Billed as the World’s Greatest Steeplechase, The Grand National returns to Aintree and BBC1 on Saturday 11th April. Every year around £140 million pounds is bet by the Great British public on the annual horse race. But how can you be sure to make sure you’re onto a winner? Here’s Gaylife’s official guide to picking the right nag….
Stamina reserves and jumping ability are the two most crucial requirements for a Grand National winner. Younger horses have a poor record in the race which is probably because they tend to have more speed than stamina. As horses age, like humans, they tend to lose speed and gain stamina. With so many difficult jumps, experience is the key to success. You have to go back to 1940 to find a horse younger than 8 that has won.
Much older horses also tend to struggle in the Grand National as a horse needs to be in its prime to survive the tests of the World’s greatest race. The peak for a staying chaser is thought to be around 9 – 11 years old. Grand National trends back this up withall of the last ten winners coming from this age group.
You’ll have to go back to 1923 to find a horse older than 12 that won the Grand National. So – Focus on horses aged 9-11. The 2013 winner Auroras Encore was aged 11 and none of the first six home was aged under 9. In 2011 horses aged 9-11 filled the first ten places.
It may seem an obvious statement but every year thousands of pounds are lost on horses that don’t have the class to win a Grand National. Most recent Grand National winners ran off an official rating of between 136 and 157 with only Bobby Jo and Little Polvier winning from “out of the handicap”. Concentrate on those rated between 136 and 157 on the day of the race. In 2014 the winner ‘Pineau De Re’ was rated 143.
The weight a horse carries is probably the most important statistical factor when analysing top class staying handicap chases. With the Grand National being the longest and toughest staying handicap chase this is made even more important.
Since world war 2, only six Grand Nationals have been won by horses carrying more than 11st 5 lbs. Two of those high weight victories were by the incredible Red Rum and only Neptune Collonges has carried 11-6 or more to victory since Rummy’s last victory in 1974.
Horses carrying more than 11 stone 6lbs have tended to struggle but with the recent changes to the race it is possible that horses with a high weight are may become more favoured. Concentrate on runners carrying under 11st 7 lbs. Last year’s winner Pineau De Re carried 10stone 6lbs.
Stamina is a critical ingredient for winning the Grand National. Every year we see very talented 2.5 milers that the public & press get behind, yet they never seem to last home. Gay Trip (1970) was the last Grand National winner who hadn’t previously won over at least three miles.
The 2012 joint favourite Seabass had only won over 2m 6f and it looked like his stamina ran out in the final stages of the race. The BHA have taken steps to reduce the possibility of horses running the Grand National who have lots to find on stamina but it should still pay to concentrate on those horses who have categorically proved their stamina. If a horse hasn’t previously won over at least three miles then you are taking a big chance that its first long distance win will be the Grand National.
Concentrate on those with proven stamina. The 2014 winner Pineau De Re had confirmed his stamina by winning two chases over three miles. 2013 winner Auroras Encore had previously finished a head second in the four mile Scottish National.
Ability to Perform in Top Races
Each of the last ten winners had proven ability in a top race. Every winner in the last ten years had won a race worth at least £13,000. Its far safer to concentrate on runners with proven ability. These horses have shown that they are capable of winning and that they can handle the conditions of a competitive race. Concentrate on horses with proven ability in a decent class race.
Horses with little jumping experience don’t win Grand Nationals. To jump these large, difficult obstacles, a horse needs to have the confidence behind them which they have gained by jumping plenty of fences before. Schooling on the training grounds doesn’t make up for real experience at the race course. Each of the last 10 Grand National winners had run at least ten times over fences before the start on the big day at Aintree.
Trained for the Race
A tired and over raced horse can’t be expected to beat 39 other horses in the toughest race on earth. Horses who aren’t at peak fitness will struggle. The Grand National is usually run around three-four weeks after the Cheltenham Festival and many horses will have been trained so that they peak in time for Cheltenham, not Aintree. This leaves them at a big disadvantage and if they have been in a tough race at the festival, four weeks or so might not be enough time for some of them to recover.
In recent years Silver Birch (second in the Cross Country), Bindaree (sixth in the William Hill Chase) Don’t Push It (pulled up in the Pertemps Final) and Pineau De Re (2nd in the Pertemps Final) have gone on to win the Grand National after racing at Cheltenham. Many others have tried and failed.
Trainers and Jockeys
Its best to concentrate on the proven ability of the horse rather than the jockey and trainer. Jockeys can win with their first run in the Grand National whereas some of the best national hunt jockeys have never won the race. A perfect example of this was in 2009 when jockey Liam Treadwell gave Mon Mome the perfect ride to win on his first ride around the Aintree fences. Some trainers have a better history of training staying chasers and particularly Grand National winners than others. In recent years Nigel Twiston Davies has trained two runners to victory, whilst the late Ginger McCain won his fourth Grand National with Amberleigh House.