2018 Grand National trends

Stamina

When making your selection for the 2018 Grand National there is one indisputable quality you will need from your chosen horse – and that’s stamina.

The single most important piece of advice I can offer anyone betting on the Grand National would be to put your money on a proven ‘stayer’ who has demonstrated form over longer race distances in good quality races.

Since 2013 the Grand National has been reduced in length from 4 ½ miles to 4 miles 2 ½ furlongs but it remains the longest jump race in the calendar, and of course there are 30 imposing spruce fences to negotiate as well.

Over these last five editions of the race the importance of proven stamina has, if anything, taken on even greater significance as other trends have been broken.

For my 2017 Grand National edition I devised a fresh approach to filtering out the doubtful stayers which rejected 17/40 runners, none of whom finished in the first seven home.

So I’ll be repeating the same two-step formula for the 2018 Grand National.

Trend 1 – Longest Career Place (each-way returns)

Let’s start by looking at how all runners faired between 2013-2017 segmented by the longest distance that they had posted an each-way return prior to their run in the Grand National.

2013-2017 Grand National runners by longest career place

Long Career Place Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Win
3 miles 4 furlongs or further 72 41 (57%) 18 (25%) 4 (6%)
3 miles 2 furlongs – 3 miles 3 1/2 furlongs 53 23 (43%) 5 (9%) 1 (2%)
Under 3 miles 2 furlongs 73 25 (34%) 2 (3%) 0 (0%)

In summation, 4/5 winners and 18/25 horses paying an each-way return (including 5th) had achieved an each-way return off a distance of 3.5 miles or further at some point in their chase career.

That’s 80% of winners and 72% of each-way returns taken from a sample of just 36% of runners.

So it’s clear that siding with horses who have demonstrated career form over longer distances provides a statistical advantage.

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

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

There are 7 annual jump races (including the National itself) that offer a highly predictive pointer towards Grand National success, which I refer to as ‘key trials’.

Since 1994, 19/24 Grand National winners have proven their stamina credentials by finishing among the first five home in one of the following races.

Irish National (3m 5f), traditionally run on Easter Monday at Fairyhouse nr Dublin.
Scottish National (4m 1f), run in mid-April at Ayr.
Welsh National (3m 6f), run between Christmas and New Year at Chepstow.
Becher Chase (3m 2f), run over the National fences at Aintree in December.
Hennessy Gold Cup (3m 2 1/2f), run in November at Newbury.
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 in March.
Grand National (4m 2 1/2f)

Let’s test the extent to which performance history in these races continue to offer a highly predictive pointer towards Aintree success since the modifications were introduced in 2013.

2013-2017 Grand National runners by best performance in key trial.

Best Career Finish in Key Trial Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Win
Top Five 72 39 (54%) 17 (24%) 4 (6%)
Outside Top 5 54 21 (38%) 3 (6%) 1 (2%)
Not Run a Key Trial 72 29 (41%) 5 (7%) 0 (0%)

We can see that 4/5 winners and 17/25 horses paying an each-way return have form within one of these seven races.

That’s 80% of winners and 68% of runners paying a return from a sample of just 36% of runners – a very similar statistical advantage to those posting a long career each-way return of 3.5 miles +.

So performance within these key trials should be treated as an equally predictive indicator for success.

All of the last five winners had some experience of running in one of these races prior to the National, with four finishing among the first five home. Let’s recap their relevant performances:

  • 2013 – Auroras Encore, 2nd 2012 Scottish National
  • 2014 – Pineau De Re, faller 2013 Becher Chase
  • 2015 – Many Clouds, winner 2014 Hennessy Gold Cup
  • 2016 – Rule The World, 2nd 2015 Irish National
  • 2017 – One For Arthur, 5th 2016 Becher Chase

Combining the two stamina trends

Naturally there will be some overlap within these two trends given that a career place in some of the key trials, in turn, means hitting the 3.5 mile+ career mark. But let’s overlay the two to see what statistical advantage we can observe in rejecting horses who have hit neither career mark, or preferring horses that hit both.

2013-2017 Grand National runners segmented by number of trends they ‘hit’.

Long Career Place 28f+ / Top 5 in Key Trial Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Win
Hit 2/2 Trends 41 24 (59%) 14 (34%) 3 (7%)
Hit 1/2 Trends 62 32 (52%) 7 (11%) 2 (3%)
Hit 0/2 Trends 95 33 (35%) 4 (4%) 0 (0%)

The statistics undoubtedly provide the biggest clue to picking a winner in the modern Grand National.

In all, 95 runners failing to hit either of these career marks have tried and failed to win the Grand National since 2013. The only horse who really came close to doing so was 2016 runner-up The Last Samuri.

All five winners since 2013, and 21/25 horses paying a return managed at least one of these career marks. That’s 100% of winners and 84% of each-way returns from a sample of just 52% of runners.

Meanwhile, some 14/41 runners who have hit both career marks have paid an each-way return – an impressive hit rate of 1 in 3!

For reference here is a list of the ten 2017 Grand National runners who passed on both of the above stamina trends.

  • One For Arthur (1st)
  • Saint Are (3rd)
  • Blaklion (4th)
  • Vieux Lion Rouge (6th)
  • Houblon Des Obeaux (10th)
  • The Last Samuri (16th)
  • Vicente (faller)
  • Rogue Angel (pulled up)
  • Raz De Maree (unseated rider)
  • Thunder and Roses (unseated rider)

As you can see, they included four of the first six home, so you could do a lot worse than simply backing horses who hit both stamina-based career marks regardless of other trends!

Conclusions

Stamina is categorically the #1 trend to use when analysing the Grand National, and these insights clearly point us towards selecting horses with proven staying power over long distances racing in high quality fields.

In determining my 2018 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.

Based on the above statistics, it is probable that I’ll be able to draw a line through 40-50% of the 40 Grand National runners using this method alone.

Look out for further updates on this page once the entries for the 2018 Grand National are confirmed.