Picking the winner at the Grand National is, for most, something of a lottery. Our pundits and tipsters can offer as many picks as they like, but the beauty of the Grand National is it’s the great leveller. Someone with no knowledge of horse racing betting can pick a winner out of the hat, while seasoned experts might not even get a place.
Of course, we love to pour over the stats when placing a Grand National bet, trying to find value in the odds, and hidden secrets in the form that might point to way to victory.
One of the most common bet options for Grand National punters is to look at the age of the horses, and make a decision based on their experience. This can be slightly complicated by when a horse graduates to fence jumping, because some of the best stayers actually start out very young.
In our latest Paddy Power guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the ages of the winning horses at the Grand National. And you never know, it might help you make a more reasoned bet for the big race this April!
What age has the most Grand National wins?
The Grand National has been running since 1839, so it’s fair to say there are a lot of historic stats to pour over if you need something to back up your bet decisions. For many horse racing punters the core factors when making a Grand National bet are: name of horse, silks colours, odds and age.
Age is an important factor when assessing a horse’s chances of victory. After all, young horses may be too inexperienced to handle the rigours of Aintree’s 30 fences. Old horses may not have the legs to stay the course.
Generally speaking, backing eight- or nine-year-olds to win the Grand National has been the smartest wager down the years. Here’s how the ages stack up:
- 5 – Five winners, last winner Lutteur III in 1909
- 6 – 16 winners, last winner Ally Sloper in 1915
- 7 – 25 winners, last winner Noble Yeats in 2022
- 8 – 25 winners, last winner Minella Times in 2021
- 9 – 47 winners, last winner Tiger Roll in 2019
- 10 – 23 winners, last winner Ballabriggs in 2011
- 11 – 20 winners, last winner Pineau De Re in 2014
- 12 – 10 winners, last winner Amberleigh House in 2004
- 13 – 2 winners. last winner Sergeant Murphy in 1923
- 15 – 1 winner, last winner Peter Simple in 1853
*stats only include official Grand Nationals run at Aintree Racecourse.
As you can see, nine-year-olds dominate the field here. There are almost double the amount of nine-year-old Grand National winners as any other age. The last nine-year-old to claim victory at Aintree was Tiger Roll in 2019 – a triumph that solidified the horse’s legendary status.
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Grand National winners in the last 10 years
While nine-year-olds have dominated the Grand National over the course of the last two centuries, it’s a different story when you look at the most recent runs of this iconic race. Over the past decade it’s eight-year-old horses that have recorded the most wins (4), including Tiger Roll, who came back a year after his victory in 2018 to successfully defend his crown. In fact, only five nine-year-olds have won the Grand National since Papillon in 2000.
- 2013 – Auroras Encoure | 11 years old
- 2014 – Pineau De Re | 11 years old
- 2015 – Many Clouds | 8 years old
- 2016 – Rule The World | 9 years old
- 2017 – One For Arthur | 8 years old
- 2018 – Tiger Roll | 8 years old
- 2019 – Tiger Roll | 9 years old
- 2020 – N/A
- 2021 – Minella Times | 8 years old
- 2022 – Noble Yeats | 7 years old
This indicates that the quality of horses at the National is getting better across the younger age ranges. And that probably has a lot to do with how owners and trainers plan out the careers of their best thoroughbreds.
You can usually spot a stayer by the time they’re three years old, and horses that thrive in the National Hunt season – and at Cheltenham – are likely to be steered towards the big hurdles and fences races in the British and Irish spring each year.
A horse that impresses over Hurdles will, after a couple of years, begin to be trained over fences. Eventually they’ll have the engine and experience to vault fences at speed, block out crowd noise, and maintain a steady pace. At this point they’ll be assessed to see if they could, possibly, enter in to the Grand National and other long steeplechases.
Noble Yeats had this career trajectory and it worked a treat. He was trained specifically for National Hunt conditions and began running bumpers as a four-year-old. After a few flat races, he moved up to hurdles and won at Navan, and then Galway.
How owners sensed a stayer in him, and Noble Yeats swiftly began running in steeplechases. His record in Ireland wasn’t great and it didn’t get much better in England in the early months of 2022, but that didn’t stop Robert Waley-Cohen buying the horse ahead of the National.
Noble Yeats began the National in April 2022 as a 50/1 outsider and still a novice runner. But he stayed the course and fended off far more experienced horses to claim victory at Aintree.
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