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The Grand National is often described as being the world’s biggest and most favourite steeplechase. Whilst only a Grade Three, the race is worth over a £1,000,000 with connections hoping that their charges will be able to clear the 30 fences over the 4m, 3f trip to enable them to take home a share!
This handicap is the only race of its kind in the racing calendar that allows the handicapper to form his own judgements on the horses in relation to Aintree and alter their weights from those previously published ratings.
Thanks to a new handicapping system implemented in 2001, those horses at the top of the weights are not as over-burdened as they once were whilst it is no longer common to have horses at the bottom of the weights running from out of the handicap.
Our Grand National trends for 2017 have filtered through all the recent results to try and simplify this muddling contest down and provide you with the winner:
As our Grand National trends show, this is a tricky race, but experience and a low weight to carry appear to be consistent indicators of a horses chances of winning the race. Given the nature of the race, it is however rare to see a horse with only a handful of chase starts even line up. More interestingly, there is the possibility our Grand National trends will evolve over time to include more horses carrying higher weights – as Many Clouds showed, if classier horses are given their chances in this increasingly valuable contest, they can win.
Trevor Hemmings targets the Grand National; his colours have been worn to victory 3 times by Hedgehunter in 2005, BallaBriggs in 2011 and again with Many Clouds in 2015.
The legendary Ginger McCain is one of the Grand National’s three current leading trainers. The man behind Red Rum and Amberleigh House is tied on four wins with George Dockeray and Fred Rimmell.
Jonjo O’Neill has had 8 of his last 29 runners in the race make the first 5 home, including 6 in the first 3. He is the trainer with the best recent record in the contest but both of his runners performed poorly last year, with 11/1 chance Holywell falling after just two fences and 12/1 Shutthefrontdoor failing to see out the marathon trip.
George Stephens is the Grand National’s leading jockey with five wins, Leighton Aspell rode both Pineau De Re and Many Clouds to victory the past two years while Ruby Walsh also has multiple wins in Papillon (2000) and Hedgehunter (2005).
Richard Johnson has failed to triumph in the Grand National despite 20 attempts. His second place on Balthazar King in 2014 equalled his best ever finish (he was also second on What’s Up Boys back in 2002). The 38-year-old has only ever completed six times.
Paul Moloney is yet to win the big race but guided his mount round into the first 4 in an incredible seven consecutive years! That run unfortunately came to an end last year when he finished 12th on Buywise. On the flip side, Aidan Coleman failed to complete in 7 consecutive races with 4 falls, 2 unseats and a pulled up, before finally completing the course in 2016. However, he was just 13th on Pendra, beaten well over 100 lengths.
Favourite Vieux Lion Rouge fits the majority of the major trends; eight years old, he is due to carry 10 stone 11 pounds and was the winner of the 22 runner Becher Handicap Chase in December over three miles, two furlongs. He has only had 9 starts over chases which goes slightly against the Grand National trends with all the 10 previous winners having at least ten starts, but he has a total of 21 career starts so shouldn’t be lacking experience. While the record of favourites counts against him – our trends say just two of the last ten favourites were successful – favourites are often 8/1 or even 10/1 and so the fact he is likely to be sent off favourite shouldn’t be offputting
Following his impressive Cheltenham Festival success over 3 miles, 6 furlongs, it’s no surprise that Cause of Causes has been well supported in the market. He is another who fits most of the important Grand National trends, having had 22 starts over fences and being allotted a weight of 10 stone, 12 pounds to carry. Trainer Gordon Elliott is in fine form and has won this race before with Silver Birch, back in 2007.
One which possibly doesn’t fit our Grand National trends is Ucello Conti. An ex-French chaser, he has plenty of chase form (22 runs in total for 3 wins and 8 places), but he has failed to win over further than two and a half miles over either hurdles or fences. He has previously finished sixth in the Grand National – beaten 37 lengths last year by Rule The World – but jumped poorly late in the race and has to prove his stamina.