2016 Grand National Preview: Phil Smith sets an impossible mission

Crabbie’s Grand National 2016 Preview, Trends, Tips

Crabbie's Grand National 2016 Preview, Trends, Tips

You may have read a preview of the 2016 Aintree Grand National (or two) already, so in this post my aim is to introduce some interesting peripheral data which could be relevant to problem solving in the biggest (field) race of them all before, naturally, considering a few of the 40 runners and offering a pick or two.

Introduction: A bit of context

First, a couple of points of context.

Things changed dramatically after the 2011 and 2012 Grand Nationals, the latter when Synchronised, a truly magnificent beast who had won the Midlands National the previous year and both the Grade 1 Lexus Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the year of his National run, fell and was fatally injured while running loose. That was at the height of the Gavin Grant-led RSPCA witch hunt on racing, which has - mercifully - dissipated to a more sensible level of engagement since that militant's exit.

The pertinent point is that changes were made prior to the 2013 running of the Grand National, the most material of which were the movement of the start away from the stands - resulting in a shorter race, and modifications to the fences making them easier to jump.

A statement like "making them easier to jump" demands qualification, so consider this. In the three Nationals from 2010 to 2012, there were 38 horses that either fell or were brought down (16 more unseated rider). In the three Nationals since 2013, just 19 horses fell or were brought down (18 more unseated rider).

Thus, prior to the modifications, an average of almost 13 horses fell or were brought down; and subsequently that average came down to a little over six. Rider unseats have remained consistent over many years.

To be totally fair and transparent, the impact of discretionary handicapping (where the official handicapper has authority to award specific ratings for the race), the rise in minimum age to seven, and the requirement to have finished fourth or better in a three mile-plus chase have also contributed to the improvements in faller rate.

The other thing to remember - as if you'd forget - is that the Grand National is a race of extremes. Run over the best part of four and a half miles, no other race in the calendar asks horses to go this far. Jumping remains a fundamental aspect of the event, the thirty fences eclipsed only by the 32 obstacles in the Cross Country chases at Cheltenham. And no other handicap chase in the calendar can habitually boast Grade 1 winners in its line up, attesting to the class (and the discretionary handicapping) of the race.

So far, so what? Well, I guess the key point I'm trying to make is this: in spite of the amendments to the race, it is still a fierce challenge of stamina and class. And a borderline impossible challenge of form study.

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Trends: The bigger picture

With so many changes in the shape of the race, then, what use are ten year trends? They probably retain a similar amount of utility to that which they did pre-mods (left deliberately vague to allow the reader to assert her own prejudices!), but one suspects there's a better way of using history to approach this particular puzzle.

By way of trying something different - long-suffering readers will know I need to try something different after lamentable Grand National selections in recent times! - let us first look for commonality in high class long distance handicap chases over the past few years; and perhaps then we can consider the win and placed horses in the last three or four Nationals, in search of unifying themes therein.

Specifically, then, I'm interested in Class 1 or 2 handicap chases run over 3m4f or further since 2013. That gives us 727 runners from 43 races to go at, which is a nice sample size from which to attempt to tease meaningful conclusions.

Age: Some interesting inferences to be drawn here. Ignoring five- and six-year-olds, who are ineligible for the Grand National, those horses aged seven to eleven have performed largely in line with numerical representation, in terms of place percentages. And they have had a near monopoly on winners.

Veterans - twelve years old and up - are zero from 48, and have under-performed against their representation by around 50% in place terms as well.

Performance by age in long distance high class handicap chases

Position in weights: This table is quite hard to read and, indeed, to infer from. However, it does imply a slight bias towards higher weighted horses. Data for weight rank percentage (e.g. top 10% of the weights, etc) was not available sadly, and would have been more meaningful, as this dataset makes no allowance for field size (i.e. a horse with weight rank of 8th may have been bottom weight in an eight horse race).

marathonchaseweightrankstats

Breeding: I've always felt that Irish-bred horses have an edge over French-bred chevaux when it comes to staying chases. However, the evidence of recent years disabuses that perception somewhat, in that there really isn't very much in it at all.

