From the sublime to the ridiculous - Matt Brocklebank reflects on some of the best ever Grand National bets. And you can get involved too!
We want your feedback. What was your most cunning Grand National wager? Check out details of how to contact us towards the foot of the article...
Matt Brocklebank - A glitch in the system
There isn’t a plentiful store cupboard to choose from here, it has to be said.
Party Politics got the ball rolling in 1992 but from that point on things could only get worse as I had to wait 11 years to back another National winner.
Not that Monty’s Pass wasn’t worth the wait. He’d been well supported at 20/1 in the run-up to the race and absolutely bolted up under Barry Geraghty.
There have been other ‘winners’ of sorts too – my wife and I had a few quid on Mon Mome at around 300s on the exchanges in 2009 and the money went towards buying one of our first cars. It was to be named Venetia, naturally.
I also remember really, really wanting Many Clouds to win five years ago, but there wasn’t much - if any - financial interest that day.
I’d backed him in the Gold Cup and was convinced he was top-class so in spite of the horse effectively kicking me squarely in the plums by flopping at Cheltenham and winning the National off 11-6, I felt something somewhere had been strongly justified.
My standout best National bet was a distinctly grubbier affair.
I’d got wind of one online bookmaker offering odds on the runners finishing the race. Each horse had been priced up to safely negotiate the 30 fences and cross the line. All seems perfectly legitimate, right?
But there appeared to be a flaw in their method of creating the odds, which essentially just mirrored the runner’s price to win the actual race. Which was clearly bonkers.
It was 2012 and there were some absolute warriors in there, the likes of In Compliance for Dessie Hughes, Ballabriggs who had won the year before and a 14-year-old Hello Bud who knew the place like the back of his hoof.
Their chances of winning appeared quite slim, but there was no way they should be a significantly bigger price just to get round than a horse like West End Rocker, who had won the Becher earlier in the season but endured an unsettling experience in the previous year’s National.
Junior – who had romped home at Cheltenham – was another really short in this particular special market and the whole thing just looked lop-sided.
The icing on the cake? The layers were offering multiples, allowing punters to combine bets (up to nine-folds if memory serves correctly) on their favourite old ‘safe conveyances’ to finish the race.
Eventual fourth Cappa Bleu was always going to be hunted round by Paul Moloney and he formed the cornerstone of just about every bet that year, of which there were too many to recall.
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Feedback from readers
Christopher Oswin: So,despite this being a "lottery" of a race, between 1987 and '97 I had a very good record backing five of the winners. Let's imagine that the following conversation took place just before the start of the 1997 renewal:-
Lord Gyllene: "Shall we go for a stroll in the Aintree sunshine Tony?"
Dobbin: "It might be a bit more complicated than that, my friend"
Gyllene: Even after Uttoxeter a few weeks ago?
Dobbin: "But we came 2nd?"
Gyllene: "So you've never heard of a 'prep' race then?
Dobbin "Okay then boy, let's see what you can do!!"
And ten minutes later.....job done. And yours truly was richer for the experience in more ways than one!!
Wishing Sporting Life readers, their families, and friends all the very best and let's hope we get our beloved racing back sooner rather than later.
Steven Orme: From virtually the moment Ballabriggs won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham in 2010 i was convinced he would win the Grand National in 2011 and told anyone who would listen(not many!) to back the horse.
I built up a nice antepost position and as the race got closer my confidence strangely just kept rising so much so that i decided to go to Aintree on National Day which i had not done before and have not done since.
Watching the race live with a couple of friends was just surreal,from the start Ballabriggs was right up the front end and bar a shuddering mistake at Valentines 2nd time around it was all pretty comfortable.Fair to say we had a great celebration afterwards and as i got many messages thanking me for the tip it seems quite a few friends listened to me after all!
John Oswin: Fairly easy one this as my record in this race is a disaster – back in 1986, when I was 19 years old, I did manage to back the winner, West Tip at odds of 13/2.
The story behind this bet was that I’d been to Aintree the previous year and fancied the horse then but unfortunately it came down or unseated Mr Dunwoody at Beecher’s on the second circuit. A year later and between jobs as a teenager, I had just over a tenner in my pocket and was faced with a difficult decision. Do I keep the money and have a few pints locally that night (yes, you could get plenty of beer for a tenner in those days!!) or back the horse I again fancied and risk sitting at home that night with nothing or possibly going out on the town with over £55 in my pocket. The decision was never really in doubt and the £5 each way bet was placed. Obviously the horse duly obliged which in the long run may not have been a great influence on my decision making when deciding whether to have a bet or not..!!
Take care folks and lay the Tiger – even he can’t win off that weight so soon after his Cheltenham exertions ( I know it’s only virtual but that’s what I’d be doing on Saturday if it was on).
Steve G: 1971 my late father backed three horses in the National and we did that sixties thing of sitting round the black and white TV as a family. Gay Trip the favourite, fell at he first, The Laird, strongly fancied, fell at the third, that left us with 66-1 outsider Bowgeeno who probably ran the race of his life, giving us a great thrill and just finishing in the money fourth, never forgotten that day.
