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Grand National Trends To Help You Pick A Winner

The Grand National racecard is often accompanied by a pinsticker’s guide to finding the winner and, to many, it can feel that you would be better off just sticking a pin in the paper to pick one of the 40 runners to bet on.

Yet, while no system is foolproof, there is certainly a slightly more reasoned way of narrowing down the field when you are looking for Grand National tips.

There are definitely certain trends which are worth bearing in mind when it comes to compiling a shortlist of horses worth backing in the National. It is unlikely that any horse will fulfil all the trends criteria, but it can certainly help you to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Here are some of the Grand National trends worth considering:

AGE:
With no seven-year-old winning the National since Bogskar in 1940 and no 13-year-old taking the great race since Sergeant Murphy back in 1923, it would appear wise to focus on horses aged between eight and 12. However, recent history suggests you can narrow that further. The last 10 winners have been aged either nine, 10 or 11. The last three winners, meanwhile, have all been 11-year-olds – Neptune Collonges in 2012, Auroras Encore in 2013 and Pineau De Re in 2014.

EXPERIENCE:
With age comes experience, so it is certainly worth marrying the two trends together. The Grand National is certainly not a race for the faint-hearted, whether you are watching on the television at home, involved with one of the horses, or, most importantly, the horse itself. Therefore, it is always good to focus on a horse with plenty of experience. You want to be looking for a horse which has run over fences at least 10 times in a career. And, given that you are looking at a horse with a minimum of 10 chase starts, then the odds are in favour of the horse being in at least its third season over fences.

JOCKEY:
Simply picking the best jockey in the race is not a sure-fire guarantee of winning the National. After all, Tony McCoy required 15 attempts before winning on Don’t Push It in 2010, while Jason Titley won on his first ride in the race aboard Royal Athlete in 1995. The key fact you want to be looking at when it comes to the jockey on board your selection is that they have not won the Grand National previously. Ruby Walsh is the only jockey in the past 20 years to have won the race more than once – on Papillon in 2000 (coincidentally on his first ride in the race) and Hedgehunter in 2005. Therefore, the likes of Richard Johnson and Sam Twiston-Davies are worth a look this year.

RATING:
While you do not have to be Gold Cup class to win the Grand National, you cannot get away with just being a horse which can plod its way around the four-and-a-half mile course. On the day of the race, you want to be looking for a horse which has an official handicap rating of between 136 and 157. It is still quite a broad band to look at, and you will probably find that most of the field fall into this category. However, it can probably help you to eliminate a couple of horses at the top and bottom ends of the field.

STAMINA:
Basically, if you are going to do two laps of Aintree then you are going to need a bit of stamina. The last horse to win the Grand National, which had not previously won over a distance of three miles or further, was Gay Trip in 1970. The Topham Chase, which is also run at the Grand National meeting, can be seen as a pointer to future National winners due to the experience over the fences. However, the Topham is run over a distance of almost two miles shorter than the National itself. Therefore, in addition to the obvious advantage of having won over the National fences, you do want to make sure the horse has also proved itself over a longer distance.

TRAINER:
This follows a similar trend to the jockey stat. In the last 20 years, Nigel Twiston-Davies is the only trainer to have saddled more than one Grand National winner. He sent out Earth Summit to win in 1998 and then saw Bindaree storm home to land the 2002 renewal of the race. Nicky Henderson is the most high-profile current trainer to be without a Grand National winner and he has endured a mixed record with his runners in the race. Female trainers, meanwhile, have won two of the last six runners. Venetia Williams sent out Mon Mome to win at 100/1 in 2009 and Auroras Encore won for Sue Smith at 66/1 two years ago.

WEIGHT:
A horse’s official rating will contribute to the weight it will carry in the Grand National. And, as you might expect, it is not easy trying to lump a big weight over 30 fences and still have enough petrol in the tank for the two-furlong run to the finishing line. The only horse to have carried more than 11st 6lbs to victory in the National since 1957 is the legendary Red Rum, who achieved that feat in 1974 and 1977. In the past 32 years, only three horse have won with more than 11st on their backs – Hedgehunter in 2005, Don’t Push It in 2010 and Neptune Collonges in 2012.

There are also a couple of other factors worth considering when it comes to trying to uncover the identity of the Grand National winner.

A Grand National preparation which has consisted of a run over hurdles has been used by eight of the last 11 winners. Pineau De Re, the 2014 winner, will not run over fences at all this season until he returns to Aintree for the Grand National. A large reason for this is that trainers want to protect their horse’s handicap mark, with the National weights not usually released until around mid-February. A run or two over hurdles helps to blow the cobwebs away and keep a horse ticking over before the National. The 2011 winner Ballabriggs won a couple of novice hurdles before going on to Aintree glory.

You also want to go for a horse who is a generally sound jumper. Any horse which has fallen more than twice in its career is not one you can back with any great confidence in the National.

As mentioned at the start of the piece, there is still no guarantee that a horse who fits into all these trends will be the Grand National winner. However, you will likely find that the majority of the trends will be applicable to the horse who wins the 2017 Grand National.