French-bred runners have won 21% of high class staying chases from 17% of the runners, but placed only 13.5% of the time. Irish-bred horses have an almost exact match of winner-to-runner percentages, with their place percentage slightly higher, from a majority of all entries in such races (63%).

marathonchasebreedingstats

Last Time Out: Not an area to be taken totally on trust, on the basis that a horse may have run 3rd in the Gold Cup or won a little novices' chase last time out. Clearly the GC bronze is worth more than the novice win, so caveat emptor. However, from this big sample it may be fair to point out a couple of observations.

Last time out winners have done pretty much as expected, based on their win/place ratio, but have been a leaky bucket from a betting ledger perspective.

Those who ran well last time, without troubling the judge - third to sixth - have a good record. They've won in line with numerical representation, but from 34% of the runners have claimed 45% of the places. And, importantly from a wagering standpoint, were profitable to back blindly (though this may or may not be due to a few outliers, I grant you).

Non-completers last time - fallers, pulled up, and so on - under-performed marginally with a pulled up effort the most 'forgivable', not that the group as a whole were healthy in terms of punting sustenance.

marathonchaseLTOstats

Headgear: Headgear is quite an interesting one. It has often been quoted as a negative for a Grand National runner, with just a pair of 7/1 shots - Earth Summit and Comply Or Die - deploying any sort of kit: blinkers in both cases. That was from 85 blinkered runners overall, a hit rate of 2.35%, as against 2.95% for those running 'unadorned'. The group wearing headgear other than blinkers are 0 from 81 since 1997.

Returning to all good class marathon handicap chases since 2013, we see similar results. Certainly those without headgear have done better than their numbers imply they should. Hood wearers have also done well, albeit from a small sample size.

marathonchaseheadgearstats

Wins in Grade: Although it is logical enough, the table below lends credence to the notion that a win at the class level is better than not. Those without a win in the grade have slightly under-performed against their numbers, while those with a single win in the race class have materially over-performed.

However, discussion with your bank manager or accountant is likely to flounder on closer inspection of the ROI column, which is negative chunky in both cases.

marathonchaseclasswinstats

Trainer Statistics: A big table, but one well worth reproducing for the sake of both positives and negatives. On the  plus side, the records of Venetia Williams and Paul Nicholls command respect; as do those of Michael Scudamore (five from six placed, including Monbeg Dude in the Nash last year), Kerry Lee and Evan Williams (six from fifteen in the frame).

On the minus side, I give you Willie Mullins. The colossus of the sport is not very good at marathon handicap chases so, while the headline stat of 0 from 20 is a little misleading - he's had four placed from that group, he would not be the first name I look to for a contest like this. Others of whom to be wary in the general marathon handicap chase context include Grand National winner Sue Smith, Peter Bowen and, most notably perhaps, dual National-winning trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies.

marathonchasetrainerstats

Days Since A Run: Freshness or fitness, which has been the optimal approach to classy marathon handicap chases in recent times? The answer appears to be "it doesn't matter", based on place percentages at any rate. However, those returning from a layoff of three months or more have returned a profit overall, suggesting there may be a blind spot in the market. Alternatively, this may simply be a function of a couple of outliers. It is, at least, something to be aware of.

marathonchaseDSRstats

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The Bigger Picture: Management Summary

Crikey. Where exactly does that leave us when trying to unearth credible contenders for the Crabbie's Grand National? In truth, not a huge degree further forward than at the start, though there are some morsels on which to chew in the wider run of things. Marathon handicap chase takeaways might include:

 - Pay attention to horses who finished close to the places without troubling the judge
- Don't discount classier horses only because of big weight impost
- Mark up a win in the grade
- Double take runners from the Williams' (Venetia and Evan), Kerry Lee, Paul Nicholls, and Michael Scudamore
- Avoid 12yo+ runners
- Avoid last time non-completers (pulled up possible exception)
- Avoid headgear wearers (hood possible exception)
- Be wary of runners from Willie Mullins, Nigel Twiston-Davies, and Peter Bowen

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Trends: Into the Grand National Microcosm

That's all well and good as far as it goes, but what about overlaying the same information based only on the Grand National? The below gen comes from the last five Grand Nationals, a time period which attempts to strike a balance between the 'new race' as outlined in the introduction and a big enough sample - 200-odd runners - to have some meaning.