Joseph Goldie: In 2016 my girlfriend had £60 win on her favourite number, number 29 Rule The World it won at 33/1 returning £2,040.
Doug Milne: I seemed to find it easier to win as a kid than as an adult! I had Rhyme and Reason, Seagram, Minniehoma. Then nothing! Your story about Many Clouds resonates – what a great horse he was however I was very much with Saint Are at 40-1 that year. He’d a great record at the Aintree festival – he’d won the 3m novice hurdle and the 3m handicap chase on grand national day the year before he ran in the 2015 renewal. He had also finished an eyecatching 3rd in the Becher in the autumn of that season. The race went like a dream, was bowling along up there on the outside as they went over Valentines 2nd time. Its only now you start to look around and see who else is still in contention – my heart sank. Many Clouds is there and he’s cruising and jumping. Saint Are looked like he might get there for most of the last half mile but Clouds just wasn’t for passing – as classy and tough a national winner as there has ever been! A great race.
Ian Dickinson: Marton Furness thirds were playing hockey in Bradford and I wanted to put a bet on the National. Maori Venture was the selection and so a couple of the boys gave me a few quid to put on at the local bookies. We cheered it home before we played then I went to collect but it was only about half an hour before our game started. The queue was fairly long as most had backed the favourite that ran a place but our payout was much bigger than theirs! Missed the first half of the game (and I was the goalie!) but no-one cared too much. Can’t remember the result of the game but we certainly celebrated well afterwards.
Barry Hill: My record in the National is poor to say the best, but two bets stand out. The first is Just So as mentioned by another respondent. I had followed him for a few seasons and if there had been a six mile steeplechase he would have been world champion, but sadly he had to stick to 4 mile races. In those days the better horses did not compete in the race and he was well out of the weights , I think he was set to carry 9-04, for the 1994 National, but the day before the race the heavens opened and it became clear that the going would be heavy and ideal for him. I visited the bookmakers in my lunch break and they were still offering 66/1 for a win and 16/1 for a place. I mainly took the place odds and had a little to win. As already mentioned I really thought he was going to beat Minnehoma, but still collected a good amount from my place bet
The second was Don’t Push It in 2010 National. I had a good Cheltenham that year and immediately started to analyse the Grand National. I reduced it to a shortlist of 3, Don’t Push It, Black Appalachee and another J P McManus horse also trained by Johnjo, whose name I forget. Looking at the odds on Betfair, Don’t Push It was the most attractive at 84/1 and I backed him. At the time AP McCoy looked as if he would be riding one of two Irish trained JP McManus horses, but some time later there were rumours, which turned out to be true, that he would ride one of Johnjo’s horses and the prices contracted to 20/1 just before the day of the race. On the day of the race there was an almighty gamble to bring his price down to 10/1 and, as we now know, he won easily from Black Appalachi. One of my rare National triumphs!
Ron Stainer: I had been at Cheltenham and was standing at the winning post when Silver Birch was beaten by a short head in the 4 mile National Hunt Chase, I called my friend Bob and said if this horse runs in the National you must back it, he did three times, I only backed it once, it kept its price of 33/1 even on the day of the race, Bob sent me a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Happy hunting.
Clive Woodman: National massive in our house growing up mainly down to dad, 2013 dad passed away his funeral was on the Friday of the national meeting...never had a wake went to bookies in dads honour ( he was only small stake punter ,patent bet ,yankee).
National morning picked my horse ,son got up to pick his horse...he picked same as me so i let him have it, trained by sue smith...cant remember name, i will have her other one ...Auroras Encore £5 @ 80/1 ...swear to god dad was pushing it home...i had not backed the winner since 1983 !!!
Paul Artman: I've always liked backing "unfashionable horses" as they invariably are at bigger prices. I had followed Just So in the early 90's (or just slow as he was also known!) for the last couple of years, he stayed all day long and was a real mudlark. So I backed him for the 1994 National at 40-1 hoping for rain, The heavens duly opened, the official going became heavy and his price halved by the time the race started. As for the race itself, it was a real slog, just 6 finishers with Just So slowly creeping closer to the front and nearing the elbow, it looked like he was about to collar Minnehoma, alas Dunwoody managed to coax a little bit more out of Freddie starr's horse to prevail by a length. Nevertheless, One of my best each way bets!
Roz Walters: The first horse I ever backed in the National was Kilmore way back in 1962. As I was somewhat underage, 13 to be exact, my dad put the bet on for me, a shilling each way. I chose Party Politics the year he won, and also in subsequent years as I was a great fan of his sire Politico, or as my son called him, Flitico. Maori Venture and The Tsarevitch were both favourites of mine, finishing first and second. I was also quite fond of Lean Ar Aghaidh, whose owner often referred to him as Lean On The Aga, who finished third the same year. It was especially pleasing to see Jim Joel win the race as he seemed to have won every other big race over jumps as well as on the flat. I was delighted to see Neptune Collonges win the National, the first grey since heaven knows when. I had hoped he would be a Cheltenham Gold Cup Winner, but no matter, this was an excellent substitute. Like many of my sex I love grey horses. The reason being because we don't have to rely on a commentator to tell us where they are in the field! Definitely going to miss not having Aintree on this year. Keep safe.
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