Wednesday, 7 April 2010

John Smith's Grand National 2010

The Grand National. Four miles and four furlongs of spine tingling, adrenaline pumping joy. The race needs no introduction really, so let’s set about finding the winner.

I don’t have a bad record in the race really, having backed Amberleigh House (right) each way the year it placed and the following year when it won, as well as Comply Or Die two years ago, but I didn’t do so well last year and will be looking to put that right. I’ll adopt my usual strategy of picking a shorter priced fancy, as well as one from the middle of the market and a bigger priced outsider.

Let’s tuck into the trends then. Age to start off with, as no horse aged seven has won it since 1940. There are always some seven year olds in the Grand National and some mugs must chuck money at them. Tricky Trickster (left) is as short as 12/1 (Betfred) and the last time a horse of the same age won, we’d just gone to war. Ridiculous. More senior horses are to be avoided too, as horses twelve or older have won just twelve wins in the race’s history. Eight to eleven is my range.

Plenty of stamina is required to triumph and all winners of the Grand National since 1971 had won over three miles, prior to taking part. This simply cannot be overlooked.

All of the last twelve National winners had at least three career wins in chases before the race, eleven of those having won four or more times. Only one of the last twelve (Bindaree, right) had failed to win a chase with thirteen or more runners; experience in bigger fields is clearly an advantage in a race containing forty runners. On top of that, all of the last twelve Grand National winners competed in ten or more chases prior to the race. I’ll apply all of these statistics to further thin the field, as collectively they should help to pick a horse with the right type of experience required to win the Grand National.

A stat I’ve come to like is recent form. As Will pointed out last year, all twenty of the last twenty winners had come at least third or better in at least one of the three races prior to the Grand National; we’ll overlook the fact that not all third place finishes weigh up the same, but as Will rightly said, it allows you to ditch the nags that (misleadingly) look well handicapped on older pieces of form, but that are actually out of form.

I thought about sidestepping the well-known trend regarding weights for the first time ever, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. If I’m honest, it’s probably because I wanted to include Black Apalachi (best price 14/1, Victor Chandler, William Hill, Coral) as I backed it as my outside bet two years ago and it travelled like a dream last year, stepping over the fences as though they weren’t there. But that would defeat the point of any trends based approach, so I must stick to my guns, no sentiment allowed.

The facts are that in the last half a century or so, only Red Rum (left) has lugged home more than 11st 5lb and in the last quarter of a century (give or take) only one horse has carried home more than 11st, which was Hedgehunter with just 11st 1lb. An obvious cut off point is 11st and I will cross anything greater than that off my list.

All things considered then, I am left with four: Beat The Boys, Arbor Supreme, Chief Dan George and Merigo. The latter pair are highly unlikely to take their chance in the Grand National at this late stage, with Merigo needing sixteen to come out and the former needing seven. I really like Merigo too, I had it down as a potential Scottish National winner on this blog, but they pulled it out due to the ground. I was sure it would have won anyway. Anyway, somewhat frustratingly, this leaves me with just two horses and I like to pick three as mentioned at the start of this post.

As Beat The Boys (right) slots neatly into my “outsider” category (best price 100/1, Victor Chandler, William Hill, Coral) and Arbor Supreme into my “shorter priced” category (best price 16/1, William Hill, Ladbrokes, SportingBet) I had better pick a selection from the middle of the field, despite the lack of trend horses. Chief Dan George would have done the job, but as it looks unlikely to run, I’m going to plump for Comply Or Die.
2008's winner falls down on several trends, but I backed him two years ago when he won the race and when all my nags were out of contention by halfway last year, I find myself rooting for him again. I would love him to go in again this year. At a best price 28/1 (Totesport, William Hill) he looks very easy to back and rest assured, if Timmy Murphy chooses him over The Package, that price will be clipped, if only a small amount.

Beat The Boys would become the first grey to win the race since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and only the third ever, but this is a trend that doesn't bother me, due to the sheer percentage of runners in the Grand National that aren't grey. It's a little bit like the myth regarding French-bred runners that I advised people to take no notice of last year - a moral victory I thought, when Mon Mome went in. Any horse from the Nigel Twiston-Davies (left) yard must be respected, due to his record in the Grand National, coupled with recent big race form.

Arbor Supreme has been targeted at the race (always a positive) and his versatility with regard to the going is a useful tool. Seemingly on an upward curve, he's trained by Willie Mullins and the record of the Irish trainers in the Grand National speaks for itself.

So to recap, my selections for the 2010 John Smith's Grand National (all 0.5 points each way):

Arbor Supreme - 16/1 William Hill, Ladbrokes, SportingBet)
Comply Or Die - 28/1 (Totesport, William Hill)
Beat The Boys - 100/1, Victor Chandler, William Hill, Coral


moDtheGod said...

Should probably point out that any free bets in our "Free Bets & Special Offers" section will be disabled on Grand National day.

Sadly all bookies do it, so if you want to take advantage of them for the Grand National, sign up BEFORE Friday.

Neil said...

Excellent write-up Dom - I think I'll just follow you blindly on your picks :)

Will Walsh said...

Good read. Must admit I am really struggling this year. Is it just me or is the quality a lot poorer this year than in the last 5 or 6?I have no stats to back this up but I see horses high in the weights that are nowhere near top class. Vic Venturi for example has a great profile to win but I cannot have him off his likely second top weight. I keep falling back to Arbot Supreme when I look at the race. Nice weight, progressive form and in my opinion a plus that McCoy doesn't ride (can't have the man over these fences) The other Mullins horse Snowy Morning also looks well in at the weights and has course experience too. They are my two for the shortlist just now. Big Fella Thanks is of course interesting but far too short and may have been flattered last time out in what was not a great race. Will post again nearer the race when my mind is made up!

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