Back in 2013, Sue Smith joined an exclusive club as she added her name to the relatively prosaic…
Despite changes to the distance, fences, entry conditions and handicap over the years, the Grand National remains a formidable test for horse and rider. The prospect of a maximum field of 40 runners tackling 4 miles 2 furlongs and 74 yards and 30 unique fences, including the infamous Becher’s Brook, should be enough to give the most ardent punter sleepless nights.
However, take heart, because although just one outright favourite and two joint favourites have won the Aintree marathon in the last 15 years, more than half the winners in that period were in the first eight in the betting. Will this trend continue with 2019 Grand National Runners. The Grand National is not, in fact, the punters’ nightmare it might first appear, especially with some useful trends to help you narrow the field.
In recent years, the Grand National weights have been compressed, with a view to improving the previously moderate record of highly weighted horses. Consequently, six of the last 15 renewals have been won by horses carrying 11st or more. Obviously, that leaves 60% of winners who carried less than 11st, but the point is that weight is no longer as pertinent as it once was.
In terms of age, 8-year-olds have won three out of the last four Grand Nationals, but 12 of the last 15 renewals have been won by horses aged 9 years or older. Bogskar, in 1940, was the last 7-year-old, and Sergeant Murphy, in 1923, the last 13-year-old, to win.
As in any horse race, fitness is paramount in the National. Horses are trained to peak fitness, where they remain for a while, before tapering off. Consequently, discount any Grand National runner that has been off the course for more than six weeks, or 42 days.
It probably goes without staying that stamina and jumping ability are absolute necessities in a National winner, so look for an accurate jumper, who has fallen or unseated rider no more than twice in its career, and has won at least one steeplechase over 3 miles or further. Previous experience over the National fences, even if failing to trouble the judge, is a major advantage, so focus on horses that have contested the Becher Chase, Topham Chase or the Grand National itself in the past.