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Not having the Grand National and its three-day Festival at Aintree outside Liverpool left a reported hole of £500,000,000 in the finances of British horse racing and related businesses in 2020.

That is proof, as if it were needed, that the world’s most famous steeplechase remains a huge part of the international program of this global sport.  Around two-thirds of adults in the UK are thought to place a bet on the Grand National each year, most of whom don’t normally follow horse racing.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder.  With a worldwide TV audience in the hundreds of millions, the Aintree 4-mile 514-yard marathon handicap is the highlight of a three-day jumps horse racing festival that returns in 2021 after being cancelled in 2020 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Grand National meet starts on Thursday, April 8 and there are 19 graded races across the three days.  Of those, 11 hold Group 1 status, so this is a major festival in its own right and not just following on from Cheltenham in March.

Here is what horse racing fans have to look forward to at Aintree, though sadly dual winner Tiger Roll won’t be among runners for the Grand National day 3 and bidding for a third win in the race as his owners felt he was excessively weighted in the handicap.  The first day sees four consecutive Grade 1 races kick the meeting off with a bang. 

They include the Aintree Bowl over 3 miles and the Aintree Hurdle over 2 1/2 miles.  Those horses that competed in the Champion Hurdle, plus Paul Nicholls’ McFabulous could tackle the latter on a card that also contains a Group 2 National Hunt Flat race for fillies and mares.

Headlining the middle day of the Grand National Festival is the Melling Chase sponsored by Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.  Entries for the 2 1/2 mile feature race could include previous winners Min and Politologue.  Both are in the veteran stage of their careers as 10-year-olds, but fought out the finish of the last two editions of the Melling. There are also three Group 1 novice events on this card. 

On Grand National day, everything builds toward the big race. Supporting Aintree’s showpiece steeplechase is the Liverpool Hurdle over 3 miles that has been partnered by Irish international budget airline Ryanair in recent years.  The sponsor’s group chief executive Michael O’Leary is brother to the boss of Gigginstown House Stud.

Those racehorse owners have enjoyed plenty of success in the Grand National itself, thanks to victories for maiden Rule The World and the icon Tiger Roll.  Every race on the final day of the Aintree festival holds graded status, including two elite novice events, an open National Hunt Flat race, and a couple of handicaps.

In the Grand National itself, a massive maximum field of 40 horses are allowed to run. They face two laps of the special track, which has unique spruce-covered fences, many of which are bigger than the obstacles encountered in regulation steeplechases like those on the inner Mildmay course. 

After missing out on holding their April festival last year, Aintree will be striving to come back stronger than ever as horse racing and supporting industries in the UK cannot afford to miss out on another Grand National.

Horse Racing Business 2021


Tiger Roll assigned top weight for the Grand National

The formidable Tiger Roll will have to overcome weight of 11 st. 10 lbs. (164 lbs.) if he is to record an unprecedented hat-trick of three consecutive wins in the Aintree Grand National. Tiger Roll’s owner, Gigginstown House Stud, has warned that the stable’s star chaser will not run if it believes the gelding has been unfairly treated in terms of weight.  The 10-year-old Tiger Roll has been raised 11 lbs. in the official ratings but will be carrying just 5 pounds more than last year.

Once the dust has settled, it seems almost certain that Tiger Roll will run on April 4.   He finally reappeared on track over hurdles at Navan in February, racing keenly until tiring in the closing stages to finish fifth. Yet trainer Gordon Elliott was delighted with that run, considering it to be a prep for the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham, which he will try to win for a third straight year.  If all goes to plan, Tiger Roll will certainly start as the favorite in his quest to become the first horse in history to achieve a three-peat in the Country Chase.  His 2019 win was by an easy 22 lengths.

Gigginstown House Stud also entered Delta Work in the Grand National, who it believes has a realistic chance to win the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 13.   Delta Work has been allotted the same weight as Tiger Roll.

Magic Of Light up 7 lbs. from last year

2019 Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light and fourth-placed Walk In The Mill have been raised 7 lbs. and 6 lbs., respectively, for the 2020 race.

Magic Of Light, a 9-year-old mare, made a costly mistake at the final fence in the 2019 Grand National, so she has a shot at turning the tables on Tiger Roll.  The last mare to win the race was Nickel Coin way back in 1951. Magic of Light has already won at Newbury and Ascot this year.

