Every punter wants to find an edge when it comes to the biggest races of the year, and there are few races bigger than the Grand National at Aintree.
The National is the most iconic horse race in the world, a stamina-sapping marathon of more than four miles that tests the jumping and staying power of those who seek to win it. It can be a daunting puzzle to contemplate for even the most seasoned of punters. With the national hunt season now heating up and gathering real pace, the countdown to the Grand National 2017 is also starting to take shape.
Grand National” (CC BY 2.0) by Henry Hemming
The likes of Don Poli, The Young Master, The Last Samurai and former winner Many Clouds are amongst those shaping the ante-post market for the Grand National, but how do they fit in when applying three established methods of identifying likely winners of the Aintree spectacular?
Age – After Eights Only
It is more than 70 years since any horse aged under eight won the Grand National at Aintree. Many Clouds, the winner in 2015, was eight when he landed the prize but he is one of just two aged eight to score since Party Politics all the way back in 1992. Age, and with it experience, is a key factor when it comes to the great race so take care if selecting a younger horse. The age category to focus on is nine to 11-year-olds – a grouping that accounts for 18 of the previous 21 Aintree winners. Gordon Elliott’s Don Poli is a likely candidate but he will be just eight when the Grand National is run in 2017.
Weight – Know the limits
In any handicap, it is vital to pay close attention to the amount of weight a horse must carry, but nowhere more so than in the Grand National. Carrying a big weight isn’t necessarily impossible in racing and we often see top-weight defied. In a field of close to 40 and a race as competitive as the Grand National, it pays to have a nice racing weight. History tells us to draw a line in the sand at 11st 5lbs and to focus on runners carrying less on their backs. In the last 69 renewals of the Grand National, only seven horses have defied this trend. All runners will be keeping their hopes pinned on the BHA Handicapper for a positive outcome when the 2017 weights are announced for Aintree. Many Clouds is one horse with Aintree on his agenda for the spring.
Past Experience – Learning from mistakes
In order to win the Grand National, a horse must possess plenty of experience. As a general rule of thumb, look for contenders with a minimum of 10 runs over fences. With 40 runners and 30 fences to be navigated, the occasion as much as anything else can scupper the chances of many. Having tried and failed previously around Aintree is no bad thing. Recent winners like Mon Mome, Silver Birch, Hedgehunter, Amberleigh House and Montys Pass all managed to land the prize having run unsuccessfully in the contest a year prior. In 2017, that could apply to the likes of Silviniaco Conti, Holywell or The Druids Nephew.