The Aintree Festival is upon us, and as we get closer to the main event, workmen, students and dinner ladies across the land, who may not usually follow National Hunt racing in too much detail, are beginning to have a serious think about which Grand National horse will pay for their Saturday night out.
Picking a Grand National winner is never an easy task and people may have their own method of choosing who they think will bring home the bacon in the world’s most famous race. Punters may choose horses by looking at the colour of their silks, make their selection based on an associated name, or their choice may even be picked out of the hat!
As successful (or not) as your decision-making process has been in previous years, we have delved into the Grand National archives to make your decision for this year’s race a more rational one, looking at some interesting stats and facts, to whittle down your selection based on previous results in the race.
Firstly, when it comes to age, it is worth noting that there has not been a winner under the age of eight, in seventy-five years. This statistic alone would wipe out the likes of seven-year-old horses Shantou Flyer who is currently 50/1, Double Shuffle who is 40/1 and Le Mercurey who is 33/1 with BetBright.
Staying with age, another interesting figure is that seventeen out of the last twenty winners have been aged between nine and eleven. This may then send alarm bells out to anti-post backers of eight-year-olds Saphir Du Rheu and Blaklion, who are two of the classier entries in the race, so although their quality is not in question, do they have the maturity to win the race?
Experience is also something that punters should consider when making their selection. For example, the last ten winners of the Grand National had run at least ten times over fences. This is a very interesting point, because this would rule out More Of That (14/1), who is a very well respected horse, having run in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, but has only run over fences eight times. This statistic would also write off Ruby Walsh’s ride, Pleasant Company, who has run six times over fences. Many BetBright customers may well make their selection based on the well-known jockey from Kildare, but going by this stat, they may want to look elsewhere.
The Grand National is known as a long, grueling race, so it should be no real surprise to hear that apart from Rule The World and Red Marauder, every winner in the last forty-six years had a previous win over three miles. The Gordon Elliott trained, Ucello Conti, is currently 16/1 and although he has racked up a total of six wins in his career, none of them have been over three miles and this could be a very relevant point when the horse looks to win over four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs on Saturday.
Eleven of the last twelve Grand National winners had a top three finish in their last three runs, which would rule out The Young Master (16/1) and Gigginstown’s Wounded Warrior (50/1) – two names which may appeal to the average Grand National punter.
Only one of the last seventeen Grand National winners had won more than once earlier in the season, which would suggest that current 10/1 favourite with BetBright, Vieux Lion Rouge, would be bucking a serious trend if he were to win on Saturday, notching up two wins out of two runs this season at Aintree and Haydock.
Another fact which could prove interesting, bearing in mind the number of runners in the Grand National, is that the last ten winners had previously placed (at the very least) in a field with fifteen or more runners. On this basis then, you’d want to rule out Perfect Candidate at 33/1, who has run three times in a field with over fifteen runners without placing.
It’s also worth noting that thirty-two out of the last thirty-three winners had their last run within fifty days of the Grand National. The last time the Lucinda Russell trained, One For Arthur (currently joint third favourite at 14/1), ran was on 14th January 2017, which is eighty-four days before this year’s Grand National. Although he won at Warwick, history shows that he may lack the fitness to go all the way at Aintree.
Many BetBright customers might be looking to back Cause of Causes. On the surface, this horse looks like it has the CV to be considered one of the strongest contenders in the race, and markets would suggest this is the case, with the horse currently priced at 14/1. It comes to Aintree on the back of winning the Cross-Country Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, is trained by leading Irish trainer, Gordon Elliott, and will be wearing the famous silks of National Hunt powerhouse, JP McManus. However, if you dig a little deeper, history shows that there has been only one Cheltenham Festival winner who has gone on to win the Grand National since 1961. After the season his yard is having, you can never completely write off Gordon Elliott, but this is certainly something worth considering when making your Grand National selection.
Just one previous winner or placed horse from the previous year’s race has won in last thirty-two years. This was the late Many Clouds, who came fourth in 2014’s Grand National and then came back to win the following year. This would not be good news for last year’s runner up, The Last Samuri, who BetBright have priced at 14/1.
Eighteen of the last twenty winners had fallen or unseated their jockey no more than twice in their careers. Could this be bad news then, for David Pipe’s Ballynagour (66/1), who has fallen twice during his career and unseated Tom Scudamore in last year’s Grand National?
This now leaves us with four runners who do not land within any of these statistical brackets: Just A Par 40/1, Pendra 50/1, Goodtoknow 50/1 and Viva Steve 60/1. Although they are big prices, seven out of the last ten winners went off at 25/1 or above, which could be a positive sign for these four outsiders.
Although we’ve whittled it down to four, the only thing that excludes Blaklion and Saphir Du Rheu from joining the four entries above is perhaps their age and a touch of experience, but with classier types beginning to win in more recent times, perhaps one of these classier eight-year olds can prevail this year?
It would be a cliché to say that the Grand National is ‘a lottery’, but most years this is usually how people feel when making their selection.
The beauty of sport is that records are always broken and new statistics are always created, but hopefully, after we’ve done some homework for you, your Grand National choice on Saturday will be made a little easier.
The Key Stats you need:
• There has not been a winner under the age of 8 in 75 years; and 17 of the last 20 have been aged between 9 and 11.
• Distance Experience: Apart from Rule The World and Red Marauder, every winner in the last 46 years had a win over three miles.
• The last ten winners had run at least ten times over fences.
• 11 of the last 12 winners had a top three finish in their last three runs.
• Only 1 of the last 17 winners had won more than once earlier in the season.
• 32 of the last 33 winners had their last run within 50 days of the Grand National.
• Big Field Experience: The last 10 winners had at least placed in a field with 15 or more runners.
• Only 1 Cheltenham Festival winner has gone on to win the Grand National since 1961.
• Just 1 previous winner/placed horse from the previous year’s race has won in last 32 years.
• 18 of the last 20 winners had fallen or unseated no more than twice in their careers.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.