Please note this page is in the process of being updated following the 2017 Grand National. Please come back in a couple of weeks to view my complete and updated analysis of this particular trend ready for 2018.
When you think about it, many horses have their entire season geared towards the Grand National, so it makes sense to look at how preparation affects our chances of finding a winner.
This aspect is perennially overlooked in some Grand National previews, but there are clear patterns to look for backed by some tried and tested statistics which will be revealed here.
Since 1995, every single Grand National winner has ran between three and six races since the official start of the jump racing season on August 1st.
In-fact all but one (Ballabriggs in 2011) ran between an even narrower band of 4-6 races, so there’s undoubtedly a logic in exploring this trend further.
So let’s take a look at how all runners from 2009-2016 banded by the number of runs they’ve had since August 1.
Season runs of 2009-2016 Grand National runners
|0-1||27||13 (48%)||3 (11%)||0 (0%)|
|2||50||19 (38%)||4 (8%)||0 (0%)|
|3||72||29 (40%)||7 (10%)||1 (1%)|
|4-6||155||70 (45%)||18 (12%)||7 (5%)|
|7+||14||4 (29%)||0 (0%)||0 (0%)|
While all winners duly fit the 3-6 race band, if we consider the wider context of place form there’s not really a great deal of difference in performance up to six runs.
We can look sceptically at horses with seven or more runs, albeit from a small sample. Such preparation would certainly indicate the Grand National wasn’t an initial priority for the season, and the no horse prepared with so many runs has finished better than 8th.
Let’s also accept some mitigating circumstances here when considering the three horses to place in the National with less than two runs. State Of Play managed this feat twice, and Alvarado did it again in 2015 – both having secured an each-way return in the Grand National the year before.
Meanwhile, the four each-way finishers who had two season runs include a couple of runners-up in Black Apalachi and Cappa Bleu.
So I’ll be pragmatic and focus on horses in the 2-6 range safer in the knowledge that none of the last twenty-three winners fall outside this band, and nor does any horse finishing in the top two in every edition since at least 2009.
Here’s a list of horses who the trends suggest are either under or overcooked for the big race.
- Drop Out Joe – no runs
- Pendra – 1 run
- Highland Lodge – 1 run
- Knock House – 1 run
- Thunder and Roses – 8 runs
Days Since Last Run
Believe it or not, twenty-two of the last twenty-three Grand National winners had their final warm up race no more than seven weeks prior to the big race.
And the odd one out in that list – 2012 winner Neptune Collonges – had a final run just eight weeks (56 days) prior to winning at Aintree because the race was moved back a week from its’ usual early April slot because of the Easter bank holiday.
The table below tests the theory, showing a hit rate of horses based on the amount of rest they had before the big one at Aintree.
|Days Since Last Run||Runners||Finishers||Placed||Win|
|1-56||261||136 (52%)||27 (10%)||8 (3%)|
|57+||57||16 (28%)||5 (9%)||0 (0%)|
While the place records look pretty similar once again we should again note the mitigating skew of one unusual competitor – State Of Play – who managed to place three times coming off a break of at least 99 days!
In fact the nearest any horse has come to winning off a longer break was Saint Are – who finished runner-up to Many Clouds in 2015 coming off a marginally ‘long’ break of 63 days.
As it happens no horse has between 55-69 days rest in this years’ field, so I’ll reject horses on the longer side of this gap.
- Drop Out Joe – last run June 26 – 286 days ago
- Regal Encore – last run Jan 28 / 70 days ago
- One For Arthur – last run Jan 14 / 84 days ago
- Ballynagour – last run Jan 28 / 70 days ago
- Highland Lodge – last run Dec 3 (Beecher Chase) / 126 days ago
- Bishops Road – last run Jan 21 / 77 days ago
- Stellar Notion – last run Jan 22 / 76 days ago
- Rogue Angel – last run Jan 26 / 72 days ago
This may be tempting fate but every year it amazes me why these trends are not applied more frequently. Based on what are fairly long standing trends that have survived the changing nature of the race, I’m able to produce 11 horses that fail to hit one or both marks – about a quarter of the field that doesn’t fit the bill of a typical Grand National winner.
There’s a few horses in there towards the sharp end of the market that I must confess would be otherwise very tempting to back – including former Beecher Chase winner Highland Lodge and last years’ Irish National winner Rogue Angel.
But for 2017 we’ll keep faith in these long-held trends and only go for horses that comply with the typical preparation for Grand National success.