Pinstickers’ Guide to the Grand National

Last Updated 16 Mar 2021 | By Enda McElhinney | Commercial content | 18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply | Wagering

After the Covid-19 pandemic led to last years’ renewal of the world’s most iconic steeplechase being postponed, the latest version on April 10th is more eagerly anticipated than ever before.

There will be no crowds at Aintree to see it unfold in person but, as always, a worldwide audience will be captivated by this great British sporting institution.

Picking the winner of the Grand National is a challenge for seasoned punters and once-a-year bettors alike. Here we look at some of the key stats that can help narrow down the criteria for picking an Aintree Grand National winner.

Aintree Grand National

RACING-ENG-NATIONAL Jockeys ride their horses after starting the Grand National Handicap Chase horse race on the final day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, north west England on April 6, 2019. Tiger Roll put his name alongside legend Red Rum on Saturday winning back to back Grand Nationals in stunning style. The 4-1 favourite, superbly ridden by Davy Russell, took up the running at the last fence and although 66-1 outsider Magic of Light came back at him the nine-year-old had enough to spare to emulate Red Rums feat in 1973-74. Oli SCARFF / AFP

Beware the youngsters

Any horse younger than eight-years-old can almost immediately be crossed off. It is more than 70 years since the winner failed to meet this criteria. Three of the last five winners have been aged eight – Many Clouds (2015), One For Arthur (2017) and Tiger Roll in his first success in 2018.

The age category to focus on is invariably eight to 11-year-olds – a grouping that accounts for 21 of the previous 24 Aintree winners.

Conserving every bit of energy possible is vital and younger horses have tended to run keen early in the race and thus throw away their chances of winning before that crucial final mile arrives.

Pick out a runner with enough experience to be streetwise but still with enough youth in the legs to go four miles around Aintree.

No heavy burdens

The announcement of the official BHA Handicap marks for the National is for many contenders a key moment. 11st 5lbs has often been the line in the sand in times past, with punters advised to focus on runners carrying less weight.

In the last 72 renewals of the Grand National, only eight horses have defied this trend – with Many Clouds in 2015 managing to carry 11st 9lb. Dual winner Tiger Roll defended his title off 11st 5lb in 2019.

With a better quality of horse now routinely trying their luck in the race, carrying a big weight isn’t impossible but, ideally, less than 11st would be the way to go.

In for the long haul

To win the Grand National a horse simply must have an almost endless supply of stamina – that’s a given. It is an energy-sapping contest like no other and the closing stages are often something of an unknown for most runners.

The BHA have introduced new rules ensuring all runners must have finished 4th or better in a chase of three miles or further in order to run in the Grand National, which helps reduce slightly the worry that a horse will not stay the journey. Ideally, a contender that has already succeeded over a trip in excess of three miles is desired.

Aintree experience worth plenty

With 40 runners and 30 fences to contend with, it is essential for a horse to be streetwise in this race. The winner will generally have to have some luck in the run but experience is no bad thing.

To win a Grand National a horse generally will have run on at least 10 occasions over fences in its career before arriving at Aintree.

Having had a previous try at this unique test is usually a positive for any horse that returns to Merseyside.

In search of quality

History tells us that it generally pays to concentrate on horses officially rated between 136 – 157 in the official ratings – anything rated 135 or less is more than likely not good enough to win a Grand National.

With the quality of contender for the Grand National increasing, we are seeing a sway in that horses from higher up in the ratings are now getting involved.

Many Clouds was rated 160 – the second highest in the race – when he won in 2015, while Tiger Roll also bucked the historical trends in completing a double in 2019.

Sadly, the two-time winner won’t be lining up in 2021 to try for three-in-a-row. Using some of the key Aintree stats of the past could be key to finding the next Grand National hero!

Find the latest complete list of Grand National Runners and Odds here.

Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is a racing writer with a growing portfolio of work on both British and Irish racing, with a particular fondness for National Hunt racing. While he acknowledges there have been many great runners; there has only ever been one Denman.

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