The peak of the National Hunt campaign may have come and gone with the passing of another thrilling Cheltenham Festival – but the jumps season hasn’t quite ended yet. Indeed, it’s almost Grand National time and, for horse racing betting fans, this is another big chance to nail a winner or two before the Flat season takes over.
The Grand National is the biggest horse race of the year for those who only occasionally wager on the horses. It’s the race for sweepstakes, office bets, and pot luck picks. You’re just as likely to pick a winner studying the form as you are picking your favourite colour of silks.
For many, the Grand National marks the start of spring and the welcome warm weather that will soon bathe the UK and Ireland. But why is the Grand National held in April? Here, Paddy Power explains all in our latest guide…
Grand National Timeline
We’re used to the Grand National taking place in the first or second weekend of April, but it wasn’t always like this. Back in 1839 the first Grand National took place in late February. Only 17 runners competed.
The next year the race was shifted to 5 March and only 13 runners started at Aintree. Late February or early March became the standard Grand National date until 1871, when the race was bumped a fortnight back to mid-to-late March.
The first April Grand National took place in 1913, when Covertcoat won at odds of 100/9. But that was sometime of an anomaly, and the race returned to its late-March date until 1940. Here, it ran on 5 April 1940 and not again until the Second World War was over, running on 5 April 1946.
After that April became a more prominent month for the National, depending on when the Easter weekend fell. By the 1970s the first Saturday in April was the preferred choice to stage the race, especially as it widened the gap between the National and the earlier Cheltenham Festival.
It wasn’t until 2007 that the race was bumped back a further week and fell on 14 April. The same happened in 2012 and 2019.
The 2023 Grand National will mark the latest the race has ever taken place in the horse racing season, on 15 April.
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Why is the Grand National in April?
The reason for the Grand National being held in either March or April is because of the weather, and its place in the National Hunt season. The National Hunt can only run from autumn through to spring because that’s when the ground is softest. It means horses can more safely vault fences and hurdles without hurting or straining their hooves and legs on hard ground.
The soft ground is perfect for jumps racing.
What’s more, the Grand National – like Cheltenham – comes to mark the natural end of the National Hunt season. It’s a celebratory event topped with a mega race that captures the imagination of hardened and casual punters.
An April date also means Aintree is more likely to attract racegoers who wouldn’t otherwise rock up if it was wet and windy.
DON’T KNOW YOUR ALL-WEATHER FROM YOUR WIND OPERATION? WELL, WE’VE GOT ALL THE ANSWERS IN OUR HORSE RACING EXPLAINERS SECTION
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THE PADDY POWER GUIDE TO RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW