet their criteria, whilst others will ask you to enter a code when you sign up, such as GRAND10 or the likes.
At FreeBetOffers we of course look at free bets and welcome packages for new customers that can help make your bets more valuable. It is still important of course that you pick the right Grand National horses and runners in the first place!
How To Bet On The Grand National
Betting on the Grand National is easier than any other event in the year, simply because the bookies make so much of a big thing about it and they plaster their site and shops with notifications.
Just because it is easy to place a bet however doesn’t mean you should bet anywhere and at any time. There is a lot of added value to be had by utilising offers, enhanced place terms and price guarantees. There are also big differences in the bet terms between bets placed on the day and in advance (known as ante-post) to be aware of. In this section we cover some of the things to keep in mind when thinking about your national bets.
Betting Online vs In A Betting Shop
Generally you will always get more for your money when betting online vs in store. This makes sense when you consider the much lower overheads and costs of maintaining websites over shops.
Some people still like to bet on the Grand National in shops for the tradition, but in reality they will often be getting a poor deal. There is some argument to support real-world betting if you do so with an independent, keeping the money in the local economy and all of that, but in 99% of cases you will be betting with a big chain that will give you better terms online anyway.
When betting online you can instantly compare prices, the number of each-way places and odds and other concessions such as non runner money back. This is much harder on the high street as there is less choice and more hassle to visit multiple stores.
Of course online you can also claim the lucrative welcome offer we list on this site and show in the table a the top of this page. These are not a con in any way, again the lower costs operating online means sites can afford these incentives and combined with the higher competition digitally it means they have to provide sign up offers too, otherwise no one wold join.
Opening A Betting Account Online
Opening an online betting account is very simple. If you are betting in the UK you will need to bet with a UK licensed operator, all the sites we list are licensed, and you will need to be a UK resident over the age of 18.
To register all you need is your name, address and email address along with a valid payment method (bank card, eWallet, PaySafeCard, etc). You may need to verify yourself too, especially to withdraw, this will require a form of ID such as a passport or drivers licence along with proof of address. Often if you deposit using a bank card however and that bank card is linked to the address you sign up with some betting site can confirm your identity using a soft credit check and so you will not necessarily need to send in ID.
Once you account is open funding it is very similar to making an online payment for any other website. It is worth noting if you deposit using a credit card many banks treat these as cash transactions and may charge added fees, if you can you should generally use a debit card.
You can also use an eWallet, such as PayPal or Skrill, to deposit. If you are claiming a welcome offer however it is worth checking the terms and conditions of the promotion however as many offers can not be redeemed when using these methods.
Now you’ve got money in an account betting is as simple as finding your horse, choosing the type of bet you want to place, selecting your stake and then placing a bet. Before you go ahead and sign up however make sure you do some research first and find a bookmaker with the best concessions, such as better each way places. We list the bookies with the best terms and offers on this page and we explain what these concessions are and how to use them below.
Each Way Betting and Terms
The Grand National is the longest handicap with the biggest field of horses and the most fences to jump in the National Hunt calendar. It is also only a Grade 3 race meaning the horses in it as not as elite as some younger Grade 1 runners.
All of this means it can be very hard to say who will really win, even the favourites have relatively big odds of around 5 to 10/1 and in the last 20 years the favourite, or joint-favourite, has only won on three occasions.
With this in mind and the average odds of a Grand National winner being around 23/1 most people like to back horses each-way to give themselves more chances of winning. It also allows you to back outsiders that are unlikely to win but could legitimately earn a place.
An each-way bet is effectively two bets with two stakes, one bet is for the win and the other bet is for the place. If the horse wins both part of the bet will pay out, the win bet at full odds and the place bet at a fraction of the odds (usually 1/4 for the national), you will also get both stakes back (if you bet with cash, if you bet with a free bet the stake will not be given back).
If the horse places and does not win only the place part of the bet will pay out, you will get your stake back for the place bet but will lose your stake for the win part of the bet.
If you want to bet each-way there are however a number of terms to be aware of to get the most out of it:
- Places – Most of the better online bookies will give extra places on the national, you can easily get 6 places in the lead up to the big race (see top table)
- Odds – Typically each-way odds are often one fifth of the win price (or 1/5), but for the National most reputable sites give a quarter the odds (1/4)
- Each Way Extra – A few bigger operators have tools that allow you to increase the number of places in exchange for lower overall odds, this can be useful when backing long odds outsiders.
