Obstacle Illusions: Grand National Fences

To the casual observer, the fences on the Grand National course at Aintree may appear as formidable as ever but, in terms of construction, they are considerably less robust, and more forgiving, than was once the case. The National still range in height from 4’6” to 5’2” but, in most cases, are no longer supported by a rigid, timber frame, but rather by an inner core of pliable, plastic birch, 18” in height. The inner core of the fences known as Westhead, Booth and The Chair, all of which are open ditches, is still composed of traditional, real birch but, even so, they are more flexible and less hazardous to horses who fail to jump them cleanly.

While betting firms  have got you covered for horse racing tips for every race going, what the Grand National fences are covered in, is a story in its own right!  The National fences are still covered with distinctive Norway, or Sitka, Spruce, to a minimum depth of 14”. Nevertheless, the height of the orange-painted toe board, situated at the base of each fence on the take-off side to provide a clear ground line for horse and jockey, has also been increased to 14”. Likewise, solid timber guard rails – one of which ended the career of Arkle, probably the greatest steeplechaser in history – have long been replaced with padded PVC foam alternatives. The principal function of the guard rail is to keep the spruce apron of the fence in place but, at Aintree, guard rails were typically set very low on the ‘belly’ of the fences such that, at certain obstacles, horses could see into the ditch beyond, with unpredictable results. Raising the guard rails, to approximately one-third of the way up the fence, has improved visibility and safety in that respect.

It can, and has been, argued that removing the solid timber core of the National fences allows horses to jump lower – say 3’ as opposed to 3’6” – and faster, than before, thereby increasing the risk of injury if they do fall. Opinions differ as to whether horses that run in the Grand National consciously realise that they can ‘get away with’ hitting the top of the more forgiving fences, but jockeys certainly do. However, any danger of jockeys, as one veteran trainer put it, ‘winging round’ the National course has been alleviated, in part, by routinely watering to produce going no faster than ‘good to soft’ and that fact has been reflected in recent winning times. Indeed, with no fatalities in the Grand National since 2012, it is difficult to argue that the modifications to the fences have not improved the world famous steeplechase.

Grand National Trends

Despite changes to the distance, fences, entry conditions and handicap over the years, the Grand National remains a formidable test for horse and rider. The prospect of a maximum field of 40 runners tackling 4 miles 2 furlongs and 74 yards and 30 unique fences, including the infamous Becher’s Brook, should be enough to give the most ardent punter sleepless nights.

However, take heart, because although just one outright favourite and two joint favourites have won the Aintree marathon in the last 15 years, more than half the winners in that period were in the first eight in the betting. Will this trend continue with 2019 Grand National Runners. The Grand National is not, in fact, the punters’ nightmare it might first appear, especially with some useful trends to help you narrow the field.

In recent years, the Grand National weights have been compressed, with a view to improving the previously moderate record of highly weighted horses. Consequently, six of the last 15 renewals have been won by horses carrying 11st or more. Obviously, that leaves 60% of winners who carried less than 11st, but the point is that weight is no longer as pertinent as it once was.

In terms of age, 8-year-olds have won three out of the last four Grand Nationals, but 12 of the last 15 renewals have been won by horses aged 9 years or older. Bogskar, in 1940, was the last 7-year-old, and Sergeant Murphy, in 1923, the last 13-year-old, to win.

As in any horse race, fitness is paramount in the National. Horses are trained to peak fitness, where they remain for a while, before tapering off. Consequently, discount any Grand National runner that has been off the course for more than six weeks, or 42 days.

It probably goes without staying that stamina and jumping ability are absolute necessities in a National winner, so look for an accurate jumper, who has fallen or unseated rider no more than twice in its career, and has won at least one steeplechase over 3 miles or further. Previous experience over the National fences, even if failing to trouble the judge, is a major advantage, so focus on horses that have contested the Becher Chase, Topham Chase or the Grand National itself in the past.

Becoming Better Bettors

Becoming Better Bettors

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Most race fans think that in making a wise bet, a bettor should keep in mind the running styles of the horses. Well, it’s definitely right. But there’s more to mind of, actually. Favorites, trainers, track surface and the Preakness Stakes should be in your list. Aside from that, here’s a quick note of ways in becoming better bettors.

Figure out pedigree

I bet you heard about like mother, like daughter or like father, like son or any similar to these. The same goes with racehorses. All except three of the last 18 Belmont Stakes winners are by broodmare sires whose daughters bear stakes winners at 1 1/2 miles, or stallions who have previously sired a stakes winner at 1 1/2 miles.

Definitely, genetics can create the next top racehorse. There can be differences between one unraced horse and another. Yet, having an understanding of breeding is a good capability in making what that difference is likely to be. Knowing it can be a powerful predictor of what to be expected, not just only on a pony’s first start but also for a good time afterward.

Know about the jockey

Of course, horses don’t run alone. They are always accompanied by their jockey from the start to finish of the race. A lot of handicappers would have a rule of thumb in which jockeys who have at least 12% winning record, although it doesn’t show as high percentage, is someone to bet on.

Do an exotic wager

Try an exotic bet. Exotic bets started when there was one time in which there are only 35% of older bet types made, while 65% of new bets are made. This new kind of bets was a moniker, yet became most of the people’s choice.

So how exotic is an exotic bet? The idea is that a bettor will choose more than once on a single bet slip. A bettor tends to place wagers on more than one result, whether betting on the successive finishers of a single horse race or betting on the winners of more than one horse race.

It’s already daunting enough to pick one winner, so it’s like boiling the ocean when a bettor is going to pick three or four races or top finishers. You might think, this is being foolishly clairvoyant. Don’t be silly, you’re not gonna be if you’re a smartass.

If you bet in a complex manner, the chances are, you’ll receive much more handsome payoff. In fact, a few who have been winning Pick 6 wagers have disbursed in millions. Hence, payoffs are one of those prime sources of making real money. Other people think that you’re more likely not a professional if you’re just simply placing and showing bets.

Pakes makes the race

Read the race form carefully. It shows how horses performed in their previous races and what their ranks are at each beginning, middle and end, and other points in between stages of those races.

A few people think that a speed horse may be the best bet when the race has a lot of closers. The tendency is, by the time the closers are waiting to act their moves, the speed horses might already have made an unbeatable gap.

However, don’t focus on horses that rush to the front too much. It’s a common thought that speed horses will make themselves exhausted by the time they reach the stretch, so most of time those horses in the back may have an advantage.

Be profitably late

You might miss some scenarios, but being late would give an advantage. Most of the handicappers can’t wholly ascertain the value until it’s almost posted, literally like the final two minutes because the odds keep on changing constantly. A wise handicapper adjusts his/her betting strategy based on last minute-odds.

On the other hand, some handicappers like to be around 10 minutes in advance of the race in so that they can have a look at the horses as they appear out on the track. They usually take signs from the horses. For instance, having an arched neck is a good sign that the horse is ready to go, while foaming or sweating is a bad sign which can mean the horse is stressed.


Races like Belmont Stakes has very low-paying favorites. Thus, pick your targets meticulously. Essentially, there’s a higher chance of winning when you invest more in a race or in a horse that you really like.

Therefore, if you would like to become one of the best bettors for any horse racing competition you are looking forward to join, you may find additional tips and techniques in some websites like https://www.tvg.com/promos/belmont-stakes/ which will make your betting a piece of cake.