Grand National 2024 explained: Start time today and full race details

Noble Yeats winning the 2022 Grand National - Grand National 2024 explained: Start time today and full race details
Noble Yeats, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen (in the white cap) won the race in 2022. The horse will carry top weight today - Getty Images/Alan Crowhurst

The Aintree Festival started on Thursday, building up to the 176th running of the Randox Grand National this afternoon. You can follow our live coverage of the Grand National all day – the first race went off at 1.20pm

Two horses have been removed from the 34-horse line-up. Check our comprehensive guide to the runners and riders for full details. The results this afternoon will be published in our dedicated 2024 Grand National results file as soon as the first horse passes the post.

In the build-up to the Grand National, don’t miss our best tips and our predictions. You can also read more about the horse being ridden by his owner, the horse being ridden by a trainer’s wife, columnist Charlie Brooks on racing’s cocaine problem and the trainer of Kitty’s Light on how the horse gave him focus after his daughter’s leukaemia diagnosis. We have also profiled the six women who forged a trail followed by jockey Rachael Blackmore.

When is the Aintree Grand National?

The Grand National is the highlight of Aintree’s three-day Grand National Festival, which runs this year from Thursday, April 11, to today, April 13.

The main event, the Grand National itself, is this afternoon (Saturday, April 13).

What time does the 2024 Grand National start?

The runners will be sent on their way at 4pm today.

The start time has been brought forward from 5.15pm, after the controversial 2023 edition of the race, in order to improve the likelihood of good ground. The Jockey Club said the new start time was part of “an ongoing focus on equine welfare”.

On Saturday morning, the going at Aintree was rated as soft, with a patch of good-to-soft ground between fences 12 and 14.

Where is the 2024 Grand National held?

The race takes place at Aintree Racecourse, on the outskirts of Liverpool. Since the first edition in 1839, the race has never officially been held anywhere else.

Are Grand National tickets available?

Tickets are on sale via the Jockey Club website. For the day of the Grand National prices started at £45 for adults in The Embankment. Many other enclosures quickly sold out. The most expensive hospitality package on sale was £1,225. Car parking is an additional £35, or £60 if you want to park within easy walking distance of the course.

How many horses run in the Grand National?

For 2024, the total number of horses in the Grand National has been reduced from 40 to 34, in order to improve the safety of the race. The highest number of runners was 66, in 1929. The race has also featured as few as 10 horses, back in 1883.

When were the horses announced?

The final 34 horses were confirmed on Thursday. As of last year, if a horse is withdrawn today that horse will not be replaced.

Initial entries for the race had to be made by February 6, with the BHA then publishing the weights (see below) two weeks later, on February 20. The five-day declarations took place on Monday, at which point the candidates were whittled down to 51. On Thursday it was whittled down further to the final 34.

Only a certain number of horses meet the criteria for being allowed to enter the Grand National. Among the qualifications they must:

  • have an official rating (OR) of 130 or more (in 2023, horses need only have a rating of 125)

  • be aged 7 or older,

  • have completed three or more steeplechases,

  • have completed one steeplechase in the current season,

  • have finished between 1st and 4th in a steeplechase over 2 miles 7½ furlongs or further.

What is the race distance?

Traditionally, the Grand National has been described as a 4½-mile race. The official distance, however, is four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards (4m 2f 74y). This distance is measured two yards inside the innermost rail.

The Grand National is the longest jump race held in the UK.

How long does the Grand National last?

About nine minutes. The record for the course is 8min 47.8sec, held by Mr Frisk in 1990. The jockey that day, Marcus Armytage, is now Telegraph Sport’s racing correspondent.

How many fences are there in the Grand National?

There are 16 individual fences in the race, 14 of which are jumped twice. That makes a total of 30 jumps.

The fences are made from Sitka spruce or Norway spruce, which is transported to Aintree from the Lake District in a fleet of lorries. It takes about three weeks to construct all the fences.

  • Fence 1&17 - 4ft 6in high, 2ft 9in wide

  • Fence 2&18 - 4ft 17in high, 3ft 6in wide

  • Fence 3&19 - Open ditch

  • Fence 4&20 - 5ft high, 10ft 6in wide (including 7ft ditch on take-off side)

  • Fence 5&21 - 5ft high, 3ft 6in wide

  • Fence 6&22, Becher’s Brook - 4ft 10in high, 7ft 6in wide

  • Fence 7&23, Foinavon - 4ft 6in high, 3ft wide

  • Fence 8&24, Canal Turn - 5ft high, 7ft wide

  • Fence 9&25, Valentine’s Brook - 5ft high, 7ft wide

  • Fence 10&26 - 5ft high, 3ft wide

  • Fence 11&27 - 4ft 10in high, 9ft wide (including 6ft ditch on landing side)

  • Fence 12&28 - 5ft high, 8ft 6in wide (including 5ft 6in on landing side)

  • Fence 13&29 - 4ft 7in high, 3ft wide

  • Fence 14&30 - 4ft 6in high, 3ft wide

  • Fence 15, The Chair - 5ft 2in high, 9ft wide (including 6ft ditch on take-off side)

  • Fence 16, Water Jump - 2ft 6in high

The Grand National’s most famous fences

The Aintree fences are not as perilous as they once were. However, they are still the most notorious obstacles in the business.

