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Scottish Grand National Festival Betting Offers 2023

scottish grand nationalIf you say the words ‘Grand National’ in relation to horse racing then 99% of people will immediately turn their thoughts to the event held at Aintree every year. As with any major race, however, the popularity of the event that first began in 1839 has led to equivalent races taking place in different parts of the world, with Scotland being no exception. The National Hunt race has been taking place north of the border since 1858.

As with the Grand National at Aintree, the one in Scotland comes in the middle of a miniature Festival, with other races either side of it to bulk out the programme and give the punters in attendance something to get their betting teeth into. In addition to the National itself, a grade 3 race, there are two grade 2 races, two listed races and a multitude of big field handicaps over the two days.

The timing of this race coming at the end of the jump season, just after the Aintree versions, means there are some amazing value betting promotions to be had.  As you’ve come to expect from us we’ve collated all of the best deals here to save you time and help enhance your bets.

Scottish Grand National Betting Offers for 2023

This event has not started yet, please check back nearer the time. For other offers see our main loyalty page.

Scottish Grand National Festival 2023

scottish grand national horses running

The Scottish Grand National Festival takes place over two days in April, usually beginning on Friday and coming to a close on the Saturday. It is considered to be a weekend of pure excitement and the best National Hunt racing in the Scottish horse racing calendar. Whilst the feature race is unquestionably the National itself, there are two days worth of top-notch races to be enjoyed by punters luckily enough to be there.

As always with racing, the races themselves dictate the format. Any number of things can conspire to change the timings of events, including such variables as the weather. In general, though, the Friday gets underway at around two in the afternoon and racing continues until the last one gets off at some time around quarter past five. There’s one more race on the Saturday, eight, compared to Friday, therefore racing starts earlier but still concludes at around the same time.

Ladies Day – 14th April 2023

Time Race Grade Fences/Hurdles Distance
1:45 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Class 3 12 3m 70y
2:20 Novices’ Hurdle Class 3 12 2m 4f 100y
2:55 Handicap Hurdle Class 3 9 2m
3:30 Handicap Chase Class 1 Listed 17 2m 4f 110y
4:05 Mares’ Handicap Hurdle Class 2 12 3m 70y
4:40 Novices’ Limited Handicap Class 3 13 2m 110y
5:15 Handicap Hurdle Class 3 12 3m 70y

KEY: m – Miles, f – furlong(s), y – yards

Novice’s Handicap Hurdle

This race offered a prize of £15,000 and was open to four-year-olds and over, with the major difference when compared to the other two being that it is for novices. There are twelve hurdles to be jumped over the three miles and seventy yards that it lasted for.

Novices’ Hurdle

This race for four-year-old horses and over lasts for just over two and a half miles. In 2022 the prize pot was just under £15,750 and the winner took home just over £8,700. There are twelve hurdles to be jumped.

Handicap Hurdle

As the name suggests, this race is a handicap and it’s open to horses aged four and up. The winner in 2022 took home the same amount as the victorious horse in the Novice’s Handicap Hurdle, whilst the overall pot was just under £15,000. There are nine hurdles that needed to be negotiated over the two miles.

Handicap Chase

This class one listed race is the highest grade of the day, run over two miles, four furlongs and one hundred and ten yards, the Handicap Chase is for horses aged five and over. There are seventeen fences that need to be negotiated by horses hoping to take home the prize, which was £39,350 in 2022.

Mares’ Handicap Hurdle

As you might well have guessed from the name, this race is for mares only. They need to be aged four and over to take part in this handicap offering that lasts for three miles and seventy yards. In order to get to the finish line they’ll need to negotiate twelve hurdles, with the race usually lasting for close to six minutes.

Novices’ Limited Handicap

Another chase that’s open to horses aged five and up, the Novices’ Limited Handicap offered a prize of £13,380 in 2022. There are thirteen fences to be jumped in the course of the two miles, one hundred and ten furlongs and it normally lasted for around four minutes.

Scotland Handicap Hurdle

Friday usually comes to a close with a handicap hurdle that is raced over three miles and seventy yards. As with a number of other races that take place throughout the day, the prize fund in 2021 was £15,000. A hurdle race for four-year-olds and over, it has twelve obstacles for the participants to get over before they’ll hit the final straight.

Grand National Day – 15th April 2023

Time Race Grade Fences/Hurdles Distance
1:15* Handicap Chase Class 1 Listed 13 2m 110y
1:50* Novices’ Champion Handicap Class 2 19 3m 20y
2:25* Scottish Champion Hurdle Grade 2 (Limited Handicap) 9 2m
3:00* Future Champion Novices’ Chase Grade 2 17 2m 4f 110y
3:35* Scottish Grand National Grade 3 27 3m 7f 176y
4:10 Handicap Hurdle Class 2 12 2m 5f 191y
4:45 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Class 3 12 2m 4f 100y
5:20 Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race Class 3 0 2m

KEY: m – Miles, f – furlong(s), y – yards, * – Live On ITV

Handicap Chase

The action on Saturday resumes with a Handicap Chase for five-year-olds and over. Taking place over two miles and one hundred and ten yards, it poses competitors with the challenge of thirteen fences. The class one Listed race offered a prize of £17,387 to the winner in 2022.