It is worth noting you can also back horses to place only, so if you are thinking of backing an outsider because you think it will place but is very unlikely to win you can save yourself money by betting on the place only. This way you are only placing one bet instead of two.
Non Runner Money Back
No-runner money back (NRMB), or non-runner no bet (NRNB) is given as standard if you bet on the day of the race. This means if your horse doesn’t run you will get your stake back in cash.
Normally for ante-post bets you do not get NRNB but the Grand National is one of those exceptions. In the months and weeks leading up to the race some bookies will give non-runner money back for ante-post national bets. This can be an advantage for placing advance bets on the national and I discuss this in the section further down about ante-post vs on the day betting.
If you are betting on the National less than a month or so in advance it is worth shopping around to find the NRNB concession just in case your horse is pulled.
Best Price Guarantee
Best odds guarantee (BOG) is again something very common now among leading betting companies. It ensures that if you take a fixed odds price at the time of placing a bet but by the time the race starts the starting price (SP) is higher that you will automatically get that higher SP price.
It is standard to get best price guarantee for bets placed on the day, alongside NRNB. If you are betting ante-post then you will usually not be able to claim the BOG concession, but yet again for the National this is an exception. You can still be on ante-post markets with many sites in the run up to the race and still make sure that if the SP is higher that you get that price.
Some bookies cap the BOG benefit, but this is usually at a very high level, so unless you are staking £1000’s you should be in no danger of hitting any limits.
Existing Customer Offers
There are tons of betting offers that are applicable for the Grand National and other races at the Aintree Festival. Many of these deals can be claimed in addition to welcome offers and concessions and so it can genuinely make a difference if you bet with the right bookie using the right deals to suit your wagers.
We have pages on the major offers that can add value to existing customer bets that you can click through to below:
- Faller Insurance – Money back if your horse falls, unseats the jockey or is brought down – very useful for the Grand National.
- Price Promise – With some of the very best betting sites you can get a price promise which ensure they will beat the price of their major competitors, if you can get this it is much more valuable that a best odds guarantee.
- Free Bets For Winners – For televised and feature races you can earn free bets and bonuses if your horse wins with a minimum odds threshold, by a certain distance, etc.
- Beaten By A Distance – If your back a horse to win and it comes second by a certain amount, head, length, etc., some operators will refund your stake.
- Lucky Bonuses – If you place Lucky 15 or similar full-cover bets you can get bonuses with some bookies.
- Acca Bonus or Insurance – If you place a multiple on a number of races there are many bonus and insurance accumulator offers applicable to racing.
- Totepool Offers – If you bet on the tote then you can often find enhanced jackpots.
- Free Bet Clubs – If you fancy placing a few different bets it can be worth signing up with a bookie with a free bet club, these reward you with free tokens for betting a set amount at minimum odds in a certain time (usually a week). You can choose what you bet on and these can often be used in addition to other offers.
Ante-Post vs Betting On The Day
If you think you’ve spotted a horse earlier in the season that could stand a good chance at a race like the National then backing it early can often pay off. Odds will decrease the more people back a selection so if you think your pick will be popular you can sometimes get 2-3x the price backing it ante-post.
The problem with ante-post betting is by default you do not get NRNB or BOG and you will often get less places and poorer terms than betting on the day. Therefore advance betting is often risky as you could lose your money if your horse doesn’t run or if the price actually gets better nearer the race.
For the Grand National however a lot of these risks are mitigated as so many bookmakers provide NRNB, BOG and enhanced each-way terms in advance. This way you can get your bets on a few weeks or days early and still claim all of the attractive concessions. If you guess right too you may also find you cash in on much better odds.
The other big benefit of placing bets online ante-post of the National is bookies will still be offering introductory deals in the run up to the big race that are often pulled on the day.
If you are betting on the day however make sure you take the fixed price and do so with a bookie that offers BOG, enhanced each-way terms and ideally a welcome offer.
Don’t Bet Too Late
The Grand National is famous for being one of the most bet on events on the planet and this can often overwhelm some betting site who are not used to the volume of traffic.
It’s not so much the number of people who bet on the race it is more the short space of time in which those wagers are placed that can cause problems, overloading servers and systems, that can result in some customers failing to get their bets on.
For this reason many sites will suspend new registrations in the hours leading up to the race itself, so if you are planning on signing up to a new site then it makes sense to do this a day or so in advance.
