SBC News Ben Cleminson: My Market... Grand National is a Family Affair

Ben Cleminson: My Market… Grand National is a Family Affair

Ben Cleminson, Director of Square in the Air, kicks off SBC’s ‘My Market’ series by sharing his love of the Grand National, a sporting event viewed as a family affair in the Cleminson household.

With anticipation building up for this weekend’s race at Aintree, Ben views the Grand National not merely as a race, but a phenomenon that captivates the hearts of millions, transcending the boundaries of racing…

SBC: Can you detail your first experience of the Grand National, and why the event had such a deep and personal impact on you?

SBC News Ben Cleminson: My Market... Grand National is a Family Affair
Ben Cleminson: Square in the Air

Ben Cleminson (Director of Square in the Air) :I can’t be sure but I think my first memory of the Grand National was when West Tip won in 1986. I would have been six and every year we would get together as a family, like so many do in the UK, and do a sweepstake.

It was always very exciting, much more exciting for me than the Boat Race the weekend before. That was the first thing that got me into horseracing but it wasn’t until I was older when I really started following the sport.

SBC: What makes the Grand National such a unique betting event/market to participate in?

BC: There is simply nothing like it anywhere in the world. Up until this year, 40 runners, four and a half miles, 30 fences. It has always been the ultimate test of jumping and stamina. Obviously racing has had to adapt and evolve over the past 20 years and the race is very different now to what it was.

Today, the race much safer, the fences aren’t as severe and the field size has been reduced to 34 this year, as well as bringing the start nearer to the first fence. It will be interesting to see how the changes affect the race this year, but I’m sure it will continue to be a fantastic spectacle.  

SBC: Can you recount to SBC any memorable Grand National wins or experiences?

BC: There haven’t been that many to tell you the truth. I don’t think I ever won the family sweepstake and the first time I remember backing the winner was Earth Summit in 1998 when it was really soft ground, which it is certain to be on Saturday. I had two bets that year, him and Suny Bay, and with the two of them fighting it out between them I didn’t have any worries up the straight.

Pineau De Re in 2014 was the next time I had a winner in the race, so that tells you how hard it is to get it right. That was a good one, but probably the most memorable one for me was when Mon Mome won at 100/1 in 2009.

I didn’t have a penny on him, but I was running the Paris Marathon that weekend with my girlfriend and future wife and we were staying in Montmarte. I’d been at Aintree on Thursday and Friday, and when I was driving back down south ‘herself’ rang to say she wanted £5 each way on Mon Mome.

I thought to myself, “what on earth are you thinking”, and I almost forgot to place the bet, but luckily I did. We watched the race in a bar in Monmartre the day before the marathon and he went and won easily. The drinks were on her on Sunday evening. 

SBC: Can you provide any tips for SBC Audiences tuning into the Grand National?

BC: With all the rain we’ve had it’s going to be tough this year and you’re going to need horses that stay all day. I’d also advise going with horses at bigger prices that might sneak into the top five or six.

My four picks to win the National will be – Panda Boy – Delta Work Galia Des Liteaux  and Latenightpass

SBC: So finally… why should everyone watch this weekend’s big race? 

BC: It’s just a great race which transcends horse racing. In Australia, the Melbourne Cup is the race that “stops a nation”. We have the Grand National and we should celebrate it.

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