Get ready to mark your calendar: the 2024 Grand National is scheduled to take place at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, 13th April, at Aintree Racecourse.
5:15 p.m. The Randox Grand National | Saturday 13 April 2024
But don’t rush to the finish line yet; there’s more to explore. This article takes you through the ticking heart of the Grand National—from its fluctuating start times to delayed races.
Historical Start Times: A Race Against the Clock
Only in recent years has the race moved to its now-established 5:15 p.m. time slot, a shift that reflects the modern demands of broadcasting schedules and a global audience.
But as we look back, the chronology of start times provides us with a fascinating look at the history of the National.
Original Grand National Start Time
The first official running of the race, then known as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, took place on Tuesday, 26th February 1839. Seventeen runners took to Aintree Racecourse, but historical records are silent on when the horses went down to the starting post.
However, the norms of the period allow us to make an educated guess.
Most horse races of the 19th century, especially those drawing significant attention, were typically scheduled between 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. This timing was intended to maximize daylight and accommodate the travel needs of a pre-automobile society while still being late enough to allow for the completion of morning business and chores.
Although we may never know the exact moment the first Grand National horses charged toward their steeplechase destiny, it’s reasonable to surmise that the race occurred within this time window.
20th Century Start Times: The Tradition Takes Shape
The race settled into a familiar pattern as the Grand National galloped into the 20th century.
Take, for instance, the 1940 Grand National—a momentous race that would be the last of its kind before a five-year suspension due to World War II.
The race started at 3:15 p.m. and was listed as the third race of the meeting. Thirty horses bolted down the course, but it was Bogskar, a 25/1 shot, who galloped to victory.
Bogskar was ridden by Sergeant Mervyn Jones, a Royal Air Force Volunteer who had steered a steady course around Aintree.
Sadly, this would be the jockey’s last spin over the famous fences; Mervyn was killed in his Spitfire over Norway in 1942.
The 1940 event marked the end of an era in many respects. It was the last Aintree Grand National before the world turned its attention to more pressing matters.
When the race resumed post-war, its starting time continued to maintain the 3:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. window.
Red Rum and the Dawn of a New Time Frame
When Red Rum won his historic third Grand National in 1977, the race took place at 3:15 p.m., However, even as spectators and fans celebrated this momentous victory, there were already murmurings about pushing back the race’s start time, primarily to accommodate a growing TV audience.
Television had become an integral part of the Grand National experience by this point, and broadcasters were eager to maximize viewership numbers. Increasingly, the race was not just a fixture in the British sporting calendar but a global event attracting viewers from different time zones. The traditional afternoon slot was less than ideal for capturing this burgeoning international audience.
New Millennium, New Start Time
By the time of the 2003 Grand National, the start time had been pushed back to 3:45 p.m., a significant change in itself. But that was just the beginning.
In 2005, another 25 minutes were added to the countdown, with winner Hedgehunter setting off for victory at 4:10 p.m. The shifts didn’t stop there.
In the 2016 race, the eventual winner, Rule the World, went off at an even later time of 5:15 p.m., a slot that has since become the standard for the Grand National.
These changes were also in response to modern lifestyles, TV demands, and work patterns, acknowledging that a later start time might suit fans who couldn’t readily tune in during earlier parts of the day.
Whether you view the shift as a break from tradition or a savvy adaptation to the realities of a 24/7 world, there’s no denying that the Grand National has successfully navigated the challenges of modernity.
Scheduled Time vs. Reality: The Unpredictable Factors of Race Day
While the official start time of the Grand National has settled at 5:15 p.m., anyone familiar with the event knows that this time is more of a guideline than a guarantee.
In recent years, the Grand National has experienced many factors causing significant delays, making the “off time” anything but predictable.
A variety of unanticipated hiccups have plagued the race in recent times. Perhaps most notably, animal rights extremists disrupted proceedings in 2023, throwing a wrench into the precisely timed plans of viewers, bettors, and broadcasters alike.
These deviations from the official start time serve as a reminder that the Grand National is a live event subject to the whims and unpredictabilities of both man and nature.
It also adds a layer of drama and suspense to a race already laden with it, as fans worldwide ask themselves who will win and when it will all actually begin.
Global Grand National Timing: When to Tune in Around the World
The Grand National transcends borders, attracting a global audience eager to partake in the spectacle.
If you’re outside the UK, you’ll want to adjust your schedule for the 17:15 BST start time on 13th April, 2024.
Here’s how that translates across various time zones:
- United States:
Eastern Time: 12:15 p.m.
Central Time: 11:15 a.m.
Mountain Time: 10:15 a.m.
Pacific Time: 9:15 a.m.
- Canada: Timings range from 9:15 a.m. in British Columbia to 1:15 p.m. in Newfoundland.
- Australia: Australians should set their alarms for early morning, ranging from 1:15 a.m. to 3:15 a.m. on 14th April, depending on your location down under.
- India: In India, the race will commence at 8:45 p.m. IST.
- South Africa: South Africans can catch the action at 6:15 p.m.
- France/Germany/Italy (Central European Time): 6:15 p.m. is the magic number for viewers in much of continental Europe.
- Japan: Japanese enthusiasts should tune in at 1:15 a.m. on 14th April.
- Hong Kong: The race will start at 12:15 a.m. on 14th April for those in Hong Kong.
With global streaming options and international TV coverage, fans worldwide can experience the thrill of the Grand National. Remember to adjust your clocks or set those alarms!
What Time Does the Grand National Finish?
Having delved into the intricacies of the Grand National’s start times, let’s turn our attention to the other end of the race: the finish times.
While the race is slated to begin at 5:15 p.m., the winner usually crosses the finish line about 10 minutes later, placing the approximate finish time around 5:25 p.m.
However, remember that the Grand National is rarely punctual when it comes to the starting time.
Holding the record for the fastest finish is Mr. Frisk, who completed the course in an astounding 8 minutes and 47.80 seconds.
Ridden by Marcus Armytage, this record still stands despite the course being shortened by 342 yards (312.72 meters) since 2013.
Due to modern safety measures like watering the course to maintain a “Good to Soft” going, we’ll unlikely see ground conditions allowing for another record-breaking time like Mr. Frisk’s.
Contrastingly, the first-ever Grand National in 1839 holds the record for the slowest winning time. Lottery took a leisurely 14 minutes and 53 seconds to cross the finish line.
Nowadays, winning times just over 9 minutes are more the norm. For instance, the 2023 champion, Corach Rambler, clocked in at a respectable 9 minutes and 12.06 seconds.
As you can see, the Grand National’s relationship with time is far more nuanced than just the starting whistle. From historical norms to modern-day influences, time is integral to every aspect of this iconic race.