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Brown Lad is the most successful horse in the race's history, winning it three times, in 1975, 1976 and 1978. While trainer Tom Dreaper had a true stranglehold on the race for many years, winning it ten times in total, the first in 1942 and the last in 1996. The most successful jockey in the race's history is Pat Taaffe, who won it on six occasions.
It was one of the very few races to elude Willie Mullins until 2019 when Burrows Saint won in the hands of Ruby Walsh. Since 2014, it has been the Boylesports Irish Grand National, and it remains one of the biggest days throughout the racing year, with the prize money for the big chase a cool €500,000.
Cheltenham Gold Cup, Thursday 17th March 1966. Arkle and Pat Taaffe after winning the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, their third win in a row. Photographer: Mirrorpix
When and where is it on?
The race will take place on Easter Monday, 10th April 2023, at Fairyhouse Racecourse in County Meath. Starting on Saturday, 8th April, it is part of a three-day Fairyhouse Easter festival that centres around the big race.
Fairyhouse Racecourse is in the parish of Ratoath in County Meath. It is approximately 20km from Dublin Airport and 25km from Dublin City Centre.
Who can enter the race?
The race is open to horses aged five years or older. There has been no five-year-old winner of the race, while the oldest winner, since 1946, was the 13-year-old Overshadow in 1953. There is a maximum field of 30 runners allowed in the race.
Trainer to follow
There is only one trainer to follow these days and that's Dermot McLoughlin. Based in Bodeen, Meath, just a ten-minute drive from Fairyhouse, McLoughlin's back-to-back winning of the race has been nothing short of a fairytale.
In 2021, Freewheelin Dylan was dismissed in the market and seemingly dismissed by his rivals when allowed to bowl along in front in the hands of Ricky Doyle. But classy sorts, such as Run Wild Fred and Latest Exhibition, couldn't reel in the 150/1 shot - the longest-priced winner in the race's history.
It was easily the biggest moment of McLoughlin's training career, but just as very few predicted Freewheelin Dylan's success, few predicted the trainer would do it again the following year.
40/1 shot Lord Lariat was also sent to the front end and jumped and travelled superbly under jockey Paddy O'Hanlon. The Mullins-trained Gaillard Du Mesnil and the Elliott-trained Frontal Assault laid down charges, but they couldn't get past Lord Lariat.
The question is which McLoughlin star will line up for glory for the 2023 renewal?
Jockey Ricky Doyle and trainer Dermot A McLoughlin celebrate after Freewheelin Dylan won The BoyleSports Irish Grand National Chase during the 2021 Fairyhouse Easter Festival at the Fairyhouse racecourse, Ireland. Picture date: Monday April 5, 2021.
Recent years have shown that it is very difficult to carry a lot of weight to victory in the race. The last horse to carry over 11 stone to victory was the Jessica Harrington-trained Our Duke in 2017, who was a sensational winner of the race, carrying 11 stone and four pounds. Prior to Our Duke, you have to go all the way back to Commanche Court in 2000, with the Ted Walsh-trained and Ruby Walsh-ridden horse also shouldering 11 stone and four pounds.
In contrast, the 2022 winner, Lord Lariat, carried nine stone and twelve pounds when he took the race. Those towards the foot of the weights have fared very well in recent years. While experience often counts for a lot in big staying handicap chases, on the whole, the race has been a young horse's game in recent years. Liberty Counsel (2013) and Lion Na Bearnai (2012) were the last ten-year-olds to win the race, while Mudahim was the last 11-year-old when winning in 1997. Desert Orchid famously won the race as an 11-year-old in 1990.
The great spread of winning trainers is also worth noting. Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have been the two most powerful stables in Irish National Hunt racing for the past ten years or more, but they have both only won the race on one occasion. Mullins, as previously mentioned, won it with Burrows Saint in 2019, while the previous year, 2018, Elliott won it with General Principle. This is perhaps more surprising given the large number of runners they usually field in the race. For example, in 2022, Elliott saddled a team of ten runners in the race, and while Frontal Assault was a gallant second, his next highest finisher was Death Duty in 11th place.
At the time of writing, the race is a long distance away and many of the national hunt stars are enjoying their summer holidays. Therefore, suggesting an ante-post wager is a tenuous proposition. With odds not currently available for the race, the suggestion instead is a horse to follow with the race in mind: Max Flamingo.
Francis Casey's seven-year-old ran in the race in 2022, finishing seventh of the 27 runners and just short of nine lengths behind the winner Lord Lariat. But there were plenty of positives about the run, with the gelding surely earning himself another crack at the big prize. Taking quite a keen hold early in the race, Max Flamingo warmed to his task albeit there were some sticky jumps in the mix. He had every chance turning for home, but didn't appear to stay as well as those who finished ahead of him.
Casey was worried about rain softening the ground in the buildup to the race, and although the ground wasn't quick, it wasn't ideal for a horse who had shown his best form on a good surface. This is one factor that could see Max Flamingo go one step closer next year. The other factor is that he will be one year older and horses, in general, tend to be better the older they get.
