- When: 11th to 13th April 2024
- Where: Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, England
- Watch: Most races live on ITV
- Official Website: Grand National Festival
For some racing punters a month may not be quite enough time to recover from the four day rollercoaster that is the Cheltenham Festival. But for those racing fans who are ready for another feast of top jumping action, you’re in luck, as Aintree’s three day Grand National Festival rolls up in early April.
Featuring many of the same horses to have run at Cheltenham, there are ten Grade One contests over the three days which of course climaxes on the Saturday with the most famous steeplechase of them all – the Grand National.
Here we will preview the big races across the three days of the Festival, as well as bringing you the best promotions on offer when they become available.
Existing Customer Free Bets & Money Back Offers
Note: Offers will appear here nearer the event as and when they become available.
Aintree Grand National Festival Betting Tips
Please note: The following tips are for 2023 and will be updated shortly before the event starts.
The Flat season may have kicked into gear by the time April rolls around, but the National Hunt campaign isn’t done with quite yet. Still to come for fans of the jumping game, we have the small matter of the biggest race the UK has to offer, bar none.
The jumping and staying extravaganza that is the Aintree Grand National remains the only contest to capture the imaginations of racing die-hards and the general public alike and, in terms of betting turnover, comfortably puts everything else in the shade. It is also one of the biggest races globally, watched all around the world.
A contest so big deserves a full festival of supporting action, and the Grand National duly gets one, with the three-day Aintree Grand National Festival kicking off on Thursday 13th of April. We have 21 contests on offer over the course of the meeting, no fewer than 11 of which are top-class Grade 1 affairs. The casual racing fan may not realise it, but this is a really classy affair, with world-class horses on display, especially on the first two days of the festival. Here we present a selection of the highlights from what promises to be a cracking meeting.
Alder Hey Aintree Bowl Chase
Thursday 13th April, 2:55pm
The pick of the Grade 1 chasing action on the opening day sees a first-rate field do battle over 3m1f. Heading the betting at around the 11/4 mark is the supremely talented Shiskin from the yard of Nicky Henderson. Bouncing back from a spell in the doldrums with a resounding success in the Ascot Chase, the horse may well have followed up but for his jumping falling to pieces in the Ryanair Chase. He will need to jump better here, but is a high-class operator and will be the choice of many on his first crack at 3m.
Fans of trainer trends may look no further than the yard of Paul Nicholls. The Ditcheat maestro has sent out the winner of this a record six times in total, including four wins in the past eight years alone. Likely to be leading the Nicholls charge this year is Bravemansgame (3/1), who put up a mighty display when runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last time out.
Also bringing Gold Cup form to the table is the Lucinda Russell-trained, Ahoy Senor (3/1), who was going great guns in that event before falling six from home. Having won the Mildmay Novices Chase over course and distance at this meeting last season, he looks set to go well. With Gold Cup third, Conflated (7/2), 2022 Gold Cup winner, A Plus Tard (4/1), and Ryanair Champ, Envoi Allen (16/1) also amongst the current entries, this is shaping up to be a vintage renewal.
William Hill Aintree Hurdle
Thursday 13th April, 3:30pm
Excellent as the Aintree Bowl may be, the contest likely to attract the most attention on Day 1 is this 2m4f affair for the hurdlers. Always a high-quality event, the 2023 edition looks set to be lit up by one of the most talented hurdlers to take to the track in decades.
We are of course speaking of the mighty Constitution Hill - last sighted treating the best of the British and Irish 2m division with disdain in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Such was the level of his superiority that day, that it is no surprise to see the Nicky Henderson star trading at odds of just 1/4 for this. Looking in a different league to the likely opposition, the main/only question mark surrounds the fact that he will be stepping up to 2m4f for the first time.
Chief amongst his rivals is stablemate Epatante (6/1), who arrives as the defending champion but has been beaten by a combined 29 lengths in her two clashes with Constitution Hill this season. Of the others, Zanahiyr (10/1) and I Like To Move It (20/1) were beaten 13 and 33 lengths respectively in the Champion Hurdle. That gives them a mountain to climb, but they are still two of the more likely contenders to hit the frame in a race that is all about the jolly.
Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase
Thursday 13th April, 4:05pm
Each of the three days at this meeting gives punters the chance to witness an event over those famous Grand National fences. On Day 1, it is this contest for the amateur riders which sees the runners tackling the likes of The Chair and Becher’s Brook.
Prolific Point-to-Point winner Winged Leader (4/1) currently heads the market. This nine-year-old boasts strong form under that would give him sound claims, including when second to Billaway in the Foxhunters event at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival. Famous Clermont (11/2) is next in line following his sixth-placed effort in this year’s Cheltenham contest. Having only faded close home that day, this easier track and drop in trip ought to be in his favour.
Of those at bigger prices, Vaucelet (10/1) catches the eye, having been one of the talking horses in the build-up to Cheltenham, whilst the relatively inexperienced Its On The Line (14/1) will be fancied by many to go one better following his second-placed effort at the Festival last time out.
Air Charter Services Mildmay Novices Chase
Friday 14th April, 1:45pm
The novice chasers take to the track in the first of the Grade 1 contests on Ladies' Day. It remains to be seen exactly who shows up for this year's renewal, but when making your selections, pay particular attention to those runners heading here from the Cheltenham Festival.
When looking at the past nine editions of this, all nine winners had previously run at the March showpiece, with the Marsh Novices Chase, Brown Advisory Novices Chase, Ultima Handicap, and Stayers Hurdle all providing the winner. That throws up a few options but there are other interesting trends too.
This race has also been a particularly strong contest for the market leader, with five of the past nine editions being landed by the favourite or joint-favourite - handing jolly backers a profit of £30.24 to £10 level stakes. Potential contenders this year include Brown Advisory first and second The Real Whacker and Geri Collombe, and Marsh Chase 1-2 Stage Star and Notlongtillmay.
Friday 14th April, 3:30pm
The 2023 edition of this 2m4f Grade 1 chase could be one for the history books, as Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies (11/4) bids to become the first three-time winner of the race. Having skipped the Cheltenham Festival, he should arrive fresh and well, but does need to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Ascot Chase last time out.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy (9/4) heads the betting, having finished seven lengths ahead of Fakir D’oudairies at Ascot and is another to have given the Cheltenham Festival a miss. Of those heading here from Prestbury Park, Hitman (5/1) ran an excellent race to finish third to Envoi Allen in the Ryanair Chase and finished second in this in 2022. Fury Road (14/1) was three places behind Hitman at Cheltenham but ran well at this meeting last year and could prove dangerous if the rain stays away.
Randox Supports Race Against Dementia Topham Handicap Chase
Friday 14th April, 4:05pm
Friday's sighting of Valentines, Foinavon and co comes in this cracking handicap event over 2m5f. The fledgling training partnership of Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero ended the Cheltenham Festival in style with the win of Iroko in the final race, and the duo will be hopeful of scoring at the second major Spring meeting with Gesskille (8/1). Having already finished second in both the Sefton Handicap Chase and Becher Handicap Chase, this one seems to thrive over these obstacles, which counts for plenty around here.
Other likely candidates include Becher Chase winner, Ashtown Lad (10/1) and Statuario (14/1) from the yard of Peter Bowen. Of those at longer odds, the Noel Meade-trained Farceur Du Large (33/1) ticks a lot of the trends boxes for the race, and rates an interesting each-way option if making the trip over from Ireland.
EFT Systems Maghull Novices’ Chase
Saturday 15th April, 1:45pm
Grand National Day opens with this Grade 1 event for the novice chasers. Jumping at speed is the name of the game in this 2m affair which regularly attracts the cream of the division – Shiskin and Douvan both featuring on the recent roll of honour.
The Cheltenham Festival hasn’t proven to be a particularly strong pointer here, with six of the past nine winners having bypassed the March event. That said, Arkle hero El Fabiolo would likely take some stopping if heading here for his next assignment, and trainer Willie Mullins did take this with Arkle champ Douvan in 2016.
Should El Fabiolo go elsewhere, as seems distinctly possible at this stage, the best advice is to look for a six of seven-year-old kept fresh for the race. Preferably make that one from the yard of Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, or Henry De Bromhead and you should give yourself a decent chance here.
JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle
Saturday 15th April, 3:35pm
The Aintree equivalent of the Stayers Hurdle serves as the feature Grade 1 on the card, as a field of stamina-laden stars lock horns over 3m. Nicky Henderson’s Marie's Rock was expected by many to line up in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, and connections may have wished they took that route, as she disappointed badly in the Mares Hurdle. The eight-year-old belatedly gets the chance to prove her stamina here and heads the betting at around 3/1.
Next in line is Teahupoo (9/2), who finished a close third to shock winner Sire Du Berlais at Cheltenham, and will likely go off a warm favourite if the ground is soft on the day. Sire Du Berlais (7/1) himself took this in 2022, and may put up a bold defence of his crown, having bounced right back to form at the Festival, whilst bold front-runner Dashel Drasher (8/1) showed he belongs at this level when second in that Stayers Hurdle event. The pick of the each-way options could be 2021 champ, Thyme Hill (20/1), who disappointed in the Brown Advisory Novices Chase, but would look interesting if switching back to the smaller obstacles.
Randox Grand National Handicap Chase
Saturday 15th April, 5:15pm
And last but not least, the big one. Forty runners, 4m2½f, the most famous fences in the game, and the biggest betting race of the year by a considerable margin.
With the weights for this contest published before events at Cheltenham, a number of runners head to Aintree officially well in with the handicapper. Leading that group – and current clear favourite for the race – is Lucinda Russell’s dual Ultima Handicap winner, Corach Rambler.
Like many, this one has to prove he stays this far, but he gets to race off a mark 10lb lower than his revised rating. That alone makes obvious appeal for a trainer who won this with One For Arthur in 2017.
Any Second Now (16/1) probably isn’t well handicapped, but he definitely does stay this trip and handle the fences, having finished third in 2021 and second in 2022. Similar comments apply to 2022 hero, Noble Yeats (8/1), who is fully 19lbs higher this time around, but arrives in fine form, having finished fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Cross Country Chase winner Delta Work (10/1) also falls into this category, having finished third here 12 months ago. At 1lb lower this year, he looks to have been given a solid chance of going well once again.
Those seeking one at a big price – never a bad idea in a race where so many firms offer additional places – may wish to consider Sandy Thomson’s Hill Sixteen (66/1), who has twice gone well in the Becher Chase and makes his second start following a wind op. Also available at 66/1 is Gabbys Cross from the yard of 2021 winning trainer, Henry De Bromhead. This one doesn’t have previous experience over the fences to call upon, but looks nicely handicapped off a mark of 143, and has long shaped as though this sort of marathon test may suit. Good luck!
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The Aintree Festival takes place over three days, getting underway on Thursday and culminating with the big race coming on the Saturday. The middle day is always Ladies Day, during which the women of Liverpool and further afield get dressed to the nines and head to the racecourse in order to watch the racing and hopefully win the ‘Best Dressed’ prize.
Whilst the whole country tends to tune in for the Grand National, the days leading up to it are just as exciting and filled with classic races. The best thing to do is to have a look at the different races that are run during the week, giving you an idea of how the race is structured.
Thursday 11th April 2024 – Opening Day
The first day of the Festival is Opening Day and there are seven races. Here’s the racecard:
- 1:45 – Racehorse Lotto Manifesto Novices’ Steeple Chase (Grade 1) – 2m 4f
- 2:20 – Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m 1f
- 2:55 – Alder Hey Aintree Bowl Chase (Grade 1) – 3m 1f
- 3:30 – William Hill Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m 4f
- 4:05 – Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) – 2m 5f
- 4:40 – Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) – 2m
- 5:15 – Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grade 2) – 2m 1f
Of those races, the key ones are the Manifesto Chase, the Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle, the Aintree Bowl, Aintree Hurdle and the Red Rum Handicap Chase. They offer different challenges to the horses and jockeys taking part in them. As you can see, the presence of four Grade 1 races and one each of Grades 2 and Premier Handicap make for a thrilling day.