Novices’ Championship Handicap Chase

Run over three miles and twenty yards and featuring nineteen fences, this fiercely competitive race for novices who are five-years-old and over offered the winner £26,015 in 2022. It usually lasts for somewhere close to six minutes if the Going is Good and is a good appetite whetter for what is to come.

Scottish Champion Hurdle Limited Handicap

A Grade 2 race for horses aged four and over, this limited handicap offering takes place over two miles. During that the horses need to make their way over nine jumps. In 2022 the winning horse, Anna Bunina, earned a decent prize return of just shy of £34,200 from an overall pot of £59,000. This is the first truly exciting race of the weekend and one that you can try to gauge what to bet on by looking at its history. It was created in 1966 and was a Listed race initially, getting its current Grade 2 rating in 1991.

In the past the race was held on the Friday, having been seen as a precursor for the Grand National. However, the two were put on the same day in 1994 and have remained so ever since. This race is a good one to watch if you’re interested to know who might perform well in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, with several horses having won both. That said, the most recent horse to manage it was Alderbrook in 1995. A far less likely double is the Champion Hurdle and then the Gold Cup, which Captain Christy won one year after the other in 1973.

As the race is open to horses aged four and up, it’s been won by the same horse more than once on two occasions. Sea Pigeon managed consecutive wins in 1977 and 1978, whilst Birds Nest won it in 1979 and then 1981. Four jockeys have won it three times each, namely Andrew Turnell, Peter Scudamore, Richard Dunwoody and Richard Johnson. Turnell, Scudamore and Dunwoody won two of their races consecutively. In 1980 and 1981, 183 and 1984 and 1998 and 1999 respectively. The race’s leading trainer is Martin Pipe with four wins between 1990 and 2004.

Future Champion Novices’ Chase

The second Grade 2 race of the day and third of the Festival is the Future Champion Novices’ Chase. It takes place over two miles, four and a half furlongs and one hundred and ten yards. It features seventeen fences and is for horses aged five and over, offering a weight of eleven stone. There’s a seven pound allowance for mares, whilst horses that have won a Class 1 Weight-For-Age race have to take a penalty of five pounds. There’s a three pounds penalty for those that have won a Class 2 WFA race or a Class 1 handicap chase.

The race has been known by numerous sponsored names over the years and for a while it was raced over two miles, extended to its current length in 1991. That was the same year that it was declared to be a Grade 1 race, dropping down to Grade 2 in 1995 after it was raced at its former length for a year. It received its current name back in 1988 and is run on the same day as both the Champion Hurdle and the Grand National itself. Both Gingembre and Grey Abbey won the Future Champion Novices’ Chase in 2000 and 2001 respectively before then going on to win the National in 2001 and 2004.

Despite being open to horses aged five and over, no competitor has yet won it more than once. Both Ron Barry and Jonjo O’Neill have won the race three times apiece as jockeys, with the former doing so in 1973, 1975 and 1981 and the latter managing three consecutive wins from 1977 to 1979.  Ruby Walsh also joined the club as a three time winner in 2012 having also won in 2003 and 2007.

Paul Nichols is the race’s most successful trainer, having trained seven winners over a twenty five year period between 1994 and 2019.

Scottish Grand National

The big event of the festival, drawing in crowds of up to 20,000 to the Scottish course, gets off at around 3:30pm.  At just under 4 miles it takes around 8 minutes for the around 30 riders to get around.

With a purse of over £147,500 and £84,400 for the winner, it is of course the best paid race of the weekend as well as the highlight.  Open to 5-year-olds Open to 5-year-olds the 27 fence race is categorised as Grade 3, as with all of the nationals, but is revered in the hearts of Scottish racegoers as any grade one race.

A detailed history and more information about the race and previous winners can be found further down.

Handicap Hurdle

Straight after the Grand National comes the Handicap Hurdle. It’s run over two miles, five furlongs and ninety-one yards and the four-year-olds and over that take part in it will need to negotiate twelve hurdles before the end. In 2022 there was a £10,900 prize for the winner.

Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

Open for horses aged four and up with a maximum rating of 130, this handicap hurdle is only for conditional jockeys and amateur riders. It lasts for two miles, four furlongs and one hundred yards and the overall prize in 2022 was £15,740. There are twelve hurdles to be jumped during the race.

