Picking your horse – how to find a winner
With 40 runners in each year’s Grand National it’s not exactly easy to get the winner. So many runners mean luck in running is going to be at a premium and that’s before you factor in the unique test the Liverpool course has to offer. 30 fences in total must be jumped, some, like Becher’s Brook, measuring a total of 6ft 9in. The cavalry charge of 40 equines over such a demanding course make backing the winner of the Grand National a tough task, but there’re some key stats which may narrow down the big field.
The age of each horse running is a critical factor when trying to determine the Grand National winner. With some experts age is the most important trend to assess during the selection process. The rule of thumb here is, the older the horse the better. Older horses have a much better record in the race than their younger counterparts. However, that’s not to say young horses haven’t been successful in the National either. So what’s the ideal age? Truth be told there is no ‘ideal’ age, but you want a horse aged 8 or above. The last eleven winners of the Aintree showpiece read as follows 9, 11, 8, 10, 12, 9, 10, 10, 9, 9, 10 and 10. That gives you an average age of 10.6 for the last eleven years. People often ask why this is the case? Simply, Aintree’s Grand National course is a massive demand on a young horse, both physically and mentally and the truth is some just can’t cope. An older horse is physically and mentally stronger, thus why they have better records in the race.
Weight is another huge factor when trying to assess a horse’s chances of winning the Grand National. It’s a fine line when picking a horse with the right blend of class and a nice racing weight. Let’s get straight to the facts. No horse has won the Grand National carrying 11 stone 5lbs or more since the mighty Red Rum way back in 1977 apart from Don’t Push It who bucked that trend in 2010. No horse has won the Grand National carrying 11 stone or more since Hedgehunter did so in 2005 until last year when Ballabriggs was right on the 11 stone mark. The weight issue is a fine line and stats would say carrying 11 stone or under is the way to go. However, there is a possibility that weight may no longer make such a great difference in the National given that Phil Smith, the senior handicapper, has changed the way that weight is allocated. The result is that a lot more horses are jammed up towards the top of the scale than used to be the case. Also, in general, a better class of horse now runs in the Grand National.
There has been an urban legend floating around for years with regards stamina and the Grand National. Many said that a two and a half mile steeplechaser would make the perfect Grand National horse. False! You need a horse that has won over or beyond three miles and we must go way back to 1970 when Gay Trip won his National to buck this trend. Stamina is a key part to the Grand National; your selection must have won over a trip of three miles or further, simple as.
Not one of the last eleven winners had fallen more than twice over fences in their whole careers. Jumping is an integral part of the Grand National. Travelling at vast speeds over huge and daunting obstacles takes plenty of jumping.
As you may expect novices have an awful record in the race. 1958 was the last time a novice was successful over the famous birch when Mr What went on to glory.
Each of the last ten winners had at least ten starts over fences. As you can imagine experience plays a huge role in negotiating the Grand National course. Amberleigh House and Hedgehunter had competed in previous Nationals before going on to success. Course and distance form is priceless!
Every single one of the last eleven winners have had a rating of 136 or higher.
A top quality jockey is paramount to a horse’s success around Aintree. A look at the roll of honours list of the last ten years tells you this. Names like Tony McCoy, Timmy Murphy, Ruby Walsh, Graham Lee, Barry Geraghty and Jason Maguire just to name a few.
Get an edge:
Always note trainers and jockeys descriptions of horses in interviews etc, these can give a valuable insight into a horse. Grand National wise, characteristics like bravery, good jumping, maturity and well handicapped are just some that spring to mind.