Grand National Trends

Given the unique challenge that it presents to both horse and rider, it is not surprising that many people see the Grand National as a lottery. However, over the years some remarkably consistent statistical trends have emerged. Indeed, for reasons of weight, age, official rating, breeding and previous National experience, well over two-thirds of the field can normally be discounted when searching for the winner.

For example, a horse who has yet to win over 3 miles (a basic requirement you would have thought for a potential Grand National winner) has not won the Grand National since Gay Trip in 1970. Around a quarter of the field in recent years had not won a race over at least that distance so it's easy to draw a line straight through them.

Equally, of the last 20 Grand National winners, 18 had previously won over fences against 12 or more rivals. For example, 2009ís 100/1 winner, Mon Mome, was successful in a 15-runner, 3m 1Ĺf handicap chase at Cheltenham the previous December and had also won a 14-runner handicap chase at Aintree earlier in his career. Similarly, last yearís winner, Ballabriggs, had won the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011 beating 23 rivals in the process. The two that failed this test were Bindaree, who had at least been third in a Welsh National, and Lord Gyllene, who had never raced against more than 10 rivals before showing up at Aintree.

It is worth noting that there are so many Grand National trends that it is more than likely that the winner is going to fall down on at least one. However, the following key statistics provide us with a starting point to begin whittling down the 40 contenders to a small group of likely winners.

2012 TRENDS SUMMARY

Age

The last time a seven year old won the race was 72 years ago (Bogskar won the National at the age of seven in 1940) and you have to go back a further 25 years (to 1915) to find the last winning six year old, Ally Sloper.

Not only have horses aged under 8 not won for many years, they also have a shocking completion record since 1992, with only 6 of the 40 contenders getting round.

The record of eight-year-olds is not great either, with just one winner (Bindaree in 2002) in the last 18 renewals. A horse needs experience and maturity to cope with such a rough race, tackling unfamiliar obstacles while other horses are crashing about on all sides. How many other races, apart from cross-country and hunter chases, can you name where 14 of the last 22 winners were aged ten or older?

That said, only two teenagers have ever won the National, with the last success coming in 1923 (Sergeant Murphy). In fact, no teenager has even made the frame since 1969.

The last successful novice was Mr What in 1958.

This is a negative for:

ALPHA BEAT (8)

BLACK APALACHI (13)

TATENEN (8)

SHAKALAKABOOMBOOM (8)

ON HIS OWN (8)

ORGANISEDCONFUSION (7)

QUISCOVER FONTAINE (8)

THARAWAAT (7)

HELLO BUD (14)

VIKING BLONDE (7 and a novice)

Breeding

Mon Mome bucked the trend in 2009 by becoming the only French bred to have won the Grand National for a century. Admittedly, Gallic breeders did not had anything like as many runners in the past as they have had in recent seasons since the massive influx of their horses to these shores, but since 1998 they have provided over 25% of the runners with only that one success.

Very few races in France are run beyond 3 miles and so breeders have no need to install strong stamina genes into their stock. French breds are also trained harder from a younger age, so they can be past their best when they hit eight or nine years of age and the National is not a race for early maturing types.

For now, we are going to assume that Mon Momeís win was a one off.

This is a negative for:

NEPTUNE COLLOGNES

TATENEN

MON MOME

QUISCOVER FONTAINE

SWING BILL

VIKING BLONDE

One very interesting fact to note is that Old Vic has sired two of the last four winners (Comply Or Die in 2008 and Don't Push It in 2010), and also the runner-up in 2009 (also Comply Or Die) and 2010 (Black Apalachi). Therefore, 4 of the last 8 Grand National winners and runners-up have had the same father. A closer look reveals that those 4 were from a total of just 15 Old Vic progeny who ran in the four years. In 2010, he sired the 1-2 from four runners and of the other 2 runners, Vic Venturi was "prominent when hampered and unseated rider" at the 20th fence, whilst Comply Or Die was a previous Grand National winner and runner-up. Donít Push It was, of course, also third last year.

This is a positive for:

SUNNYHILL BOY

BLACK APALACHI

VIC VENTURI

IN COMPLIANCE

More generally, 9 of the last 11 winners were bred in Ireland. As well as the French breds mentioned above, this is a negative for:

PLANET OF SOUND

DEEP PURPLE

JUNIOR

ACCORDING TO PETE

STATE OF PLAY

POSTMASTER

MIDNIGHT HAZE

NEPTUNE EQUESTER

Stamina

Every single winner of the Grand National since Gay Trip in 1970 had previously won over three miles or further over fences. It seems obvious that to win a Grand National a horse should have proven stamina - this is the longest race of the year with a 40-strong field and no contest in which to support a horse with stamina questions to answer. And yet in the seven renewals since 2005, 51 non-winners over 3m+ tried their luck in the National (including an incredible 12 in 2008 - exactly 30% of the contenders).

Perhaps the message is finally getting through to connections as just 5 took their chance in both 2009 and 2010, and last year, however on those occasions they still represented over 12% of the field.

