2017 Trends

Applying The Trends – 2017 Shortlist

As we’re now less than 24 hours away from the big race it’s time to apply the trends and narrow the field down to a manageable list of contenders. If you haven’t read my previous updates on stamina, form, preparation, experience,  weights and the betting market then it may be useful to refer back to these for reference to explain some of the content here.

Let’s start with what I’ll topically call my ‘red lines’ – these are specific career marks which best fit the profile of a Grand National winner.

STAMINA – Has a career place over a minimum 3 miles 4 furlongs OR finished in the first six home in a key ‘trial’.

  • 20/23 winners since 1994 (last exception – Ballabriggs in 2011)
  • 78% of horses finishing 1-2-3-4 since 2009 (52% of runners)

Regardless of how closely you choose to apply these trends in your selections, the one undeniable fact is that stamina has to be the number 1 quality to look for in your chosen horse.

In fact if other trends continue to be broken as they have done over the past few years then picking a proven stayer may be the only one left worth having in  few years!

I might be regretting my particular methodology by 5.30pm on Saturday as there are a few marginal calls with form over 3 miles 2 furlongs that I have rejected. But I’m going to side with the weight of numbers here and apply historical stats that are in my favour.

There are are 17 runners in this years race who fail to hit either criteria:

  • Shantou Flyer
  • Perfect Candidate
  • Roi Des Francs
  • Wounded Warrior
  • Wonderful Charm
  • Tenor Nivernais
  • Drop Out Joe
  • Le Mercurey
  • Regal Encore
  • Definitly Red
  • Double Shuffle
  • Pleasant Company
  • O’Faolins Boy
  • Stellar Notion
  • Cocktails At Dawn
  • La Vaticane
  • Doctor Harper

FORM – Placed (each-way return) at least once this season OR has placed at least once at Aintree.

  • 23/23 winners since 1994
  • 97% of horses finishing 1-2-3-4 since 2009 (86% of runners)

If stamina is the first quality to look for, then form has to be second.

Remember all but two winners since 1994 have shown some place form during the jump racing season, and both exceptions had winning career form at Aintree to fall back on. In the last eight editions of the National only one horse finishing 1-2-3-4 failed to hit one or both of the above trends.

So I’ll reject 9 horses who fail to hit either mark.

  • More Of That
  • Wounded Warrior
  • Drop Out Joe
  • The Young Master
  • O’Faolains Boy
  • Vicente
  • Measureofmydreams
  • Rogue Angel
  • Cocktails At Dawn

PREPARATION – Has 2-6 runs this season and has run in the last 56 days.

  • 23/23 winners since 1994
  • 75% of horses finishing 1-2-3-4 since 2009 (69% of runners)

It is all to often overlooked but, as my preparation analysis demonstrates, horses that enjoy success in the National comply with a consistent pattern.

The following 10 horses fail to hit one or both of these marks.

  • Drop Out Joe
  • Regal Encore
  • One For Arthur
  • Ballynagour
  • Highland Lodge
  • Bishops Road
  • Stellar Notion
  • Rogue Angel
  • Thunder and Roses

AGE – Reject 7 year olds.

  • 23/23 winners since 1994
  • 100% of horses finishing 1-2-3-4 since 2009 (94% of runners)

Remember, no 7 year-old has won the National since 1940. So the following four runners are thus theoretically too young to win, although all of them fail on other trends too.

  • Shantou Flyer
  • Le Mercurey
  • Double Shuffle

EXPERIENCE – Minimum 9 career starts over fences (include point-to-point experience).

  • 23/23 winners since 1994
  • 100% of horses finishing 1-2-3-4 since 2009 (92% of runners)

Experience counts in the Grand National. No winner since 1995 has run less than ten times over fences, and my analysis demonstrated that in cases where horses with fewer runs come close, they have invariably acquired enough experience in point-to-point races.

  • Pleasant Company

CLASS – Has won a class 1 or class 2 chase.

  • 22/23 winners since 1994

Horse races are split into 7 classes from 1-7 based on their ability. And this proved to be a reliable trend to apply until Rule The World blew this (and any other trend that required a win!) out of the water in 2016.

It’s made me reluctant to place caveats on horses winning form this time around. But I maintain you still need a touch of class to win the Grand National and given that all forty entries for this years’ race do have winning career form I feel comfortable enough to add this one into the mix.

  • Stellar Notion
  • Goodtoknow
  • Doctor Harper

THE SHORTLIST!

Overlay all of the above ‘red lines’ and I’ve managed to eliminate twenty-eight runners, leaving just twelve contenders who achieve every minimum requirement for each trend.

Here they are in the same order as they appear on the handicap.

  • The Last Samuri
  • Saphir Du Rheu
  • Blaklion
  • Cause Of Causes
  • Vieux Lion Rouge
  • Ucello Conti
  • Houblon Des Obeaux
  • Lord Windermere
  • Saint Are
  • Just A Par
  • Raz De Maree
  • Gas Line Boy

Every year the short list invariably omits a few that I’m nervous about and this one is no different.

For instance if I’d been a bit more lenient on the stamina trends it would have brought current favourite Definitly Red into the mix. He won the Grimthorpe Chase over 3 miles 2 furlongs very impressively back in February so this might be one I’ll be regretting tomorrow evening.

Meanwhile the odds for More Of That have plummeted since owner JP McManus’ top jockey Barry Geragthy was confirmed to pilot him. He may not have any place form to count on this season, but 6th place in last months’ Cheltenham Gold Cup shows this horse undoubtedly has the class to be in contention if he stays the trip.

Of course no system is bullet proof as I’ve found out to my cost sometimes, but I’ve tried to shift the trends to come up with a short list that gives a good statistical advantage based on all available evidence.

I’m comfortable that the above list of twelve presents the best fit profile of a ‘typical’ Grand National winner, but this is not an easy race to predict. You need a bit of luck on your side to pick a winner in the National – something no statistics can adequately cover!

Nonetheless, the horses on my short list all possess that most important quality of all… Stamina! Proven either in one of the highly predictive key trials or over 3.5 miles plus. Also they’re generally carrying some form into Saturday’s race, all but one having paid an each-way return in at least one of their last two starts. The majority have also experienced the unique Aintree fences before – either in the Grand National or the Beecher Chase. And importantly, most of them have lit up when they come to Aintree, with eight having paid an each-way return there at some point in their career.

Of course I won’t forget the other key findings from my trends analysis this year.

Here’s a quick list of other pointers I haven’t yet factored in.

(All trends apply to runners from 2009-2016 unless stated otherwise).

  • 3/4 winners from 2013-2016 carried a no more than 5 lbs higher than the bottom of the handicap.
  • 0/23 veterans with 28+ career runs over fences have finished 1-2-3-4 since 2009.
  • 11/62 horses that completed the Grand National have finished 1-2-3-4 on a subsequent attempt.
  • 1/37 horses that failed to complete the Grand National have finished 1-2-3-4 on a subsequent attempt.
  • 1/63 horses who have run a key trial but failed to finish in the first six home have finished 1-2-3-4.
  • 12/16 horses finishing 1-2-3-4 since 2013 among the top half of the betting market.

I felt that on balance none of the above were strong enough trends to merit rejecting a horse on their own, but they will certainly form a point of consideration in my final analysis.

In a fresh twist to this years edition I’ll be reviewing all forty runners this evening and giving a personal view on each of their chances, which of course will largely be influenced by their performance against all of the trends.

It’s within this next post I’ll publish my final Grand National selections for 2017 early on Saturday morning.