The Aintree Grand National is one of the biggest single horse races in the world. Winners become the stuff of legends and with £1 million prize money on the line, it’s also incredibly lucrative.

The process for getting to the Grand National is very simple. At the end of January, all potential runners are entered. That gives the BHA Handicapper two weeks to decide on the weights.

The Grand National is a ‘handicapped’ race. This means that each horse will carry a specific weight, the idea being that once they line-up they all have as equal a chance of winning as possible.

It is the job of the BHA Handicapper to decide what those weights are. The maximum he can allocate is 11st 10lbs. This is given to the horse he believes is the best of the entries. He also uses the Official Rating (OR) to influence his decision.

Once the Handicapper has done his job, the weights are published in mid-February. This is a huge event where normally, trainers and owners gather for a massive lunch in Liverpool for the unveiling.

Scratching Stages

From the time the weights are published trainers must then decide if they will keep their horses in contention. Depending on the weight they have been given, how their prep races have gone and the decision of the owners, horses will either be left in or scratched.

If they are scratched that means they have been taken out of the race. This is important for the weights and final line-up. The highest weighted horse, the one on 11st 10lbs, will always be number 1. As the numbers and weights then descend in order, if a horse is taken out all of the potential runners below him on the list move up a place.

If the top horse is taken out, all of the runners move up a place. Their numbers change and the horse that was number two now has to carry top weight. The weight of all other horses will go up accordingly.

As an example: Bristol De Mai is handed 11st 10lbs as the top horse. Behind him in spot number two is Tiger Roll on 11st 9lbs. If Bristol De Mai is taken out, Tiger Roll becomes the top horse and his weight goes up by one pound to 11st 10lbs.

That is because there has to be a top-weighted runner in the Grand National. All other horses will also have one pound added to their weight.

Grand National Final Line-Up

Over the three scratching stages, the number of potential runners will get whittled down. But it is only those that are in the top 40 that will make it to the starting line.

The week of the Grand National can be a very nervous time for trainers. If they are on the edge of the top 40 they will be hoping another horse is scratched so they can get in. The weather also plays an important role. Too dry and it’s not suitable for some runners.

Likewise, if it becomes too rainy or wet as the ground would be too soft for some to run a good race. Horses have been withdrawn on the day because of the weather.

But by 10am the day before the race, the line-up is set. Any horses withdrawn are replaced. On the day of the race, if a horse is taken out, it is too late for a replacement and the race starts with less than 40 runners.

The Right Time To Place A Bet

At the time of writing this, the Grand National 2021 is still nearly three months away. The entry deadline has not passed. That means all of the betting markets, are just guessing at who they think will run.

Experience has thought me that at least half of the horses you can currently bet on, will not even get entered. That is why the odds are ‘antepost’. So if you place a bet now, and your horse doesn’t run, you will lose your money.

Closer to the race the odds switch to Non Runner No Bet or Non Runner Money Back. If you place a bet then, and your horse is withdrawn, you get your money back. The odds may be lower, but you won’t lose your money.

How To Pick Your Grand National Horse

The trouble with the Grand National, though, is that the course is so challenging. It always has the potential to throw up a surprise winner. That is why it is so hard to pick the winner.

If you don’t generally follow racing or you’re one of the 600 million people who will watch the race live on TV, the chances are that you don’t know that much about racing. And that’s ok. Choosing a Grand National Runner because it has a name you like the sound of, is one of the top ways to pick a horse. You can learn more about the Grand National with this infographic aimed at beginners.

In a race that’s open to pretty much any one of the 40 entrants winning, why not just have a go?

But, if you look at the stats of previous Grand National winners, you could choose to have a more educated guess when you place your bets.

One example is the average weight carried by the winner. Over the last thirty years, the average winning weight is around 10st 8lbs. Few winners carry over 11st 3lbs.

Another stat to look at is the age of the winning horse. Winners in the last three decades have ranged in age, but 80% of them have been aged between 9 and 11 years.

You can also look at horses’ racing records, too. In recent times, a lot of Grand National winners have done hurdle races in the same season they won the Aintree race. And the ten latest National winners had won races of at least three miles in length.

Looking at each horse with these kinds of stats in mind helps you narrow down your options when it comes to choosing which horse to back.