National Hunt Flat

The final race of the Scottish Grand National Festival is this National Hunt Bumper that is run over two miles. It’s for horses aged four to six and in 2022 offered the lowest prize amount of the weekend at £9,840.

History of The Scottish Grand National

scottish grand national trophy

As you might expect, the history of the Grand National Festival is a relatively new thing and each race has its own story that you’ll learn about shortly. When it comes to the main event, though, that is a tale that dates back to 1858. Back then it was known as the West of Scotland Grand National and had thirty-two jumps, which were mainly walls that the horses had to get over. It was raced at a village called Houston in Renfrewshire and remained there for nine years until the leader of the Free Kirk objected to it. At that point it was moved to the Bogside Racecourse near Irvine, with the first winner being a horse named The Elk that was owned by the Duke of Hamilton.

Initially the race was around three miles long, but it was extended to just under four miles. In 1880 the ‘West of Scotland’ was removed from the title and it has been known simply as the Grand National ever since. It remained at Bogside Racecourse for just shy of one hundred years, only shifting to Ayr Racecourse when Bogside was shut in 1965. The move to Ayr also saw the race lengthened to four miles, which is just five hundred and fourteen yards shorter than the English version.

The biggest differences between the Scottish and English races comes in the number of fences that need to be navigated, with the one at Ayr have twenty-seven, which is three fewer than at Aintree. There’s also the qualification criteria, with the Liverpool course requiring horses to be seven-years-old or more whereas the Scottish version is a handicap race for horses aged five and up.

scottish grand national horses jumping

It’s almost impossible to speak about one race without making reference to the other, which is why the horses that have won both are often the most praised. There have been a number to manage the unique double, with Music Hall becoming the first to manage having won the Scottish National in 1920 and the English equivalent two years later. Only one horse has so far managed to win both races in the same year, which was the formidable Red Rum in 1974.

Three horses have won the race three times each, with Couvrefeu II managing consecutive wins between 1911 and 1913, Southern Hero doing it in 1934, 1936 and 1939 and Queen’s Taste also managing back-to-back victories in 1953 and 1954 before completing the hat-trick in 1956. Charlie Cunningham holds the record for the most wins of all-time with four, achieved between 1881 and 1889, whilst Mark Dwyer has managed three since the race moved to Ayr. Neville Crump and Ken Oliver are the most successful trainers in the race thanks to their five wins apiece, with Oliver standing out thanks to the fact that he won one at Bogside and four at Ayr.

As you can imagine, the prize money for winning the Scottish Grand National has gone up with every passing year. When it was raced in 1867, for example, the prize put was £100. Thirty-nine years later and it had increased to £440, whilst it had more than doubled to £1030 by 1950. In 1963 the winner received £5436, with the victor in 2015 taking home a much more substantial £119,595. By 2019 the total prize pot for the race amounted to £215,000, with the winner taking home £122,443 of that.

There have been a number of occasions when the race didn’t take place, with the two World Wars being the most obviously examples. Perhaps the most interesting story of the race’s history occurred in 1891, however, when just two competitors took part. That is not overly remarkable in itself, but when neither could clear the second fence the race was abandoned.

The 2020 version was cancelled completely due to coronavirus restrictions at the time and the 2021 edition was held behind closed doors, with lower prize money of £151,500 as a result.  In fact, the prize money was even lower in 2022 with a purse of £147,555.

History and About Ayr Racecourse

scottish grand national ayr racecourse old imageAyr Racecourse was seen as as the most fitting racecourse to move the Scottish Grand National to in 1966. There are two course at Ayr, with one suitable for flat racing and the other able to accommodate National Hunt races. Whilst racing in Ayr in general dates back to 1576, the first officially recorded meeting didn’t take place until nearly two hundred years later in 1771 at a racecourse in an area of the town known as Seafield.

Different races were established at the Seafield course, including the Western Meeting, which was considered to be the most important race of the year and by 1838 offered prize money of £2000. The Ayr Gold Cup, meanwhile was made a handicap race in 1855 and has grown to become Europe’s richest sprint handicap. The problem was that the course had a small track and the paddock wasn’t substantial enough to cope with the growing popularity of the racing hosted there.

scottish grand national ayr racecourse from above

As a result, a decision was made to build a new course elsewhere in the town, with a suitable site found in the Craigie area. Research was done into the best and most popular British racecourse and the one at Newbury was chosen as the basis for Ayr’s new offering. The only difference came in the length of the courses straight, with the Scottish one being six furlongs rather than the mile of the Berkshire course. Originally the racecourse only offered the flat track, with the jump racing course not built until 1950. The course is left-handed, with nine jumps on offer over the one and a half miles. The finish has a gentle rise to it, whilst the run-in of two hundred and ten yards can be a tricky end to an already gruelling race.

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