Grand National Strange Bets & Premonitions

The amount of money staked on the National has steadily increased since it was first shown live on television in the 1960s and seems to have the same appeal as a lottery.

In theory, every horse has a chance in the National, tempting millions who would normally never gamble into trying their luck.

Punters will risk a pound on a horse whose name, jockey or colours they like. In 2009 Mon Mome romped home at an incredible 100/1, keeping the success of Grand National ‘long shots’, foremost in the public mind.

Speciality Bets

The majority of ‘once a year’ gamblers will have a straightforward ‘on the nose’ or each-way bet, although the Grand National offers a host of speciality bets, which in the past have included:

  • All horses to jump the first fence safely
  • Winner to be trained in Ireland
  • How many horses will finish
  • Age of the winner
  • A father/son trainer-jockey combination to win
  • Any horse to be leading at the Elbow and lose

The Grand National has a long history of strange bets, and ‘spooky’ stories, amongst them are:

The Lamb

In 1871, a certain Lord Poulet had a dream that his horse “The Lamb”, would win the race, ridden by jockey Tommy Pickernell.

At the time Pickernell did not actually ride for Lord Poulet, so he wasted no time in hiring him. “The Lamb” and Pickernell started as 11/2 favourites and fulfilled the owner’s dream by winning the race but leaving the bookies sadly out of pocket.

The Premonition

In 1993, Judy Higby from St Albans had a premonition that the race would be called off and tried to place a bet on it not being run.

The bookie refused her bet saying such an outcome was impossible. Judy lost out as the race was cancelled after a number of false starts.

In the same year 54-year-old amateur jockey Peter Walker placed a bet on himself to become the oldest jockey to compete in the race. He hasn’t collected as yet!

Lucky Colour Red

In 2001, the directors of famous online bookmakers were anticipating huge rewards from their recently launched Chinese site.

Unfortunately, they had failed to study the local market and did not recognise the significance of Red Marauder, one of the runners.

Red is considered to be the luckiest colour of all in China, so two thousand new customers backed the 33/1 long shot, who romped home to the bookies’ dismay.

Optimism & Luck

In 2003 Mike Fuller, a bingo hall tycoon and the owner of Monty’s Pass the 2003 winner, won nearly £1 million backing his own horse.

One bet alone for £10,000 at odds of 50/1 scooped him £500,000.

On A Personal Note

This writer had their own strange Grand National experience in 2022. It all started when my mother rang me to put a few bets on for her.

She chose Noble Yeats, then an 80/1 outsider. She liked the name and didn’t care if it was a long shot. So I placed the bet.

I then entered the Racing Tees Grand National Sweepstake in aid of the Injured Jockey’s Fund. It was £5 to enter, and I was given, you guessed it, Noble Yeats.

The hubby then pitched up saying he had just landed on Noble Yeats on a random Grand National selection. I mean, the signs were all there.

So we both stuck a few quid on Noble Yeats. I couldn’t get the bet on fast enough to be honest!

As Noble Yeats and Sam Waley-Cohen romped home, not only did we win at the bookies, but I also won the IJF sweepstake.

Now my Rachael Blackmore signed Grand National cap sits proudly in my house courtesy of Richard Pittman, who also included a lovely note with my prize.


Inspiration can come from anywhere. Some dream of the win, while others like me are firmly pointed toward it.

But whether you pick your 2023 Grand National runner because you love the colour of the silks, the name reminds you of somebody special, or you simply ‘have that feeling’ – just go with it.

As Noble Yeats proved in 2022, it really is anybody’s race.