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Looking ahead to Grand National 2018: What can we learn from previous winners?

10 April 2018

Looking ahead to Grand National 2018: What can we learn from previous winners?

The Grand National is the richest race of the season and it transcends the sport of horseracing to stand as a key highlight in the British calendar. This epic steeplechase captures the imagination like no other and it dominates headlines in April as the excitement mounts. Even people with zero interest in racing throughout the year bet on it, but many of them are shooting in the dark, simply choosing horses because they like the name or the look of them. It can therefore help to arm yourself with as much information about historical trends as possible, as this will help you rule out some runners and make educated guesses about who might win. The roll call of past winners provides a wealth of historical data, and here are some nuggets of information to consider before placing a bet:

The favourite is often worth fading

Every year the favourite to win the Grand National attracts a great deal of hype and attention and punters rush to get involved. But it is worth bearing in mind that the last favourite to actually win the race was Don’t Push It in 2010, and only three favourites have delivered victory since 2000. When checking the Sporting Index spreads, you might be tempted to buy on the favourite, but selling would have been a better strategy in recent years. Horses with double figure prices have dominated the race in recent years, and the average starting price for the winner has been 28/1 since the turn of the century, so it is worth looking down the card at longer shots that offer greater value. Twenty-one of the last 27 winners came from outside the top three in the betting, and you are always presented with a huge field, so there are plenty to choose form.

Ignore the youngsters

Thirteen of the last 15 Grand Nationals have been won by horses aged nine or over, because experience counts a great deal in this almighty stamina test. Horses aged 9-10 have been the most successful in the modern era, winning 14 of the last 27 Grand Nationals. Only three eight-year-olds have won the race since 1990, and you have to go back to 1940 for the last time a seven-year-old finished first. Also avoid any horses over 12, as a teenager has not won the race since 1923.

Proven stamina is key

The defining characteristics of the Grand National are the punishing 4 mile 1/4 furlong and a range of horrendous fences, including The Chair, Canal Turn and Becher’s Brook. Staying power and tenacity are key to securing victory in the famous race, and you want to find a horse that has previously won at 3 miles or above. You have to go all the way back to 1970 for the last Grand National winner that did not already have a long distance win under their belt.

Avoid horses rated lower than 137

Since 1990, all but one of the winners had a rating of 137 or higher, so horses with proven athletic calibre are worth seeking out. This should help you cross out a few names from the extremely long list of runners lining up for this year’s Grand National.

Lighter loads are beneficial

The demanding nature of this race means that you do not want to be carrying a heavy load around the track. Twenty-one of the last 27 winners carried 10-12 or less, while few horses achieve success with 11kg or more. Since 1978, 120 horses have been saddled with a burden of more than 11.5kg and only two have won: Neptune Collonges in 2012 and Many Clouds in 2015. Red Rum and Many Clouds are the only horses to ever win with 11.8kg or more.

National does not suit rusty horses

Fitness is a key concern in this race and 26 of the last 27 winners had raced no more than 55 days previously. Meanwhile, 21 of the last 27 raced no more than 34 days ago. It might be tempting to look to the high-profile Cheltenham Festival for pointers, but it is worth bearing in mind that only one National winner in the last 56 years also won at Cheltenham the same year.

Luck of the Irish

The Irish have an extremely strong record at the Grand National, having trained five of the last 12 winners. Of the last 19 victorious horses, 14 were bred in Ireland.