Our top horse racing tipster for March tell us his fond memories of the Grand National and attempts to solve the puzzle for this year’s race. Already well in profit, Sargent M tipped up a 100/1 last month and he’s looking for another big winner here.
It’s that time of year again, the countries favourite race is almost upon us, the only bet of the year for many, yet they choose probably the most difficult of all races to predict for their annual bet.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of this year’s race it’s a race that conjures up so many memories and stories, so I thought I’d start with a few of my own.
An introduction to racing for so many, myself included, national day was always a family event at our house as a child, my sister and I would be allowed to pick a couple of horses and returns would be spent on sweets, chocolate or even toys and games if we were lucky enough to pick a big priced winner. In the morning my parents would walk to the bookies with a wad of betting slips from my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and even the old the lady that lived opposite that’d never stepped foot inside a bookies in her life.
The house would be full for the start of the race, even my cousins would come round not for the race itself but for their amusement at my dad trying to ride his horse to the finish, jumping every fence himself, shouting and on many occasions swearing at the TV.
The best year for this was 1989, for weeks in advance my dad had been adding Little Polveir to all of his days selections and having doubles and trebles, but he just didn’t manage to find a winner to boost the stakes on his national selection. Come the day he looked at all the previous losers as an omen that it just wasn’t meant to be and refrained from backing it as a single. Throughout the race you could hear the muttering of “it’s gonna win that horse is gonna win” (well that’s the censored version of his mutterings) and as Little Polveir crossed the line the air turned blue, arms were waving all over and my cousins erupted in laughter after all that’s why they’d came round.
To this day you’ll still get a response from him when mentioning that particular national, it wasn’t all bad though because of dads constant insistence that this was going to win over the previous few weeks quite a few were holding a winning slip including me, chocolates crisps and sweets flowed that weekend and on returning to school all my friends were proudly informed that “I” had picked the winner of the grand national.
Although I wasn’t around to personally remember it my parents married on national day, my uncle had his trusty wireless tuned in and sat in the church listening to the race. Immediately after the service my uncle was my Dads first port of call and the first words spoken were “What won?” One of the few nationals my dad hasn’t sat down to watch but ask him about this race and 36 years on he’ll still tell you the first four home.
Enough of my stories, I’m sure you’ve all got plenty of your own, so let’s concentrate on this year’s race. A great spectacle to watch but a gamblers nightmare, so many factors to take into account and hours of studying to find out a big priced outsider rips up the form book and produces the goods on the day.
So how do you pick the winner? Let’s start with the housewives favourites that so often proves successful, picking a name you like or a name with a personal meaning (the royal baby is due soon and if born close to national day how many will be selecting Balthazar King, Portrait King or Royale Knight?) there’s always the jockeys silks coinciding with your favourite colour, your favourite trainer, your favourite jockey and of course there’s always the lucky pin. Not to forget the fairytale ending that has happened so many times in the past.
So what are this year’s fairytales? Nick de Boinville following on to his gold cup success? A female Jockey? An amateur rider? Or a horse that was purchased for a monkey by 5 blokes down the pub? No matter who wins a fairytale of some description will be attached to the winner, but this year there’s only one true fairytale ending.
AP McCoy our most successful jockey of all time approaching retirement and has already stated should he be lucky enough to ride this year’s winner it will be his last race. What a way to bow out that would be and it’d be up there with Aldaniti in my opinion the greatest ever national fairytale.
Putting all of that to one side and looking at form and statistics is it really possible to predict a national winner? Personally I think the answer is no, but it’s not going to stop me trying, let’s start by looking at the trends.
