Aintree Grand National 2012 Preview Tips

Grand National 2012 Preview Tips

Grand National 2012 Preview Tips

It's just hours until the 2012 Grand National and so it's high time we took a look at the field and tried to sift the wheat from the chaff.

[If you're in a rush, just head straight to the end of the post for my Grand National tips! 🙂  ]

As ever, I'll use a combination of trends, stats and form to do this, and I'll do my best to incorporate some emerging trends as well as more established profile pointers.

OK, with that in mind, let's take a look at the 2012 Grand National field. There are 59 horses still declared, which means there's a real possibility of a number less than forty contesting this year's National for the time since 1999 (excluding the non-runner in 2004). In theory, this will make finding the Grand National winner easier. If only theories were always correct...

First up, let's look at the key Aintree Grand National Trends.

Aintree Grand National 2012 Trends

Starting with the obvious, all of the last fifteen winners had won over at least three miles. This is four and a half miles, so non-stayers have nowhere to hide.

Further, seven of the last eight winners had already won over 3m2f or more.

Given that we'll need a horse to jump thirty fences to win, it's no surprise that those horses who fell, unseated or were brought down twice or less have had a monopoly on the race for the same fifteen year period.

Moreover, those with more than four non-completions of any description in chases (such as pulled up, etc) have also failed to register a win.

All of the last fifteen winners had fallen, unseated or been brought down twice or less.

French bred's have an awful win record in the race, mainly because they are bred for shorter distances. Mon Mome was the first Gallic galloper to grab a Grand National for exactly one hundred years back in 2009. And he had won a Class 1 event over 3m2f.

Ignore French-bred's unless they've won a Class 1 event at 3m2f+.

The last twelve winners had at least ten chase starts under their belts. Eight of those twelve had between ten and fourteen chase starts to their name.

Exclude horses with less than ten career chase starts.

Even if we do end up with a less than full Grand National field this year, proven ability to win in a big field is a must. All of the last nine winners had won in a field of at least 14 runners.

Those are the core Grand National trends, but there are some very interesting secondary trends as well.

Twelve of the last fifteen winners were aged nine or ten. All were aged eight to twelve.

Favour nine and ten year olds.

The last two winners had failed to win in Graded company (2010 winner Don't Push It was second in a Cheltenham Grade 3 event, and 2011 winner Ballabriggs won the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival).

I'm still primarily interested in a win in Graded company, but I'll also look favourably on strong Cheltenham form, either in Graded and/or Festival company.

Fourteen of the last fifteen winners were rated 138 or higher. However, since the introduction of discretionary handicapping (where the BHA handicapper can allot more or less weight based on various factors), the last three winners were all rated at least 148.

I believe this is an important emerging trend, and that those at the foot of the weights are now unlikely to be good enough to beat their classier - and higher rated - rivals.

Look to horses rated 145 or higher.

Nine of the last twelve, and eight of the last nine Grand National winners had had at least one hurdles run that season. This is a pronounced handicap-protecting 'trick' and has become a stalwart of the National-seeking trainer.

Ballabriggs was the latest to employ this tactic, running - and winning - twice in novice hurdle company before the weights were announced. Sneaky!

Look for horses who have raced over hurdles this season.

And finally, ten of the last twelve - though not the last two - Grand National winners had already savoured a podium finish in one of the English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh or Kerry Nationals.

Mark up National-winning form from one of the major variants.

That's a lot of trends, and dealing with the 'Bankers' of distance, class, jumping and experience whittles things down nicely.

In fact, 28 horses fail one of these 'must have' tests, which leaves us with a fairly manageable 31 still in. If you think that's too casual a cut, check the stats above again, and you'll probably agree with me thereafter.

Of the more notable knock outs, I've excluded Junior, Synchronised and Burton Port, all of whom are favourite or joint favourite on at least one bookie list! Each fails on the experience count and, whilst it's close to the wire inasmuch as both BP and Synch have nine chase outings to their names, the combination of weight and a hard race in the Gold Cup for each leads me to exclude them.

Junior has only run over fences eight times, and - whilst he could win, of course - I'm prepared to side against him in favour of more experience.

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So let's look to the 31 who have made the cut. I've given each a score based on various factors, which I consider important, as follows:

1 pt for each of optimum weight, rating, class, experience, jumping, field size win, and breeding.

