Horse Racing

The Grand National 2021 – The ‘How To Bet’ Guide


No horse race captures the imagination of the general public like the Grand National.

Once a year housewives, works sweepstakes and traditionalists combine with serious punters to place an estimated £200 million in Grand National bets on this unique 40 runner race which features 30 obstacles and attracts a global viewing audience of 600 million people.

Grand National Betting – How to Bet on a Horse

With so much interest from all walks of life online bookmakers strive to make Grand National betting as easy as child’s play. In the days leading up to race day dedicated Grand National betting sections will be introduced by all the major online sportsbooks. These will make placing bets a painless experience with a series of one-click runner choice, one-click bet types and one-click stake selection.

Generally the process of placing a bet on the Grand National is as simple as:

  • Sign-up or log in to your preferred online bookmaker
  • Go to the Sports section and look for Horse Racing (or Grand National)
  • Navigate to the Grand National horse race odds
  • Click on the odds next to the name of the horse you want to bet on
  • This will then appear in your ‘Bet Slip’ where you can set your chosen stake
  • Also remember to select ‘Each Way’ if you want to bet both win and place
  • Click on Place Bet button and confirm. That’s it, you’re on!

The big race is broadcast live on ITV but if you cannot get to a TV the major bookmakers will allow you to watch the Grand National via their website or app. In order to do this you may be required to place a bet on the Grand National for a nominal sum, normally a wager of no more than £1.

How to Read Grand National Racing Form

If you want to make an informed Grand National bet that is more than just your lucky number or favourite name you will need to understand the basic of how to read a racecard.

Here we will talk you through the basics of what all the letters, numbers on a typical racecard mean. Below is an example racecard:

What does it all mean?

The first big number you see on the left is the number of the horse in the race. Horse number 1 will be set to carry the top-weight, horse number the next highest weight and so on.  The smaller number in brackets next to the race number is the Draw number – the starting stall the horse will come from. This is not needed in the Grand National which does not use the starting stalls.

The smaller numbers below the horse number are the form figures which represent the finishing positions of the horse’s most recent races with the most recent one being shown on the right. So from the example above. horse 1 ‘Amazing Grazing’ finished 7th on it’s last run and won the time before that.

Numbers represent finishing positions and letters show other outcomes as follows:

  • 0 – Did not finish in the first 9
  • F – Fell
  • U – Unseated Rider
  • P – Pulled Up (i.e. Did not finish)
  • B – Brought Down (i.e. Fell over another horse)
  • R – Refused To Race/Jump

Next to the horses name you may see some small letters which indicate any extra equipment a horse may have fitted. These may include:

  • e/s – Eye Shield
  • v – Visor
  • b – Blinkers
  • b1 – Blinkers for the first time

Moving across the card to the right you will see columns showing the Age and Weight the horse is set to carry (in stones and pounds).  The number shown under the weight (OR) is the horse’s Official Rating.

In the next column the Trainer and Jockey are shown, and in the next columns in the case of Racing Post racecards we have TS and RPR which stand for Top Speed and Racing Post Rating which are 2 other types of ratings.

And finally you will see the Grand National odds of each horse which is the amount you can win for each pound. 8/1 for example means you win £8 for every £1 staked (plus you get your stake back if you win).

Video Form

Nowadays the importance of written race summaries and analysis often found on many racecards are seemingly less important as more and more people choose to watch video replays of past races – these are readily available at the bigger and better known online bookmakers.

Grand National Bet Types

There loads of different types of bets you can place on the Grand National.  Heading the cast is the good old-fashioned win bets but, with 40 runners to choose from, many people will prefer to back a few horses and place ‘each-way’ bets too.

All the traditional bet types are available to those betting on the Grand National, such as forecasts – which require you to find both the winner and second – and tricasts (that’s first-second and third!).  But this is the Grand National which means all sorts of Grand National betting offers will be advertised, they will include ‘place only’ bets and also ‘special bets’ such as selecting the ‘number of horses to finish the course’, an ‘Irish trained winner’, ‘age of the winner’, ‘a woman ridden winner’ and many others.

1. Win Bet

A win bet is obviously what it says – your stakes go on your selection and if it wins you win.

There will be plenty of Grand National free bets to be collected on the big race as online bookmakers will give away Grand National free bets to new customers as an introductory offer. You will probably have to place these on the win markets.

2. Each Way Bets

An each-way wager splits your bet stakes between a win bet and a place bet.  So, if your selection finishes second, third or fourth (even fifth in some cases) you will receive winnings on part of your stake.  This will be calculated at a fraction of your selections price (normally a quarter or a fifth of the win odds).

So, back a 20/1 shot that wins for £1 each-way (a bet that will cost £2) and your return will be £21 for the win part of the bet plus you will receive an additional £6 for the ‘place’ part (a quarter of 20/1 odds is 5/1).  So, that’s a return of £27 if your horse wins or £6 (£1 at 5/1 plus your £1 stake) back if your horse is only placed.

Understanding Grand National Betting Odds

Most people have a good understanding of betting odds, but as many people will be placing their one and only bet of the year on the Grand National there is no harm in a refresher course.

UK horse racing odds are always displayed as fractions where the first number of the odds represents how much you will win and the second number how much you have to wager to receive these winnings.

So, a £1 stake at 14/1 will yield £15 in winnings plus your £1 stake will be returned.  But most online bookmakers will give you the option of viewing odds in a decimal format where a single figure will show you how much you will receive inclusive of your one unit stake.  Therefore a 14/1 shot will be displayed as 15.00.

How to Choose a Grand National Winner

There is certainly no easy way to find a Grand National winner as the starting prices of recent winners will testify.  2009 winner Mon Mome was a 100/1 shot, Auroras Encore scored at 66/1 in 2013 and the 2016 victor, Rule The World, was a 33/1 shot.  In fact, only one of the last twelve winners started at a price shorter than 10/1.

  • Grand National Favourites

Favourites – the shortest priced horse in the betting due to its popularity with punters – actually have a good record in the Grand National.

Given 40 horses normally go to the starting post, five winning favourites from the last 21 Grand Nationals is pretty respectable especially when you consider the shortest priced of those was 7/1.

  • Grand National Trends

But there are some clear trends you should look at when trying to pinpoint the best Grand National betting tips: No horse aged 13 or over has won the race since 1923.  Similarly no horse aged 7 has finished in the first five since 2003.

Eight of the last ten winners had previously won a valuable chase race (worth £30,000 or more) and champion jockeys have a poor record:

Richard Johnson has never won the Grand National, AP McCoy only won it once during a 20 year career and other champions like Peter Scudamore and John Francome have never won a Grand National.

  • ‘Lucky Pin’ Method

Of course if such study is too much for you, you can resort to the tried and tested method of simply choosing favourite names and placing coincidence bets in line with the names of loved ones.  Be warned, since 1980 only three winners have featured people’s names:  Ben Nevis (1980), Bobbyjo (1999) and One For Arthur (2017).

Grand National Betting Tips & Tricks

  • Consider backing your selections each-way.  This way, should they finish in the frame you will receive your stake back and should show a profit.
  • Place your bets early – all major firms are offering ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ so there is no downside and the considerable upside of getting a price better than the SP (starting price).
  • Take full advantage of race day concessions and Grand National free bet offers. There are some amazing deals to be had during the week leading up to Grand National Saturday.
  • Look beyond the traditional betting markets. Placing a wager on the age of the winner will give you several runners and possibly better value than backing a number of horses individually.