Grand National guide: How tall are the fences, how long is the race – all you need to know

The Grand National gets underway on Saturday… here's everything you need to know

Grand National guide


The 2023 Grand National is almost upon us and for millions of horse racing betting fans this is the last big chance to nail a memorable win before the National Hunt season comes to a close.

Aintree Racecourse is all set to host three days of raucous racing, which culminates in Saturday’s Grand National being broadcast live to the nation on ITV.

You’ve probably heard that the National is taking place this week. That guy in the office has no-doubt bugged you for your quid to enter the sweepstake, and you’ve picked a rank outsider with no chance of winning. Or you might be following all the updates, and preparing to place your spread of bets on the big race.

No matter how passionately you follow the Grand National, it’s likely you’ll be curious about what’s going to take place on Saturday. So, Paddy Power is here to answer your questions and give you some facts to impress your mates with this weekend…

How long is the Grand National course?

Let’s start with the big stats. The Grand National course is massive. Four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs, to be exact. It’s a huge circuit that does two laps of Aintree racecourse, and takes in practically every inch of the venue.

How long does it take to complete the Grand National?

Horses take on average between nine and 10 minutes to complete the Grand National. The record time was set by Mr Frisk (1990) at 8 minutes, 47 seconds. That’s a blistering pace. Since then the fence heights have been dropped, so it’s not out of the question that a horse will soon break the record.

Grand National number of fences

There are 30 jumps at the Grand National, covering a course distance of four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs. The racecourse actually only features 16 fences, of which 14 are taken twice. The two fences that aren’t jumped twice are The Chair and the Water Jump.

How many horses compete in the Grand National?

The number of horses able to compete at the Grand National is capped at 40 each year. This number has fluctuated down the decades, and at one stage a record 66 horses ran in the race. However, adding more horses can be dangerous, and officials have set a maximum of 40 for years.

Grand National guide

What happens if a horse withdraws before the race?

If a horse withdraws in the week before the Grand National then it is replaced by a reserve runner. However, on occasions when horses withdraw on the day, or day before, of the race then no reserve is selected. It means some Grand Nationals run with 39 or 38 horses, but this is fairly uncommon. If you have a bet on the Grand National and the horse doesn’t run then you’ll get your money back.

How are odds determined at the Grand National?

Bookmakers work hard to set the correct odds for the Grand National, and judging the ability of 40 horses is no easy task. There are scores of variables used for setting horse racing odds, and it’s the job of odds compilers and traders to figure out what factors are more important than others.

For example, traders will look at:

  • Form of the horse
  • Past results in the race
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Official Rating
  • Weight carrying

It’s likely that the Official Rating plays the biggest part in the odds calculation. After all, this rating highlights how well the horse is performing compared to its rivals.

What’s the Grand National attendance?

The Grand National attendance is capped at 70,000 spectators. It means that a maximum 210,000 fans can attend the races over the three-day festival. However, Thursday usually attracts around 33,000 fans, and Ladies’ Day draws around 50,000.

When does the 2023 Grand National start?

The 2023 Grand National starts at 5:15pm on Saturday 15 April. However, the start might be delayed if the race stewards cannot get al 40 horses into position on time. The Grand National finish time will be around 5:25pm.

Who will win the Grand National?

Trying to pick a Grand National winner is no easy task. After all, the race is something of a lottery anyway, with horses required to jump 30 fences over a distance of more than four miles. Therefore making a pick is never going to be straightforward.

The Grand National favourites for 2023 are:

  • Corach Rambler
  • Noble Yeats
  • Delta Work
  • Any Second Now
  • Gaillard Du Mesnil

Many punters will likely back one of these at least as an Each Way bet to win the National. Check out Paul Jacobs’ Grand National Tips for a quick glance of the ante post markets.

Can I bet on more than one horse?

Yes. There is an option in the horse racing betting markets to wager on more than one horse in the National. Many bettors like to bet on a couple of outsiders to win the race, and a few short-odds horses to place. You can also combine your bets, wager on the top three finishers, and create even more complex bets to suit your style.


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