Ahead of the big race at Aintree, our resident expert applies some indisputable logic to help you whittle down the runners and riders
As someone who has worked in the betting industry for the best part of two decades, it is tempting to turn my phone off during Grand National week.
The messages are broadly the same but the demands vary.
I don’t mind the ones that say “what’s your tip for the National?”, though I’ve grown to really dislike the insistent “make sure you let me know what to bet on” and the frankly laughable “who’s going to win?”
The problem with the National is that it’s the most difficult race in which to uphold that position of knowledge and authority.
Forty runners, over large obstacles, travelling a distance just over four miles.
Six of the last 10 winners of the World’s Greatest Steeplechase (TM) have been at odds of 25/1 or bigger.
It’s essentially a lottery only without the increased numbers, poor value and bad prizes – so how on earth are you meant to pick a winner?
Well, let’s give it a go. Grab a pen and the list of runners and we’ll get the eliminations underway…
Picking a winner
With the aforementioned maximum field of 40 runners, we really need to put a line through some of the no-hopers.
Let’s start with the older horses. It’s not impossible to win the race with a horse older than 11, but it’s certainly becoming increasingly difficult.
None of the last ten winners were older than 11 so strike off Aachen, On His Own and Vics Canvas.
At the other end of the scale very young horses – in National Hunt terms – have a poor record, so cross off the 7-year-olds Onenightinvienna and Vieux Lion Rouge.
Although Many Clouds outran this stat when winning last year’s race, the fact remains that nine of the last 10 winners carried 11st 6lb or less.
It’s a good tool which I am going to stick by so let’s also discount Many Clouds and Silviniaco Conti.
Silver Birch’s win in 2007 was the last success for Irish-trained horses in the race, so we’ll get rid of those that have made the short trip to Liverpool over the Irish Sea to compete in the race.
They are: First Lieutenant, Gilgamboa, Sir Des Champs, Boston Bob, Morning Assembly, Goonyella, Ucello Conti, Gallant Oscar, Rule The World, Ballycasey and Home Farm.
Let’s not start patting each other on the back just yet, though, as we still have 22 horses left. We need to start being ruthless.
Many Clouds made a mockery of another stat last year when striking a blow for 8-year-old horses for the first time since Bindaree won in 2002.
But I think it’s fair to say that the optimum age for a National winner is between 9 and 11.
So let’s remove the remaining 8-year-olds in Wonderful Charm, Unioniste, Le Reve, The Last Samuri and Pendra.
The last English-foaled horse to win the race was Red Marauder in the mud-splattered 2001 renewal, meaning we need to focus on horses bred in Ireland and France who have been responsible for the last 14 winners.
Delete the English horse Soll, therefore, and also the German-bred Kruzhlinin.
We don’t want to concern ourselves with horses at prices lower than 20/1. We’re going for the big prize here.
So of the remaining contenders let’s ignore The Druid’s Nephew, Holywell, Shutthefrontdoor and Saint Are.
Sixteen of the last 22 winners carried less than 11st, so with another powerful weight stat we can eliminate – Ballynagour and O’Faolains Boy.
We’re into single figures now as just nine horse remain intact on our list.
Let’s delete Black Thunder who has an amateur jockey, albeit a very good one around this course.
Now let’s look at the trainers.
Winning the National should really be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, even for the best of them.
Paul Nicholls has won it recently so let’s spread the love elsewhere by taking out his stable inmates – Rocky Creek and Just A Par.
Venetia Williams also doesn’t deserve to win another National so soon after Mon Mome, so remove Katenko.
Lastly top trainer Nicky Henderson has had a great couple of months, but he has an abysmal record in this race – so put a line through Triolo D’Alene and Hadrian’s Approach.
We’re now left with a nice shortlist of three horses worthy of decent each-way bets: THE ROMFORD PELE, BUYWISE and DOUBLE ROSS.
Now to see if our logic holds up.
Good luck, I’m just off to answer a text from a bloke I worked with ten years ago who wants me to tell him the first three home!