The Grand National is rumbling its inexorable way towards us and with it comes the sound of pounding hoofs, pounding hearts and frustrated punters whose wallets, more often than not, have suffered a similar fate.
It is the one day of the year when you would be concerned if you didn’t see your granny coming out of the bookies, gleefully clutching the slip that might just fund an all-inclusive trip around the archipelago. With higher odds than any other horse race in the world, making the most of this annual bonanza is not only sensible but practically an obligation. Pick a horse, watch the race, rake in the cash and celebrate wildly, while gloating shamelessly to your friends and family who weren’t quite so on the ball.
However, with 40 runners and no guarantee that any one horse will get round the National really can feel like a lottery. Often, plumping for the horse that shares your name, carries your lucky number or happens to occupy the square of the racing post where you stuck your fate-instructed pin can seem as good a way as any to pick the winner.
Looking at colours is by far the most popular selection criteria for small children and a distressing number of the general adult population. However, for those of you who – along with your penchant for obscure herbal remedies – look for pretty patterns in the pretty patterned silks worn by the jockeys, it is worth noting that, since 2000, only four horses have won the grand national without carrying some green. If this isn’t concrete statistical data then I don’t know what is.
“Utter Bollocks!” I hear you cry and you would not be wrong. Fear not though, after literally years of (I am assured) mindless obsession, I come to you with a guide to pick a horse, which will carry your hopes and dreams all the way to the finish and hopefully, all the way to the pub. Where you end up after that is very much your own concern.
I will save you the chore of rattling through an analysis of key statistical trends but since 2000, grand national winners have all fallen within most (if not all) of the following categories and they are worth taking into consideration.
1. Age – Pick a horse aged between 9 and 11. This is when horses are at their peak. Seven of the last eight winners have been 9 or 10.
2. Weight – Four and a bit miles, as anyone who has run cross country at school will tell you is a bloody long way. However the effect that weight has on a horse’s chances depends on the ground.
– If the ground is soft, it is harder to run on and jumping takes more energy. Consequently try and pick a horse who is carrying less than 11st 1lb.
– However, as the last three Grand Nationals have shown us, weight is less of an issue if the ground is good (drier.) If the ground is good, set the upper weight limit to 11st 5lb.
3. Your horse should have run at least 8 times over fences. National fences are colossal and an inexperienced horse can get spooked.
4. Because the fences are monumental, it is worth looking for a horse with a good jumping record. Go for a horse that hasn’t fallen more than once in his career. Watch out for horses with too many “P” marks on their race-card as this shows that they have been stopped mid-race because they didn’t fancy it.
5. A horse that has run and run well in races over 3 miles long. The Grand National is a test of stamina. If a horse doesn’t have it, it won’t get the distance and will not win.
6. Don’t pick a horse that has run at Cheltenham. IF they’ve been at the festival the chances are that they were trained to peak at the festival and won’t run as well.
7. A Grand National winning horse will have an official BHA handicap rating of 140 +
Applying these stats whittles down the field and leaves you with the much more manageable task of picking from a closer to 10 than 40.
The Horses who best fit this selection criteria are:
On His Own, Seabass, Cappa Bleu, Colbert Station, Sunnyhill Boy, Teaforthree, Chicago Grey, Balthazar King, Rare Bob and Across The Bay
Ballabriggs, Join Together and Imperial Commander
My tips for the 2013 Grand National are: Cappa Bleu, Across the Bay and Teaforthree while I wouldn’t be surprised if Ballabriggs also grabbed himself a place.