The Grand National is the most prestigious event in the world for jumps racing. It’s the race that every jockey, trainer and owner want to win to etch their place in the history of the sport.
It takes a special horse to accomplish the feat. Many competitors have been felled by the rigours of the course at Aintree, featuring the daunting fences of Becher’s Brook, The Chair and Foinavon.
Picking a winner for the National is not an easy task. The question all fans of the sport are asking is this, who will win the National?
Favourites have won the race, but 100/1 outsiders have also triumphed on the track. There doesn’t appear to be a secret formula for success, apart from the legendary Red Rum and his historic three victories at Aintree.
We’ll now break down some of the characteristics of famous winners at the event to decipher whether there is a trend in their success.
Red Rum 1973, ’74 & ’77
The legendary horse won the first of his Nationals in 1973, where he was considered the favourite alongside Crisp. He weighed in at 10st 5lb on the handicap and was the youngster of the field at the age of eight. However, his lack of experience did not matter as Brian Fletcher in the saddle guided his charge to a victory by three-quarters of a length ahead of Crisp, breaking the race record for the quickest time.
Red Rum returned the following season at a Grand National weight of 12st, making the transition from being one of the lightest horses in the field to the heaviest in 1974. It did not matter as Ginger McCain’s charge claimed the crown once again, finishing ahead of L’Escargot as Fletcher at the reins anchored another fine performance from the bay gelding. His triumph was the first time a horse had defended the title since Reynoldstown in 1936.
He could not make it three on the bounce as he finished second behind L’Escargot in 1975 and again in 1976 behind Rag Trade. At the age of 12, Red Rum returned for a final crack at the National at 11st 8lbs and a slight outsider at 9/1 behind the favourite Andy Pandy. Jockey Tommy Stack got a fine performance out of the veteran horse to clinch a record third crown.
Tiger Roll 2018
Gordon Elliott’s charge was the last winner of the Grand National, producing a great effort at his first appearance in the event. His stamina was pushed down the stretch by the presence of Pleasant Company, but he had just enough to close out the victory by a head on the line.
Tiger Roll was the latest in a Grand National trend of younger horses to triumph at Aintree.
For five years between 2010 and 2014, competitors 10 or over had won the race, but over the last four years, youth has been a key factor as Tiger Roll along with Many Clouds and One For Arthur triumphed as eight-year-olds. Rule The World was the one exception at the age of nine when he won the title in 2016.
At the age of nine, Tiger Roll will attempt to become the first horse since Red Rum to achieve back-to-back wins in the National. He has form on his side following his win at Cheltenham Festival in the Cross Country Chase, although the odds will be stacked against him given the lack of favourites that have succeeded at the event.
Don’t Push It 2010
The last horse to win as the Grand National favourite was Don’t Push It in 2010. He did not have a great run of form over the course of the 2009/10 season. However, Jonjo O’Neill’s charge had secured a victory at Aintree in the previous term in the John Smith’s Handicap Chase, winning by a comfortable margin ahead of a talented field. In the race before the National at Cheltenham Festival, he was put forward for the Pertemps Final, only to pull up in the event.
It was a surprise to see him installed as the leading contender for the crown, with a starting price at 10/1 to win the National. AP McCoy took the reins in search of his first victory in the prestigious race at the 15th attempt. At last, he was able to get over the line, delivering the win by five lengths ahead of Black Apalachi to take his place in the most famous of winners’ enclosures.
Only nine favourites have won the National since the Second World War, highlighting the difficulties in predicting a victory at Aintree in the event. There has been a trend of outsiders claiming the crown that could be the case once again, and value is best found looking deeper down the odds in the Grand National picks. Sometimes even the horses that have been installed as favourites are not justified in their standing, as many owners and trainers have discovered over the years.