Therefore if possible do not leave it to the last minute to bet or you could risk not getting your wagers on at all.
Grand National Festival & Race Guide 2021
Day One Thursday 8th April – Grand Opening Day
Day One at Aintree is on the 8th of April and is sometimes known as Liverpool Day, given that the racecourse is on the city’s outskirts. Don’t think that because it’s the first day of the races that there won’t be anything good to bet on, though. There are four Grade 1 races that you’ll want to think about placing a bet on:
The Manifesto Novices Chase at 13.45; the Anniversary 4YO Novices hurdle at 14.15; the Betfred Bowl at 14.50 and the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle at 15.25.
The day builds up to the Red Rum Chase, which takes place at 16.40. Named after the famous horse that won the National an unmatched three times during the 1970s, this Grade 3 race is run over 1 mile 7 furlongs and 176 yards.
Day Two Friday 9th April – Ladies Day
This is perhaps the second-best known day of the Aintree calendar after the Grand National itself – Ladies Day. The visitors to the course like to dress up to the hilt and do their best to impress and why shouldn’t they? After all, there are competitions run during the day to find the most stylish race goer. The national tabloids might like to sneer and judge, but these are people who have worked hard atop get their ticket and want to enjoy themselves. More power to them, I say.
Anyway, back to the races and there are two Grade 3 races here to whet your appetite. The day gets underway at 13.45 with the Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle, run over two miles and four furlongs. There are then a series of Grade 1 races to keep you interested before the Crabbie’s Topham Chase at 16.05. Plenty of fun to be had when it comes to placing a wager on Ladies Day!
Day Three Saturday 10th April – Grand National Day
The main event takes place on the 6th of April, with the whole day building up to it. The Grand National itself takes place at 17.15 and is run over four miles, two furlongs and seventy-four yards. It is a race of endurance, skill and bravery as the horses tear around the track and jump thirty fences on their way to victory or failure. The prize money for the race is £1 million; not a bad sum of money all things considered!
Some of the most famous fences in the world of horse racing are located at Aintree. Here’s some details about five of them:
Becher’s Brook – This is the sixth and twenty-second fence that the horses have to make it over. It’s about five foot high but the real trick for the jockeys and horses comes in the fact that the landing side is around 6-10 inches lower than the side they take off from.
Foinavon – Straight after Becher’s the horses have to jump Foinavon. It’s not one of the larger fences on the circuit but is still tricky. That is reflected in the fact that is named after a horse who won the race in 1967 after avoided a massive pile-up of the other horses in order to romp home at 100/1. That’s the sort of story that makes the National such an exciting race to watch.
Canal Turn – The pressure doesn’t let up after Foinavon, with the Canal Turn up next. Once again this isn’t a large fence, but there’s a ninety degree turn that jockeys need their horses to navigate if they’re hoping to have a chance of winning.
Valentines – There’s little romantic about this dance that comes hot on the heels of the Canal Turn. It’s a five foot fence with a brook of more than five foot attached to it. Get this wrong and both horse and jockey could be getting wet.
The Chair – Horses only have to jump this fence once and it’s little wonder. The fifteenth fence on the circuit has a brook of more than six foot before the jump, which is over five foot high. Unlike Becher’s this is actually lower on the take-off side than the landing.
History Of The Grand National Race
The Grand National is known as being one of the most intimidating steeplechases in the world and it’s easy to see why. Unlike with many races it is rather common for the favourite not to win. It was founded by the owner of the Waterloo Hotel, William Lynn, in 1839 and has taken place most years since then. Obvious exceptions include those that would have occurred during the First and Second World Wars.
There have been other incidents at Aintree, including in 1993 when the race was declared void after a jockey became entangled with the starting tape yet 30 of the 39 horses continued to run and seven of them finished. In 1997 the IRA made two bomb threats that forced the race to get moved from the Saturday to the Monday. With hotels booked up, the people of Liverpool threw open their doors and welcomed in the jockeys, owners and racegoers to their homes in order to ensure the terrorists didn’t win.
In 2020 the National was cancelled for the first time in its history that wasn’t for a World War. A coronavirus pandemic causing a ban of mass gatherings and a global cancellation of sport in general. The lack of a race in particular hampered Tiger Roll from becoming the first horse since Red Rum to win three National’s and the first to win three in a row – although there is always 2021.