Since 1984 fields have been limited to forty runners, and at first glance the challenge facing a punter can seem daunting. Yet with some careful consideration a lot of the runners can be ruled out, and it’s possible to whittle down each year’s National to two/three options to either “Dutch” (backing more than one horse), or to select a solitary charge.
Making the Grand National a profitable winning race is an achievable task!
As a feature race in the bookmakers calendar the layers are always competing to offer competitive odds on the runners, and by viewing the prices on offer by the leading bookmakers listed on Sportsbook Guardian it’s possible to obtain excellent value. In addition the Grand National also sees a lot of sign up bonuses offered via our site.
In short what can appear an inexorable challenge translates into a day of great opportunity! As sports betting sites are offering such generous odds for this gala event the Grand National on a runner by runner basis offers better value than a typical Monday afternoon meeting at Fontwell!
However picking the winner out of a field of 8 at Plumpton is perhaps at first glance an easier task than selecting the horse that will finish first after an arduous four miles, 856 yards!
This is where this helpful guide comes into play. I will look into the various considerations necessary to pick the winner of the Grand National.
In 1999 Philip Smith took over as handicapper of the Grand National, and in the recent years most Nationals have seen all horses racing in the handicap proper, so a repeat of BobbyJo winning from out of the handicap is unlikely to be repeated.
The top weight is now 11st 12lb and from which it is very difficult to win when carrying that burden. This difficult feat was last managed by Red Rum.
However as the National’s handicap shape changes it is possible for horses near the top to be given serious consideration. When looking at a handicap of any nature I think the rule of thumb is to judge each horse on its individual merits.
In the National it is nice to have a horse with improving form on your side. In recent years the winning horse has typically come from those rated from the mid 130’s to the mid-high 140’s.
I like my Grand National bet to have shown good form in similar races, i.e. large field distance handicap chases, obvious choices being the Hennessy (3m2 ½ furlongs, Newbury), Racing Post Chase (3m, Kempton, see Rough Quest), “Whitbread” (post ’01 Bet365 Gold Cup, 3m5f, Sandown) or of course recognised National Trials.
In particular to win the National a horse must have shown the ability to deal with the hustle, bustle and associated traffic problems that are part and parcel with a large field of runners.
I won’t back any horse that hasn’t raced in the run up to Aintree, indeed racing historians have to look back to Drogheda in 1898 to find a winner that didn’t race in the same year as the National.
I automatically put a line through horses without same year form, or even worse seasonal debutants. Mely Moss came close to disproving this theory in 2000 when going down to Papillon, but that’s an anomaly.
A Trainer who plots a well-planned Grand National campaign should run his horse less than seven weeks before the National, and not in the three weeks prior to the race. History has shown that horses need a prep race, but the reason to avoid betting on runners who race less than three weeks before is that typically they aren’t being targeted specifically at the National.
I am never put off runners who are given a pre National race over hurdles, as many Trainers choose this option as a way of improving fitness whilst shielding their charge’s chasing handicap rating!
When looking at seasonal form, it’s important to spot the trail of a Grand National Campaign, as a well planed out season is much like a betting coup, it takes a lot of thought! A National champion will be trained to reach key fitness in spring, and typically should have around four or five races throughout the season to reach peak fitness at the time of it’s ultimate target.
Cynics are also no-doubt aware that the National is a handicap, and as such early spectacular victories are to the ultimate detriment of the connections, as the handicapper will punish wins with a heavy weight in the race. I discount any horse that has won several chases through the season, due to both being not targeted at Aintree, and also typically well in the handicappers grasp. So accordingly look for a steady National training campaign with horses being brought on throughout the year with the ultimate goal being to scoop the honours at Aintree.
Previous National form is not essential, and in recent years Papillon (2000), Bindaree (2003), Monty’s Pass (2003) and Numbersixvalverde (2006) all won in their respective debuts in the race. No Novice Chasers have won since Mr What in 1958, but with entries restricted to seven year olds and above there typically aren’t a multitude of novices entered. Those that do take part are not worth backing in such a hard and challenging race.
The bookmakers special offers are flying for Aintree’s Grand National, and their betting promotion machine is already well oiled each Spring, from all the Cheltenham Festival free bet offers and sign up bonuses. Cheltenham and the Grand National are the two biggest events in the jumps racing calendar (closely followed by King George). Horses tend to be aimed at either the National or Cheltenham.
Middle distance and hurdle horses can frequently win races at both festivals, such as Istabraq taking both the Champion Hurdle and Aintree Hurdle. But long distance chasers who exert themselves fully and win at Cheltenham are often too tired to take the win in the National also.
Some exceptions exist, the amazing Golden Miller won both the Gold Cup and National in the same year. Yet it’s worth ruling out any Cheltenham Winner from your betting considerations as the form for Cheltenham Festival winners is unspectacular.
