Bishop & Sewell

As we all gear up for the Grand National on 13 April, I wondered whether the world’s most famous horse race is also the most lucrative, writes David Little, a partner in our Corporate and Commercial  department who increasingly handles Sports Law cases too.

It turns out that the answer to that question is both yes, and no. It is one of the biggest betting events on the world’s sporting calendar and 2024 will be no different. An estimated £250 million will be bet on it., making it arguably the world’s most lucrative horserace for the bookies.

However, with a £1 million prize purse, £500,000 for the winner, the Grand National doesn’t even make it into the list of the world’s top ten most lucrative races. The Saudi Cup has a prize purse of $20 million. Europe’s most lucrative prize purse of $5m belongs to Le Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Money aside, the Grand National is still for many of us the best race in the world, generating an estimated worldwide audience of 600 million, and is shown in 140 countries in total. 70,000 fans also make their way to Aintree each year to witness one of the biggest racing events in person.

There are a number of interesting facts about the race

You don’t have to be a professional jockey to be a winner, as a Mr Bretherton proved. He was the first successful amateur riding Jerry in 1840. Marcus Armytage, a journalist, also won aboard Mr Frisk in 1990.

Since then, only Sam Waley-Cohen has won as an amateur. Prior to the 2022 National, he already had an enviable record on the course, coming close when placing second on Oscar Time in 2011.. He then went on to win the race with Noble Yeats and with seven wins around the Grand National course, he is the most successful course jockey of the modern era.

Many have tried, but none have been able to match Golden Miller, who remains the only horse to win both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the National in the same season, in 1934.

Only Reynoldstown won the race in consecutive years, 1935 and 1936. Ridden and trained by the appropriately named Noel Furlong.

My favourite Grand National fact is about The Chair, the most intimidating obstacle in the race. Standing now at 5 feet 3 inches, the jump has a 6-foot-wide ditch on the take-off side, creating a daunting moment for both jockeys and horses. Watching the race I’ve always wondered why it was called The Chair. Absolute Nighmare might be more appropriate. However, apparently the fence gets its name from its position alongside the seat that was once reserved for the distance judge.

Not everyone enjoys the race. Although Animal Rising is set to announce it will not disrupt the Grand National this year and will suspend direct campaigning against racing indefinitely, pointing to declining support for the sport. The animal rights group delayed last year’s event by 15 minutes after members glued themselves to the Aintree course.

According to the Guardian, Animal Rising spokesperson Nathan McGovern said: “We won’t be there and the reason for that is that as far as we can see, last year there was a huge public conversation on the back of the Grand National, Epsom et cetera, and it would appear that the public have in large part been convinced that they don’t want racing to be part of the fabric of British culture going forward.”

Still got the stamina for another furlong? I’ve backed two of the past winners, Welsh trained Māori Venture, which I think came in at 25/1 in 1986 and more recently Paddydaplasterer. If you want more Grand National facts, here they are.


Contact our Corporate & Commercial and Sports Law Solicitor

David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial team. If you would like to contact him, please quote Ref CB465 on either on either 07968 027343 / 020 7631 4141 or email

The above is accurate as at 12 April 2024. The information above may be subject to change.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 12th Apr 2024

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