1/2 pt for a hurdle run this year; a 1-2-3 in a National; and close to optimum rating and/or weight.

0 pts for sub-optimal weight or rating (most won't get in unless the race is under-subscribed)

-1 pt for the strikes of failing the 'must have' tests.

Horses aged seven or older than twelve score zero.

Grand National 2012 hope, The Midnight Club

Grand National 2012 hope, The Midnight Club

Thus, the maximum score possible is eight, which one horse did score. That horse was actually sent off the 15/2 favourite last year, and finished sixth. He is currently available at odds of 33/1, and his name is... The Midnight Club.

The Midnight Club does seem to need very soft ground to show his best, but 33/1 is probably a sight bigger than he'll be on the day. He was schooled around in the Gold Cup last time out, having previously been campaigned at trips well short of his optimum. As a consequence, he has a plum racing weight of 10-09 and, with a clear round and some juice in the ground, will give us a run.



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Next best on my ratings, on 7.5 points, is Chicago Grey. Another Irish-trained runner, this chap has some very good staying form, including winning the four miler at Cheltenham last season, and finishing second to Rubi Light last time out in a Grade 2 over - naturally - an inadequate trip.

He's a nine year old and could only have improved his rating further if he'd won or placed in a National. He did finish eighth in the Scottish National last term, but that was probably too soon after that hard Cheltenham race.

Sensibly, he swerved Chelters this time (as nine of the last twelve winners did), and heads for Aintree a fresh horse.

He's a best priced 20/1, and that looks fair. I'm on!

Then comes a whole cluster of horses with seven points: nine of them in fact.

They are, in no particular order, Calgary Bay, Apt Approach, Seabass, Sunnyhillboy, Le Beau Bai, Planet of Sound, Western Rocker, Rare Bob, and According To Pete.

That Cheltenham stat is quite an important one, especially if a horse has had a hard race there, and I think it counts against Sunnyhillboy somewhat.

Seabass has stamina to prove, having only been left in because of a win in a point-to-point. He's likely done all his progressing already too, so I'm against him. He may also need it soft.

Planet of Sound has his chance. He's classy and in form, but I wonder about both his stamina and his propensity to make bad blunders in a round, albeit generally whilst still 'finding a leg' on the  landing side.

Rare Bob also has a squeak, but I'd be surprised (and a little disappointed) if there wasn't something better than him somewhere, unless four and a half miles is what he's always been crying out for - which is, of course, possible. Alas, the way he emptied out to finish fifth of only six finishers over three and a quarter miles of the National course in the Becher Chase suggests shorter may be better.

The interesting ones for me are Le Beau Bai and According To Pete. The last named goes on any ground and is in the form of his life at age eleven. He is a pretty sound jumper as well, which gives hope that he'd get round. 40/1 is available in a place on him after two wins and a second place in his last three starts.

Le Beau Bai has been a prolific winner down the years, and has added eight placed efforts to his eleven gold medals, from 36 starts. He probably wants it on the soft side, but his Welsh National win puts him bang there with a chance. Off just 10-03, he could sluice through the mud while the heavyweights get bogged down, should the heavens open. He's also available at 40/1.

On 6.5 points are six horses: Ballabriggs, Smoking Aces, Giles Cross, Treacle, Always Waining and State Of Play.

Always Waining has as much chance of staying the National trip as I do. He's been a brilliant servant and absolutely loves Aintree. But surely he'll run in the shorter race he's won for the last two years, the Topham Chase.

State Of Play is twelve now and, in my opinion, would have won the Grand National last year if the new whip rules were in place. The three in front of him were extremely vigorously ridden, and he stayed on well under a more genteel ride from Paul Moloney. We know he'll go well fresh, and this will likely be his last hoorah, having finished third once and fourth twice in the race in the past.

Ballabriggs won last year off a rating of 150. He's been allocated 160 this time, and a weight nine pounds higher. Clearly, he's been trained specifically for this race. But it's very hard to win multiple Grand Nationals. After the death last September of trainer Donald McCain's dad, Ginger, who of course handled Red Rum so brilliantly, it would be an emotional tsunami if the boy was able to double up.

I expect Ballabriggs to run really well, but I can't see him winning off that mark.

Smoking Aces has only two beneath him in the rankings and is unlikely to get a run, which is a pity as he's not without a chance. He won a nice little handicap chase over the Irish National course and distance in December, and I'd think he'll be heading there again a week before our National for his own. He'll be one I'll be backing off a lovely weight if he does go there.