Friday 12th April 2024 – Ladies Day
The second day of the Festival is Ladies Day, filled with vibrancy and individuality. That’s off the course, whilst on the course there are more exceptional races, as demonstrated by this racecard:
- 1:45 – Air Charter Service Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) – 3m 1f
- 2:20 – William Hill Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) – 2m 4f
- 2:55 – Poundland Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m ½f
- 3:30 – Marsh Chase (Melling Chase) (Grade 1) – 2m 4f
- 4:05 – Randox Supports Race Against Dementia Topham Chase (Premier Handicap) – 2m 5f
- 4:40 – Winners Wear Cavani Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – 3m ½f
- 5:15 – Abersoch Land and Sea Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) – 2m 1f
Four Grade 1 races sit alongside two Premier Handicaps to ensure that those who have turned up for Ladies Day won’t be leaving disappointed. The Top Novices’ Hurdle, Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Melling Chase, Topham Chase and Sefton Novices’ Hurdle are the races to look out, making Friday as much about novices and chasers as it about the ladies.
Saturday 13th April 2024 – Randox Grand National Day
Grand National Day is the moment that most people have been waiting for, but don’t think that the organisers have chucked a load of pointless races either side of the main event. Here’s the racecard for the day:
- 1:45 – EFT Systems Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) – 2m
- 2:25 – Village Hotels Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) – 3m ½f
- 3:00 – Turners Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m 4f
- 3:35 – JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle (Grade 1) – 3m ½f
- 4:15 – William Hill (Freebooter) Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) – 3m 1f
- 5:15 – Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) – 4m 2½f
- The big race itself has a prize fund of £1 million and will take around 10 minutes to complete
- 6:20 – Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2) – 2m 1f
Once again you can see that there are important races everywhere you look on Grand National Day, with three Grade 1s, one Grade 2 and three Premier Handicaps, including the race the day is named after. All of them are races worth watching, whether to learn something about a horse for the future or simply to get an idea of the going before the National gets underway.
All race times and titles are subject to change.
About the Grand National Festival
The Grand National is billed as ‘The World’s Greatest Steeplechase’, being considered one of the most thrilling races on the National Hunt calendar. Whilst the Gold Cup at Cheltenham is the event for racing purists, the Grand National captures the nation’s imagination and is a thrilling few minutes of racing. As with the Gold Cup, though, the race itself isn’t the only thing going on.
In fact, the Grand National is surrounded by a few days of racing. Aintree Racecourse on Merseyside plays host to it all, offering punters some excellent races to get their teeth into. The Grand National, a Premier Handicap, is obviously the pinnacle of the meeting, but there are eleven Grade 1 races as well as two Grade 2s and five other Premier Handicap races, so plenty to get excited about.
The Founding of Aintree Racecourse – February 1829
Aintree Racecourse was founded by a man named William Lynn, who was the head of a racing syndicate and owner of the Waterloo Hotel. He initially leased land in Aintree from the 2nd Earl of Sefton, William Molyneux. His first job was to build a grandstand and lay out a course, with the foundation stone for the former being laid on the seventh of February in 1829.
The First Races At Aintree – July 1829
Lynn was a fan of flat racing, which was why he approached Molyneux as he knew that was also. The first time that racing of any sort took place on the newly leased lands was the seventh of July 1829, when the Croxteth Stakes was run over one and a quarter miles. It was won by a horse named Mufti, who cemented his place in the record books.
The racing was good enough to attract the attention of the Jockey Club, which soon started backing it with financial support. The Jockey Club Racing Committee as well as Lord Sefton and some Aintree syndicate members put money into the project to ensure that Aintree Racecourse could grow and grow over the years that followed.
It wasn’t until 1835 that the idea of hurdle racing began to enter Lynn’s mind. One of the jockeys that turned up to take on the course was Captain Martin Becher, a celebrated rider at the. time. He reportedly spoke to Lynn about the four-mile point-to-point race the St. Albans Steeplechase, which the Aintree owner found fascinating and intriguing.
Steeplechasing Introduced – 1836
Steeplechasing was introduced to the course in 1836, which was the same year that the new grandstand opened its doors for the first time. It was perhaps an attempt to encourage people to come to the area, with the Saxon words ‘ain tree’ meaning ‘one tree’. That might well have been a suggestion that there wasn’t much in the area of the small Merseyside village.
Even by 1894 the population of Aintree was only three hundred, so the idea of creating a racecourse in such an unused space must have been appealing for Lynn. Horse racing had been a popular pastime in Liverpool since the Tudor times, which is probably what encouraged Lynn to create a four mile steeplechase at his new course, in the hopes of attracting people.
