ITV records peak of 8.8 million viewers for historic Grand National

An audience of 8.8 million tuned in to watch Rachael Blackmore make history when she became the first woman to win the Grand National on Saturday, the second-highest for ITV since it took over coverage of the world’s greatest steeplechase.

Although higher than in 2017 and 2018, the figure – which saw an audience share of 31.8 per cent – is down on the last running in 2019, when a peak of 9.6m (with a 39 per cent share) was reached for the big race.

The showpiece Aintree meeting began on Thursday, with an average viewing figure of over a million witnessing Clan Des Obeaux take the Betway Bowl and Abacadabras win the Betway Aintree Hurdle.

That figure is a record high for the opening day of the fixture since records began, with the coverage then moving across from ITV to ITV4 following the announcement of the Prince Philip’s death on Friday morning.

The ITV racing outdoor studio
The ITV racing outdoor studio (David Davies/PA)

Friday’s audience reached 900,000 as Livelovelaugh took the Randox Topham Chase over the National fences, before the following day’s Opening Show drew in more viewers than ever as 400,000 watched the programme – an increase of 100,000 on 2019.

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Over on social media, the hashtag #ITVRacing reached over 122 million users, with videos from the meeting viewed over two million times.

Some 500,000 minutes of ITV social content were consumed during the fixture, with the most-watched moment inevitably Blackmore’s groundbreaking triumph.

Minella Times, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, wins the Randox Grand National
Minella Times, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, wins the Randox Grand National (Tim Goode/PA)

Dickon White, who runs Aintree as regional director for Jockey Club Racecourses in the north west, said: “The ITV team has done a superb job over the three days of the Randox Grand National Festival once again.

“We all needed to adapt following the sad news of the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and they did so while ensuring our sport received the best showcase possible thanks to their quality production and presentation.

“Minella Times, Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead have given us a story for the ages and I’m grateful that ITV have helped to ensure it inspires people across our society that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, if you have a dream you should go for it.”

The aftermath among bookmakers includes Blackmore’s winning mount, Minella Times, being priced up as 20-1 joint-favourite with Coral for a repeat victory in 2022.

Any Second Now, third this year, is the other 20-1 market leader, with dual winner, Tiger Roll, 33-1 to join Red Rum as a three time National winner after connections chose not to run their charge in the latest renewal.

“Tiger Roll’s best chance of becoming only the second horse to win three Grand Nationals may well have passed, but as it turned out, his absence from Saturday’s race was barely noticed, as Rachael Blackmore and Minella Times delivered one of the greatest results in sporting history, never mind just in horseracing,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

Rachael Blackmore celebrates with the trophy
Rachael Blackmore celebrates with the trophy (Tim Goode/PA)

“The pair were an extremely popular choice with punters on what is always a unique day for the betting industry – as we expected them to be – but nationwide gambles on the likes of Takingrisks, Mister Malarky and Definitly Red went astray, which softened the blow of the payout on the winner,” added Stevens.

“Favourite Cloth Cap was another well-backed runner, but as we saw with Tiger Roll two years ago, despite taking a huge volume of bets on the horse, at the relatively short odds he was, and with the spread of money across the board that we see on this day, Tom Scudamore’s mount was never a bad result in the book,” said Stevens.

Betting shops were closed for the National, but are set to reopen on Monday in line with the latest easing of lockdown restrictions.

Stevens added: “With activity restricted to online, turnover was well in line with our expectations, and should have topped £100m across the industry, but we’ll be pleased to see betting shops open again for the 2022 National.

“As for the payout on Minella Times and Rachael Blackmore, yes it was significant, but worth every penny in terms of the positive publicity the victory has garnered for the sport.”

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