The Grand National System

The Grand National System, help narrow down those 40 runners to just a few!


The Grand National at Aintree is one of the most famous and one of the most gruelling races in the world.

At 4 miles 4 furlongs long the course has seen many great races as well as great tragedy.

Who can forget the furor after the 2011 race in which Ballabriggs won with more than a little use of the whip, the multiple deaths on the course which meant the 2nd course trip was reduced by 2 jumps and the fact that less than half the starters actually finished the race.

I remember first winning the Grand National with Comply or Die in 2008 and then with Ballabriggs in 2011. However to pick a winner out of the large number of runners is a very hard task to achieve but can be made easier by reading the tea leaves that flow from previous winners since the war.

There are lots of ways of trying to narrow down winners but you should remember that this is a big 30-40 runner handicap and anything can happen including:

Cheltenham Gold Cup winners falling and unfortunately dying, like Synchronised in 2012.
The majority of runners don’t even finish the race. With 40 runners you will be lucky to get 20 to finish.

With so many runners in a field unless your runner has stamina and can front run the longest distance around a faller in front of your horse is likely to bring at least one or more other runners down. It’s a big handicap and many people either love them or hate them.

This is no 6 runner race with a 1/6 favourite like Faugheen, Big Bucks or Hurricane Fly running and every runner will be at least 10/1 or more. Therefore there is never a clear pick that will win and favourites rarely do.

To see the already won once, Tiger Roll go into 2019's Grand National at 7/2 to 9/2, just seems crazy to me. The chances of winning it twice in a row are slim to say the leastr and anything less than 10/1 in a 40 winner race seems like a huge punt to me.

You can see all the Grand National winners since 2000 here.

You will see many people with lists of ways to pick the winner. However they usually “back fit” the statistics by taking the last 10 or 20 runners and then seeing which statistics match them all. It is always easy to find common statistics AFTER a race.

You can check out a list of previous Grand National winners here but there are some key points you should remember when picking your horse for the Grand National.

Never just pick one horse. The Grand National is more like a lottery than any other race I know of and you should try to pick at least a couple of runners with a good chance and an outsider or two who has more than half a chance.

Not many 200/1 runners win the National and there is a good reason for that. However in recent years we have had a 66/1 winner with Auroras Encore in 2013, a 100/1 winner with Mon Mome in 2009 and a 33/1 winner in 2012 with Neptune Collonges. Therefore having a large priced runner in your 3 / 4 bets is a good idea.

Top weight carrying horses haven’t won since Red Rum with his weight of 11-5 so previous winners, Cheltenham Gold Cup winners and any other top weight carrying horse should be looked at carefully. They may place but the statistics show that winning seems unlikely.

Only three previous winners of the National had run at the Cheltenham Festival, however 8 out of the last 10 have either won or been placed over the Aintree course or finished in the top five in the Hennesy Gold Cup, Irish Grand National or the Welsh Grand National.

Previous course experience is key. The jumps at Aintree’s Grand National are some of the hardest in the world so previous course and distance experience is essential and it is not advisable to pick a runner who has never attempted such a hard course or long distance before. Runners who have placed or won over these jumps should be looked at carefully.

Horses who fall a lot should be swerved at all costs. With Aintree’s reputation and it’s many tough jumps it is no surprise that roughly half the runners who start the race never cross the finish line. If your pick is a regular faller who has fallen more than twice in the season give it a miss.

All the winners since the war have been between 8 and 12 years old and you should aim your selections at horses between these boundaries even if they have Course and Distance experience.
Stamina is a key component and out of the previous 10 winners they had all won a race under rules over at least three miles heading into the Grand National. Once again stayers and experience over long distances is key.

As well as stamina you need horses who have lots of experience over fences. The Aintree fences are the hardest in the world therefore runners who have raced at least 12 times over fences should be looked at carefully.

Look for runners who have had a top three finish in their last couple of starts and skip those that have been pulled up, fallen or don’t give it their all in previous handicaps.

Softer ground often leads to large priced winners. Auroras Encore won on Good to Soft at 66/1 in 2013, Neptune Collonges won on Good to Soft at 33/1 in 2012, Mon Mome won in 2009 at 100/1 on Good to Soft and Red Marauder won at 33/1 in 2001 on heavy ground.

Since 2000 only 3 favourites have won the race: Don’t Push It (2010) at 10/1, Comply or Die (2008) 7/1 and Hedgehunter (2005) at 7/1. If Tiger Roll can complete a double on the trot he will probably have been the most backed winner in history. You could get him at 16/1 antepost before he won at Cheltenham but now he's anywhere between 7/2 and 10/1. Check the latest odds out here.

As always Bookies know the apple and out of 17 of the last 21 races the winner started at 20/1 or less. If your horse is a 100/1 pick then there is a good reason for this so unless it meets all the other criteria I would ignore it. If it does meet most of the criteria then I would consider it as the “outsider” of the 3 bets I would be putting on.

You can either put a small each way bet on just to be sure or use the place markets on Betfair where you can often get very good place odds on Grand National day with anything up to 10 To Be Placed Markets to bet on. Take advantage, especially on large priced runners.

Most bookmakers have special offers on the Grand National with many paying out on the first 5 to 7 places especially online. Take advantage of these offers as if your outsider comes in 6th and you didn’t find a 6 place payout bookmaker you will be kicking yourself in the shins for the rest of the day, especially if it was a 60/1 bet!

View the latest Grand National winners prices weights and jockeys here.

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