Grand National 2018: Preview, Trends, Tips, Form profile, Pace map

Why I’m NOT writing a Grand National preview this year [v2.018]…

[I originally wrote this post for last year's race and, while missing out on the Grand National winner, it did flag placed horses at 80/1 and 40/1. So the below is a slightly amended version adding into the mix what we learned twelve months ago. A version 2.018 if you will...]

It's the greatest race in the world, or so they'd have us believe. But, since the modifications, the Grand National has become a deeply unpredictable lottery, and far from a sensible punting conveyance.

Fine for a bit of a laugh, and an interest, but nothing more. Which is a shame because, in the good old days - you know, like eight or ten years ago - it was actually a pretty solid trends race.

It used to be the case that winners had won over three miles-plus, had proven jumping ability, had won in big fields, and had a touch of class. Oh, and they'd lug less than eleven stone.

While last year's race was won by a horse - One For Arthur - that was strangely 'gettable', 2016's winner had NEVER finished in front in a steeplechase... And in 2015, a horse a pound off top weight won. The year before, a horse that won a veterans' chase on it previous chase start prevailed. The year before that, the 66/1 winner had chase form of U0P45F5 coming into the race.

The average winning SP of the last six winners has been 32.5/1 - and that's after the bookies have squeezed the fleshies of the price of just about every horse in the hours running up to the start!

Since 2007, the last eleven years, the average winning SP has been 32.73/1 - a sequence that includes winners at 7/1 (fav) and 100/1.

Let's face facts: this is machismo betting; it's vanity punting. The only reason to bet in the Grand National these days is to say, "I had the winner of the Grand National". Better to be lucky than good, right?

Seven of the last eleven winners paid 25/1 or bigger at starting price, and 17 of the 44 placed horses (including winners) did likewise. So if you really want to get macho about betting the Nash, exclude all the fancied runners and take four against the field.

Horses aged nine, ten or eleven have won 17 of the last 20 renewals. That's 85% of the winners from two-thirds of the runners, and they've had 75% of the places too.

[2.018 Update: Two of the exceptions, including last year's winner, were eight. The fourth horse last year was also eight, suggesting that the reduced stamina and jumping test is paving the way for younger horses to further press their claims. So we'll revise this to be horses aged eight to eleven.

Lob out any runner rated north of 148 - yes, it's arbitrary (albeit based on the fact that only one 9-11yo managed to win from higher) but I don't care; this is the daftest betting race of the year after all!

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[2.018 Update: Although the winner last year was rated 148, the placed horses were 150, 147, and 152. Again, it feels like the arbitrary bar should be elevated to 152. That still excludes the top nine in the weights. So we'll lob out any runner rated north of 152.]

And if you throw in a horse that finished in the top five last time out, you get a system that has found three of the last four winners, and the second-placed horse in the other year. [2.018 Update: no change here, this is still a surprisingly good way to whittle the field with the top seven in 2017 fitting the bill, where 13 runners did not.]

Will this work this year? Probably not. But is it as reasonable an approach as any of the voodoo ratings agencies, or super trends, or form boffins, or dosage boys'? Erm, probably not. But it's also probably not that far away.

Here's how this played out over the last decade:

2007: 33/1 winner  (from 3 to qualify)
2008: five fallers, nothing placed (from 8 to qualify)
2009: 8th and 12th (from 2 to qualify)
2010: three fallers (from 3 to qualify)
2011: 28/1 4th (from 4 to qualify)
2012: two fallers (from 4 to qualify)


2013: 66/1 winner (from 7 to qualify)
2014: 25/1 winner, 33/1 6th, five fallers (from 8 to qualify)
2015: 25/1 2nd, 25/1 6th, three fallers (from 8 to qualify)
2016: 33/1 winner (from 4 to qualify)
2017: 25/1 3rd, 50/1 5th
2018: ?????

There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that the entire complexion of the race has changed since the modifications to the fences. And look at the results since then. It's a tiny sample size and perhaps just coincidence than anything more scientific... but it's not definitely coincidence.

