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The UK Grand National Guide
Grand National Free Bets
A guide to the best of the Grand National on the net:

1. A maximum field of 40 horses and riders will gather at the starting line for the world's most famous steeplechase, The Grand National. The race, which marks the end of a three-day jamboree at Liverpool's Aintree racecourse, is the biggest day of the year for British betting.

2. National hunt racing was one of the great loves of the Queen Mother. She had more than 400 winners and one famous loser, Devon Loch, which in the 1956 Grand National collapsed 50 yards from the finishing line. Next Tuesday betting shops will close in her honour for the funeral.

3. It has been possible to bet online for some time, but this year there is a special offer available for Guardian punters. You can also watch the race on the web.

4. Betting, as always, will reach fever pitch, and there's plenty of information to help you pick your favoured nag. In fact just take a look around Free Bet on the Grand National for all the latest race information.

5. The course is nearly two and a quarter miles long, with 16 fences. The horses have to complete almost two circuits, followed by a 494-yard finish. It's proved the downfall of many in the past. In 1999, the highly rated Eudip joined the list of fatalities when he fell at Becher's Brook.

6. Indeed, the race has long been controversial, with the notorious fences causing the deaths of many horses down the years. Animal welfare groups such as Animal Aid continue to call for the end to the race.

7. But, last year, the fences were adjusted to make the race a little less dangerous.

8. The first official races at Aintree Racecourse were in 1829, but, in 1839, Lottery became the winner of the first true Grand National, although it was hardly grand in those days. The horses had only to jump a stone wall (now the water jump), cross a stretch of ploughed land and finish over two hurdles.

9. In 1949, Lord Sefton sold the course to the Topham family, who appointed Mirabel Topham to manage it. The redoubtable Mrs Topham built a new track within the established course and opened it in 1953, the same year as the motor circuit that still encircles the track.

10. Past winners include L'Escargot, Party Politics and, most famously of all, Red Rum. One of this years favourites is Beau, who came close to winning in 2001 but failed at the 20th fence.
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