It will be most heartening to find commonality between the conclusions here and those in the wider dataset above, but differing inferences will not be discounted if they pass the logic test.

Note also that, with just five winners in the sample, place data holds sway (even allowing for there only being 20 places from the 199 runners).

Age: Although eight-year-old Many Clouds won last year, the strongest group is nine- to eleven-year-olds, whose 85% of the places from just two-thirds of the runners looks material. The last 7yo winner was Bogskar in 1940, none of the ten horses of that age making the frame in the last five years. The veterans (twelve and up) are 0 from 23, one place.

GN16agestats

Positions in Weights: Whereas with all marathon handicap chases it is hard to gauge the materiality of this due to the unknown field sizes, the Nash is always close to or on 40 runners. As such, the weights can be carved into quarters readily enough. Doing so reveals that the top quartile have claimed three of the five winners, and six of the twenty places, both bigger numbers than might have been expected.

The second quartile had no winners but 35% of the places, meaning the top half of the weights had 60% of the winners and 65% of the placed horses.

GN16weightrankstats

Breeding: Irish-bred horses have a similar stranglehold on the entries as they do in the superset of marathon handicap chases, and a similar level of performance when it comes to wins and places in recent times. However, what is interesting is that, since Mon Mome broke the French-bred hoodoo in 2009, exactly 100 years after Lutteur III became the last French-bred winner, two further Frenchies have prevailed: Neptune Collonges and Pineau de Re.

Although I'd be no expert on such things, it is possible that the fence modifications render the obstacles more akin to French fences - or perhaps even brush hurdles. The record of French-bred horses has improved out of recognition, though in such small samples care is advised not to over-emphasise the point.

GN16breedingstats

Last Time Out: Those finishing in the top six last time represented 64% of the runners, a subset which included all five winners and 15 (75%) of the 20 placed horses.

GN16LTOstats

Headgear: 28% of Grand National runners in the last five years sported some sort of headgear. None of them won and only two placed (10%). Headgear = probably not good.

GN16headgearstats

Wins in Grade: Absolutely nothing to be inferred from this, except that it probably makes no difference whatsoever.

GN16ClassWinsstats

Trainer Stats: On the upside, Evan Williams has saddled four placed runners from six entries; and Fergal O'Brien and MM Lynch both trained the same horse to finish placed twice. O'Brien's dual fourth-placed finisher, Alvarado, has another crack this year if he makes the cut (it looks like he won't).

Looking for negatives, Paul Nicholls is interesting: he trained Neptune Collonges to win but that was the only one of his 15 runners to even make the frame in the last five years. Longer term, and PFN is actually 1 from 59 since 1997, with just four placed horses. He has been fifth twice in recent years as well, however, and the signs are that he is taking the race a lot more seriously - he has National style schooling fences at home. The improvement of French-bred horses in the race is a positive for one with so many housed at his stable.

Nicholls' record with French-bred runners is a more palatable one win, three places (and a fifth), from 21 runners since 2003.

Willie Mullins has been unsighted since the great Hedgehunter went 1-2 in consecutive Grand Nationals in 2005/6. In fairness, Snowy Morning was third in 2008, but more recent Closutton runners have fared no better than sixth, often at short enough  prices.

David Pipe is another for whom a 1-2 with Comply Or Die masks moderate stats overall. Since 2007, when he assumed the training mantle, he's run 24 horses in the race. The 20 that weren't Comply Or Die (who also ran 12th and PU in the race) have missed the top five between them, Swing Bill's 80/1 sixth in 2013 being the pick of the yard's other runners.

And Nicky Henderson is 0 from 19, none placed, since 1997. Hardly inspiring.

GN16trainerstats

Days Since A Run: With the Cheltenham Festival having been just three weeks prior to Aintree this year, it is reassuring to note that horses who last ran 21-25 days ago have performed in line with numerical expectation. The sweet spot - if there is one - might be in the 31-60 day zone, with runners having had between one and two months off the track winning three (60%) and placing 11 (55%) times in the last five years, from 45% of the runners.