AGE – You have to go all the way back to 1940 to find a winner younger than 8 years old and 1923 for one over the age of 12. 18 of the last 20 winners have been aged 9-11 with 11 year olds winning the last three. So bearing this in mind I’m going to give 9,10, and 11 year olds a star and 7 and 13 year olds will get a star deducted:
9, 10 and 11 year olds
Rocky Creek, Balthazar King, Soll, Alvarado, Godsmejudge, Saint Are, First Lieutenant, Monbeg Dude, Royale Knight, Rebel Rebellion, Al Co, Gallant Oscar, Mon Parrain, Court By Surprise, Chance Du Roy, Night In Milan, Lord Windermere, Across The Bay, Wyck Hill, Raz De Maree, Duke Of Lucca, The Rainbow Hunter, Rubi Light, Super Duty, Portrait King, Renard, Carlito Brigante, Baileys Concerto, Gas Line Boy and Ely Brown
7 and 13 year olds
Cause Of Causes, Unioniste, Oscar Time and Tranquil Sea
WEIGHT – Since the war only 6 horses have managed to carry over 11st 6lb or more to victory, looking more recently only 3 horse have won carrying over 11st and only 2 carrying less than 10st 3lb within the last 20 running’s, taking this into account horses weighted between 10st 3lb and 11st will gain a star and those above 11st 6lb will lose one:
Under 11st 6lb
Cause Of Causes, Unioniste, Oscar Time, Tranquil Sea, Rocky Creek, Balthazar King, Alvarado, Godsmejudge, Saint Are, First Lieutenant, Monbeg Dude, Rebel Rebellion, Al Co, Mon Parrain Court By Surprise, Chance Du Roy, Night In Milan, Across The Bay, Wyck Hill, The Rainbow Hunter, Rubi Light, Super Duty, Portrait King, Carlito Brigante, Gas Line Boy, Shutthefrontdoor, The Druids Nephew, Spring Heeled, Home Farm, Hadrians Approach, Ballycasey, Benvolio, Dolatulo, Owegar Star, Corrin Wood, Bob Ford, Pineau Du Re and River Choice
Above 11st 6
Lord Windermere, Many Clouds, Sam Winner
CLASS – Very few horses win from outside the handicap and statistics show horses rated between 136 and 157 are those to concentrate on. With the ratings being proportional to the weights no stars will be added here but it’s worth keeping in mind on the day as horses may have ran since the weights were announced and now have a higher rating without having to carry any extra weight. However those rated below 136 will lose a star. Having said that stars will be awarded for those that have won a class 1 or class 2 race which all of the last 10 winners had done:
Won a Class 1 or Class 2 race
Cause Of Causes, Unioniste, Oscar Time, Tranquil Sea, Rocky Creek, Balthazar King, Soll, Alvarado, Godsmejudge, Saint Are, First Lieutenant, Monbeg Dude, Royale Knight, Rebel Rebellion, Al Co, Mon Parrain, Court By Surprise, Chance Du Roy, Night In Milan, Lord Windermere, Across The Bay, Wyck Hill, Duke Of Lucca, The Rainbow Hunter, Super Duty, Portrait King, Renard, Carlito Brigante, Ely Brown, Many Clouds, Sam Winner, Shutthefrontdoor, The Druids Nephew, Spring Heeled, Hadrians Approach, Benvolio, Dolatulo, Corrin Wood, Bob Ford and Pineau De Re
No Class 1 or Class 2 win
Gallant Oscar and Portrait King
JUMPING – An obvious ability requirement for the national, all 10 of the last 10 winners have competed over fences at least 10 times so only a minus for those that haven’t. Those that have experienced the national fences previously tend to have an edge and these will all gain a star:
National Fence Experience
Oscar Time, Tranquil Sea, Balthazar King, Soll, Alvarado, Saint Are, Monbeg Dude, Rebel Rebellion, Al Co, Mon Parrain, Chance Du Roy, Across The Bay, Wyck Hill, Raz De Maree, The Rainbow Hunter, Renard, Dolatulo and Pineau De Re
Gallant Oscar, Super Duty, Ely Brown, Shutthefrontdoor, Ballycasey, Benvolio, Corrin Wood
