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Yes, the wait for the 2018 AINTREE GRAND NATIONAL is almost over as we head towards the time of year when the ‘once-a-year’ horse racing punters raise their heads to have their annual punt on the world’s greatest steeplechase.
However, even if the race isn’t your cup of tea it’s still the most punted on race each year and one we all feel obliged to have a crack at it.
With the race being first run in 1839 then it’s also a contest steeped in history and, therefore, if you like your stats there are loads of key trends that have built up over the years.
For example – The last 7 year-old to win the Grand National was in 1940, while no horse aged 13 or older has won – or even been placed – since 1923!
We’re confident these trends will point you in the direction of the Grand National winner, or at least help narrow down the big 40 runner field – So, let’s get started!
Saturday 14th April 2018
Aintree Grand National Trends (Last 27 Runnings)
– 26/27 – Ran no more than 55 days ago
· 26/27 – Officially rated 137 or higher
· 25/27 – Had won over at least 3m (chase) before
· 24/27 – Had won no more than 6 times over fences before
· 23/27 – Aged 9 or older
· 22/27 – Returned a double-figure price
· 21/27 – Ran no more than 34 days ago
· 21/27 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
· 21/27 – Carried 10-12 OR LESS
· 18/27 – Had won between 4-6 times over fences before
· 16/27 – Carried 10-8 OR LESS
· 16/27 – Finished in the top 4 last time out
· 16/27 – Aged 10 years-old or younger
· 15/27 – Placed favourites
· 14/27 – Aged 9 or 10 years-old
· 14/27 – Won by an Irish-bred horse
· 9/27 – Ran at Cheltenham last time out
· 8/27 – Trained in Ireland (inc 5 of the last 12 years)
· 6/27 – Ran in a previous Grand National
· 5/27 – Won by the favourite or joint favourite
· 5/27 – Won last time out
· 2/27 – Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies
· 2/27 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
2/27 – Ridden by Leighton Aspell
· 0/27 – Won by a horse aged 7 years-old OR LESS
Aintree Grand National Facts
Since 1978, 120 horses have tried to win with more than 11-5 – with just two winners – Many Clouds (11-9) in 2015 & Neptune Collonges (11-6) in 2012
14 of the last 19 winners were bred in Ireland
Only 1 horse that won at the Cheltenham Festival that same season has won since 1961
The last 7 year-old or younger to win was back in 1940
12 of the last 21 winners had won or been placed in a National-type race before
No horse aged 13 or older has won since 1923 or placed since 1969
3 of the last 9 winners ran in the Scottish National the previous season
9 of the last 15 winners had run over hurdles at some stage earlier in the season
5 of the last 16 winners had been unplaced in the National last year
Only three 8 year-olds have won the last 24 renewals
Just one past winner or placed horse from the previous year’s race has won for 33 years (76 have attempted)
19 of the last 21 winners had fallen or unseated no more than twice in their careers
The last horse to win back-to-back Nationals was Red Rum in 1974
Aintree Grand National Trends (15 Year)
14/15 – Had won over at least 3m previously
13/15 – Won by a horse aged 9 or older
13/15 – Ran less than 50 days ago
13/15 – Officially rated 137 or higher
9/15 – Won by horses aged in double-figures
8/15 – Winners from the top 8 in the betting
8/15 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
6/15 – Carried 11-0 or more in weight
7/15 – Experienced the National fences
5/15 – Won by a horse aged 10 years-old
5/15 – Won by an Irish-trained horse
3/15 – Winning favourites (2 joint)
3/15 – Won their last race
2/15 – Won by the McCain yard
The average winning SP in the last 15 renewals is 28/1
Weight Watchers: Some recent winners have carried 11st (or more) to victory but looking back at recent trends make this weight your cut-off point. If you look back over the winners we’ve only seen the mighty Red Rum (1974 & 1977) and Many Clouds (2015) carry 11-8 or more – 21 of the last 27 winners carried 10-12 or less!
Staying Power: Stamina is an absolute must-have when scanning down the entries. Year-after-year there are always plenty of hype horses that are certainly talented, but the big question surrounding their chance is will they stay the grueling 4m 1/4f trip? You have to trawl back to 1970 and a horse called Gay Trip to find the last victor that won the Grand National having not previously won over at least 3 miles.
Recent Form: Coming into the race off the back of a fairly recent run, plus a decent finish is another something to look for. 16 of the last 27 winners were placed in the top 4 last time out, while a monster 26 of the last 27 Grand National winners had raced within the last 55 days. Yes, a lot will fit the bill here, but if you want to take this trend a bit further then it might pay to know 21 of the last 27 winners actually ran no more than 34 days ago – this should help knock a fair few out!
