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What makes a Grand National Winner?

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If you want to find out what makes a Grand National winner nowadays, just look at recent history and the sort of runner that usually tends not to come out on top.


What makes a Grand National Winner?


Won over at least 3 miles

Now that the Grand National fences are less testing, stamina plays a bigger part in the race given that fields can go much faster. Previous success over 3 miles or more is an indication that a horse might get the trip and all-but-one of the last ten winners of the Grand National have at least one win at this distance on their CV. Those without this in the 2021 race include Musical Slave, Hold The Note, Balko Des Flos, The Long Mile, Class Conti, Farclas, Discorama and Minella Times.


Aged between 8 and 11

This race isn’t suited to older horses and similarly it doesn’t appear to suit raw youths. Of the last ten winners of the Grand National, ten have been aged between 8 and 11. This would count against the seven-year-olds in the 2021 renewal such as Secret Reprieve, Farclas and The Long Mile, plus veteran runners Vieux Lion Rouge, Blaklion, Takingrisks and Definitely Red. No horse in these categories has won since Amberleigh House romped home to victory in 2004.


One top-three finish or more in last three outings

It’s fair to say that an out-of-form runner won’t win the most famous and demanding steeplechase in the world and any serious contender should have hinted that they are in decent shape ahead of the big race. All-but-one of the last ten winners of the Grand National had enjoyed a top-three finish in at least one of their previous three outings. In 2021, this statistic works against Milan Native, Hogan’s Height, Alpha Des Obeaux, Balko Des Flos, Captain Drake, Valtor, Tout Est Permis, Crievehill, Flying Angel, The Hollow Ginge, Definitly Red, Jett and Plan Of Attack.


Won more than two times since the start of the season

Any runner that enjoys a hectic and successful campaign ahead of the Grand National raises a few doubts as to whether they have peaked too soon. Alternatively there is a danger that they have shown their hand far too early and as a result been given a higher weight by the handicapper. Of the last ten winners of the steeplechase, just one had scored twice or more the same season and this works against Storyteller in the 2021 renewal.


Between three and six outings since start of August

Every athlete needs practice prior to a big tournament and the same applies to racehorses. Nevertheless the danger is always that they are spent when it comes to the big event. All-but-two of the last ten Grand National winners had made between three and six outings during the eight months before the Aintree meeting.

This statistics suggests that the likes of Discorama, Bristol De Mai, Kimberlite Candy, Talkischeap, Give Me A Copper, OK Corral, Anibale Fly and Hogan’s Height haven’t been out enough while Tout Est Permis and The Storyteller have been out too much.


Rating of between 148 and 160

Grand National success is unlikely for those carrying a greater weighting and the runners at the opposite end of the handicap also have a low hit rate. Eight of the last ten winners had a BHA rating between 148 and 160, this counting against the likes of The Storyteller, Chris’s Dream and Bristol De Mai at the top and all the horses from Canelo downwards at the bottom end.


Running Grand National for the first time

The once daunting Grand National fences have lost much of their testing characteristics in recent years and as such, previous experience over them is less of an asset nowadays. Of the last ten winners of the race, nine were running it for the first time and given that there was no National in 2020, those trying it for a second time are somewhat thinner on the ground than usual although Magic Of Light, Anibale Fly, Lake View Lad and Vieux Lion Rouge all took part in 2019.


Experience in Chasing

All-but-three of the last ten Grand National winners had appeared in between 10 and 16 chases. Of the more fancied runners in the 2021 race, this counts against Any Second Now, The Storyteller, Magic Of Light and Bristol De Mai which have had too many, while Secret Reprieve and Burrows Saint haven’t had enough.


The Winner is…..

Cloth Cap is the firm favourite to win the 2021 Grand National and he matches each of the trends mentioned above. He has never appeared in the Grand National before and he matches the trends for age, campaign, rate of success, experience and rating.