How To Place A Bet
If betting on the Irish Grand National, you have many options. For a beginner, it can often be very confusing. To break down how betting on horse racing works, let's first consider what we mean by the odds.
Simply put: the odds are the expected probability of something happening. If a bookmaker prices a horse at 4/1, it means that they think that 1 in 5 times it will win the horse race. If the horse is 6/1, they think it will win 1 in 7 times.
The odds tell punters how much they will make if their horse wins the race. So, for example, let's say we stake a €10 bet on a horse with odds of 3/1. These odds tell the punter that for every €1 they stake on this horse, if it wins the race, they will win €3. So, if they put €10 on this winning horse, they will win €30 (€10 x 3) while they will also get their stake back.
If someone exclaims that they had a 25/1 winner, it means that for every €1 they put on the horse, they won €25!
The odds can look more complicated sometimes. For example, if the horse is 7/4 it is not as straightforward to calculate. It means though that if you stake the denominator (4) you will win the numerator (7) if your horse wins the race i.e. stake €4 on this horse and you will win €7. If you stake €8, for example, you will win €14, and so on.
This is the fractional odds format that is the most commonly used in Irish horse racing. There is also Decimal and American format, which present the odds differently but use the same principles.
The win bet: this is the most simple and common betting type used in horse racing. It is all-or-nothing. You are betting on your horse to finish 1st in the race, but if the horse doesn't win, you lose your stake. Whether the horse finished second or last is irrelevant to your bet as they didn't win the race.
|The each-way bet: Oftentimes people want to hedge their bets and have more chance of winning money or getting their stake back. The each-way bet is used for this reason.|
|It is made up of two parts, the "win" bet and the "place" bet. To best understand this, it might work best to take these two parts in isolation. |
|The "win" bet is exactly the same as the win bet described above. You win money if the horse wins the race but lose all your money if it doesn't win the race.|
|The "place" bet is when you think the horse will be placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd, although this does complicate on occasions. If there are lots of runners in the race, bookmakers might pay out on the horse finishing 4th and even 5th or 6th. Whereas if there are less than eight runners, it is common that they will only pay out on the 1st and 2nd places. It is important to know these terms and conditions before placing a bet.|
- An example: You stake €5 each-way on Best Mate at odds of 8/1. This means you are placing a €5 'win bet' and a €5 'place bet' on Best Mate. The race itself has 10 runners, so bookmakers are counting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd horses as being placed. They are also offering a quarter of the odds for place bets.
Here are the three different scenarios for the bet:
The €5 'win bet' you placed means your profit from this part of the bet is €40 (€5 @8/1).
You also won the 'placed bet' of the bet as your horse finished in top three. However, there was a greater probability of Best Mate finishing in the top three than there is of him winning the race, so you get shorter odds for the place part of the bet. In this case, you get a quarter of 8/1 which is 2/1. Therefore, for the place part of the bet your profit is €10 (€5 @ 2/1).
In total then, for the each-way bet, your profit is €50 (€40 from the 'win bet' and €10 from the 'place bet'). Plus, you are also given your stake back of €10, so the total return is €60.
The bad news is that you lose the stake from your €5 'win bet' as the horse failed to win the race. The good news is that you won the €5 'place bet' as Best Mate was placed i.e. he finished in the top three.
As above, you get a quarter of 8/1, which is 2/1. Therefore, for the place part of the bet your profit is €10 (€5 @ 2/1). It breaks down as follows:
Win Bet: - €5
Place Bet: +€10
Your total profit is €5.
This event is the worst result. You have lost both the 'win bet' and 'place bet'. You have lost the 'win bet' because Best Mate didn't win the race, and you have lost the 'place bet' because Best Mate did not finish in 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
In total, you have lost €10 on the bet.
Irish Grand National FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about the Irish Grand National.
The Irish Grand National meeting comes at a very busy time in the national hunt racing calendar. Many of the horses who will run at Fairyhouse will be doing so only a few weeks after the Cheltenham Festival. For example, in 2022, Galopin Des Champs got some redemption for his last-flight fall at Cheltenham when winning the Boylesports Gold Cup.
However, it also often pays to back those runners that have sidesepped the Cotswolds and come to Fairyhouse as fresh horses. Noel Meade seems to have a very good record at this meeting for employing this strategy. It is also often the case that these horses can be backed at large prices.
While the big race has been won by 40/1 and 150/1 shots in the past two years, it is a steeplechase that has been quite kind to favourites in recent times. Jonjo O'Neill's Shutthefrontdoor (2014), Jessica Harrington's Our Duke (2017) and Willie Mullins' Burrows Saint (2019) were all sent off as the favourites before winning.
Yes, racegoers can book tickets in advance on the Fairyhouse website where plenty of info is available. There is also usually the opportunity to buy tickets at the gates.
Saturday, 8th April 2023: €100,000 Rybo Handicap Hurdle
Sunday, 9th April 2023: Boylesports Gold Cup (Grade 1)