GN16DSRstats

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The Grand National Microcosm: Management Summary

So much for the data. What can it tell us? Here are some pointers based on both the general marathon handicap chase dataset and the last five Grand Nationals dataset.

- Look primarily to the nine- to eleven-year-old age bracket
- The top half of the weights has been slightly favoured in recent Grand Nationals
- French- and Irish-bred horses make up most of the GN runners (85%), and lay claim to all of the last five (indeed, all of the last fourteen) winners, and 19 of the 20 places since 2011.
- A top six last time out finish has been a positive both in recent Nationals and in the wider marathon chase handicap group... and, I guess, in all races!
- Between three weeks and two months off the track was a common feature of the last five winners and 19 of the last 20 (95%) placed horses, from 76% of the runners.

These are intended as general pointers. Rigid rules tend to result in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so use your noggin. All that said, and with all appropriate wealth warnings in place, a few who tick these boxes and may be suited by general race conditions include:

Many Clouds (weight?), Silviniaco Conti (stamina?), The Druids Nephew (jumping?), Triolo d'Alene (well, everything really?), Holywell (jumping? stamina?), Boston Bob (Willie? stamina?), Morning Assembly (jumping?), Goonyella (weight?), and Gallant Oscar (weight?).

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2016 Pace Thoughts

In recent times, it has generally paid to race close to the pace, and no further back than midfield. This makes sense for a couple of reasons. Firstly, in such a big field there is a lot of scope for misfortune in the ruck. Horses falling in front of your pick, horses jumping across, loose horses, and the like will catch a handful of runners out as they invariably do.

Secondly, the new fences have placed a touch more emphasis on speed than was previously the case. Thus, as long as there isn't a crazy pace - and, after the first couple of fences, the jockeys normally ride sensibly - it can be harder to get involved if outpaced or ridden patiently early.

Many runners will be outpaced or are habitually waited with, and my feeling is that they will be inconvenienced. Those on or close to the pace as a rule include O'Faolains Boy, Silviniaco Conti, Goonyella, On His Own, Saint Are, Bishops Road, Morning Assembly, Onenightinvienna, and Aachen.

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2016 Grand National Key Races

Which races have been most helpful in identifying Aintree Grand National winners?

Twelve of the last 19 Aintree National winners had previously won or been placed in a 'country' National, i.e. Irish, Scottish or Welsh. One may also consider last year's Grand National, though those to have won or placed have tended to be handicapped out of it the following year.

This year, placed horses from 'country' Nationals include Shutthefrontdoor (won Irish), Goonyella (2nd Scottish), Rule The World (2nd Irish), and Home Farm (3rd Irish). Meanwhile, also rans from last year's Grand National include First Lieutenant, The Druids Nephew, Rocky Creek, Shutthefrontdoor (5th), Soll, Unioniste, and Ballycasey. Many Clouds (won), Saint Are (2nd) and Alvarado (4th) may struggle against their revised marks.

A hurdle run in the winning season has been a factor in the form of nine of the last thirteen winners, and is something that the following have undertaken this term: Silviniaco Conti, O'Faolains Boy, The Druids Nephew, Shutthefrontdoor, Goonyella, Gallant Oscar, Vics Canvas, Home Farm, and The Romford Pele.

2016 Grand National Form Preview

Where to start in a forty runner race in which winners since 2009 have scored at 100/1, 66/1, 33/1 and 25/1 twice? With the top of the market, I guess, specifically last year's winner, Many Clouds.

This is one gorgeous beast. Sixth in last year's Gold Cup having won the Hennessy earlier in the season, he was a brave winner (like there are any other kind!) of the Grand National on his final start last term. This season has been all about the repeat bid and he seems to have had a perfect preparation, topped off with a ten length win over Unioniste in a Listed chase.

Brought down in the RSA Chase of 2014, he's never fallen due his own frailties in 15 chase starts and I suspect he'll go very close to winning again, and at shorter than his current 8/1 quote. He can be backed at north of 2/1 for a top four finish on the exchange, and that is of some appeal. In terms of the win, the likes of Comply Or Die and Hedgehunter have come closest in recent years, both running second after winning the previous year. Considering the odds of recent winners, I need a bit more jam on my bread than this lad can offer.