Age Concern: Experience is a huge attribute when looking back at past Grand National winners with horses aged 9 years-old or OLDER certainly the ones to focus on. You have to go back to 1940 (Bogskar) to find the last 7 year-old to grab the Merseyside marathon! So, don’t be too put off if your fancy is in their twilight years – but not a teenager, while – as mentioned – avoid horses aged 7! It is worth pointing out that we’ve seen two 8 year-olds win the race in the last 3 runnings so you can’t totally rule out this age group either. 23 of the last 27 winners were aged 9 or older!
Luck Of The Irish: Runners from across the Irish Sea have raided these shores to win the Aintree Grand National many times in recent years, so certainly take a second glance at any of their runners. 5 of the last 12 winners came from Irish-based stables!
Fencing Master: With thirty of the most unique obstacles in horse racing to contend with then having previous form over the tricky Grand National fences can be a huge advantage. Many recent Grand National winners had previously been tried over these Grand National-style fences in the past. The Topham Chase and Becher Chase – or a previous run in the big race itself – are the main races that are staged at Aintree racecourse over the same Grand National-style fences to look back at.
Who’s Your Favourite: The betting on the Grand National always picks up pace in the weeks building up to the big day, but on the Saturday itself, when the ‘once-a-year’ punters hit the high streets, this is when the betting market really kicks into gear. It’s also worth noting that the weights for the Grand National are issued well in advance (normally in February each year), so with some horses often running well after they’ve been given their allocated weight and before the race then this can also impact the ante post Grand National betting. 5 of the last 27 runnings have been won by the favourite (19%), while 15 of the last 27 (56%) market leaders were placed (top 4 finish)!
Market Toppers: We’ve already talked about the actual favourite, but this Grand National stat can be taken a bit further when you actually drill down into recent runnings. In fact, most winners in recent years started in the first eight of the Grand National betting market – indicating that despite the Venetia Williams-trained, Mon Mome, popping-up at 100/1 in 2009, that punters generally tend to get this race right. 8 of the last 15 winners came from the top 8 in the betting market!
Fitness First: Probably the biggest trend in recent years, and a really easy way to whittle the 40 strong field down in one easy swoop, is just check how many days ago your fancy last ran. The majority of the recent Grand National winners had their previous race no more than 48 days prior to the big day. While if you want to drill this trend down a bit further than you’ll notice that a large amount of recent winners of the Grand National actually raced less than 40 days prior to landing the greatest steeplechase in the world. 26 of the last 27 winners ran no more than 55 days ago, while 21 of the last 27 raced no more than 34 days ago!
STATZONE VERDICT: BLAKION was fourth in the 2017 Grand National and has been popular in the betting ever since. Yes, he landed the Becher Chase here back in December – beating another popular National horse – The Last Samuri by 9 lengths. Of course, having experience of these fences is a big plus but let’s cut to the chase – he’s not for me! Why? Well if he couldn’t win the race 12 months ago carrying 11st1lb then why is he going to this time with 11st9lbs on his back? That’s 8lbs more and he’s also now rated 161 as opposed to 152 last year. Okay, many will feel he’s a better, stronger horse and being another year older at 9 then is now at the peak of his powers. Add in a recent wind operation then there could be room for improvement. However, he also heads here off the back of a very tough race at Haydock, when beaten 54 lengths in heavy ground. But another main stumbling block for me is that in the last 33 years we’ve seen just one past winner or placed horse from the previous year’s race……..and 76 have tried. With 11-9 to carry he’ll also be looking to become only the third horse since 1978 to win with more than 11-5 on his back! He’s simply got too many negatives for me.
MINELLA ROCCO ran a blinder to be second in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup and if finding that level of form certainly brings a lot of class to the race. However, he’s not really built on that since and did you know he’s actually only won once from 13 races over fences? That victory came in the 4m race at Cheltenham so we know he stays but it also came over 2 years ago! With 11-10 to carry then he’s another that will be looking to become only the second horse since 1974 to win with 11st10lbs or more………oh, and that was the mighty Red Rum, who carried 12st to victory! As you can probably guess he’s another of the main runners I’m ruling out.