During this time, two other things have happened as well: the race is a little bit shorter, and the handicapper has been given discretionary power when it comes to weighting the runners. It is plausible that the latter of those two factors has led to more lenient handicapping of older, seemingly thoroughly exposed, horses. And it is likely that the former has enhanced the prospects of younger, less physically mature types.

At this stage of proceedings, there are a few horses that could qualify, as follows (along with their current top price):

Tiger Roll (12/1, too short), Seeyouatmidnight (16/1, too short), Regal Encore 33/1, Vieux Lion Rouge 33/1, Warriors Tale 50/1, I Just Know 25/1, Captain Redbeard 25/1, Houblon Des Obeaux 50/1, Milanbar 33/1, Delusionofgrandeur (reserve) 66/1, Vintage Clouds (reserve) 33/1.

Removing those too short in the betting and the reserves leaves just seven possibles.

Trying to work out which will start at 25/1 or bigger is something best left to the minutes before the race, but it makes sense to try to steal a march on those which are more likely to go off big prices but are currently very big prices... if you see what I mean. (Let's face it, nothing about betting in this race makes sense, from a financial advice perspective at least, so we might as well have a bit of fun with it).

Warriors Tale, Regal Encore, Vieux Lion Rouge, Houblon Des Obeaux and Milansbar look to be the five with a good chance of going off 25/1+. So maybe split your stake between them and see how you go.

If betting each way, note that a number of firms are paying SIX places but they are all a fifth the odds the place). bet365 are my preferred option: see why at the bottom of this post. While they are only paying five places, they are a quarter the odds a place, and both non-runner no bet and Best Odds Guaranteed; but they've also got a huge money back offer for EXISTING customers.

The going is a bit of a guessing game at this stage, but probably between soft and good to soft, so I've sorted the field by that prospect - also changed distance range to 3m to 4m4f - on this place view of Instant Expert:

2018 Grand National form profile, courtesy of Instant Expert

2018 Grand National form profile, courtesy of Instant Expert

And the pace map for the early stages suggests a running order somewhat akin to the following:

Grand National 2018 pace map

Grand National 2018 pace map

Looking at the shortlist from a soft or good to soft ground/prominent racer perspective may slightly elevate the prospects of 25/1 I Just Know, 33/1 Vintage Clouds in case he sneaks in (money back if he doesn't), 50/1 Warriors Tale, and 33/1 Milansbar. So, if you were mad enough to want my tuppence worth on the world's most unfathomable horse race, there it is. I will be having token interests on that quartet, all at nice big prices, I'm already on Regal Encore (sentiment) and may have a crack at 33/1 Vieux Lion Rouge as the only other possible qualifier. I'm happier backing losers at nice big prices than at shorter...

Good luck!


p.s. This is a standout money back offer for EXISTING bet365 customers. You can bet up to £250 (i.e. 5 x £25 e/w) and receive half your money back as cash (if you bet in cash, as opposed to free bet tokens).


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20 replies
  1. Avatar
    thehoneybadger says:

    Haha… couldn’t agree more with you Matt. Since the compressed handicapping was introduced for the top of the field, its become more of a novelty bet so better to have a bit of fun with it! Thanks for the heads up on the bet365 nash offer too! 😉

  2. Avatar
    FGR says:

    You’ve stolen my thunder, Matt.
    I was going to make the same points on my own website tonight.
    Great minds think alike and all that, I suppose.
    I’ll give Geegeez a plug all the same anyway.
    Stay lucky.

  3. Avatar
    Blokeshead says:

    Bet365 will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

    But thanks for an interesting article nonetheless, Matt. Good luck tomorrow.

  4. Avatar
    mlcblackwell says:

    In 2013 the trends definitely still came good…

    I actually remember the morning of the race going through the Racing Post racecard and deleting all the ‘non qualifiers’ to be simply left with just one horse!!

    Step forward Auroras Encore… winner at 66/1 (or 130/1 as I took on Betfair).

    Granted the subsequent 3 years has got me nowhere but I am still a believer… or maybe just a fantasist!!