If I respect the reigning champ - how can you not, off just a five pound higher mark? - then there are plenty more worthy of at least similar deference. Let's start with The Last Samuri, a progressive sort who bolted up in the Grimthorpe Chase last time. He's gone up from 149 to 160 for that win, but gets in here off his prior mark, making him eleven pounds 'well in'.

As attractive as that might appear, this lad - just eight years old and with a mere eight chase starts to his name - may be on the inexperienced side. The least experienced winners in recent times were Many Clouds and Numbersixvalverde, with ten chase starts apiece. Clearly progressive and a strong stayer, the ground may also be a touch on the quick side for the Samuri this time around. He was 33/1 a couple of months ago - well done if you have that - but he's 10/1 now, and that's skinnier than a skimmed milk latte.

On 12/1 is the class horse in the race, Silviniaco Conti. This seven-time (!) Grade 1-winning chaser has won over three miles and a furlong here in Liverpool, and his (Aintree) Bowl along style of racing is well suited to the National test. But... he's looked to run out of gas on a number of occasions when pushed to the Gold Cup trip on Cheltenham's pronounced undulations. If he can get into a rhythm around this more level playing field, he's been given a heck of a chance by the 'capper, coming here off a pound lower mark than when winning a Grade 1 by twenty lengths last time!

The problem for me is not so much stamina as field size. His eleven UK/Irish wins have all come in races with ten or fewer runners. Here he faces 39 rivals and pace pressure on the front end. The counter-argument - and one which I buy - is that few opponents will have the class to lay up with him. If he can get comfy on the speed, he'll give backers a tremendous run for their money. Whether he can see out the final mile of the race I'm not sure. I'd love to see it, but I won't be backing him at 12/1, even though he'll be shorter on the day.

It's currently 16/1 bar three so take the price now, Best Odds Guaranteed, on whichever horse(s) you fancy. They'll mostly be shorter come 5.15pm on Saturday.

That price brings in last year's Gold Cup fourth, Holywell, who ran second in the Festival Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on his most recent start. That was a big run, as expected by connections. Still, he has questions to answer about his jumping, which is clumsy though he usually gets from A to B, and the Easy Fix obstacles here will help. This does rather feel like 'after the Lord Mayor's Show' as he was primed for his tilt at the Cheltenham race. Nevertheless, 16/1 is entering the realms of the palatable, so if you like him, help yourself.

Saint Are, the same price, ran a screamer last year to be second, and has an extra three pounds this time around. His Aintree form is very good and includes four out of four completions over the National fences, two in the National itself. Good ground is what he wants so the drier the better between now and race day.

His trainer, Tom George, is in superb form too, and he'll sneak in right at the bottom of the weights.

The Druids Nephew came here on the back of a Festival win last year, but has had a much more targeted campaign this season. Indeed a staying on, never in it, effort behind The Last Samuri in the Grimthorpe was his only run in 2016. He comes here a fresh horse, albeit on a mark nine pounds higher than when falling five out in the race last year. He was leading at the time and who knows what might have been? Still only nine, he has his chance.

As you will have gathered, it is quite difficult to discount many, and that is surely down to the handicapper. Whilst it makes for a great race for the punting public, it's a nightmare in terms of trying to find the winner. Let me move on to three more I like, two of whom I have backed already.

Goonyella has an extremely robust profile for this. Winner of the Midlands National last year, he then ran second in the Scottish National five weeks later. That was on good ground off a rating of 146. He gets in here on 149. We know he stays, we know he's a normally reliable jumper (did unseat in 2014 Becher Chase; hunted round in the same race this season - looked a classic schooling ride), we know he goes on any ground, we know he handles big fields, and we know he races up with the pace. 20/1 makes him my main fancy in the race.

One with the look of a plot, as far as such a coup can be executed in a race like the Grand National, is Gallant Oscar. Tony Martin's horses have been in woeful form for most of the season, but have just started to turn the corner now. If that's right then the case for this fellow is strong. He was a little way behind Goonyella last time in that Naas race, where he too would have been working towards concert pitch for this, and he might have won the time before but for unshipping his pilot at the second last. That was in a valuable 28 runner field.

