The biggest, most popular and possibly the most controversial race of the year, the Grand National which runs at Aintree (usually) is the one day where many non racing fans come out in their masses to have a punt. Workplaces suddenly have sweepstakes being bandied about, the newspapers suddenly dedicate page after page to racing when normally it’s an afterthought amongst the sports pages and the bookmakers work harder than usual to try and tempt you in to placing your bets with them rather than the competition. It’s a big day for the bookies, so let’s see if there are any tactics you can use to try and spoil that day for them…
Choosing Your Grand National Horse
There are many myths about the Grand National, and it is best to avoid gossip and hearsay and focus on the few facts that can give you any advantage when choosing which horse, or horses, to back.
The first thing to completely get your head around is that there really isn’t such a thing as a favourite for this race. There will be a clutch of horses that have relatively low odds to the rest of the field, and there will be a few jockey or horse names that the media picks up on and promotes through sensational journalism rather than good horse racing sense, but it all adds to the theatre of the occasion. It can be argued that closing your eyes and sticking a pin into the list of entrants is as likely to find you a winner or place than really studying the form. That is not true, but it’s not far off! Here is the list of winners from 2000 to 2015 with their corresponding odds:
2015 Many Clouds – 25/1
2014 Pineau De Re – 25/1
2013 Auroras Encore – 66-1
2012 Neptune Collonges – 33-1
2011 Ballabriggs – 14-1
2010 Dont Push It – 10-1
2009 Mon Mome – 100-1
2008 Comply Or Die – 7-1
2007 Silver Birch – 33-1
2006 Numbersixvalverde – 11-1
2005 Hedgehunter – 7-1
2004 Amberleigh House – 16-1
2003 Monty’s Pass – 16-1
2002 Bindaree – 20-1
2001 Red Marauder – 33-1
2000 Papillon – 10-1
As you can see, there are no low odds winners. The favourite for the 2015 Grand National was Shutthefrontdoor, which had a starting price of 6/1 and was the favourite mainly because it was the horse that Tony McCoy chose to ride in his last ever Grand National, and a fairy tale ending to his career was hoped for by many people that day. It came fifth, and the four horses that finished before it all had odds of between 20/1 and 40/1. So, don’t blindly put your money on the favourite – do some research first.
The age of the horse is important. Since 1994, only two horses below the age of nine years old has won the race – these are Bindaree in 2002 and Many Clouds in 2015, both of which were eight years old. It might be prudent, therefore, to avoid horses under nine years old.
Focus on the horse, not the jockey. Jockeys are important, that goes without saying, but 95% of how well a horse will run is down to the horse itself, not the ‘pilot’. Lots of punters lost their money by following Tony McCoy in the 2015 race! The Grand National is more than four miles long, with 30 massive fences to jump over; you might be better choosing a horse that has a history of running such distances and jumping over fences. For example, the firm favourite in 2013, Seabass, had never won a race longer than two miles and six furlongs before, so there wasn’t much in its form to suggest it was ready to take the world’s toughest race and it only came thirteenth. Finishing the race at all is quite a feat, but no canny punter expected it to do well. Look at how the horses have performed over long jumps’ races. Does the horse have a history of falling or unseating its rider? If so, how likely is it to handle many fences of this size?
There are plenty of websites out there that are dedicated to providing information about previous Grand National winners and trends. One of the more useful and comprehensive guides is available to read here.
Choosing Where To Bet
Another important thing to consider is which bookmaker you choose to place your bet(s) with. Most of them will now offer each way returns to 5th place; some will run a promotion where they will include 6th place too. Because of the longer odds associated with this race it makes sense to choose to make your bets each way. Having an extra place makes this even more attractive; if you have chosen a horse that matches the trends and is likely to have a good chance of finishing the race then you have increased your chances of backing a horse that can grab a place. Only 17 horses actually finished the race in 2013, and less have done so in previous years so if your horse can finish then even if you didn’t get a return on your bet you will have at least come close with 6 places on offer.
The odds can vary between bookmakers also, but they tend to be relatively close to each other the day and morning before the race. Sometimes you may have to consider taking lower odds to get a bet that offers an each way return to 6th place. For example, your horse at a bookmaker that pays 5 places might be 25/1, but only 20/1 where 6 places are offered. Balance the value of the extra place against the dip in odds before you place your bet. Higher odds mean nothing to 5 places if your horse managed to come 6th; better to have 1/5 of 20/1 returned to you than nothing.
To find out more, and I mean loads more, about The Grand National then you now need to head over to the Grand National Guide website where just about everything else you need to know exists.