That leaves Giles Cross and Treacle.

Treacle won the Munster National back in 2009, and hasn't stood a lot of racing since then. This season, however, he's been rejuvenated, winning a little handicap chase before finishing fourth in a veteran's chase at Aintree. Since then, a silver gong at Leopardstown in a big field chase, and then a third place in the Grade 1 Hennessy Gold Cup (probably flattered in a very weak renewal).

I was surprised to note Treacle as short as 16/1 and he wouldn't be for me. Not one bit.

Giles Cross on the other hand is interesting. He looks a bit of a bridle horse, but... he has a high cruising speed, jumps well, likes to race prominently (a distinct advantage in the Grand National), stays very well, and is in great form. The other proviso with him is that he must have it on the soft side, which may or may not happen.

Grand National 2012 Tip, Chicago Grey

Grand National 2012 Tip, Chicago Grey

So there you have it.

Chicago Grey, who is the least ground dependent and has clearly been laid out by his Grand National-winning (Silver Birch in 2007) trainer, ought to go very well. If I had to choose just one horse, it'd be him, due to his turf versatility.

The Midnight Club didn't have a hard race at Cheltenham and looks booked for another clear round at Aintree. 33/1 is a perfectly fair - perhaps even mildly generous - offer from the bookie chappies and I'll have some.

If it's raining a week before the race, then I'll be backing all of Le Beau Bai, Giles Cross and According To Pete... but not until I'm sure there will be the word 'soft' (or heavy) somewhere in the going description.

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What's your idea of the Grand National winner, and why? Leave a comment if you've got a view.

GOOD LUCK!!! Let's hope all horses and riders come home safe and well, and plenty of us back a winner or at least a horse in the first six of the 2012 Grand National, the greatest race of them all!


p.s. if you're interested in how the horses scored on my rating system, here's a link to the spreadsheet online.



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37 replies
  1. huey says:

    I’m sure Tom Seagal put up Treacle when the weights came out, so that explains the price on that one.
    As regards Smoking Aces, Bet365 are 100/1 NRNB, paying 5 places. Can’t see that lasting much longer.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks Huey.

      Re Smoking Aces, I couldn’t find the declarations for the Irish National anywhere, but I suspect he’ll run there.
      Good shout re Treacle and Tom Segal.


  2. ryan says:

    very interesting reading, was already sweet on chicago grey and giles cross and i’ll be backing both but i was also interested in planet of sound and was dissapointed you didn’t go into detail as to why you dismiss his chances even although he made your shortlist, obviously stamina is a concern for him but he has won over 3m1f and brings a bit of quality to the field and some good scalps, not saying he will win but i just have a sneaky for him and was hoping you would put me off, very enjoyable read though


    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Ryan

      Stamina is a question for plenty, and Planet of Sound does have his chance. No knocks on my sheet. I just favoured one or two others… which will probably come back to haunt me!


  3. Gary says:

    Hi Matt, I totally agree with your comment about not getting a maximum field this year. At this stage I am very keen on the chances of Rare Bob, I’ve had a bit on at 50/1 and a good bit on at 40/1 NRNB 1st 5 places with Bet365. Roberto Goldback is my alternative at the moment who is available at 66/1. They are both trained by Dessie Hughes, he has 5 entered but the other 3 are 2 12yo’s and a 13yo.

    Good Luck

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Gary

      I know Rare Bob’s got bits of placed National form, but he does seem to be a bit short of what ought to be required against some of these. It’s easy enough to see him running a nice race, but I find it hard to believe there won’t be something ‘quicker’ (relative, of course!).

      As for Roberto Goldback, dodgy jumper oftentimes, and never won in a field bigger than twelve. That combination too likely to see him fail to complete for my wallet.

      Well done with Cape Tribulation – lovely pick. Wish I’d backed the fecker…


  4. Kieran says:

    Hi Matt

    If there’s anybody out there able to break down a race as clearly and logically as you, I’m yet to find them.

    Great work as ever


    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Very kind of you Kieran!

      Of course, in a 59 runner affair the likelihood of egg on face is strong..! But that’s why we’re backing at 20/1+


  5. mbowen says:

    Good work done here! and lots more things to say but no time to say them, off to work etc (science university the other side of Madrid and it’s snowing today ) thanks and good luck! Martyn

  6. Robert says:

    Morning Matt,

    An excellent dissertation as always.