There is a slight niggle about the fact he's fallen or unseated three times in his career, but that is by no means the reservation it was prior to the installation of the new fences. What I love about him is his stamina. He was never nearer to The Druids Nephew than at the line when third in the Festival Handicap Chase last season, and he's finished all of his races since - over three miles and more - like he wants further. Well, he'll get further here all right. The last dribbles of 25/1 are drying up as I write.

And what of Shutthefrontdoor, Irish Grand National winner in 2014? Fifth last year on just his seventh chase start, he won that Irish National in only his fifth race over the bigger obstacles. Remarkable. He still has no more than eight chase starts under his belt, but how can we say he is too inexperienced with a National résumé like that? (Rhetorical: we can't).

Since just missing the frame in last year's National - most bookies paid on fifth place anyway - he's run third at Aintree in a handicap hurdle last November and, in his only race since, pulled up in a 2m4f handicap chase. That will have brought him on plenty, and there are few target trainers with the ability of Jonjo O'Neill, winner of the Grand National in 2010 and with an impressive place record too: seven more of his 28 starters since 2003 have finished in the top five. Shutthefrontdoor is a pound lower than his rating last year, and retains a place claim at least.

I also quite like Morning Assembly, fourth behind Un Temps Pour Tout and Holywell in the Festival Handicap Chase last time, and a very lightly race campaigner. He was good enough to be third in the RSA Chase in which Many Clouds was brought down, and just seemed to be tapped for toe a little at the Festival this year.

If that's true, then his mark of 150 is workable for a mildly progressive chaser who has been in the first three in seven of his eight fencing starts to date.

In a race which has thrown up some enormous-priced winners in the last few years, perhaps it makes sense to turn the market upside down and try to find a prince in pauper's garb.

In that context, one for whom a case can be made is Home Farm. Third in the Irish National as a six year old in 2013, the Presenting gelding - now nine - has been a touch in the doldrums of late, ostensibly at least. But, like others higher up the market, he may have had his sights set on the Grand National all season.

After leaving Arthur Moore for the excellent Henry de Bromhead two seasons ago, he won a Listed chase at Thurles (2m6f) before being pitched into Grade 1 company three times on the spin, the last of which was the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Not up to that standard, he has nevertheless had his mark protected with two runs over hurdles this season at trips around the two mile mark. Hmm.

His last chase rating was 153 and his perch here is 145. Hmm. Clearly, a lot has to be taken on trust but, given some of the recent winners in the race, Home Farm might outrun triple digit odds. (And he might pull up having never gone a yard - that's why he's 100/1).

If you don't like that one, what about the teenager, Vics Canvas? Yes, I know the last teenager to win was Sergeant Murphy in 1923 (ridden by the Wodehousian-named Captain Tuppy Bennett), and I'm not really suggesting he'll win. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest he's not yet on the wane and that he wants a trip. The case for the defence goes like this:

Vic has very few miles on the clock, with just 31 career starts, and only ten chase starts. In those ten runs over fences he has won a handicap chase over three and a half miles (in November 2014, when aged 11); run third in a £90k handicap chase a month later; finished second of 20 in the bet365 Chase at Sandown last April (staying on, beaten a length, aged 12); and then he ran fifth of 17 in the Becher Chase in December (plugging on, beaten less than four lengths).

Now he has run poorly twice since then, but who is to say that wasn't just to protect his rating? He'd be a trends buster to end all trends busters, but 66/1 might be fun for a penny or two.

And don't forget our old mate, Boston Bob. He missed Cheltenham this year with this in mind - Willie targeting Aintree like never before - and he's still 'only' eleven, right in the green zone. Winner of three Grade 1 chases a couple of seasons ago, his stamina has been stretched to some effect as he's aged, most recently when winning the Grade 2 Bobbyjo Chase over three miles and a furlong.

That followed a couple of moderate efforts earlier in the season, and it was surely just coincidence that the improvement in form occurred shortly after the Grand National weights were announced. Ahem. In any case, he is probably the closest rival to Silviniaco Conti in the 'back class' stakes, and is three times the price, despite shouldering most of a stone less weight and receiving the steering services of Ruby Walsh.

