2020 Grand National

Stamina

When it comes to Grand National betting, the single most important piece of advice I can offer is to always put your money on a proven ‘stayer’ who has demonstrated career form over long race distances in good quality races.

At 4 miles 2 ½ furlongs (roughly 7km in new money), the National is the longest jump race in the national hunt calendar, and of course there are those thirty imposing spruce fences to negotiate as well.

The importance of stamina has been proven time and time again, even though the race distance has been reduced since 2013 along with the new, safer fencing that was introduced.

When it comes to applying statistics based around stamina, I have refined a method which has worked well in recent years, and which I’ll apply here to our 2020 field.

Trend #1: Longest Career Each-Way Return

Let’s start by looking at all runners from 2013-2019 segmented by the longest distance each horse had posted an each-way return in their jump racing career before their appearance in the National.

2013-2019 Grand National runners by longest career each-way return

Long Career Place Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Win
3 miles 4 furlongs or further 107 56 (53%) 26 (24%) 6 (6%)
3 miles 2 furlongs – 3 miles 3 1/2 furlongs 70 31 (44%) 7 (10%) 1 (2%)
Under 3 miles 2 furlongs 99 33 (33%) 4 (4%) 0 (0%)

To explain, some 107/276 runners had had achieved an each-way return off a distance of 3.5 miles or further at some point in their chase career.

That list of 107 runners includes 6/7 winners, and 26/35 horses paying an each-way return (including 5th).

Or to put it in statistical terms, that’s 86% of winners, and 74% of horses finishing in the money taken from a segment of just 39% of runners.

So, we can conclude that siding with horses who have demonstrated career form over longer distances provides a big statistical advantage!

However, it’s also important to consider whether these career marks have been achieved in a high-quality race – the Grand National is a long way from a wet and windy Wednesday afternoon at Towcester!

Trend #2 – Top 5 Performance in ‘Key Trials’,

There are several jump races (including the Grand National itself) that offer a highly predictive pointer towards Grand National success, which I’ll refer to here as ‘key trials’.

From 1994-2019, a staggering twenty-one out of twenty-six Grand National winners had already proven their stamina credentials by finishing among the first five home in one of the following eight races:

Irish National (3m 5f), traditionally run on Easter Monday at Fairyhouse, near Dublin.

Scottish National (4m 1f), run in mid-April at Ayr.

Welsh National (3m 5 1/2f), run between Christmas and New Year at Chepstow.

Becher Chase (3m 2f), run over the National fences at Aintree in early December.

Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup) (3m 2f), run in late November/early December at Newbury.

Glenfarcas Cross Country Chase (3m 6f), run on the second day of the Cheltenham festival in March.

Cheltenham Gold Cup (3m 2 1/2f), the blue ribband event of the jump racing calendar, run on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Grand National (4m 2 1/2f)

So let’s apply the same analysis to horses who have, and haven’t made their mark in one (or more!) of the above races.

2013-2019 Grand National runners segmented by best performance in a “key trial.”

Best Career Finish Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Win
Top Five 111 60 (54%) 25 (23%) 6 (5%)
Outside Top 5 / Not Run 165 60 (36%) 10 (6%) 1 (1%)

Over the last seven editions of the National, some 111/276 Grand National runners had proven their stamina credentials via a top five finish in at least one key trial. That list also includes 6/7 winners.

In statistical terms, that’s 87% of winners and 71% of horses finishing ‘in the money’ from a sample of 40% of runners.

Not convinced about picking a proven stayer yet?

To illustrate the point further, here’s a list of the last twenty Grand National winners since the turn of the millennium, complete with the stamina credentials they’d proven before landing the big one at Aintree:

  • 2000 – Papilon, 2nd 1998 Irish National
  • 2001 – Red Marauder, 5th 2000 Becher Chase
  • 2002 – Bindaree, 3rd 2001 Welsh National
  • 2003 – Monty’s Pass, 2nd 2001 Topham Chase (tun over National fences)
  • 2004 – Amerleigh House, 3rd 2003 Grand National, Winner 2001 Becher Chase
  • 2005 – Hedgehunter, 3rd 2003 Welsh National, 4th 2003 Hennessy Chase
  • 2006 – Numbersixvalverde, Winner 2006 Irish National
  • 2007 – Silver Birch, Winner 2004 Welsh National & 2004 Becher Chase
  • 2008 – Comply Or Die, 4th 2005 Beecher Chase, Won 4m Chase at Newcastle in 2008
  • 2009 – Mon Mome, 2nd 2006 Welsh National
  • 2010 – Don’t Push It, Won 3m 1f Handicap Chase at 2009 Aintree Festival
  • 2011 – Ballabriggs, Winner Kim Muir Handicap (3m 1f) at 2011 Cheltenham Festival
  • 2012 – Neptune Collonges, 3rd 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup (also 4th in 2009)
  • 2013 – Auroras Encore, 2nd 2012 Scottish National
  • 2014 – Pineau De Re, faller 2013 Becher Chase, Winner 2013 Ulster National (3m 4f)
  • 2015 – Many Clouds, winner 2014 Hennessy Gold Cup (now Ladbrokes Trophy)
  • 2016 – Rule The World, 2nd 2015 Irish National
  • 2017 – One For Arthur, 5th 2016 Becher Chase
  • 2018 – Tiger Roll, winner 2018 Glenfarcas Cross Country Chase
  • 2019 – Tiger Roll, winner 2018 Grand National

As you can see, proven performance in high quality stamina testing races holds the key to picking a Grand National winner time and time again.

