Aintree is well underway and the main event is just around the corner.
As we get closer to the world’s most famous race, 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 this historical 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’ve 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.
So, here goes nothing – let’s try and whittle things down and see who could pick up the prize at just after 5.15pm on Saturday afternoon…
Stat One: 45 of the last 47 winners had previously won a race where the distance was more than three miles.
It’s important to note here, that this doesn’t include races which were three miles, on the dot. However, by this logic we can scratch out the following names on the race card, some of which have won a three-mile race, but have not been victorious over further…
Gas Line Boy
Alpha Des Obeaux
Houblon Des Obeaux
Road To Riches
Stat Two: All of the last eleven winners had run at least ten times over fences.
Whether or not you think this is an overly revealing statistic, it’s certainly worth considering, bearing in mind the 30 Grand National fences that need to be cleared if your horse is to come out of the race victorious.
With this in mind, you can forget these fellas…
Seeyouatmidnight – 9 times over fences.
Baie Des Iles – 9 times over fences.
The Dutchman – 8 times over fences.
Pleasant Company – 9 times over fences.
Childrens List – 4 times over fences.
Stat Three: 12 of the last 13 winners had a top three finish in their last three runs
Form could play a big part in who comes out on top and if that’s something you’re considering when making your selection then wave bye-bye to these four…
Minella Rocco – F4P
Vieux Lion Rouge – 474
Carlingford Lough – U5P
Lord Windermere – 57-F
Stat Four: 32 of last 34 winners had their last run within 50 days of the Grand National
Recent history shows that freshness could play a big part in a horse’s success at Aintree and going by the above Stat, these guys might be a little rusty…
Raz De Maree
Stat Five: All of the last 11 winners had at least placed in a field with 15+ runners
40 Runners will go toe-to-toe on Saturday afternoon in 2018’s edition of the Grand National and with so many horses competing at such an intensity, this year’s winner may have to be familiar with a crowded environment.
Taking that into account, you can get rid of this trio:
I Just Know – The best he’s done in a field of over 15 runners is when he came 6th out of 19 at Doncaster back in February 2016.
Perfect Candidate – His best run in a field of over 15 runners is 7/15 at Bangor back in 2013.
Beeves – Most successful performance in a field of 15+ is 7th.
Stat Six: 19 of the last 21 winners had fallen or unseated no more than twice in their careers.
It’s something no one wants to see, but the inevitability of a faller in the Grand National is almost certain, so if you want to avoid horses with previous, then steer clear of this duo:
Total Recall – Fell at Thurles in October 2016 then Unseated the same jockey, Johnny Burke, at the same track two months later and fell in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup with David Mullins on top.
Vicente – UR once and Fallen twice.
Stat Seven: Only 1 Cheltenham festival winner has gone on to win the Grand National since 1961
Tiger Roll – As impressive as he was in this year’s Cross-Country at Cheltenham, history suggests that Tiger (will not) Roll on to another win after his festival success.
Stat Eight: Seven of the past ten winners have been aged between between eight and ten.
Age seems to play an important enough part in National success over recent years, so if you’re pacing the living room, undecided on who to pick, then avoiding these four horses in accordance with stat eight might make life a little easier:
Milansbar – 11yo
Bless The Wings – 13yo
Maggio – 13yo
Saint Are – 12 yo
The Short List
Now, there’s more than one way to pick a winner but if you’re going by stats alone, then it looks like we’ve whittled down the field to four runners.
Anibale Fly (10/1) –Trained by Tony Martin and with the ever-reliable Barry Geraghty on top, this eight year old has plenty of experience over fences and is in with one hell of a shout. He goes off as this year’s favourite in the famous McManus silks and judging from the above information, rightly so. However, in the last twenty-one years, only five favourites have gone on to win the race (Don’t Push It in 2010, Comply Or Die in 2008, Hedgehunter in 2005, Earth Summit in 1998 and Rough Quest in 1996).
The Last Samuri (16/1) – Always spoken highly of at this time of year, heading into the National and finished second to Rule The World two years ago. Trained by the excellent Kim Bailey and could well contend, however, The Samuri’s ‘last’ win was over two years ago and he’s been beaten by plenty of Saturday’s runners since (Tiger Roll, Blaklion, Valseur Lido and Vieux Lion Rouge), which might suggest that his chance has passed.
Shantou Flyer – 33/1 – Meets all of the above criteria and has the magnificent young pretender, James Bowen, on top. The horse’s last win was on soft ground which may be a good sign heading into the race and on Saturday. Neigh-Sayers might look at the fact that he’s not won for over a year over a distance (2m5f) much shorter than the National course.
Valseur Lido – 50/1 – Ran a respectable race in the Irish Gold Cup where he came fifth, however, this will be his first run at Aintree. After a decent enough reappearance after a year off, he’s not quite delivered since, so although he’s made it through to the short list, this is a horse who might have just slipped through the net.
So, after diving into the deep, dark waters of the Grand National history books and juggling the numbers, stats and facts, it’s time to make a decision…
We’ve shrunk forty to four, however, it wouldn’t be the Grand National without a heart warming story to match this statistical selection.
James Bowen has had one hell of a season and winning the Grand National on Shantou Flyer would cap off an unreal year for the youngster, propelling him from this season’s young pretender to next year’s big contender.
Having tried to find a major reason not to back him, I have failed quite miserably, so it’s time to stop sitting on the fence and choose Shauntou Flyer (33/1) to win this year’s Aintree Grand National!
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.
Also published on Medium.