*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change
In normal times, the UK comes to a standstill once a year to watch the Grand National runners and riders tackle Aintree Racecourse’s iconic fences. It really is a race like no other thanks to the sheer number of contenders and the gruelling 4m 2½f course they must navigate.
A sign of the race’s enduring popularity is that 106 entries were submitted for the 2021 renewal by the February 2 deadline. So how do Aintree bigwigs decide on the final field of 40 horses?
Any potential runner must meet strict criteria to be eligible to run in the world’s greatest steeplechase. The race is open to seven-year-olds and upwards, with a rating of at least 125 which, prior to March 23, started in a steeplechase during the current season. A horse must also have been placed in the top four in a steeplechase with an official distance description of at least 2m 7½f at any time during their career.
Once the deadline for entries passes, the handicapper beavers away in the background deciding on each horse’s rating and how much weight they will need to carry in an attempt to make the race as fair as possible.
The handicapper revealed the ratings for the 105 horses that met the strict entry criteria on February 16 – and it’s fair to say his biggest decision attracted headlines. Tiger Roll, the Grand National winner in 2018 and 2019, was allotted a rating of 166 which was significantly higher than in previous years. Owners Gigginstown House Stud argued it was unfair because the Tiger was now 11 and had been enduring a challenging season on the track. Alas, the public’s favourite horse was withdrawn although Tiger Roll went on to, arguably, live up to the high mark by crushing Easysland in the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival weeks later.
The field is whittled further down as a series of scratchings take place with horses being withdrawn for numerous reasons such as new race targets and injuries.
The 40 highest-rated runners left by the April 8 final declaration stage will line up carrying weight varying from 11st 10lb (Bristol De Mai) to 10st 2lb (Blaklion).
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Aintree Racecourse goers in 1929 witnessed the largest field in Grand National history when an incredible 66 runners went to post. Good luck trying to keep track of your horse! At the other end of the scale, a record-low field of 10 runners competed in the 1883 renewal.
It’s fair to say that more often than not the majority of runners fail to complete the course. A record high of 23 horses finished the race in 1984 when Hallo Dandy came out on top. There were just two finishers in 1928, while the infamous 2001 Grand National was plagued by heavy going which contributed to just two runners completing the course without mishap and two others being remounted to finish.
Grand National 2021 Latest Odds
Paddy Power’s market for the 2021 Grand National has Cloth Cap as the clear favourite. The Jonjo O’Neill-trained nine-year-old won on his last two starts and is 14lb ahead of the handicapper on current ratings.
2019 Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint is prominent in the betting despite jockey Paul Townend missing the race.
While the Henry de Bromhead-trained Minella Times has also proved popular with punters after Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey Rachael Blackmore was booked to ride.
Grand National 2021 Date and Start Time
The Grand National is scheduled for 5.15pm on Saturday April 10. It will be the first running since April 2019 because last year’s renewal was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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