ANIBALE FLY has a very similar make-up to Minella Rocco but, on a plus, has more recent decent form to take into the race. We last saw this 8 year-old running on well to be third in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup and was only beaten just over 8 lengths. With the Grand National weights out before that race then many feel his mark of 159 looks very attractive – if he could the handicapper would surely reassess him and give him more weight. Having said that, he’s still a horse that has 11st7lbs to carry and will also be going into unknown territory regarding the trip – the Gold Cup (3m2f) is currently the furthest he’s been. With two of the last three Grand National winners aged 8 then he ticks that trend and certainly brings a lot of class to the race. It is also worth pointing out he did fall heavily two starts ago at Leopardstown, which would be a concern over these fences. So, another that is sure to be popular with punters but also another I’m prepared to overlook.
THE LAST SAMURI has been a stalwart of recent Grand Nationals, having run in the last two. He was 16th last year but many punters will remember him finishing second in 2016 as the 8/1 joint favourite. In fact, he’s raced over these fences four times as he’s been second and third in the Becher Chase before too, so certainly brings plenty of course experience to the table. He’s rated 2lbs lower than 12months ago but it’s worth pointing out he’s still a massive 10lbs higher than when runner-up in 2016. He only carried 10st-8lbs that day but has 11st-7lbs to lump round this time. Yes, a recent third in the Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival was a cracking run and he should be spot-on for this. He’s certainly one to consider but, for me, he’s more of a horse that will get round, and perhaps place, rather than actually win. I’m a firm believer that you only get one crack at the National and if he’s failed to win the race twice before – and, don’t forget, he completed both times, then he’s one of those that might just have had his opportunity.
TOTAL RECALL has already had a cracking season and it might not be over yet. From the Willie Mullins camp that won this in 2005 with Hedgehunter, he was in the process of running a big race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last time until falling three out. Yes, it’s unlikely he’d have won that day but there was every chance he’d have grabbed third. Therefore, that form links him in closely with Anibale Fly and would surely be another that would be rated higher if the handicapper could reassess him. With 11st-4lbs then he gets in just under the key weight trend and since 2010 we’ve seen three winners carry 11-5, 11-6 and 11-9 so his burden of 11-4 is a winnable racing weight. His chase mark has also been slightly protected by running over hurdles this year while having won the Ladbrokes Gold Trophy Chase (Hennessy) back in December then he’s another that brings plenty of class to the race. 3m2f is the furthest he’s gone to date but is a horse that runs as if he’ll stay the trip. Okay, many will feel that coming into race off the back of a fall isn’t ideal but prior to that he’d been a sound jumper and the Mullins camp are sure to have brushed up on that area in recent weeks. At 9 years-old he’s at the perfect age – 4 of the last 13 National winners were aged 9 – while the only Willie Mullins-trained winner of this race was – you guessed it – also 9. Of the fancied runners then he’s certainly one I like more and, therefore, the first to go on the shortlist.
TIGER ROLL was last seen winning the Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival and since then has been very popular in the betting for the National. He’s taking the same path as his stablemate – Cause of Causes – did 12 months ago and that horse ran a cracker to be runner-up in this. At 8 years-old there could even be more to come and whereas most of the others at the head of the betting have some stamina question mark – he doesn’t. He won the 4m race at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017 so basically stays all day. He gets in here off a mark of 150, which looks very attractive and that means he can race off an eye-catching 10st12lbs. The experienced Davy Russell, who will be looking for his first win in the race, gets the leg-up and having negotiated his way round the tricky Cross Country course at Cheltenham then that’s a good very good indication he’ll handle the Aintree obstacles too. He’s a horse that acts on most ground too and with proven stamina then he’s another I’ll be adding to my National portfolio this year.
Best Of The Rest……………………….
The other key trend I always like to apply to the race is the days last ran. With a massive 26 of the last 27 Grand National winners having raced no more than 55 days ago then this is too big a stat to overlook. Yes, there are quite a few runners that are on 56 days so I’m prepared to give these the benefit of the doubt, but there are also several fairly well-fancied runners that fall down on this trend – including Gas Line Boy (98), Pleasant Company (79), Ucello Conti (79), Minella Rocco (69), Warriors Tale (77) & Raz De Maree (98). If you want to take this stat a bit further than it might pay to note that 21 of the last 27 (78%) winners actually last raced 34 days or less ago – Tiger Roll (31) and Total Recall (29), who are two already on my shortlist, get a thumbs up here too.
I’ve already touched on the two key age brackets to avoid too – 7 year-olds, plus any horses aged 13 or older. Bless The Wings (13), Raz De Maree (13) and Baie Des Iles (7) are three that fall down here.
