Ask any horse racing fan about the biggest events on the calendar and the Grand National will almost certainly come up in conversation. The Aintree showpiece, held annually in April, is one of the oldest races around and it is the event that every jockey, trainer and owner wants to win.
In 2018, 40 runners and riders will line up to take on the 30 Aintree fences. In recent years, the going has been pretty good with decent spring ground and everybody will be hoping for similar weather in the build-up to April’s big race. We’ve had a look at a few of the trends to keep an eye on, as well as the leading contenders in the early ante-post betting markets.
Age Does Matter
Forgot seven-year-olds completely. You have to go all the way back to 1940 for Bogskar to find the last seven-year-old to win the Grand National and that particular trend looks set to continue. In all fairness, most trainers have been reluctant to enter younger horses in recent years – this is a race for experienced thoroughbreds.
Eight-year-olds should not be ignored completely but they do tend to struggle in the Aintree showpiece. Only two have won since 1990 and that statistic does not bode well for younger runners ahead of the 2018 renewal. There have been a few eight-year-olds go close in years gone by but it is hard to place too much faith in younger horses.
Rating Does Matter
Again, it may prove prudent to check the official ratings for your selected runner. 26 of the last 27 National winners have been rated at 137 or higher – an impressive statistic. Looking at the figures even closer, the previous 12 winners of this race have been rated above 137 but below 160 and that is also something to consider.
Vicente, widely tipped for success in 2017, falls into this category and we could see the Paul Nicholls-trained star head to Aintree for a shot at the Becher Chase. According to this Grand National fans tips page, Vicente is a general 33/1 chance to win April’s big race and it would take a brave man to back against this well-fancied horse.
Looking away from Vicente, Blaklion – fourth in the 2017 edition – could be worth a second look in the betting markets. Likely to be treated harshly for that effort by the handicapper, it is yet to be seen as to whether Nigel Twiston-Davies will aim him for another Grand National appearance or if he will head to one of the big Cheltenham Festival races.
Meanwhile, Native River is another with a reasonable chance if aimed at Aintree. Winner of the Welsh Grand National less than two years ago, Colin Tizzard’s charge was beaten in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup and may see stablemate Thistlecrack take his spot in that race this time around. Stamina is no issue for Native River but weight could be; he would almost certainly be one of the heaviest horses in the race.