FITNESS – Horses that ran at Cheltenham tend to be trained be at their peak for the Cheltenham festival and statistically have a poor record in the national, however a recent run is not a bad thing with all the recent winners having their last run within 53 days and the majority of those within the last 34 days. So those that have ran within the last 34 days gain a star and along with those that ran at the Cheltenham festival but those that haven’t ran in the last 53 days will lose a star:
Ran in last 53 days
Godsmejudge, First Lieutenant, Royale Knight, Rebel Rebellion, Al Co, Raz De Maree, Rubi Light, Portrait King, Owega Star and Bob Ford
No run in last 53 days
Gas Line Boy, Cause Of Causes, Unioniste, Balthazar King, Saint Are, Monbeg Dude, Gallant Oscar, Court By Surprise, Chance Du Roy, Lord Windermere, Across The Bay, Duke of Lucca, Ely Brown, Many Cloud, Sam Winner, Shutthefrontdoor, The Druids Nephew, Home Farm, Hadrians Approach, Ballycasey, Benvolio, Dolatulo, Corrin Wood and Pineau De Re
BIG RACE EXPERIENCE – Again all of the last 10 runners have either won or been placed in a 15+ runner race so a deduction of a star for those that haven’t: Bob Ford, Gas Line Boy, Soll, Lord Windermere and Baileys Concerto
BETTING MARKET – 13 of the last 20 have come from the top 8 in the betting market, once again only additional stars here: Cause of Causes, Rocky Creek, Balthazar King, Soll, Alvarado, Godsmejudge, Spring Heeled, The Druids Nephew and Shutthefrontdoor
STAMINA – All of the last 10 winners have proved their stamina by winning over 3 miles or further, so stars taken away from those that haven’t achieved this: Rebel Rebellion, Rubi Light, Super Duty, Renard, Baileys Concerto, Home Farm, Ballycasey, Owegar Star and River Choice Without going too far into the statistics other things to consider are:-
HURDLE RACES – This may sound questionable at first but horses are often ran in hurdle races throughout the season when being specifically aimed at the national, this is done to protect their handicap rating yet allow them to still race without risking a hike in the weights these horse gain a star: Gallant Oscar, Raz De Maree, Baileys Concerto, Royale Knight, Ely Brown, River Choice, Owega Star, Portrait King, Wyck Hill, Super Duty, Across The Bay, Al Co, Gosmejudge, Cause Of Causes, The Druids Nephew, Night In Milan, Dulatulo, Pineau De Re and First Lieutenant
FORM – Statistically winners of the national finished in the top 4 last time out, so these all gain a star and those losing a star are the horses that either fell or were pulled up last time out: Unioniste, Rocky Creek, First Lieutenant, Balthazar King, Shutthefrontdoor, Spring Heeled, Rebel Rebellion, Carlito Brigante, Night In Milan, Rubi Light, The Druids Nephew, Cause Of Causes, Al Co, Saint Are, Oscar Time, Gas Line Boy, Portrait King, River Choice, Royale Knight, Soll and Raz De Maree Lord Windermere, Sam Winner, Home Farm, Hadrians Approach, Ballycasey, Benvolio, Corrin Wood, The Rainbow Hunter, Bob Ford, Wyck Hill, Ely Brown and Renard
IRISH NATIONAL – The previous year’s Irish national in the past as acted as a good form guide and the only the 1 runner this year finished in the top 10 at Fairyhouse last year: Shutthefrontdoor
And finally THE GOING – of course we can’t forget this, but with the British weather as easy to predict as …well the national but this should be taken into account on the day and horses that have won on the going can be given an additional star by yourself.
Taking all this into account the top 6 should be:
1st – Al Co (33/1)
2nd – First Lieutenant (33/1)
3rd – Rocky Creek (10/1)
4th – Balthazar King (10/1)
5th – Rebel Rebellion (40/1)
6th – Night In Milan (40/1)
But this is the national and anything can happen, so forget about winning and just enjoy the fantastic race that is and any returns? Well they’re just a bonus!