Grand National weights: Why do horses carry different weights at Aintree?

You’ll notice when betting on the Grand National that horses carry different weights – but why is this?

Grand National weights


The Grand National is a horse racing that attracts millions of viewers every year – many of whom have never even experienced racing betting before. If you’re new to the world of horse racing betting then you might not know what weights and handicaps are all about.

After all, why would you add more weight to a horse if it’s only going to slow them down? Well, Paddy Power is here to explain what Grand National weights are all about and why horses carry different handicaps heading into the big race.

What is a horse racing handicap?

Before we look at Grand National weights, it’s best to understand what the handicap system is all about. In horse racing, a handicapper’s job is to try and balance out the field so each horse as a good chance of winning. Doing this means events can attract horses of varying speed and quality to the same race and make those races competitive.

To slow down the ‘better’ horses and give the ‘lesser’ ones a fighting chance, handicappers will calculate how many lead weights must be added to the saddle of each horse. Factors such as age and sex of horse, jockey experience and form go into handicapping. A horse that has strong form will likely have more weight added to their saddle, thus making the competition more even.

Handicaps are determined like an index. Often there is a maximum weight allotted and then horses are discounted weight if they qualify for allowances or conditions. You will see the weights written on a race card like so: ‘Weight 11-5‘. This means the horse is carrying 11 stone and 5 pounds, which includes the jockey, their riding equipment, the saddle and the lead weights.

How Grand National weights work

When it comes to the Grand National the handicapper can only go up to a maximum of 11st 10lbs on weight. The minimum weight is 10st regardless of whether or not the horse’s rating merits a lesser weight.

Handicappers will look at the form of each horse, as well as other factors, to determine the Official Rating and therefore the weight they should carry in the Grand National. Weights for each horse are announced in the February before the Grand National, which means even if a horse wins a race after that, their weight will not change.

Do Grand National weights affect my bet?

Yes. Weights are one of the key things to look at when considering betting on the Grand National. After all, a horse that is carrying the maximum load may struggle to handle the 30-fence course. However, weights aren’t always a bad thing. Often weights are added to bring a horse’s odds into line with others, and if the horse really is a standout favourite to win the Grand National then additional lead plates in their saddle may not bother it.

Red Rum Grand National weight

Red Rum famously won two Grand Nationals, carrying 12st in weight when winning in 1974 (GETTY)

Grand National winners with biggest weight

Since 1950 there have been 20 Grand National winners carrying a weight of 11st or greater. But the ultimate champion in this race when it comes to handicaps will always be Red Rum. The horse racing icon won the 1974 Grand National carrying 12st – a feat not seen since Reynoldstown won his second Grand National in 1936 with 12st 2lbs on his back.

Here are the top eight winners in regards to handicap of the Grand National:

  • Cloister, 1893 – 12-7
  • Jerry M, 1912 – 12-7
  • Manifesto, 1899 – 12-7
  • Poethlyn, 1919 – 12-7
  • Sprig, 1927 – 12-4
  • Golden Miller, 1934 – 12-2
  • Reynoldstown, 1936 – 12-2
  • Red Rum, 1974 – 12

The maximum weight carried at the Grand National these days is 11st 10lbs after the rules were changed in 2009.


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