Horses that race in the Grand National don’t just get there on luck. The selection process is a long and arduous task for race organisers and requires handicappers to deliver their judgements on horses long before the final list can be announced.
There are around 100 credible applications for horses to run in the Grand National but this must be cut down to 40 before the race. Some end up being Grand National reserve horses, while the rest are turned away. But how does the BHA regulate which horses qualify and which don’t?
In this latest Paddy Power guide for our Demystifying Racing series, we’ll explain what conditions a horse needs in order to pass the qualification stage for the Grand National, and why the horse racing betting odds can often reflect those conditions.
Grand National qualification criteria
Thousands of race horse owners dream of one day winning the Grand National but even getting their horse onto the list of 40 runners is something of a miracle. The Grand National is a handicap race that applies particular qualifying conditions on the horses. These Grand National conditions include:
- Official Rating (OR) of 125 or more
- Aged 7 or above
- Completed three or more steeplechases
- Completed one steeplechase in the current season
- Finished between 1st and 4th in a steeplechase over 2 miles 7½ furlongs or greater
Outside of the official rules there are other criteria owners and trainers will look at before deciding whether or not to put a horse forward to enter the Grand National. The world’s best steeplechasers take years to develop and so it’s unlikely a seven-year-old will enter with the expectations that it could seriously challenge for a win or place unless it has proven exceptional over jumps.
Other owners and trainers may decide to run their horses at Cheltenham Festival first, so the horse can become accustomed to big crowds in the grandstand. Then, a year later when entries open for the Grand National, there is more confidence in said horse running smoothly.
How do jockeys qualify for the Grand National?
It’s not only the horses that have to qualify for the Grand National. Jockeys must have passed a number of criteria in order to be deemed suitable to ride in such an arduous, energy-draining race.
These criteria include:
- Have ridden 15 winners
- 10 winners must be steeplechases
Women jockeys were only permitted to enter the Grand National as recently as 1975 following the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act. Within two years jockey Charlotte Brew rode in the Grand National on Barony Fort, while in 2012 Katie Walsh placed on Seabass, finishing third. Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Grand National when she rode Minella Times to victory in 2021.
WELCOME TO PADDY POWER NEWS!
How qualification affects Grand National betting
When horses qualify for the Grand National they will take their official rating into the race. And because the Grand National is a handicap race, this means the weight added to their saddles will be proportionate to their rating.
This is important for racing betting fans who want to find a hidden gem in the Grand National pack. One of the best methods for making a Grand National selection when following the horse racing is to look back at the form of each horse over recent steeplechases. This is a core qualification criteria for the big race. If they are finishing well and have run on the same going as Aintree then that indicates the horse could be the pick for you.
- Why are there false starts in horse races like the Grand National?
- How many horses are there in the Grand National?
- Grand National prize money: How much does the Grand National winner get?
- 9 things to consider when picking a Grand National winner
- Grand National fence names and the stories behind every Aintree jump
- How high are Grand National fences at Aintree Racecourse?
- What are Grand National fences made of at Aintree Racecourse?
- Grand National fences: Order of jumps, total and which are taken twice
- Grand National weights: Why do horses carry different weights at Aintree?
- How many people usually attend the Grand National? What is Aintree’s capacity?
- What is the distance of the Grand National? How far do the horses run?
- How does a horse qualify for the Grand National?
- When did a horse last win the Grand National carrying top weight?
- Do Grand National reserve horses ever run in the race at Aintree?
- What does it mean when a horse is On the Bridle?
- What is a Black type horse race?
- What are the different types of going in horse racing?
- What is a bumper horse race?
- What are blinkers and why do some horses wear them?
- What is an Allowance Race in horse racing?
- What is the difference between hurdles and fences in National Hunt racing?
- What is a halter and why do some horses wear them?
- What does it mean when a horse has spread a plate?
- What is the Rule 4 betting rule in horse racing?
- What is the difference between graded, handicap and selling horse races?
- What does a novice hurdle in horse racing mean?
- What is a listed horse race?
- What does a novice chase in horse racing mean?
- Why do race horses have different ratings and what do they mean?
- When does the National Hunt season start and when does it end?
- Why are there different grades of horse race?
- Why are there 3 different types of National Hunt race?
- Why are race horses given different weights and what does it mean?
- How many different classes of horse race are there?
- What is a claiming race and what do they mean?
- What is an optional claimer in horse racing?
- What is a shadow roll and why do some race horses wear them?
- Why do some races start from stalls and some not?
- What is the difference between Derby and Oaks races?
- What does it mean when a horse knuckles during a horse race?
- What is a stayer in horse racing?
- What is a yearling horse and when are they ready to race?
- What does it mean if a horse has won a point race?
- What does a maiden mean in horse racing?
- How are horses’ ages calculated and why is it not the same as humans?
- What advantages do apprentice jockeys get when riding against professionals?
- What is a conditional jockey?
- What does the term ‘connections’ mean in horse racing?
- Why do some horses wear cheekpieces?
- Who are the stewards in horse racing?
- What does ‘weighed in’ mean at the end of a horse race?
- What is a nursery race?
- Why are some National Hunt races run without fences?
- Why are some horses given a tongue tie during races?
- What does it mean when a horse is ‘pushed out’?
- How are horse racing ratings calculated?
- What does it mean when a horse has a ‘wind operation’?
- How high are the fences and hurdles in horse racing?
- What is an apprentice jockey?
- What is a Bull Ring in horse racing?
- What does the phrase ‘Look of Eagles’ mean in horse racing?
- Why do some horses wear a ‘weight cloth’ during races?
- What is the Triple Crown in horse racing?
- What is a Steeplechase race in horse racing?
- How high are the Cheltenham Festival fences and hurdles?
- Why is the Champion Chase named after the Queen Mother?
- Why does Cheltenham racecourse have an Old Course and a New Course? What’s the differences between the two?
- What is the Cheltenham roar? What difference does it make in races?
- Why are there no jumps in the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper?
- How many fans usually attend the Cheltenham Festival? How big is the capacity?
- What is a juvenile in horse racing?
- What is a sire and a dam? Why is breeding so important in horse racing?
- What’s the difference between a colt, filly, gelding, stallion and mare?
- What does it mean when a horse goes to stud?
- What do horse racing commentators mean by sectional times?
- What is the Royal Procession at Royal Ascot? Which members of the Royal Family attend?
- How do they choose Epsom Derby stall numbers? Is there a draw bias?
- How long does it take horses to complete the Epsom Derby? How fast are the runners?
- How many racehorses does the Queen own?
- What is a stewards’ enquiry in horse racing?
- What does it mean when a horse is exposed?