How to pick the National winner

The Grand National

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A maximum of 40 horses will line up at 5:15 on Saturday looking to join the illustrious list of champions of Britain’s richest jump race. A notable absentee is dual-winner Tiger Roll (2018, 2019), who was withdrawn after a relentless battle over his handicap mark. However, 40 will go forward, attempting to jump all 30 obstacles across the two-circuit, four and a quarter mile race.

Over the years, several key trends have emerged as useful guides to landing the National winner. Using these pointers, we delve through the field to find those horses you’ll want to pin your hopes on. There’s more to it than just choosing your favourite name!

27 of the last 30 winners of the race have been aged between 8 and 11, suggesting that this unique test may come a little too soon for seven-year-olds Farclas and The Long Mile. Likewise, you must go back to 2004 and Amberleigh House to find a 12-year-old who was successful in the race so we can discount veterans in the field Sub Lieutenant, Definitely Red, Vieux Lion Rouge, Blaklion and Takingrisks.

Having a mare
You have to trawl through the archives to 1951 and Nickel Coin to find a mare who passed the post in front – as a result we can discard likeable mares Shattered Love, 2019 runner-up Magic of Light and Cabaret Queen.

Top weight
Over the stamina sapping trip, a Grand National winner must produce a flawless weight carrying performance. The past 20 renewals of the Aintree feature have seen only Many Clouds in 2015 carry more than 11st 6lbs to success (he carried 11-8 that day)­­­­. Whilst there is no ‘magic number’ when it comes to the weights, there’s no getting away from the fact that those at the top end often struggle to land the prize. This means we must rule out Bristol de Mai (11-10) and Chris’s Dream (11-7).

Race fitness
Trainers need to strike a balance between getting enough race fitness into their runners, whilst not bottoming them due to earlier excursions in the season. Any slight deficiencies in the fitness department will be accentuated by Aintree’s trademark Grand National course. Nine of the past 11 winners had between three and six runs since August of the previous year.

We therefore lose the likes of Kimberlite Candy, Discorama, Anibale Fly, Hogan’s Height and Talkischeap on the rationale that they may be slightly undercooked, whilst the efforts of Tout Est Permis from earlier in the season may have left their toll.

Staying in contention
The last 10 renewals of the race indicate that the Grand National is becoming an increasingly brutal test of stamina. Each of the past 10 winners had won over at least 3 miles in their career – something that cannot be said for the likes of Balko Des Flos, Minella Times, Kauto Riko or Class Conti.

On a similar note, only Ballabriggs in 2011 and 2015 hero Many Clouds won the race having not previously placed in a race over 3 and a half miles. This strips the field back significantly as Lake View Lad, Mister Malarky, Any Second Now, Alpha Des Obeaux, Ok Corral, Jett, Milan Native, Minellacelebration, Canelo, Give Me A Copper, Double Shuffle and Ami Desbois make way.

Recent form has proven to be a pivotal factor over the past 10 renewals, with only one winner finishing outside the first three in their previous three races since 2010. Therefore, of the remaining runners, Ballyoptic can be discarded.

Who’s winning?
For Wales, it could be winner of the 2019 Welsh Grand National Potters Corner, whilst Acapella Bourgeois and 2019 Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint could be Willie Mullins’ best chances at doubling his tally after Hedgehunter in 2005. The Paul Nicholls-trained Yala Enki also fits the trends alongside Haydock Grand National trial winner Lord Du Mesnil.

However, perhaps most interestingly, 4/1 fav Cloth Cap ticks all the right boxes, and it would be no shock to see this horse give owner Trevor Hemmings a record fourth win in the race.

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