    I have been a devotee of Nick Mordin’s elimination process for many years and have had several National winners over the years as a result.

    However times move on and your breakdown of this years race is more in keeping with the circumstances that now prevail. Top notch stuff.

    Last year I told anyone that would listen that Killyglen would win! Egg on my face for that one. But, in mitigation, the 2009 winner of the mildmay chase, was in the process of getting involved when falling 4 out.

    Easy to convince oneself that he would have given the principals something to think about. He had never fallen prior to that and I feel he may, just may, atone this year.

    So Killyglen for me………. again! Bon chance one and all.


  7. broggsy says:

    Hi Matt…Ive done Rare Bob and Always Waining to small stakes.Both 40-1 NRNB bet365.Always waining will probably be entered in the Topham as well so will reinvest like I did last year if it runs on the friday.

  8. Graham Williams says:

    Brilliant summary – Chicago Grey looks good to me unless it’s soft.
    As a recent recruit and confined to Oz for the key part of the year (ie UK jumps season), it’s great to find a link back home.
    Just back in the UK (for 4 months) in time for Punchestown next month, so looking for some insights there.
    After that my summer season highlight has to be Cartmel May Bank Holiday – sorry but I am deprived of jumps racing in Oz.
    On a different note, watch out for Black Caviar at Ascot – this Ozzie mare is Exceptional!! – seems to have an extra gear in whatever company.

  9. Keith says:

    Hi Matt…

    great early analysis…do the good folks on here know that BET365 are offering 5 places e/w and “Non Runner No Bet”on their Ante Post market…great deal if you ask me

  10. john doland says:

    first class Matt always a pleasure to read your write ups and I must
    say you make a very good case for Chicago Grey and another plus point
    my better half will be backing the horse if it runs!!Its a grey

  11. Barry says:

    Hi Matt, Great stuff as usual but you seemed to have missed one vital stat!! Last grey to win the national!!!! It just doesn;t happen. Like you I dont fancy any of the top ones in the betting so I’ll be an According to Pete fan. Anyway best of luck.

  12. Frank Connell says:

    Matt a great feature really enjoyed it hope you don’t mind but I have linked the spread sheet on my site and i have put your article on my other blog Really great stuff loads of good sound info, many many thanks

  13. Reece says:

    Hi thanks for such a good read. Really found it
    Interesting and useful. Rare bob is popping up everywhere . Did u use this system last year mate, and of so what horses did u back.

  14. ryan says:

    Hi Matt been over this grand national form/stats for weeks now and i was sweet on chicago grey like yourself, however looking further into it i think there’s a fly in the ointment in the shape of sunnyhillboy, he would meet all your above criteria but for the fact he’s rated 142, however since his cheltenham win he should be rated 152 which would as far as i can see make him fit all of your stats(inface he’s the only horse in the race that fits the last 10 years winners stats/profile)….with 10 pounds in hand!! also he won the kim muir(as did ballabriggs) in a shorter time(1 second)……..are we missing a jonjo/jp plot here?, everyone is going on about synchronised and yes he’s a good horse(i backed him for the gold cup)but with the weight he’s got then he’s not for me for the the national, wouldn’t surprise me if he got pulled at the last minute and AP swithces to sunnyhill, or he runs and gets pulled up, i could be looking too much into it but him having more weight in essance allows sunnyhill to have less unless i’m mistaken?……anyway at 20/1 in a place it seems to me like a no brainer e/w bet……good luck

    • Paul says:

      Yes, I agree with everything you’ve said Ryan. In my opinion he should be in the top three in the betting and softening ground shouldn’t trouble him either!

  15. simon says:

    Time for a lady jockey to win and this could be the year.Nina won the Irish last year and we all know how Irish winners do, forget the form that goes out the window with the National and the rain is coming just in time, Organisedandconfused could be the one but Nina is not the only lady, Katie Walsh is fast getting herself a reputation as an excellent jockey but then what would you expect coming from the Walsh family ? I fancied Sea bass even before I knew who was riding and again the rain is coming.This one has the form behind it and is a sound solid jumper so for me is another one to be on.Finally Shakalakaboomboom can not go unnoticed with Mr Henderson behind this one, his time must be due ?

