2019 Grand National trends

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 (just over four and a quarter miles) but it remains the longest jump race in the calendar, and of course there are 30 imposing spruce fences to negotiate as well.

The importance of proven stamina has, if anything, taken on even greater significance as the new, safer fencing introduced in 2013 placed less emphasis on pure jumping ability.

Over the past two years I devised a fresh approach to filtering out the doubtful stayers which has worked really well. So I’ll be repeating the same formula for the 2019 Grand National.

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

Let’s start by looking at all Grand National runners from 2013-2018 segmented by the longest distance each horse had posted an each-way return in their jump racing career.

2013-2018 Grand National runners by longest career each-way return

Long Career Place Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Win
3 miles 4 furlongs or further 89 49 (55%) 21 (24%) 5 (6%)
3 miles 2 furlongs – 3 miles 3 1/2 furlongs 61 25 (41%) 6 (10%) 1 (2%)
Under 3 miles 2 furlongs 86 27 (31%) 3 (3%) 0 (0%)

To summarise, 5 of the last 6 winners, and 21 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 87% of winners and 70% of horses finishing ‘in the money’ from just 38% of runners.

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

However, it’s equally important to recognise 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 as ‘key trials’.

Since 1994, a staggering 80% of Grand National winners have proven their stamina credentials before-hand by finishing among the first five home in one of the following:

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 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.
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)

If you’ve been following my website over the years, you might have noticed the addition of an 8th race to the list of key trials – namely the Glenfarcas Cross Country Chase (3m 6f), run each year at the Cheltenham Festival.

If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s to pick up on emerging trends. To this end it would be remiss to ignore the fact that our 2018 Grand National winner Tiger Roll, along with two runners-up in the past five years (Cause of Causes 2017 and Balthazar King 2014) had shown their credentials for Aintree by winning that same race.

2013-2018 Grand National runners by best performance in key trial.

Best Career Finish in Key Trial Runners Finishers Placed (1-5) Win
Top Five 94 50 (53%) 22 (23%) 5 (5%)
Outside Top 5 / Not Run 142 51 (36%) 8 (6%) 1 (1%)

Some ninety-four Grand National runners since 2013 had proven their stamina credentials via a top five finish in a key trial. That list includes 5 of the last 6 winners, and 22 horses paying an each-way return (including 5th).

So that’s 87% of winners and 73% of horses finishing ‘in the money’ from a sample of 40% of runners.

To illustrate the point further, let me quickly recap on the last six Grand National winners for a moment, and specifically the stamina credentials they had demonstrated which provided a big clue prior to landing the big one at Aintree:

  • 2013 – Auroras Encore, 2nd 2012 Scottish National
  • 2014 – Pineau De Re, faller 2013 Becher Chase (also won the 2013 Ulster National over 3.5 miles)
  • 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 Cross Country Chase

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

As you’d expect, the two trends illustrated above contain a high degree of overlap given five of the eight key trials are run over a distance of 3.5 miles or further. But let’s overlay the two trends to see what statistical advantage that provides.

2013-2018 Grand National runners segmented by 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 57 33 (58%) 18 (33%) 4 (7%)
Hit 1/2 Trends 69 33 (48%) 7 (10%) 2 (3%)
Hit 0/2 Trends 110 35 (32%) 5 (5%) 0 (0%)

In all, 110 runners failing to hit either career mark have tried to win the Grand National since 2013 and, although Pleasant Company came agonisingly close in 2018, all of them ultimately failed.

Meanwhile all six winners, and twenty-five 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 sample of just 53% of runners.

Meanwhile, some fifteen out of fifty-seven runners who have managed to hit both career marks have paid an each-way return… an impressive hit rate of 33%!

For reference here is a list of thirteen 2018 Grand National runners who passed on both of the above stamina trends.

  • Tiger Roll – 1st
  • Bless The Wings – 3rd
  • Gas Line Boy – 7th
  • Vieux Lion Rouge – 9th
  • Raz De Maree – 10th
  • Seeyouatmidnight – 11th
  • Baie Des Iles – 12th
  • Blaklion – brought down
  • The Last Samuri – pulled up
  • Saint Are – brought down
  • Houblon Des Obeaux – faller
  • Final Nudge – faller
  • Thunder And Roses – pulled up

In a race held in especially testing conditions, only 12 horses managed to finish the race, seven of which had managed both of the above career marks. And of course this included our winner Tiger Roll, along with 3rd place.

Meanwhile in 2017, four of the first six home had hit both career marks. So you could do a lot worse than simply backing horses hitting these trends and ignoring other factors!

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 2019 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.

2019 Field Analysis

UPDATED 1st APRIL:

Let’s take a first look at our 2019 Grand National field to see how they stack up against these trends.

With the 5 day declarations now in, I’ve analysed the top 45 entries for the big race. The twenty-four horses listed below hit the minimum criteria for at least one of the two career marks. I’ve listed them below along with their most relevant career credentials to date, with the horses depicted in capitals notable for hitting both marks.

  • ANIBALE FLY – 4th 2018 Grand National, 2nd 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup
  • TIGER ROLL – Winner 2018 Grand National, Winner 2018 & 2019 Cross Country Chase
  • Don Poli – 3rd 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup
  • MINELLA ROCCO – 2nd 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Won 2016 4m National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham
  • PLEASANT COMPANY – 2nd 2018 Grand National
  • BALLYOPTIC – 2nd 2018 Scottish National
  • Dounikos – Won 2019 Boylesports Grand National Trial at Punchestown (4m 1/2 f)
  • Rathvinden – Won 2018 National Hunt Challenge Novices Chase (4m), Won 2019 Bobbyjo Chase (3m 1f)
  • ONE FOR ARTHUR – Won 2017 Grand National
  • Rock The Kasbah – 2nd 2018 Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown (3m 5f)
  • Regal Encore – 3rd 2017 Ladbrokes Trophy (also 8th 2017 Grand National)
  • RAMSES DE TEILLEE – 2nd 2018 Welsh National
  • Step Back – Won 2018 Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown (3m 5f)
  • Ultragold – 3rd 2018 Becher Chase
  • VIEUX LION ROUGE – Winner 2016 Becher Chase (also 6th, 7th and 9th in 3 Grand National appearances)
  • VINTAGE CLOUDS – 3rd 2018 Scottish National, 4th 2017 Welsh National
  • GENERAL PRINCIPLE – Won 2018 Irish National
  • Walk In The Mill – Won 2018 Becher Chase
  • FOLSOM BLUE – 4th 2016 Irish National
  • BLESS THE WINGS – 3rd 2018 Grand National, 2nd 2016-17 Irish National, 2nd 2016-17 Cross Country Chase
  • JOE FARRELL* – Won 2018 Scottish National
  • Just A Par* – Won 2015 Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown
  • The Young Master* – Won 2016 Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown
  • BAIE DES ILES* – 5th 2017 Welsh National

*Outside top 40 entries and not guaranteed a run – correct 1/4/2019

Whilst I’d be the first to admit this is a very long list, it would be quite a trend buster if our eventual Grand National winner isn’t listed here somewhere.

Remember there’s another twenty-one horses effectively rejected here, including twenty who, as of Monday 1st April are guaranteed a run.