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 Aintree Grand National is the longest NH Handicap Chase on the calendar, the race has seen many great races as well as some sad tragedies.

Who can forget the uproar 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, picking a winner out of a 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 40 runner handicap and anything can happen.

This can include Cheltenham Gold Cup winners falling and unfortunately dying like Synchronised did in 2012. I never know why he was entered into a Grade 3 Handicap after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 
 The owners had just won the most prestigious Grade 1 National Hunt race in the calendar so why did they bother to even enter him into the Grade 3 Grand National race apart from trying to make some more money, where there was so much danger awaiting for him?

Also, 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 in any NH race, fallers and strays are all obstacles that your horse will have to face head-on.
One faller in front of your horse is likely to bring down at least one or more other runners, and being in the middle of the pack is a dangerous place to be no matter how good your horse is. It’s a big handicap and many people either love them or hate them. 

If you can, jot down any front runners you see throughout the year who complete and win their races, this is what I did when I won on Many Clouds back in 2015 after seeing him win the Hennesy Gold Cup and I managed to get a lovely 60/1 antepost price on him. The next year Smad Place beat Many Clouds in the Hennesy and he ran and won from the front many times. 

I thought Smad Place to be the perfect horse to be put into the Grand National but instead, owners put him up in class to race in the Gold Cup where he finished nowhere. He should have stuck with the Grand National and runners of the same quality in my opinion, and if he had done so, would have probably won the race that year.

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.

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 Grand 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 bets is a good idea.

Usually, 40 horses start the Aintree Grand National but less than 20 finish the race. This is is why it is advisable to go for a selection of winners, some at the top of the market and a few longshots so that you haven't put all your eggs in one basket which could fall at the first.

Top weight carrying horses haven’t won since Red Rum with his weight of 12-0 so previous winners, Cheltenham Gold Cup winners and any other top weight carrying horses should be looked at carefully. They may place but the statistics show that winning seems unlikely. 
However if you fancy backing a top weight carrying horse, don't be put off by the stats and head over to this Timeform site which shows you that horses carrying 12 or more can win, and when Many Clouds won in 2015 he was carrying 11-9, more than any other runner since Red Rum when he won the chase.

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 (now called the Ladbrokes Trophy), Irish Grand National or the Welsh Grand National.

Previous course and distance experience is a key piece of form to look out for. The jumps at Aintree’s Grand National are some of the hardest in the world and the distance of 4m 4f is the longest National Hunt race on the calendar, so previous course and distance runners should be at the top of your list. 

I wouldn't advise someone to pick a runner who has never attempted such a hard course or such long-distance before. So if you do fancy a runner who hasn't placed or won over the Aintree C&D, then look for runners who have at least finished over other long-distance races like the Ladbrokes Trophy or Welsh, Irish, or Scottish Grand Nationals.
Also, I bet many of you didn't know that there are 4 other Grand National races run every year over 3miles that could be good indicators of a horse's stamina. They are the Class 2, Cork Grand National held in November, the Class 3 North Yorkshire Grand National held at Catterick in January, the Class 1 Listed Midlands Grand National held at Uttoxeter and the Class 4 Hexham Grand National held in March. All are raced over 3 miles so all are good indicators of stamina.

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 are key.

Here is a list of other Grand National Races, and top races to consider, ordered by their distance. Runners who placed or won, or at least finished, over these long distances should be considered, as a horse must have the stamina to race the Aintree Grand National over the longest NH distance of 4m 2f 74y.
  • Aintree Grand National > 4m 2f 74y
  • Midlands Grand National > 4m 2f 8y
  • Hexham Grand National > 3m 7f 199y 
  • Scottish Grand National > 3m 7f 176y
  • Welsh Grand National > 3m 6f 130y
  • North Yorkshire Grand National > 3m 5f 214y 
  • Irish Grand National > 3m 5f 50y
  • Cork Grand National > 3m 4f 
  • Cheltenham Gold Cup > 3m 2f 70y
  • Ladbrokes Trophy (Hennesy Gold Cup) > 3m 1f 214y
Horses who fall a lot should be avoided at all costs. With Aintree’s reputation and its 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.

As well as weightage and 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 ignore those that have been pulled up, fallen, or don’t give it their all in previous handicaps.

The 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 4 favourites have won the race: Don’t Push It (2010) on 10/1, Comply or Die (2008) on 7/1, and Hedgehunter (2005) on 7/1. Tiger Roll completed a double on the trot in 2018 and 2019 and at 4/1 when winning the race for the 2nd time, was probably the most-backed winner in history and the shortest-priced winner.

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 online bookmaker offers, as if your outsider comes in 6th and you didn’t find a 6 place payout bookmaker on the street, you will be kicking yourself in the shins for the rest of the day, especially if it was a 60/1 bet!
2022 - Grand National
Of all the 40 runners who are between 8 and 12, carrying less than 11-10, and have Course and Distance experience at Aintree only include:
  • Any Second Now - 11-8 - 10yrs old @ 9/1
  • Burrows Saint - 11-5 - 9 years old @ 25/1 
For those that have run in other races which I listed earlier, are also 8-12, carrying less than 11-10, and don't have a PU or F in their form include: 
  • Agusta Gold - 11-3 - 8 - @ 6/1 (BoyleSports Irish Grand National Chase (Extended Handicap Chase) (Grade A) - 3m 5f 50y - 2021)
  • Anibale Fly - 10-12 - 11 - @ 25/1 (Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) - 4m 2f 74y - 2021)
  • Blaklion - 10-2 - 12 - @ 50/1 (Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) - 4m 2f 74y - 2021)
  • Burrows Saint - 10-13 - 8 - @ 9/1 (Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) - 4m 2f 74y - 2021)
  • Cloth Cap - 10-5 - 9 - @ 4/1 (Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) - 4m 2f 74y - 2021 and Ladbrokes Trophy 2020)
  • Discorama - 10-6 - 8 - @ 16/1 (Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) - 4m 2f 74y - 2021)
  • Kildisart - 11-5 - 8 - @ 8/1 (Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) (GBB Race) - 3m 1f 214y - 2020)
  • Mighty Thunder - 10-11 - 8 - @ 18/1 (Marston's 61 Deep Midlands Grand National (Listed Open Handicap Chase) (GBB Race) - 4m 2f 8y - 2021 - also Scottish & Welsh Nationals in 2021)
  • Romain De Senam - 10-9 - 10 - @ 66/1 (Boulton Group Midlands Grand National (Listed Open Handicap Chase) (GBB Race) - 4m 2f 8y - 2022)
This list was a lot longer before I weeded out those runners who have recently been pulled up or have fallen in their last 6 races.


  1. Some good points, and cheers for tipping the winner of the Scottish National today, and 2 placed horses as well on your Facebook page >

  2. It is a total throw a dart at the paper on the wall type of race I have no idea how you knew Many Clouds would win antepost after the Hennesy but I agree with you that Smad Place that won all the Grade 3 races the year after and beat Many Clouds in the Hennesy should have gone to the National and nowhere near the Chetenham Gold Cup. He would have won that for sure the way he was out front of the pack in every race and had the stamina for 4m as well.