    So there you go, my fancies and I think a rev forecast and multi tricast to boot.You never know ? I have got to get the tricast one year (law of averages)And this year could be the one,well we can dream.Good luck whatever you pick.

  16. Man says:

    Hi there Matt. Interesting reading. As usual with the National its all about opinions and mine are a bit different to yours. This is who Ive gone for, all EW.

    West End Rocker – backed at 20s and the one I feel strongest about as a winning proposition. Acts on the track, wont mind the recent rain, and 10 12 is the right sort of weight.
    Killyglen – backed at 40s and good to see him return to form in Ireland recently. A player.
    Becauseicouldntsee – backed at 40s before the season started and Im disappointed he wasnt able to win a 3m+ chase this year. However, he ran well last time, has form over 4m, so hoping for a place.
    Sunnyhillboy – backed at 25s after his Kim Muir win. The fences could be a problem but theres no doubt he is well handicapped.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Good luck Man – you’ve a nice portfolio at good prices, so let’s hope you at least get one in the frame. It’s easy to make a case for the first two you mention, and I’ll probably save on those on the day.


  17. Raz says:

    Hi Matt i have read your peice and it seems theres a case for pretty much every horse depending on different circumstances ect … Just to clarify if you had to pick a top 3 which wuld they be? Would Appreciate the tips mate!

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Raz

      It’s (obviously!) very difficult.

      But I’m not going to deviate from my original picks of Chicago Grey and The Midnight Club. I’ve also backed Synchronised at 25/1 and, if he gets into a nice rhythm, he’ll have a chance.

      I’ll mention two others: Killyglen was going well last time and might have a nice time of it again, and Giles Cross might run well for a long time… perhaps even long enough to make the frame.

      Obviously, I’m betting with a bookie paying six places, and I suggest you do too! 😉

      Good luck!

  18. Raz says:

    Cheers mate not really clued up on my horse racing i make alot of money on the football just enjoy a punt on the grand national every year (alot of money to be won if you get it right) 😉 haha appreciate the words of wisdom matey just wondering if theres any other way of following your tips/ advice after the national ???

  19. phill c -devon says:

    well done on todays winners matt -how much would you have won if you had put your selections into forecasts so far during the last two days ??

  20. Mark J says:

    Hi Matt

    I’ve only just discovered your website this week and it’s great. Thanks for your brilliant tipping too. Have you lost faith in According To Pete? I really fancy him and his trainer is 2/2 so far this week. He was very cagey about his chances whilst being interviewed on RacingUK today so I reckon he fancies his chances.

    Keep up the good work and good luck to all your followers tomorrow.

    Best wishes


    PS I fancy Killyglen too…….

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Still like According To Pete, Mark, and, like you say, trainer is in brilliant form. Just not quite sure about the ground for him…


  21. steve says:

    Don’t often post a reply which is probably really rude of me cos once again you’ve done a great job Matt! But seeing as its the National tomorrow just wanted to show some appreciation of the work you put in.

    And onto the more important stuff! Narrowed down my National selections to five and probably won’t risk leaving any of them out now – Killyglen, Chicago Grey, According to Pete, Planet of Sound and Rare Bob.


  22. Mike Brennan says:

    Hi Matt, i’ve taken 55’s to win and 10’s for a place on the Midnight club on Betfair tonight. Hopefully as you’re on a roll, that will pay for a nice little paris break. I’ve also got Syncronised in a sweep at the pub, although the stats say no favourite will win.
    Good luck tomorrow
    Kind regards

  23. Phil says:

    Matt, I’ve taken 55 at Betfair odds on The midnight club so I’m hoping for a good run. However, as an alternative to each way betting I’m going to place a lay bet at 10 which I’ll keep at in-play, hopefully guaranteeing a profit similar to the bookie odds of 33/1. The maths work out as follows:

    £10 on at Betfair odds of 55 pays £513 after 5% commission.

    Lay £20 at Betfair odds of 10 pays £342 if he wins and £9.50 profit if he loses.

    Depends on whether the bet gets matched in play of course but pays the same as bookie odds and helps minimise risk.

  24. scott says:

    Hi Matt,

    Nice going these last 2 days & thanks for the tips, not sure if this is true but I’ve heard the national course is riding firm.


    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Unlikely Scott. The time for the Topham Chase was seven seconds slower than last year, when the going was officially good, good to soft in places. They might have gone a slower pace, but still I would say it’s good to soft all right.


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