Combining the two stamina trends

You will have no doubt figured out already that the two trends illustrated above contain a high degree of overlap, given five of the eight key trials are run over a distance of more than 3.5 miles. But let’s overlay the two trends to see what statistical advantage that provides.

2013-2019 Grand National runners segmented by the number of trends they ‘hit’.

Long Career Place 3.5 miles+ / Top 5 Finish in Key Trial Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Win
Hit 2/2 Trends 70 39 (56%) 20 (29%) 5 (7%)
Hit 1/2 Trends 78 38 (49%) 9 (12%) 2 (3%)
Hit 0/2 Trends 128 43 (34%) 6 (5%) 0 (0%)

In perspective, over the last seven editions of the Grand National some 128 runners who had not hit either career stamina mark tested here have tried to win the Grand National, and although a few came close, all of them ultimately failed to win.

Meanwhile all seven winners, and 29/35 horses paying an each-way return hit at least one of these career marks.

That’s 100% of winners and 83% of each-way returns from a segment of just 54% of trend hitting runners.

If you want to sharpen your list further, the seventy horses who have managed to hit both career marks have produced 5/7 winners and 20/35 horses paying an each-way return… an impressive hit rate of 29%!

Let’s recap how these trends performed in the last three editions of the race.

2019: Six of the first seven home hit at least one stamina trend (exception being Magic of Light, 2nd). Four out of first six home had a career e/w return over a distance of 4 miles or further.

2018: In a race held in testing conditions 10/12 finishers had hit at least one career stamina trend (exceptions being Pleasant Company in 2nd, Valseur Lido in 7th). Seven finishers had achieved both career marks, including 1st, 3rd and 5th.

2017: Five of the first six home hit both trends (exception being Gas Line Boy in 5th). First six home had a career e/w return over 3.5 miles or further.

Conclusions

Stamina is categorically the #1 trend to use when analysing the Grand National, and the stats clearly point us towards selecting horses with proven staying power over long distances racing, especially in key trials.

In determining my 2020 Grand National short list, I will therefore be shortlisting horses who provide a substantial statistical edge having hit at least one of the following career marks…

  1. Placed in a chase of 3.5 miles or further, OR
  2. Finished in the first 5 home in a key trial

In addition, I will consider horses hitting both of the above marks to be an advantage.

2020 Field Analysis

Below is a list of Grand National entries with an official rating of 146 or higher who have hit one or both career marks.

Please note the following list is correct as of 24th February 2020 and and will be updated after the Cheltenham Festival. Horses hitting 2/2 trends are depicted in CAPS.

  • TIGER ROLL – Winner 2018-19 Grand National, Winner 2018-19 Glenfarcas Cross Country Chase
  • Bristol De Mai – 3rd 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup
  • ANIBALE FLY – 2nd 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup, 4th 2019 Grand National
  • ELEGANT ESCAPE – Winner 2018 Welsh National. 2nd & 3rd Ladbrokes Trophy 2018-19
  • Beware The Bear – 4th Ladbrokes Trophy 2018 & 2019
  • Alpha Des Obeaux – 3rd 2019 Becher Chase
  • Total Recall – Winner 2017 Ladbrokes Trophy
  • MAGIC OF LIGHT – 2nd 2019 Grand National
  • BALLYOPTIC – 2nd 2018 Scottish National
  • Talkischeap – Won 3m 5f Bet365 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown in 2019
  • YALA ENKI – 3rd 2019 Welsh National
  • BURROWS SAINT – Winner 2019 Irish National
  • Definitely Red – 4th 2019 Becher Chase
  • VINTAGE CLOUDS – 3rd 2018 Scottish National, 4th 2017 Welsh National
  • PLEASANT COMPANY – 2nd 2018 Grand National
  • ACAPELLA BOURGEIOS – 3rd 2019 Irish National
  • POTTERS CORNER – Winner 2019 Welsh National & Midlands National.
  • Dounikos – Won 3m 4f Chase at Punchestown in 2019
  • RAMSES DE TEILLES – 2nd 2018 Welsh National
  • KIMBERLITE CANDY – 2nd 2019 Becher Chase, Winner 3m 5f Chase at Warwick in 2019
  • WALK IN THE MILL – 4th 2019 Grand National, Winner Becher Chase 2018 & 2019
  • ONE FOR ARTHUR – Winner 2017 Grand National (6th in 2019), 5th in Becher Chase 2016 & 2019
  • SNUGSBOROUGH BENNY – 4th 2019 Irish National
  • Lord Du Mensil – 2nd in 3m 4f Grand National Trial at Haydock in 2020
  • TAKINGRISKS – Winner 2019 Scottish National
  • REGAL ENCORE – 3rd 2017 Ladbrokes Trophy, 7th 2019 Grand National, 2nd 3m 7f Handicap Chase at Punchestown in 2019

Whilst I’d be the first to admit this is a very long list (twenty-six horses), it’s worth remembering there’s another thirty-nine entries that I’ve analysed who have failed to hit either career mark. We can usually expect this trend to eliminate roughly half of the final field.

If the trends hold up, then our eventual winner will probably be in here somewhere!