Grand National Free Bets & Betting Offers

The Grand National is one of the biggest races in the UK, with millions of people tuning in to watch the race live on TV around the world. The event is unusual in that is has an appeal that attracts punters that wouldn’t normally bet on horse racing, and across the country office sweepstakes and passed around and “pin sticker” guides are published in national newspapers.

One downside to this increased interest is that the bookies often change or remove their sign up offers in order to limit their risk from new customers (some have even been known to temporarily cut off registrations entirely). Thankfully not all betting sites have this attitude and there are still a few places you can pick up a free bet or two.

Grand National Sign Up Offers for 2021

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18+ new customers only. Opt in, bet £5 at odds 2.00+ within 7 days of registering, no cashout. Get 2x £10 Free Bets, set events at odds 2.00+. Plus £10 Slot Bonus, selected games, wager 20x to withdraw max £250. 7 day bonus expiry. Card payments only. T&Cs apply. begambleaware.org | Please gamble responsibly #ad
Bet £5 Get £20 in Free Bets
18+. UK+IRE only. Min first bet £5 at odds 1/2 or more. Tote and Pool excluded. Must be placed within 14 days of account reg. £20 credited as 4 x £5 free bets. Not valid with Cash Out. Free bet valid for 4 days. Free bet stake not returned. T&Cs apply. #ad
Bet £5 Get £20 in Free Bets
18+ New UK+IRE customers. Paypal and certain deposit types and bet types excluded. Min £5 bet within 14 days of account reg at min odds 1/2 = 4 x £5 free bets. Free bets valid for 4 days on sports, stake not returned, restrictions apply. T&Cs apply. #ad

For a larger list of offers, see our main free bets page. Please bear in mind that terms and conditions will apply to any sign up bonus you take, and always bet responsibly.

Grand National Stats, Trends & Facts

National Hunt racing

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Lucy Alexander

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Choosing a Grand National Winner

Aintree at the Grand National in 2013
Stacey MacNaught / Flickr.com

There is a certain romanticism about picking a winner of the Grand National. You might have success by picking your lucky number as displayed on one of the horses in the field, you might pick a runner with a name you like or the jockey wearing your favourite colour. If your luck is in, you might just land a winner of the April showpiece, although of course picking your selection through essentially random means does not exactly increase your chances of success.

Instead, we can apply some common trends and themes that previous Grand National winners have shared, and at least in that sense, we have provided a logical framework for our picks. Of course, logic often goes out of the window during the four-mile race, which is run over some of the stiffest and most challenging jumps anywhere in the world. As we saw with Freewheelin Dylan’s win in the Irish National at princely odds of 150/1 in April 2021, sometimes there’s just no telling what will happen.

Age

While some horse races favour the younger bucks with pricked ears, the Grand National is more suited to those with a bit of experience to their name. Indeed, you have to go back 17 years to find the last time a horse aged seven or under triumphed in the National – that was Amberleigh House. Each of the last five winners has been aged eight or nine.

Form

Even allowing for the slightly random nature of the Grand National, form leading into the race has still been a key factor in the past. Historically, you’re looking for horses that have placed in at least one of their previous three starts – a trait that most of the recent National winners have all shared. That shows they are performing well and without concern in the run-up to this devilishly complex renewal.

Number of Races

The idea for a Grand National winner is to be peaking when the Aintree trip comes around – you don’t want an over-run horse that may have little left in the tank, and yet you don’t want a runner in which rust may have gathered through inactivity. As a rough guide, you’re looking for horses that had run between three and six times that season and no later than the Cheltenham Festival – that has been a good arbiter of success for previous victors.

Stamina

It’s rare that a horse will run over four miles, and especially so on going that is so agreeable that course officials have to give it a good splash of water on race day. Not all Grand National runners have the stamina to thrive on the challenging Aintree circuit, and nine of the last ten winners of the big one had prevailed at least once over three miles or more previously in their career – that is a mark of their lung capacity.

Weight

It’s pretty clear that the handicapper plays a huge role not only in determining who runs in the Grand National – see Tiger Roll’s withdrawal in 2021 for being too harshly treated in the minds of his connections, and also in who goes on to prevail in the famous race.

It’s quite rare, although not impossible, for a horse weighing over 11-05 to take the line in first place, and with only two winners of the race at that heavy mark since Red Rum’s triumph in 1977 we have to discount the chances of the heaviest in the field. Lighter runners have enjoyed a better time of things, but there is a sweet spot – only Auroras Encore in 2013 has won from a weight of lower than 10-05 since Bindaree in 2002.

Grand National Experience

While this last entry is pushing it a bit, seven of the last ten Grand National champions had run in a very specific number of chase races – between 10 and 16. That suggests a certain experience of conditions without being over-run.

Grand National Key Facts

Group of Horses in Race

It always helps to know exactly what you are betting on, which is why we want to give you a run-through of the most important Grand National facts. In addition to this, we will take a look at exactly how the race operates, so that there are fewer surprises for you should you decide to tune in to the action. Rest assured though, this race will still manage to find ways to shock you as major twists and turns are virtually a guarantee every time.