I don’t pay a great deal of attention to this stat, but only thirteen mares have won the National, and the last time a mare won was Nickel Coin in 1951. However it’s only fair to point out that mares are outnumbered 50-1 by geldings, so it is not worth looking too deep into this when considering a wager. I would say it’s better to look at individual horses on their merits concerning the other factors outlined – be an equal opportunities punter!
Having a good jockey on your side is helpful, but putting a jockey with the combined skills of Lester Piggott, Tony McCoy and Tom Oliver on a plodder in the National won’t result in a winner. Obviously eagle eyed racing fans will note that Lester never rode in the National (jumps career restricted to twenty odd hurdle wins from sixty attempts) but his Grandfather Ernie won the race twice, and his Father Keith also had a crack at it, going close in 1928.
I don’t ignore the pilot aboard the animal, but at the same time the jockey is not a major consideration for me. It’s no coincidence that betting shop mugs and once a blue moon house wives are the ones who in racing tend to blindly back Dettori on the flat, or McCoy over jumps (regardless of price, value and other important considerations). Good luck to such punters, but it’s very rare that people whose sole betting decision is based on a jockey name will finish the year’s betting having won.
In particular in the National it’s pertinent to point out that great champions like Peter Scudamore and John Francome did not win the National. Indeed several victories have gone to riders who aren’t regular challengers to the National Hunt Trainers Championship.
In short the jockey is one of the last things that I look at, and if the rider is one who I do not rate I will either consider passing on having a bet, or reducing the stake. A positive about the National, and indeed all other major races is that invariably all the horses are trying, and runners are unlikely to be given a soft ride to get “well handicapped”.
Of course having an assured and confident jockey is very important, and if a favoured jockey is on board then it can mean that on occasion a more confident betting stake can be put down. In short the jockey comes into the equation when I am betting in the National, but more in terms of staking scale than anything else.
It’s logical to think that to win a Grand National over a trip of four and a half miles, then bags of stamina are required. However people looking for betting pointers haven’t always necessarily shared this belief. Some bettors think that class horses that have raced frequently over less than three miles can take a National.
Credence was given to punters who favoured shorter distance runners when in 1970 Gay Trip took the race by 20 lengths. Gay Trip’s trainer Fred Rimell believed that a classy two and a half miler was well suited to the National, and in 1971 Spotify reinforced this theory. Crisp in 1973 finished a valiant second to Red Rum after having raced in that year’s Champion Chase.
However despite the evidence above, any horse worth a bet in modern Nationals should have solid form at 3m plus. In the 90’s all the winners had performed well at over 3m’s, and in recent history the only fancied two and a half miler – Blowing Wind – didn’t stay the trip. Red Marauder is the only runner not having out and out staying form to win the National in recent times and his race was a quagmire with Foinavon type chaos. When picking the National winner, I always require form over distance.
Pedigree and Breeding
Unlike for unexposed sorts on the flat, National horses always have reams of racecourse form in the public domain. Obviously it’s worth looking for signs of stamina if a horse has shown the majority of form over less than three miles. It should be pointed out that when I bet in the National I don’t bet horses that haven’t shown encouraging performances over 3 miles, so pedigree is not a major consideration for me. In terms of breeding, it’s widely held that French Bred horses are typically smaller and bred to jump smaller obstacles than any of the big fences on the National course. In addition French bred horses don’t always seem to train on as eight or nine year olds. Discount any horse that is French bred.
Form on the ground is essential, and is worth cross-referencing. In modern Nationals there is always watering if the ground is firm, so typically going either varies from good-soft to heavy.
At present the race is eligible only for horses who are seven and above, though in the races history many six year olds had previously won, notably The Colonel (won 1869 and 1870), and in the century before last even five year olds such as Regal and Austerlitz have won! However enough of the Grand National history, focusing on finding the National winner we should note that no seven year old has won since 1959, and I tend to rule this age group out.
Also when selecting a bet for the National I put a line through any horse in its teens, we have to look back to Sergeant Murphy in 1923 to find the last such winner. When looking at the age of a Grand National Winner I try to pick a horse between eight and twelve, with a stronger preference to horses aged either 9 or 10. As of 2011 the last seven winners came from this age group, and 17 of the last 20 National winners were aged 9 or 10.
It’s ironic that my first National win as a legal eighteen year old punter was on Earth Summit who wore blinkers when he took ‘98’s National. However now in this race I don’t back any horse with blinkers, cheek pieces or visors. Horses are typically given such implements to cure temperament issues, often to shield them from getting preoccupied with other runners.
