The three-day Aintree festival gets underway at the famous race course in Liverpool on Thursday with the showpiece Grand National event taking place on the afternoon of Saturday April 11. The National was first held in 1839 and has become one of the most popular sporting events in the world attracting more than 500 million TV viewers in over 140 countries.

The winner of the 4 miles 3½ furlongs race will have to complete two circuits of the course, and successfully clear 30 fences including the notorious Becher’s Brook and The Chair, in order to claim the lion’s share of a prize fund that exceeds £1m.

This week will see a flurry of betting activity like no other as millions of punters, including people who would not normally gamble, attempt to pick a winner. So where is the smart money going this year?

Before we take a look at the horses, we should consider the jockeys and spare a thought for Jamie Moore who broke his leg after falling in a recent race at Towcester and will be unable to race. He will join a list of riders who will miss out through injury that includes Mark Walsh, Davy Russell, Barry Geraghty and Jason Maguire.

Early favourites

Of course, you may decide to just close your eyes and stick a pin in a list of runners in order to pick a winner, but if you want to take a more measured approach to selecting a horse, here is guide to the early front-runners in the betting market.


Of all the riders that will be competing, AP McCoy will be an obvious favourite amongst punters. The 20-time champion jockey will be attempting to win his second Grand National on the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Shutthefrontdoor. The 2014 Irish Grand National winner has been in preparation for this race since last competing in November and will no doubt be the early favourite. History suggests that age could be against the gelding as eight-year-old National winners have been few and far between, but McCoy has a habit of re-writing history.

Current price: 7/1 with Bet365

Rocky Creek

Trainer Paul Nicholls and his connections are convinced that last year’s fifth-placed horse has improved enough to run significantly better this time out. A recent outing at Kempton in February seemed to justify confidence in this top-class handicapper, and the Sam Twiston-Davies mount will be one of the hot favourites in the betting this week. Many experts have been whispering about this one.

Current price: 10/1 with Betfair

Balthazar King

Last year’s runner-up will once again be tasked with delivering a first National triumph to trainer Philip Hobbs on Saturday. After finishing five lengths short in 2014 the eleven-year-old has proven that he has what it takes to negotiate the tricky fences at the Liverpool circuit, and has been held back since a cross-country win in November in preparation for this race. His form certainly shows that he runs better when fresh, something that was ignored last year when he rode at Cheltenham prior to his Aintree trip. Balthazar King has all the credentials to go one better this year.

Current price: 12/1 with Bet365

The Druids Nephew

One horse that will be backed on recent form is The Druids Nephew. After impressing at Cheltenham last month, the Neil Mulholland-trained horse has become one of the early favourites to claim the crown in Aintree’s showpiece race. The horse will be ridden by Aidan Coleman after predicted mount Barry Geraghty and then Davy Russell both suffered recent injuries. Coleman has been notoriously unlucky around the National course but has ridden The Druids Nephew three times in the past and has always jumped very well. This could be the mount to end Coleman’s Grand National jinx.

Current price: 12/1 with Bet365

Cause of Causes

There has been plenty of interest in this Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old, but it has been three-quarters of a century since a horse in this age group has triumphed over the Grand National fences. McCoy was in the frame for this ride before plumping for Shutthefrontdoor, but with Paul Carberry in the saddle, Cause of Causes is in very capable hands. A recent victory at Cheltenham has certainly put this horse on the radar and Aintree has a habit of producing the unexpected. A great price if you fancy giving youth a chance.

Current price: 20/1 with Bet365

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