  • When – Saturday in Early April
  • Founded – 26th February 1839
  • Where – Aintree Racecourse, Merseyside (Grand National Course)
  • Distance – Four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs
  • Number of Fences – 30 (across two laps)
  • How Many Runners – 40
  • Prize Money – £1,000,000 (2019)
  • Class – Grade 3 Handicap
  • Minimum Age of Runners – Seven years of age
  • Maximum Age of Runners – No maximum but there have been only three winners older than 12 in Grand National history
  • Other Entry Requirements – Must have placed in a recognised chase over a distance of at least three miles
  • Maximum Handicap – 11st 10lbs (Given to the horse with highest BHA rating)
  • Most Successful Horse – Three-time champion Red Rum who won in 1973, 1974 and 1977
  • Most Successful Jockey – Five-time champion George Stevens who won in 1856, 1863, 1864, 1689 and 1870
  • Most Successful Trainer – George Dockeray, Fred Rimell and Ginger McCain, all tied on four wins
  • Most Horses to Finish the Race – 23 in 1984
  • Fewest Horses to Finish the Race – 2 in 1928

The Grand National is a unique race for so many reasons, one being the size of the field. In no other UK race will you see 40 horses line up behind the starting tape, waiting for the off. It is a number which is almost guaranteed year on year too given that so many horses are entered for this historic race. The decision on who to keep and who to cut is purely based on BHA ratings with the top 40 rated horses picked.

For the few that narrowly miss out on the 40, they will be named as the reserve options and some are occasionally called upon. They do not step in 10 minutes before the start of the race to replace some horse that has the jitters though, instead their involvement is announced much earlier. Between the years of 2000 and 2020, a total of 10 reserve horses were called up, with nine of them ending up taking part in the National.

In February we get our first taste of the possible Grand National line-up as this is when the weights are revealed with the top-rated horse issued the rather hefty weight of 11st 10lbs. This has not always been the case though and indeed, the National has seen former winners saddled with 12st or more, the last being Red Rum in 1974. Declarations are then first made towards the end of February, then again in mid-March and during the Grand National week.

Although you can bet on the Grand National months in advance, even before the weights are revealed, many will leave it to the day of the race or the day prior. At this stage, the chances of picking a non-runner are so minimal that you simply needn’t worry about it. This means you can do all your meticulous research with the comfort that you will not end up settling on a horse that does not end up competing.

When you have placed your bets, the only thing left to do is to wait for the race itself. Just before the off, horses will begin in a large cluster, rather than a perfect line, as they await starting orders. This does mean that some horses do enjoy a bit of a head start over the rest but that is practically impossible to avoid. Starting stalls are not used because this is reserved for flat racing only. It may seem all rather congested at first but note that in 1929, the Grand National had a whopping 66 runners!

When things get underway, jockeys must navigate their horse twice around the Grand National course, tackling 30 fences in the process. It is both a test of a horse’s stamina, as the Grand National is the longest race in the country, and a test of jumping ability. Although some of the fences have been made more forgiving due to safety concerns, they still take some getting over and fallers are still a common sight. Even if a horse does make it over a fence, a poor landing can easily see a jockey fly out of the saddle. In previous times, jockeys were allowed to remount but this was banned in 2009.

It is a race that takes a lot of time with horses giving it everything they have got for the best part of 10 minutes. Typically, winners of this race clock a time a little over nine minutes but of course the rest of the pack need more time to reach the winning post. There was one especially slow renewal in 2001 in which the winner, Red Marauder, was one of just four horses to finish the race at an incredibly boggy Aintree. His winning time of 11 minutes and 0.1 seconds was the slowest the race had seen since 1883. Eleven years prior to this, Mr Frisk set a blistering time of 8m47.8s, the fastest the Grand National has ever seen.

Although the focus is always firmly on the winning horse, many of us betting will keep a keen eye on how things are a little down the order. Each way bets for the Grand National will cover the top four, five or possibly even six places. Usually the top four finishers are confirmed quickly but you may need to wait a little longer to find out what happened further back than this if the field has become very stretched.

Modern Changes

Although the Grand National is a race that still has strong ties to its past, one which dates back nearly two centuries, it is a race that is continually modernising. Recent years have seen a much greater emphasis on animal welfare and this has made the race much safer than it used to be. Between 1990 and 2010 there were 17 equine deaths linked to the Grand National. After other deaths in 2011 and 2012, the following year saw the inside of 16 fences replaced (they were changed from wood to more forgiving plastic) to make them more flexible. In the following renewal, and the following six years, there was not a single fatality.

The inclusion of female jockeys is another notable change this race has seen. The first female jockey to complete the race was Geraldine Rees in 1982 and 20 years later Katie Walsh became the first to place in the event when finishing third. This notable milestone was soon topped by Rachael Blackmore in 2021 as she became the first woman ever to ride the winner. It was an exceptional performance too with Minella Times finishing more than sixth lengths clear of Balko Des Flos who finished in second place.

Finally, the modern era has seen a lot more money invested into certain sports and this has seen the skyrocketing of wages, sponsorship deals, transfer fees and so on. The 1996 Grand National offered £230,000 in prize money which was already over double the amount offered a decade earlier. By 2014 though, this figure had increased more than four-fold, reaching a massive £1m, making it the most valuable jumps race on the continent. The decrease in 2021 to £750,000 was only because the entire meeting was held behind closed doors due to the global health crisis.