The Chair (Fence 15): The Chair is the highest fence on the course, now standing at five foot two inches.

Becher’s Brook (Fence 6&22): The sixth and 22nd fence in the race may not be the biggest, but its difficulty comes from the fact the landing side is 10 inches lower than the take-off side. Named after Captain Martin Becher, a jockey who fell at this stage in the first running of the race in 1839 and hid in the brook to avoid injury.

Valentine’s Brook (Fence 9&25): Named after a horse that allegedly jumped it backwards in 1840. More likely, the horse spun around in mid-air to create the optical illusion that its hind legs landed first.

Foinavon (Fence 7&23): One of the smaller fences is named after the 100/1 shot who avoided a disastrous pile-up here in 1967 and went on to win.

Canal Turn (Fence 8&24): As the name suggests, horses must take a sharp turn to the left after jumping this five-foot obstacle. Another Aintree myth is that horses used who refused to turn ended up in the Liverpool and Leeds canal.

Grand National prize money

The total prize fund for the Grand National is £1 million. In 2023, prize money was awarded to the first ten horses past the post, as follows.

  1. £516,000

  2. £211,100

  3. £105,500

  4. £52,700

  5. £26,500

  6. £13,200

  7. £6,800

  8. £3,600

  9. £2,000

  10. £1,000

How does the handicapping system work?

The idea of the handicapping process is that less-fancied horses can compete with the best chasers. To achieve this, the top-rated horses are asked to carry extra weight. Exactly how much weight is determined by a handicapper, appointed by the British Horseracing Authority.

The least a horse is permitted to carry (including the jockey) is 10st 2lb. The top-weighted horse in the race (this year that is Noble Yeats) carries 11st 12lb, with every other handicap weight worked out from that weight based upon each horse’s rating. Last year’s winner, Corach Rambler, was carrying just 10st 5lb.

In 2015 Many Clouds won carrying 11st 9oz, the heaviest weight carried by a winner in recent history. The last horse to win carrying the top weight was Red Rum in 1973, when the top handicap was set at 12st.

What are the changes to this year’s Grand National?

Significant changes have been made to the Grand National for 2024. The alterations have been made after animal rights protesters ambushed the 2023 event, causing a delay of 15 minutes. However, the Jockey Club insists that the changes did not come as a direct response to those protests.

The most significant changes are as follows:

  • The field has been reduced from 40 horses to a maximum of 34. Evidence shows a correlation between the size of a field and the risk of horses falling.

  • The first fence has been brought forward, towards the start line, by 60 yards in order to reduce the speed at which the horses reach it.

  • The start will now be a standing start at the tape, rather than the traditional rolling start. This change is also designed to reduce the speed that horses arrive at the first obstacle.

  • Each horse must have an official rating of at least 130 (rather than 125) and will be scrutinised for jumping errors before being permitted to enter.

  • Fence 11 has been reduced in height by two inches and will be have the drop on the landing side reduced.

  • Horses will no longer be led onto the course by a handler before the race, instead being released to canter in front of the grandstands.

  • The start time has been moved from 5.15pm to 4pm.

Mullins gets his eye in with Its On The Line

Emmet Mullins warmed up for Saturday’s Grand National, in which he runs Noble Yeats, by winning the Randox Foxhunters with Its On The Line who went one better than he did in the Cheltenham equivalent last month.

Mullins, whose meticulous and often out-of-the-box planning has already seen him win the 2022 National with Noble Yeats, said everything was positive for the horse’s third run in the National with, perhaps, the exception of the ground.

Noble Yeats is now set to carry top weight of 11st 12lbs after Conflated was the only horse to come out of the race at the 48-hour stage. At the other end of the handicap Kitty’s Light will carry number 34, the last slot available in the first National in which the field size has been capped below 40.

“He’s got the weight for a reason and he came here last year after a hard race in the Gold Cup,” said Mullins of Noble Yeats. “This time he ran in the Stayers Hurdle so what we lose with the ground, I’m hoping we gain in freshness.”

Its On The Line, wearing the green and gold colours of JP McManus, looked hard work for Derek O’Connor but picked them off one by one to come home by four and a half lengths from Bennys King, another placed horse on a day of near misses for Dan Skelton.

“He is not a natural leader by any stretch, and he likes to suss out things, and get into a rhythm, and figure it out,” said Mullins of the winner. “He is well named I think. I probably wasn’t planning this race after Cheltenham. We gave him a speculative entry and once it turned up heavy ground it was always going to bring stamina into play. That was the biggest sway into running him.”

In all 10 of the 22 runners completed the course with its new adjustments. The two fallers both came down at The Chair and one of those jockeys to come down there, Ben Sutton, was taken to hospital for precautionary x-rays on a back injury. David Maxwell, who rides Ain’t That A Shame tomorrow, was none the worse for being unseated from Cat Tiger.

Don’t miss out on these ultimate betting offers – explore our list right here before the Grand National