Grand National bets to top £120m online with bookies fearing disastrous result

A third of Britain will bet a total of £120million on the Grand National online.

Covid rules mean today’s big race will take place behind closed doors.

And with betting shops not ­allowed to reopen until Monday, every penny gambled on the 173rd running of the famous steeplechase will be wagered via tablets, phones and laptops.

Up to 600m people worldwide are set to tune in to watch the horse race on TV after last year it was scrapped when the country was in its first lockdown.

Bookies still expect one-in-three UK adults to have a flutter on its return today.

But they could be cleaned out if Cloth Cap wins, as the horse is expected to start as the strongest favourite in the race’s 182-year history. Trainer Jonjo O’Neill’s nag, ridden by Tom Scudamore, was last night 9-2 to romp home. But the odds could shorten to 2-1 by the off at 5.15pm.

That would make it the shortest-priced Aintree favourite ever.

William Hill’s racing expert Rupert Adams said: “I cannot think of a bigger buzz for a horse. We need to get it beaten.”

Jessica O’Reilly, of Ladbrokes, revealed punters had a variety of weird and wacky ways of choosing their favourite – and some do not study the horses’ form.

Many fancy the name of the animal, its jockey, trainer or owner, or the colour of its silks. Others make traditional eyes-shut selections with a pin.

She said: “Attractively-named horses often prove one of the most popular bets. Ladbrokes believes that Cabaret Queen, Chris’s Dream and Definitly Red will all be popular.”

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  • EastEnders actor and boxing fan Jake Wood, 48, who plays Max Branning, is backing Canelo. Mexican fighter Canelo Alvarez, 30, has won world titles at four different weights.

    Jake said: “This year I’m backing Canelo to win the Grand National because of the boxing connection.

    “That’s how I pick my horse.”

    I’m A Celebrity champ and Made In Chelsea star Georgia Toffolo, 26, is tipping Rachael Blackmore to become the first woman to win the race in Liverpool on Minella Times.

    “I’ve been watching Minella Times closely,” she said.

    “In his last two runs he’s ­finished second in two very competitive handicaps and having watched him jump I am sure he will shine at Aintree.”

    TV presenter Vicky Pattison, 33, said: “Who’s excited for the biggest race of the year?

    “After careful consideration my selection is Potters Corner because of my life-time obsession with Harry Potter.”

    Paul Dean, 40, from Teesside, who pocketed £250,000 from a five-way accumulator at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, thinks Burrows Saint will win.

    He planned to back it last year before the race was cancelled.

    The super-punter said: “It will be good ground, which not every horse will be suited to – but he is.”

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