  5. Avatar
    buckieboy says:

    Well I don’t give the Gas or the Lodge a hope, but backed Saint Are on Monday with WHill based a report from Tom George saying that he was as good as two years ago when second, Davy Russell booked – and the prospect of good going.
    I have had a small bet on Ballynagour (fresh, likes good and related to a GN winner) and am tempted by Stellar Notion with the B365 offer, which gives a place only bet, in effect, with the refund.
    The one that doesn’t make your cut, Matt, but could arrive refreshed, is Lord Windermere and he ought to be suited by the race, I think.

  6. Avatar
    Mr.S says:

    Love this article Matt! I’m willing to go along with the suggestions. £1 e/w on all 7. Can’t do worse than I normally do!

  7. Avatar
    lynseyc02 says:

    Place money for Saint Are and Gas Line Boy at huge prices, and factor in the B365 free each way parts and I’m one happy lady, nice one Matt, please do this again next year , thanks a bunch x

  8. Avatar
    hiflyer007 says:

    Thanks for the tips there Matt. I trusted your judgment and had each way bets on them – very nice returns on Saint Are and Gas Line Boy! Thank you very much!

  9. Avatar
    Eric McMinn says:

    Well done Matt, I backed all 4 in your shortlist. Much better, and easier, than doing the work myself.
    Thanks for all your knowledge and application.

  10. Avatar
    Blokeshead says:

    I was going to write “Bet365 will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes” when I saw someone had beaten me to it. Then I saw it was me, a year ago. Well, at least I’m consistent.

    I seem to vaguely remember hopping about somewhat dementedly at the fact I’d backed a couple of high-priced placers a year ago, which was most likely down to you, Matt – so thanks for last year, and thanks for the pointers this year. Let’s hope we go one (or two, or three) better this time!

  11. Avatar
    colin says:

    Good Article ,took 33/1 Seeyouatmidnight ,40/1 Baie des iles and 33/1The Dutchman will just lay the first two as this seems sensible as everything gets shortened up and keep the Dutchman for interest GL

  12. Avatar
    winderman says:

    2nd season chases Matt.. that’s the way to go. Forget the old trends. Start new ones from 2013.

  13. Avatar
    Roger says:

    Good stuff Matt as usual. The Irish National threw up just one trends horse – General Principle, which I backed each way at 33-1 and I have found the winner of that race four years out of six. However, our own Grand National is much more difficult and this year trends have indicated six horses in my book- Blacklion, The Last Samurai, Perfect Candidate, Tiger Roll, Regal Encore and Milansbar who will like the going and is my best guess as to the winner. It is always an achievement in this race if they just get round! Best of luck everybody.

  14. Avatar
    Chud777 says:

    Great read as always Matt.

    I just want to mention an old friend of yours “He ain’t heavy – he’s actually a really good wager”. Four qualify today. Chase The Spud, The Dutchman, Pleasant Company and Final Nudge. I’ve already backed The Dutchman (along with several others), so I’ve gone for the jackpot. Combi forecasts and tricasts. Small stakes obviously. You never know!

  15. Avatar
    Ian Synnott says:

    Altho I agree that since the changes to the race, it has become more unpredictable, some trends are still standing strong. Like:

    Won a race at 3m+
    Aged 8-11
    Ran in at least 10 chases
    Had at least 3 seasonal runs
    Had last run in the same calendar year
    Completed their last race (no falls, PUp’s etc)
    Won a Cl 1 or Cl 2 chase

    It still, even after the alterations, creates a manageable shortlist that contains the winner (rule the world’s victory excluded)

    • Avatar
      Roger says:

      Yes Ian all those apply but try adding five more:

      Ran left handed at least 13 times
      Ran Left handed last time out (this cut out many losers this year)
      At least 18 runs in career
      Maximum of 3 chase wins current season
      Not won last two races

      With all these stats it left a short list of six including the winner, Tiger Roll and the fifth, Milansbar. If Tiger Roll had been beaten in the photo by Pleasant Company a review would have been necessary. So it all still applies – roll on next year !!!

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