Vicente ticks a lot of boxes too. Owned by Mr. Grand National – Trevor Hemmings – who is looking for his fourth win the race and trained by Paul Nicholls, who’s only victory came in 2012. Staying won’t be an issue for this 9 year-old as he’s already landed a National – the Scottish version – twice in fact! He got no further than the first fence last year when well fancied but that exit turned out to be a blessing as he won the Scottish National a week later – a race he’d surely have missed had he had a hard race in this last year. The same could happen again as he’s still in the Scottish race next Saturday as he bids for a famous three-timer, but a good run here is not out of the question. As mentioned the trip is fine but it is worth pointing out he is 4lbs higher than last year when sent off a well-backed 16/1, while although he’s got form with cut all his wins have been on good-to-soft or quicker ground suggesting he might just find the underfoot conditions a tad too testing.
Vieux Lion Rouge was sixth in the race 12 months ago – beaten 27 lengths – but actually races off the same 10st12lb weight and is also officially rated a pound higher this time. Based on that, then it’s hard to get too jiggy about his chances with 27 lengths to find from last year.
Saint Are is another popular Grand National horse that will be running in the race for a fifth time. His form figures read well too – 9-2-PU-3. So, having been runner-up and third in the race before then this 12 year-old certainly has the credentials to be placed again. He gets in here with a pound less in weight (10st9lbs) than last year.
Seeyouatmidnight would be a huge winner for the small Sandy Thomson yard and he’s got a lively chance too. He’s lightly-raced for a 10 year-old with just 16 runs but has already been placed in a National when third in the Scottish version back in 2016. He’s had his issues with only four runs since but should be a lot fitter for a recent run at Newbury – his first for 364 days! With 10st10lbs to carry then he’s got a nice racing weight and is another that has been known to race up with the pace so this will help keep him out of trouble. Certainly not one to rule out lightly.
I JUST KNOW hails from the Sue Smith yard that won the race in 2013 and with just 10st7lbs then he gets in with a very light burden to carry. He’s raced 10 times over fences and has only been outside the top three twice. He’s won over 3m6f in the past too so the trip should be fine but it is worth pointing out he’s racing off a 14lb higher rating than when last seen running over fences. Connections have given him a spin over hurdles recently though (March), which should have him spot-on for this and being a recognised front-runner at least he’ll be out of trouble from fallers. I think he looks an interesting contender of the outsiders.
VINTAGE CLOUDS (4th Reserve) is another from the Sue Smith yard that catches the eye of those at a bigger price. Yes, he’ll need some ahead of him to come out of the race to make the final 40, but if enough do then he could be worth an interest. Owned by Mr Grand National – Trevor Hemmings, who has won the race three times in the past, then this is the first plus. Ok, with just one chase win from 12 starts he might not win enough but having finished in the top three in 8 of those 12 runs then he’s never far away. We last saw him running well to be third to Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and he gets in here off the same mark of 141. With only 10-3 to carry then he’ll have a featherweight on his back and he’s also a track winner on the Mildmay course. The trip should be fine too as he was 7th in the Scottish National last year at Ayr over 4m, plus he was a staying-on fourth at Chepstow in the Welsh National back in January after getting hampered a few times too. He also had 11-1 to carry in that Chepstow race so with 12lbs less on his back here then this will give him an obvious boost over this gruelling trip.
** Note** – This horse is the 4th reserve though so would need 4 to come out to get into the race still!
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX is another of the outsiders that can be given a squeak too. The main reasons being this 11 year-old is 5lbs lower than 12 months ago when 10th but if the ground comes up softer than last year (when it was good-to-soft) this will help his cause. The Venetia Williams camp are also no strangers to causing a bit of a shock in this race – don’t forget, they had Mon Mome go in at 100/1 back in 2009! A recent third at Ascot was a decent prep run too, while the Venetia Williams stable could not be in better form – this midweek they’ve fired in bundles of winners – which further adds to his chance. Yes, at 11 years-old many will feel he’s too old – wrong! We’ve seen three of the last six winners aged 11, so in recent years the older brigade have certainly shown they can pay their way.
Regal Encore is another worth a mention. This JP McManus owned runner was last seen winning well at Ascot over 3m but was also third in the Ladbrokes Gold Trophy back in December. He was just 9 lengths adrift of Total Recall that day but had to give him 3lbs. The weights, however, are a lot different here with a 9lb pull in favour of Total Recall. He also has history in the race after running 8th behind One For Arthur last year. He gets in off the same mark (150) but carries a pound lower this time too. Yes, he’s a horse that can often be a bit in-and-out, and based on last year’s run in the race does have a bit to find but this year he comes into the contest off the back of a decent win and can be expected to improve on his 8th from 12 months ago.
I JUST KNOW
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX
That should be all you need, if you can’t make the right decisions with all that info, there’s no helping you!