Momentous news came out from the Jockey Club this week when it was announced that from 2024 onwards the Grand National field would be reduced to 34 runners only from its current limit of 40.

It will be a move that affects your Grand National horse racing online bets for years to come.

Some other adjustments to the course itself were also revealed in the bulletin. Here is a summary of what the Jockey Club (supported by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) have advised the public of what they are trying to achieve:

The key changes can be categorised into five different areas:

  • Reducing the risk of incidents by decreasing the current maximum number of runners from 40 to 34. 

  • Reducing the opportunity for horses to build up too much initial speed by moving the first fence closer to the start and implementing a standing start. 

  • Providing the best possible ground conditions for the horses by bringing the start time forward. 

  • Investing in further developments to the course infrastructure. 

  • Ensuring that the horses participating are in the best condition to do so.

The Grand National is a British institution loved and watched by millions all over the world every year.

These changes follow an evidence-based review process designed to preserve the thrill, characteristics, and challenges of the famous race, while prioritising the welfare of horses and riders.  
Over the last 20 years, British racing has invested more than £40 million as part of a relentless focus on equine welfare to lead the way in securing a thriving future for the sport.

£2million of this has been spent at Aintree Racecourse, ensuring its equine superstars receive the care needed to compete at the very top levels.  

Aintree plan to reduce the opportunity for horses to build up too much speed at the start of the race by moving the first fence 60 yards closer to the start to slow the early stages of the race.

They believe that implementing a standing start - that will apply to all races over the Grand National fences throughout the 2023-24 season and beyond, will help curtail a rush to the first fence.

In order to create the best possible environment for the horses at the Merseyside racecourse, Aintree are bringing forward the start time of the race to help ensure that the management of the course can provide the optimal ground conditions.

It has been recognised that the ground at the course can dry out quickly on a breezy, sunny April afternoon. In addition to this a new Grand National start time will be confirmed at a future juncture following continued discussions with ITV.

It has also been decided that horses will no longer be led by a handler on-course during the pre-Grand National parade and will instead be released at the end of the horsewalk to then canter in front of the grandstands to allow them to prepare for their race in their own time. 

Nevin Truesdale, Chief Executive of The Jockey Club was quoted as saying “Our sport, like many other sports have done, needs to recognise when action needs to be taken to evolve because the safety and care of horses and jockeys will always be our number one priority.

“In making these changes at Aintree we are underlining our relentless focus on welfare and our commitment to powering the future of British racing.”  

Fans of the Grand National can only sit and wait now to see how these changes will pan out in the long term. 

*Looking forward to the 2024 Flat season already? Check out all our ante-post Royal Ascot betting here*

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*

Steven is a sports and horse racing enthusiast and is a member of the Horseracing Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) in the United Kingdom.

He is a regular visitor to Paris Longchamp for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a lifelong fan of the Aintree Grand National, a subject he writes about 52 weeks of the year. Last year he reached the impressive milestone of attending the last 30 renewals of the Grand National.