Irish Grand National Betting

Held annually on Easter Monday, the Irish Grand National Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse Racecourse is typically the last of the four great Grand Nationals of the jump racing season. It is preceded by December’s Welsh Grand National at Chepstow as well as the Grand National at Aintree and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr, both held earlier in April. Being conducted in a jumps-crazed nation, this race draws particular interest from the betting public.

As a Grade A National Hunt chase, the Irish Grand National is a handicap race open to horses aged five years and older. It covers a distance of three miles and five furlongs on the right-handed turf of the Fairyhouse circuit, which measures one mile and six-and-a-half furlongs. En route to the finish line, twenty-three fences must be jumped.

The inaugural running of the Irish Grand National was on these same grounds in 1870, when a horse called Sir Robert Peel took top prize—a reward of 167 sovereigns. In 2010, the winner was Bluesea Cracker, earning €141,000 out of a total prize purse worth €250,000. In the 140 intervening years, the race has produced many unforgettable performances.

Perhaps the best known of the Irish Grand National champions is the three-time winner Brown Lad, who stormed to back-to-back victories in 1975~76 and then returned to the winner’s enclosure again in 1978. The jockey with the most wins here is Pat Taffe. He accumulated six of them between 1954 and 1966, including a memorable triumph in 1964 aboard the legendary jumper Arkle.

Arkle, of course, was trained by Tom Dreaper, who was responsible for nine other Irish Grand National winners, including seven in a row from 1960 to 1966. The last of Dreaper’s champions, a seven-year-old gelding named Flyingbolt, carried a record twelve stone seven pounds with Pat Taffe in the saddle.

Several Irish Grand National victors have also won at Aintree’s Grand National, although never in the same year. The first to accomplish the double was Ascetic’s Silver (1904/1906), followed by Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (1985/1988), Bobbyjo (1998/1999) and Numbersixvalverde (2005/2006). Among recent notable riders in the history of the Irish Grand National are two time-winners Francis Woods (1994/1996) and Ruby Walsh (2000/2005).

Much like the other Grand Nationals, the Irish version surrounded by celebrations and as many as 19 additional races known as the three-day Fairyhouse Easter Festival. Sponsored by Powers Whiskey, the 2011 Festival carried a total purse of £1 million, of which the winner of Grand National on Day Two earns more than £140,000.

As a major jumps event, the race draws a highly competitive field. Typically some 30 runners go to post, of which about half can be expected to finish. Those interested in wagering need to keep a close eye on the ever-changing list of ante-post odds. The contenders are revealed in stages and the final list of entries is known only 48 hours before the race. Allocated weights are a key factor in picking winners as are the ages and experience of the horses. Another critical element is course condition, especially with so many top-class stayers in the running.

Free bets are offered by bookmakers in good number in the weeks leading up to post time. paddypower, being the “home ground bookmaker,” often puts up some of the most lucrative promotions. It is not uncommon to obtain opportunities to match £20, £30, or even £100. Other competitive offers can be found through bet365, ladbrokes, and BedFred, to name a few.

Straight bets on the outright winner of the Irish Grand National are very common ante post wagers, but don’t overlook the more exotic markets. Popular choices include Exacta or Perfecta bets for 1st & 2nd in order, Trifecta for predicting 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in order, and Quinella for the first two runners in either order. With significantly longer odds, it is possible to win big by staking as little as 10p.

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