It’s that time of year again: we have the runners, riders and weights for the biggest single betting event in the UK calendar, and it’s time to look for a little long range ante-post value.
“Aintree Grand National 2013” (CC BY 2.0) by stacey.cavanagh
But before you start making your Grand National selections, you really need to whittle things down a bit. The best way to do this is via a little straightforward statistical analysis. First off, take any horse out of your shortlist that isn’t aged 8-11 inclusive. Only two 12 year-old horses have won the National over the past three decades, whilst not a single seven-year-old has won. Vieux Lion Rouge, Blaklion and Definitly Red – three of the current favourites for this year’s race – are all eight years of age. That being said, only three eight-year-olds won the race in that time, too – so be a little wary of them as well.
Next comes weight. Simply put, horses carrying big weights rarely win. Many Clouds won the 2015 Grand National carrying 11 stones 9lbs, but this was something of an anomaly: the horse carried the biggest weight since Red Rum won his second Grand National in 1974. The mean average weight carried over the last 20 years is less than 10 stones, 10 lbs, so to hone down your list, delete any horse carrying more than 11 stones, 2 lbs, unless it’s of very exceptional ability.
February 1975, Grand National trials, Haydock Park, Picture shows legendary race-horse Red Rum jumping a fence ridden by Brian Fletcher pic.twitter.com/tkZVBez7LL
— Anaglogs Daughter (@AnaglogsDaughtr) October 10, 2016
Next, look for a horse that has a relatively easy race over hurdles this season. Around 80% of all recent winners have had a warm-up race over hurdles in the season they won.
Another big factor is sheer class. In recent years, the Grand National has become more of a form race – meaning better rated horses tend to win. So take anything out of your shortlist with an official rating of around 135 or less. Similarly, the ideal selection should have, at some point in his or her career, landed a race worth about £30k or more.
Source: BBC Sport NI via Facebook
Next, an obvious one: jumping ability. Horses that don’t jump well don’t get around two circuits of four and a half miles at Aintree over some of the toughest and most famous fences in horse racing, including Becher’s Brook, the Canal Turn, Valentine’s Brook and the infamous “Chair” fence. The winner will have to successfully negotiate 30 big spruce fences, so a horse that has fallen a couple of times before probably won’t get round at Liverpool.
The next factor to consider is the sheer distance. There are few races this long and most winners have proven themselves to stay over three miles. So look for horses that have won or done well over distance, and have done so a number of times and in big fields.
Finally, if you’re betting ante-post, look for reaffirmation from connections that the horse is definitely being laid out for the National – then either take your chance early on ground conditions, or leave that aspect of things until a few days before the race when weather forecasts should be reasonably accurate.
Oh, and: good luck!