A recent run over hurdles has kept Robert Walford’s Walk in the Mill on track for Aintree.  Walk in the Mill’s prospects were covered in late January by A recent run over hurdles has kept the gelding on schedule for Aintree.

Multiple factors go into finding the ideal bet for the Grand National. To assist in handicapping the race, the Grand National Guide provides extensive analysis and betting trends as well as best bets. Last year, the Guide forecast two placed horses from four headline selections and the experts will once again be doing their homework to predict the 2020 Grand National winner.

Burrows Saint a strong tip from Ireland

Stamina is certainly a key factor in finding the Grand National winner and there is no better trial than the Irish Grand National.  Willie Mullins sent out Burrows Saint to win the race last year and a repeat has been his target ever since.  The horse is now 12 lbs. higher but is only seven years of age so could still be improving. Mullins’ entries finished 1-2-3 in the 2019 Irish Grand National.

Another to watch is Potters Corner, who stayed on to win the Welsh Grand National in heavy ground in December.  Trainer Christian Williams believes his horse can be effective on faster ground but the more rain the better for his supporters. Williams rode Royal Auclair to finish second in the 2005 Grand National so a victory as a trainer would be a significant addition to his resume.

Grand National betting is hugely popular in the United Kingdom and bookmakers will be offering special enhanced terms for the big race. These can include each-way betting down to sixth or even seventh place. If a bettor places an ante-post wager on the Grand National, he or she should make sure that the bookmaker is offering the “Non-Runner/No Bet” guarantee.  This ensures that if the horse wagered on is withdrawn for any reason, the bettor will be reimbursed.

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The Grand National is an iconic steeplechase known as “a race that stops a nation,” in reference to avid fan attention in Great Britain. With 40 horses in the field, the race draws interest from dedicated bettors to non-fans who just pick a name they like, and office sweepstakes are popular.

The 2020 edition of the Grand National is scheduled for Saturday, April 4 at Aintree Racecourse, near Liverpool, England.

Aintree Racecourse

Over the years, there have been some eye-catching performances and many fairy-tale stories: from victorious longshots to trainers and jockeys winning for the first time.  In 2020, the back-to-back winner in 2018 and 2019 Tiger Roll is looking for an unprecedented threepeat. 

Tiger Roll, owned by Ireland-based Gigginstown House Stud and trained by Gordon Elliott, is the ultimate stayer over jumps and he makes it look so easy.  In 2018, Tiger Roll delivered a superb display winning the Cross Country chase at Cheltenham over 3 miles and then a month later, followed up with a masterful performance in the Grand National—prevailing under a savvy ride by Davy Russell.  The Cheltenham Festival–Grand National double nicely rewarded the bettors who backed the horse in both races.

In 2019, Elliott had Tiger Roll in prime order to have a go at defending the Cross Country race at Cheltenham Festival, which the horse easily won by 22 lengths.  This set the stage for the Grand National at Aintree.

Tiger Roll was well backed into a short favorite of +400 in the Grand National and bettors were right.  He cruised around the difficult course to be in an ideal position to pounce when he was a few fences out.  As in 2018, Tiger Roll got to the front and went on to win by 2 ¾ lengths.  Magic of Light finished second and is likely to have another run in the race this year.

Can Tiger Roll win a third Grand National in a row?  Bettors say “yes.”  At +600 in Bovada (bet $100 to win $600), Tiger Roll is the clear favorite.  However, he will face stiff opposition from a number of talented horses.

Walk In The Mill is one of the challengers.  The Robert Walford-trained horse has twice won over the tough Aintree fences, notably winning a Grand National trial called the Beecher Chase in December 2018 and 2019.

The Beecher Chase requires horses to jump over the Grand National fences, so they have first-hand experience on the Grand National course.  Thus Walk In The Mill could very well dethrone Tiger Roll.  The principal difference between the Grand National and the Beecher Chase is that the former typically has over twice the number of starters.

Grand National

Second in the 2019 Beecher Chase was Kimberlite Candy, who ran well and is +2000 to win the Grand National this year.  The Beecher Chase performance gave the gelding’s backers a reason to believe he has a live shot in the Grand National.

A few veteran horses have also been entered in this year’s Grand National.  For example, One for Arthur and Anibale Fly (runner up in the Gold Cup) can be backed at +3300.

Tiger Roll has a formidable task ahead to win the Grand National a third time.  Walk In The Mill looks to be the horse to beat him; his two wins over the Aintree fences indicate that he is capable of winning a 4-mile race at +2000.