Grand National Day is simply my favourite day of the year.
It’s what makes the sporting landscape in this country the envy of the world.
For Betfred, it is the busiest day of the year by far ahead of the FA Cup final, Champions League final, Wimbledon, the Masters, World Cup final combined.
It’s the one guaranteed day when we see thousands of new faces and once a year punters enter my shops to place their bets on Saturday’s huge Aintree race.
I always like to give them a warm welcome, us bookies are not scary people. I want my punters to enjoy the occasion as much as I do on a day to showcase what we do and make it enjoyable for all. Although the shop staff are busy, I have the best in the industry who put on nibbles and decorations and turn it into a really fun day.
It always makes me laugh how punters come up with choosing their national selection. There is the usual “I like the colours” or “Stick the pin in the paper” to the strange reasons like “It’s the same name as my pet” or “It came to me in my sleep”. I hear a new reason every year!! Only a few actually study the form.
It’s such a fantastic race. Aintree has done a great job of rejuvenating it in the face of all the challenges they had. The team should be applauded for making the changes on safety grounds but still providing a unique test and spectacle. Families used to crowd around the TV to watch the race unfold. Although that happens less nowadays, many people all over the world still tune in.
I opened my first shop a few months after the famous Foinavon came home on his own at 50/1 (I should have opened sooner!!!). Red Alligator landed the first Grand National for which I was open for business in 1968 so with this being my 50th National I will again be looking for something red. Perhaps Captain Redbeard, or Vieux Lion Rouge if we’re being fancy?
There have been some standout winners. Who can forget Red Rum’s three victories, or my friend Jonjo O’Neill’s first success in 2010 with the great AP McCoy riding? Another friend of mine and fellow North West businessman, Trevor Hemmings has won it three times, most recently with the fantastic Many Clouds in 2016. I would love to see him in the winners’ enclosure again so will be cheering on Vicente and Warriors Tale too.
Whatever you fancy, or however you decide upon your pick, enjoy the race and I hope you are coming back for your winnings on Saturday evening or Sunday. Please remember to gamble responsibly – and the very best of luck to you all.