2018 Grand National trends

Aintree

Although this post won’t help us eliminate any runners – as the saying ‘horses for courses’ suggests, career form at Aintree is nonetheless a worthy pointer to analyse, so I’ve decided to make it into it’s own post for 2018.

Since 2002, 9/16 winners had posted a win or an each-way return at Aintree before landing the big one. Let’s see if the last five editions of the National shows a similar correlation.

Best career Aintree run of 2013-2017 Grand National runners

Best Career Aintree Finish Runners Finishers Placed 1-5 Win
Win/Place 72 41 (53%) 9 (11%) 2 (3%)
Finished 32 16 (50%) 7 (22%) 1 (3%)
Did Not Finish 18 5 (28%) 2 (11%) 1 (6%)
Not Run 70 27 (39%) 7 (10%) 1 (1%)

These stats alone don’t really get us any further, but if you’ve read my FORM post you’ll remember that the four horses who managed a place finish in the Grand National with no season form to speak of all had a bit of previous at Aintree. To recap:

  • 2013 Auroras Encore (1st) – Won a 21 runner hurdle at the 2008 Grand National festival.
  • 2013 Oscar Time (4th) – 2nd in the 2011 Grand National
  • 2015 Alvarado (4th) – 4th in the 2014 Grand National
  • 2016 Vics Canvas (3rd) – 5th in the 2015 Becher Chase at Aintree

Although the last few editions of the National doesn’t suggest there’s much to be gleaned from this trend, the fact that more than half of all recent winners are known to have delivered a paying return at Aintree makes it well worth marking up the following horses accordingly.

  • Blaklion
  • The Last Samuri
  • Regal Encore
  • Vieux Lion Rouge
  • Seeyouatmidnight
  • Gas Line Boy
  • Ucello Conti
  • Saint Are
  • Virgilio
  • Maggio
  • Captain Redbeard
  • Vintage Clouds

Grand National Form

While the last eight National winners were first-time runners, look a bit further back in time and five of the nine winners from 2001-2009 had run in the National before.

There’s arguably few better indicators than previous form in the Grand National itself. If you study the race over time, you’ll know that some familiar names crop up in the money time and again. Just 7 horses – Comply Or Die, State Of Play, Don’t Push It, Oscar Time, Cappa Bleu, Alvarado and Saint Are – account for 15/40 top four finishes since 2008.

While winners have struggled to repeat their success because they’re inevitably penalised by the handicapper the following year, statistics do show that horses who perform well in the National are much more likely to light up and go well again when presented with Aintree’s unique challenge.

Here’s a quick break down of how horses returning to the Grand National have performed since 2013, categorised by their best previous Grand National finish.

Performance of 2013-2017 Grand National runners who had run in the race before

Best previous Grand National finish Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Winners
Placed 1-5 18 11 (53%) 4 (22%) 0 (0%)
Finished (6th or lower) 18 11 (48%) 4 (22%) 0 (0%)
Faller (F/UR/BD) 18 4 (22%) 1 (6%) 0 (0%)
Pulled Up 5 4 (80%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
1st Time Runners 139 59 (45%) 16 (12%) 5 (4%)

As eluded to above, some fifty-nine second (or third, even fourth) time runners haven’t produced a winner – the last horse to win the National at the 2nd attempt was Mon Mome back in 2009. Nonetheless, I can’t ignore the impressive ‘hit rate’ of horses who have finished the National once getting around again and paying returns. Over the past five editions 36 runners who had completed the Grand National before have produced 8 each-way returns – a really strong hit rate of 22%.

So it is true that producing a list of successful ‘completers’ is very likely to include one or two who will pay us an each-way return, although recent history favours first-time runners to actually win.

One final area worth analysis here would be the effect of the handicapper. By saddling successful horses with extra weight for their Grand National return, it is logical to expect some drag on performance.

Here is a list of those 9 horses who placed in the National on their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th attempt. The figure in brackets depicts the change in official rating (and thus the weight allocated relative to the field) by the BHA handicapper since their previous run in the National.

  • 2013 – Cappa Bleu – 4th in 2012 – (-2 lbs)
  • 2013 – Oscar Time – 2nd in 2011 – (no change)
  • 2014 – Balthazar King – 15th in 2013 – (+4 lbs)
  • 2015 – Saint Are – 9th in 2013 – (+1 lb v 2013 run)
  • 2015 – Monbeg Dude – 7th in 2014 – (-2 lbs)
  • 2015 – Alvarado – 4th in 2014 – (-1 lb)
  • 2017 – Cause Of Causes – 8th in 2015 – (+4 lbs)
  • 2017 – Saint Are – 2nd in 2015 – (+4 lbs v 2015 run)
  • 2017 – Gas Line Boy – faller in 2015 – (+3 lbs)

It’s notable that in all of the above cases the handicapper hasn’t raised the horse by more than 4 lbs. So we should logically pay particular attention to runners who have shown the ability to complete the race but haven’t necessarily had their chances unduly hampered by the handicapper as a result.

2018 Field Analysis

Following the 5-day declarations stage, there’s presently 16 Grand National runners who will probably have (at least) their second crack at the race. Here’s a list of these runners along with their previous best result in the National.

  • Blaklion – 4th 2017
  • The Last Samuri – 2nd 2016
  • Tenor Nivernais – 17th 2017
  • Regal Encore – 8th 2017
  • Vieux Lion Rouge – 6th 2017
  • Gas Line Boy – 5th 2017
  • Pleasant Company – 9th 2017
  • Ucello Conti – 6th 2016
  • Saint Are – 2nd 2015, 3rd 2017
  • Raz De Maree – 8th 2014
  • Pendra – 13th 2016
  • Buywise – 12th 2016
  • Lord Windermere – 7th 2017
  • Houblon Des Obeaux – 10th 2017

As you can see, thirteen runners have completed the race before. There’s just 3 runners who have tried and failed to finish the National.

  • Perfect Candidate – Pulled Up in 2017
  • Shantou Flyer – Pulled Up in 2017
  • Vicente – Faller in 2017

Finally, here are these runners again, this time with the change in official rating since their previous run in the National. Those highlighted have not been raised by more than 4 lbs, the benchmark that horses paying a return on their second (or later) visit to the National tend to fall within.

  • Blaklion: +9 lbs from 2017
  • The Last Samuri: +10 lbs from 2016
  • Perfect Candidate: -2 lbs from 2017
  • Tenor Nivernais: No change from 2017
  • Shantou Flyer: -3 lbs from 2017
  • Vicente: +4 lbs from 2017
  • Regal Encore: No change from 2017
  • Vieux Lion Rouge: +1 lbs from 2017
  • Gas Line Boy: +4 lbs from 2017
  • Pleasant Company: -1 lbs from 2017
  • Ucello Conti: -2 lbs from 2016
  • Saint Are: No change from 2017
  • Raz De Maree: +6 lbs from 2014
  • Pendra: -1 lbs from 2016
  • Buywise: -6 lbs from 2016
  • Lord Windermere: -3 lbs from 2017
  • Houblon Des Obeaux: -5 lbs from 2017