Get ready for the Grand National

Most British households will take a pause on Saturday 5 April this year and gather in front of the TV to watch one of the most famous horse races on the planet – the Grand National. An estimated 600 million people around the world will be joining them. This is a steeple chase that has a history rich with legend, controversy and miracle wins that have taken place over the years, and the fact that it is so long (almost four and a half miles) and so difficult to complete, yet alone win, makes for compulsive viewing.

Whether you decide to have a sweepstake with the people that you’re watching with on the day, or take some better value ante-post prices that you’ll find on Betfair and similar sites before race day, having a bet on the horse you think will win always adds to the excitement. The current favourite at Betfair is Teaforthree, priced at around 10/1, but those odds will shorten come the day of the race.

Even the kids can join in, choosing their favourite name from the list of horses taking part – there is a maximum of 40 at the start. You could have a kids’ prize ready and waiting for whoever picks the winning name. As far as the kids are concerned, picking a Grand National winner is about as random as picking a prize in a lucky dip.

For the grown-ups though, you can either place bets online or on your smartphone using a betting app before the horses are on their way, or you can use sites to place in-running bets halfway through the big race – if you think you’ve spotted the winner. If you really know your horses, you can even accept (lay) bets as well as place them on the betting exchange site Betfair.

If you think the kids might not understand what’s going on in the race, you could always get them in the mood for the Grand National by watching National Velvet – a 1944 technicolor heart-warmer of a movie starring a young Liz Taylor as a girl who trains and then rides her own horse to win the National. And for a more recent film about horse racing, there’s Disney’s Secretariat (released in 2010). It’s based on the true story of a horse owned and trained by a housewife that went on to win the Triple Crown in 1973. Secretariat is one of only 25 horses to achieve this feat.

Either film will be perfect for whipping up the household into a horse racing frenzy for Grand National Day!

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