He'd also be one for the "it takes a two and a half miler to win the National" brigade - though I doubt there is a brigade of them, nor even one person who believes that, any more - with seven of his ten career wins being at that range. As I've written, he's found deeper reserves with age, and might just plod on for a long way with Ruby pushing and shoving. 33/1 is there for you if you'd like to take it, but do keep in mind that "Willie's having a shocker" stat with regards to staying handicap chases.

In scribbling over 5000 words I've mentioned 12 of the 40 starters, meaning there is absolutely every chance I've neglected to cover the winner. That has been my penance (and, by association, some of yours) in the last few years, and it is my hope that the above - especially the words and pictures at the top - at least gives you some pause for thought.

From Thursday afternoon, when the final declarations are known, I will share the pace maps and Instant Expert at the foot of this piece. Between now and then, Gold subscribers can get a head start by heading to Saturday's cards.

2016 Grand National Tips

I think Many Clouds has an excellent place chance and could win again. I don't want to bet him at 8/1, even though I'm confident he'll be closer to 5/1 on the day. You may want to, and good luck if you do.

I've had a little go at Goonyella and Gallant Oscar, and I'm happy to tickle Shutthefrontdoor too. At bigger prices, Boston Bob could run well if able to stay in touch, and Home Farm and the teenager, Vics Canvas, might shock a few with big runs.

But, in the main, this is a race for the people, for the gamblers. It is for the sweepstakers and the lottery dreamers; the roulette wheel spinners, the FOBT feeders and the twelve team acca fantasists. When the official handicapper gets carte blanche to set as fiendish a puzzle as he possibly can, cut adrift from the normal moorings of his trade, you should know you're in trouble.

Good luck to you whatever you fancy. Let's hope for a thrilling race - and a safe race. And maybe, just maybe, we might fluke the winner. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, eh? 😉

Matt

p.s. as promised, here are the Instant Expert and Pace Map grids...

Grand National 2016: Instant Expert

In the below, green is good, amber is all right, red is not so good; and grey means no previous run. The grid is reflecting placed performances, and the blue columns on the right hand side are current official rating (T), last winning rating (L), and the difference between the two (D).

You can click on the image to view it full size (and clearer as a consequence).

GrandNational2016InstantExpert

 

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Grand National 2016: Pace Analysis

The below shows how the runners have raced in their most recent UK/Irish starts. LR is last run, 2LR is 'second last run' and so on.

4 = Horse led, pressed leaders or was on the pace in that run
3 = Horse raced prominently in that run
2 = Horse was in the midfield in that run
1 = Horse was held up in that run

A total score of 16 is the maximum, suggesting the horse led in its last four races in UK/Ireland; while a total score of 4 implies the horse is habitually held up and will attempt to make a later run for glory.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

GrandNational2016PaceMap

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21 replies
  1. Rambler says:

    Great write up Matt – I do like Saint Are, Soll, HighlandLodge & Kruzhlinin (to give RJ a much deserved 1st National win).

  2. Sheepskin says:

    Brilliant analysis as ever Matt ( I swear your writing just gets better!!!) and I have also nibbled at a few you like namely, Shutthefrontdoor (cgi key, he was fav last year, ran 5th as a pretty inexperienced beast and us a pound lower, trained by a man who is an expert at readying long distance chasers! What’s not to like). Gallant Oscar too has a great profile (though my worry is his rating is up a stone fir that excellent Cheltenham 3rd. Morning Assembly too has that “formerly classy novice lurking on a lovely weight and in good form” look. But the one who I think could easily be the best handicapped is Sir des Champs – it’s all about whether he has fully recovered from the injury as a GC 2nd really advertises his class and he gets to carry less than 11 stone. I simply have to back him at the price!! Oh and if Highland Lodge gets in he has already proved he loves this place and I still believe he is a 140+ Rated chaser so us lurking on a lovely Mark.

    Like you I find the race unfathomable but am always drawn to it and can’t resist getting in “balls deep”!!! Be lucky

  3. John Reed says:

    Am I missing something or has the race been reduced to a (71yds) over a four and a quarter miler? Or is it that it’s always been that ‘short’ but eg like all our chases at Wetherby, advertised as longer?
    Saint Are and a sporting Rule The World for me…. Great stuff Matt – many thanks.