Grand Liverpool Steeplechase Winners
|1836||The Duke||12-00||Cpt Martin Becher|
|1837||The Duke||12-00||Henry Potts|
|1838||Sir William||12-07||Allen McDonogh|
There remains some debate about whether this race was actually the Grand National or something else entirely, with some historians even debating whether the race took place on the course at all. All we can say is that a course existed at Aintree and Lynn was keen to attract people to it. That eventually happened, mainly thanks to interest from the aristocracy.
Mirabel Topham Takes Over – 1949
Aintree Racecourse has had many colourful characters associated with it over the years, from eccentric owners to talented jockeys. Few of them have had the same influence on the course as Mirabel Topham. The course was bought outright from Lord Sefton by Edward William Topham in 1949, with Mirabel running the racecourse for some years.
She brought in numerous initiatives for the betterment of the course, such as the construction within the track of a motor racing circuit. The work on it began in 1954 and over the years Aintree hosted a European Grand Prix as well as five British Grand Prix. In fact, Aintree was the course on which Stirling Moss won his first British Grand Prix in 1955, doing so again in 1957 and 1959.
Aintree In Danger of Being Sold for Housing – 1973
In 1973 the ownership of Aintree Racecourse switched from the Topham family to Bill Davies, a local property developer. Though he offered a commitment to keep the racing going, it was believed by many that his real interest was in making as much money as possible. This was demonstrated in 1975 when he trebled the admission prices for racing.
Davies seemed to be determined to cover Aintree Racecourse in as much housing as possible, which eventually alerted the public to the risk facing the course and, as a consequence, the Grand National itself. A campaign was launched, with public donations eventually allowing the Jockey Club to purchase the racecourse from Davies and secure its future.
The Racecourse Gets Developed – 2008
Under the Jockey Club’s stewardship the racecourse was gradually developed, with the idea being that it should be brought up-to-date as quickly as possible. £30 million was spent on the building of a new grandstand, which was opened ahead of the 2008 Grand National meeting. The main race enjoyed numerous sponsors over the years, which allowed for the development.
Grand National Sponsors – 1958 to 2023
|News of the World||1975||1977|
|Irish Hospitals Sweepstake||1958|
Notable Festival Moments
The Aintree Festival has enjoyed a number of interesting moments over the years, even when you try not to take the Grand National race itself into account. In 2001, for example, there was a fear that the meeting might not be able to take place after the Cheltenham Festival and other meetings had been cancelled due to the foot-and-mouth crisis that year.
Four years earlier and the final day of the Festival had been disrupted because of a bomb threat issued by the Irish Republican Army. Sixty thousand people were evacuated from the course, with two controlled explosions carried out at the ground. Earlier races had been run but the later events were unable to take place. The Grand National itself was run on the Monday.
The Aintree Festival might well have avoided the foot-and-mouth scare of 2001 but it didn’t manage the same escape in 2020. The worldwide health crisis resulted in racing being cancelled all over the country. Ironically, this time the Cheltenham Festival was able to go ahead but the National and associated meeting could not.
The 2020 crisis had resulted in thousands of fatalities around the world by the time the meeting was cancelled, with the Jockey Club announcing that it was ‘no longer appropriate’ to stage the event. Whilst the world of horse racing was obviously devastated, there were also concerns about what it would do to the local economy that depended on the race.
The problem with the Aintree Festival is that the Grand National dominates it so thoroughly that most of the interesting facts you can discover about Aintree revolve around the race entirely. Even so, there are some interesting things to tell you that aren’t about the World’s Greatest Steeplechase.
- The meeting was first run over two days in 1856
- The War Office took control of Aintree in 1915, with races moved to Gatwick Racecourse
- The Mildmay Course was added to Aintree by Mirabel Topham
- Flat racing continued at Aintree until 1976
- Michael Jackson performed at Aintree Racecourse in 1988, with 125,000 turning up to watch him
- There are seven vets on course for the Festival
- Around 152,000 people attend Aintree over the course of the three day Festival
- The Aintree Festival plays host to twenty-one races
- Aintree was once a Viking settlement
- Around 300,000 pints and 750,000 cups of tea are drunk during the three day meeting