It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes the reveal of the Grand National weights gets me more excited than TGL in suspenders and boy is that exciting! So with my mouth salivating at the prospect of trawling through the weights for an hour or two I’ll try to pass on the words of wisdom that generates my selections. In the past 7 years, we have managed to find Silver Birch at 100/1, Comply Or Die at 100/1 and Auroras Encore at 200/1 at this stage, so I aim to provide Generalites with another pearl.
Age – some people think that age is unimportant and they can think that. In my opinion the majority of recent winners are aged 9,10 or 11, so I’m sticking with that and suggest you throw out any horse that sits outside of this age bracket. They do normally account for 70% of the field, but it is a starting point and they represent 90% of the winners.
Weight and ratings – again this is a subjective issue, with the weights being carried to victory being of a much broader range in recent times. From Neptune Collognes 11-7 to Auroas Encores 10 -3, clearly there is not much to help us. But ratings wise, i.e the official handicap mark given to each horse, we can glean some information and help. Neptune was running off a mark of 157 which is the highest winning mark in the past 20 years, so I would put that as the ceiling for this year. Auroras won off 137, which is the lowest in 10 years, so that can act as the basement rating, giving us a 20lbs bracket in which to work – 137 to 157.
Handicap rise – now in the past 10 years, no horse has won the race from a handicap rating that was more than 10lbs above its highest previous winning rating. Let me explain that further. Every horse has a rating before each race it runs in. Depending on how it performs, the rating will decrease, stay the same or increase. So if a horse runs and wins a race off a rating off 137, it will go up before it’s next race. If it wins easily, then the rating will be much higher than if it only wins by a short head. So the horse could up to a rating of 150. This would be an increase of 13lbs. So, as I previously stated, in the past 10 years, no horse has won if that instance has occurred.
Form this season – by now, each of the last 10 winners had seen the racecourse at least twice and no more than 5 times between September and the weights reveal. I suggest we ignore any horse that doesn’t fit into this criteria. What the horse has achieved this season is mainly irrelevant. Please also note the last 10 winners all had at least 1 more run before the big day and that each of the last 10 winners ran in February or March and no longer than 56 days before the race, which in this case would be the 8th of February.
Previous form – this is the KEY criterion. Every one of the last 10 winners had previously won a race over 3 miles plus, won a race with at least 11 runners in it, won a race worth at least 30 thousand pounds and won a handicap. Not one horse that hasn’t achieved these has won the Grand National in the last 10 years. It is also worth bearing in mind that only 1 horse in the last 10 was a second season chaser with 8 out of the last 10 having been in at least their fourth season over fences, having ran in at least 10 chases, again highlighting how important experience is for this race.
There are 115 horses to trawl through but by using the criteria I’m hoping to whittle it down to a short list. I’m not afraid to back 4 or 5 runners at this stage, as the prices are higher than they will be on the day. I shall return tomorrow with the short list and recommended prices.