  4. Rotund legend says:

    Matt, you missed the LRC Aintree preview evening. Leighton Aspell was in good form and tucked away two pints of lager and Burger and Chips. He said that this years race is much classier than 2015. He said Many Clouds was running out of steam but the noise of the roar startled him and he went again. He said that the horse is going well at home and will run well again if it is lucky in the race. He thinks Silviano, Holywell and Shutthefrontdoor wont stay. He said that it is a definite stamina test despite what others may say. He said The Last Samuri is on an upward curve but has a bit to find. He did fear The Druids Nephew but is 9lb higher.

  5. Mugpunter says:

    Hi Matt,
    I love Many Clouds and would love to see him win again for the romance. But I have been keeping my eye on a horse all season and now he is in I intend to have a small e/w wager. The nag is Ucello Conti trained by a little known chap called Gordon Elliot. I also fancy another outsider with a bit of class called Hadrian’s Approach despite Henderson’s record, which I think is more a matter of him not really having had the right nags in the past. Finally I have to have a bit on Druid’s Nephew. If MC wins I’ll be cheering as loudly as if I had a thousand quid on.

    Good luck to everyone, but particularly me.
    Philip

  6. Roger says:

    In your Trainer Stats, Matt, you seem to have missed Gordon Elliott winning on Silver Birch in 2007. I remember as I had a few bob on at 33/1. The man seems to be in some form with Don Cossack winning the Gold Cup. Think I’ll look at Ucello Conti, also.
    Roger

  7. Colzoss says:

    My main bet is Goonyella too Matt.He fits most of the 10 year trends and hopefully we will get some heavy rain before the race.
    My ew bet is Buywise.A very safe jumper and consistently placed plus Paul Moloney is riding who as we know has a very good place record in the race.Expect him to be slow and safe and run on for a place late on.

  8. Nattyp12 says:

    Blimey Matt, that is a lot of work. I hope you get your just rewards! I know class maybe getting the best of it, but there a couple of big prices about proven horses that I can’t resist. Hadrian’s Approach & Pendra. Lot of choices out there though. I read one analysis ruling some out and another ruling out the first’s choices, so Good Luck you all.

  9. Kate says:

    Am on Soll, was 4th here in December and got round National course, like wise
    when 7th and 9th so handles National fences, has got good trainer to.
    Also Soll on form this year, and lightly raced this year, goes well on testing going.
    So at 50/1 nice EW and hope he get into places this year, just like he did in December.
    So thats my EW banker….gl everyone..

  10. Meastro says:

    Hello Matt..
    Thank you so much for the statistical analysis. As someone who is professionally trained to infer conclusions from data, this is really amazing. It is good to see that scientific techniques of data mining is being used in our good old horse racing sports. Let me study the horses, my tip will be posted around 12:PM here….

  11. Sheila says:

    Matt, that’s a fantastic analysis – OK, at the end of the day the National is not a real betting proposition, and I’ve put small flutters on several of the most likely to give a decent run for my money. If I make a small profit (I usually just about break even), so much the better. So long as no serious injuries, who cares?

  12. Tim says:

    Can I add my thanks for your brilliant piece of writing about this legendary race. A master class covering all possible aspects that allows us to appreciate all that goes into your summary. A great race full of history and love of the wonderful horses, and hopes of a safe return for all of them. I actually backed Goonyella before reading your choices so I pray I haven’t scuppered us both!

  13. stiffjimmyb says:

    Great analysis Matt.
    I’ve used a ‘tick’ system for all the form variables in the race and the results are as follows (in descending order of number of boxes ticked):

    Triolo D’Alene
    Saint Are
    Gallant Oscar
    Silviniaco Conti
    Kruzhlinin

    Next Best:
    Boston Bob
    Goonyella
    Sir Des Champs
    Unioniste
    Buywise
    Katenko
    Wonderful Charm

    Good luck to all ! 🙂

  14. Peter Colledge says:

    Matt, your normal incredible attention to detail. I wish you all the best. Goonyella is my one.

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