Such horses are sometimes keener to run in the pack, and ultimately reluctant to show the champion’s qualities required to win a National. Also having vision impaired is a negative in such a supreme test of jumping ability, during which all the senses need to be alert. There are exceptions to the rule, like Earth Summit, and also Comply or Die, but I look for a runner that isn’t wearing blinkers and such like for my Grand National bet.
As already mentioned there is great value on offer in the Grand National, both on the special sign up bonuses that Sportsbook Guardian has to offer on the day, and from the competitive betting odds that sportsbook’s are giving. Typically per-runner bookmakers over-round percentages are very low in the National. On average the UK betting market sees an official SP over-round of 1.5% per runner, but this is lower for Aintree’s big one.
However even within this generous betting environment further value can be obtained by looking to rule out under-priced runners. Successful professional gamblers typically tend to create a price tissue, essentially this is a list of what they consider the prices should be. When looking to have a bet, try to think what price your runner should be, if you consider it 8/1 and it’s on offer at 10/1 then bet it! Likewise even if you fancy a horse for the National, but you consider its true price to be 14/1, and it goes off at 7/1 then in the long run you are better off not backing it.
It’s galling if the passed horse wins, but finding value is crucial for profitable horse racing betting. Part of the reason horse racing betting is so fascinating is that any system employed to point to likely winners must also be judged on whether it’s a value bet. Often a case of between the Devil and the deep blue sea, but such is the eternal challenge of picking bets for the Grand National!
This whole guide is a good system for picking the winner of the National, but one of the important pointers is what sort of bet to actually utilise in order to get the best return for your gamble. In a race with 30 challenging obstacles, loose horses and collisions a certain degree of good fortune is required, as such I don’t believe in “each-way locks” in this race. Instead of backing the two bets of an each-way wager (win and place), I prefer to back two horses. Backing two runners at 18/1 and 22/1 will give a Dutched price of 10/1, in the long run I prefer to have two horses in with a chance of winning.
The dynamics of each-way betting mathematics means that it’s not a great each-way race, this is because of large field and wide open betting. Typically bookmakers benefit from each way wagers in the National, in a way that they don’t for a nine-runner race which has an odds on favourite and a second favourite that can be backed at 4/1 e/w. The preceding example is of what’s referred to by bookmakers as “each way stealing”! So, don’t back each way in the National, it’s not great betting value, and it’s better to have two win bets on different horses.
So in conclusion the best way of finishing profitably in the Grand National:
- Select a special sign up offer from Sportsbook Guardian!
- Take advantage of the generous prices bookmakers are offering on this gala day.
- Look for a runner aged ideally 9 or 10, certainly not younger than 8, or older than 12.
- In the Grand National bet horses that have shown good chase form over a trip of 3m+.
- Pick a horse that previously raced no more than seven weeks, and no less than three weeks before the National, winners usually fit this profile.
- Previous National form is not essential, and should not be obsessed about, search for relevant similar form.
- Look for a horse that hasn’t been penalised by the handicapper, but is still showing improving form. Focus on horse between mid 130’s and mid-high 140’s.
- Don’t back horses in blinkers or other headgear.
- Ideally a good training schedule should see the horse peak in spring, look for 4-6 races in the season. More than two chase wins will probably see the horse too high up in the handicap.
- Don’t be put off by a horse’s final prep race being over hurdles.
- Never back horses that haven’t raced the same year, or even worse seasonal debutants.
- Pass over horses that won a distance chase at that season’s Cheltenham Festival.
- Adjust staking on the basis of confidence in jockey, though don’t have a bet simply because a particular jock is in the saddle.
- When picking a bet for Grand National also confine selections to runners that have raced well in big fields (16+ runners).
- With all the above factored in try to make sure your horse represents value based upon your interpretation of the prices (or tissue if you did one)!
- Don’t be afraid to “Dutch” (back 2/3 runners) in the race. This tends to offer better betting returns than each-way betting.
- Make sure you get a good sign up bonus from Sportsbook Guardian before having a punt, and lastly don’t kick any black cats, as you will need all the luck you have in the Worlds biggest Steeplechase!
What is a bookmaker’s betting tissue?
Before the onset of betting exchanges and the early price bookmakers “tissues” were provided to on-course bookmakers by a form expert. These tissues were paid for by bookmakers, and formed the basis of the betting market prices for each days running.
Initially racetrack bookmakers would open up with prices to a slightly larger percentage on “first-show”, and then dependent upon bets showing solidity of prices would gradually offer more generous odds nearer to the off. The lower early prices offered bookmakers a degree of protection should the tissue have contained a rick (odds deemed wrong by shrewd members of the betting public).
Today the betting exchanges form the market and tissues are less valid, in addition leading bookies such as Bet365 and Sportingbet offer early prices (to generous percentages) for all the major races throughout the day. A good discipline is to do your own tissue so that you have a sound idea of value.