This is a negative for:

OR NOIR DE SOMOZA

TATENEN

SEABASS (although he has won two point to points over 3 miles)

QUISCOVER FONTAINE

BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE (although he has won a point to point over 3 miles)

IN COMPLIANCE

Experience

Each of the last 11 winners had had at least ten starts over fences and none of these had fallen more than twice over fences in their entire careers.

This is a negative for:

SYNCHRONISED

ALPHA BEAT

ABOR SUPREME

BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE

CAPPA BLEU

JUNIOR

MON MOME

WEIRD AL

VIKING BLONDE

TATENEN

SHAKALAKABOOMBOOM

QUISCOVER FONTAINE

ON HIS OWN

NEPTUNE COLLOGNES

7 of the last 12 winners had contested races over the Grand National fences before.

This actually didn't apply to Ballabriggs last year or Don't Push It the year before (though he had won at the previous years' meeting over the Mildmay course), but last year it did apply to the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th: Donít Push It had won in 2010, State Of Play was third in 2010 and fourth in 2009, Niche Market was pulled up in 2010, and Big Fella Thanks had been fourth and sixth in the two previous renewals.

In 2010, it applied to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th: Black Apalachi had won the Beecher Chase, State Of Play was fourth in the previous seasonís Grand National, Big Fella Thanks was sixth the previous year, Hello Bud had been unplaced in the Becher Chase and Snowy Morning had run in two previous Nationals', including when third two years' earlier.

Given that 4 of the first 7 last year, 5 of the first 6 in 2010, and 7 of the previous 10 winners had previously contested a race over these fences, and that 5 of the last 9 Grand National winners had run in the previous years' race, it seems clear that there is still an "Aintree factor" to consider, despite the modifications to the fences in recent years.

This is a positive for:

BALLABRIGGS

MON MOME

SHAKALAKABOOMBOOM

BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE

WEST END ROCKER

RARE BOB

CALGARY BAY

ALPHA BEAT

BLACK APALACHI

KILLYGLEN

THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

POSTMASTER

VIC VENTURI

STATE OF PLAY

IN COMPLIANCE

HELLO BUD

ARBOR SUPREME

Weight

The most significant, and perhaps best known, statistic for finding National winners is that in the last 53 runnings only one horse, Red Rum in 1974 and 1977, has carried more than 11st 5lbs to victory. Indeed, since 1977, 98 horses have tried to win with more than 11-5 and theyíve all failed.

However, there is a distinct 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.

Last season, Ballabriggs won off 11st and in 2010 Don't Push It was successful off 11st 5lbs. Equally significant is the fact that the runner-ups in 2009 and 2010 both carried 11st 6lbs. Last yearís third, Donít Push It had the welter burden of 11st 10lbs.

You can certainly forget the 'under 11st rule' now, as 10 of the last 16 win-and-placed horses carried 11 stone or over and it probably won't be too long before the 11st 5lbs barrier is broken. However, for now, the 11st 5lbs limit still holds.

This is a negative for:

SYNCHRONISED (11st 10lbs)

BALLABRIGGS (11st 9lbs)

WEIRD AL (11st 8lbs)

NEPTUNE COLLOGNES (11st 6lbs)

CALGARY BAY (11st 6lbs)

Days since last run

In the past 30 years, all winners had run within the previous 50 days (the last not to do so was Aldaniti in 1981 who returned from a life-threatening illness to win off the back of just one prep-race, although even that was on February 11th of the year in question).

It's certainly wise to oppose horses coming off a long-break.

This is a negative for:

NEPTUNE COLLOGNES

CALGARY BA

CHICAGO GREY

TATENEN

WEST END ROCKER

STATE OF PLAY

ON HIS OWN

ALWAYS RIGHT

CAPPA BLEU

TREACLE

ABOR SUPREME

QUISCOVER FONTAINE

GILES CROSS

VIC VENTURI

VIKING BLONDE

Summary

Hereís a summary of the key trends of the last 21 yearís (there was no race in 1993)

21/21 - Ran no more than 48 days ago

17/21 - Carried 10-12 OR LESS

17/21 - Ran no more than 34 days ago

16/21 - Returned a double-figure price

13/21 - Carried 10-8 OR LESS

15/21 - Aged 10 years-old or younger

12/21 - Finished in the top 4 last time out

13/21 - Aged 9 or 10 years-old

6/21 - Trained in Ireland (inc 4 of the last 8 years)

7/21 - Ran at Cheltenham last time out

5/21 - Won by the favourite or joint favourite

2/21 - Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies

2/21 - Ridden by Ruby Walsh

0/21 - Won by a horse aged 7 years-old OR LESS

A couple of other factors to bear in mind:

Only 1 horse that won at the Cheltenham Festival that same season has won since 1961 (this is bad news for Sunnyhillboy).

The last horse to win back-to-back Nationals was Red Rum in 1974 (this is bad news for Ballabriggs).