Listen to most non-racing folk and they'll tell you the Grand National is a lottery. "Anything can win it," they'll say, "it just depends on who gets the luck on the day."
Given the odds that some recent winners have gone in at, you could be forgiven for thinking they are right, but they're not and if you follow some simple rules you'll give yourself a much better chance of finding the winner than most once-a-year guessers.
The normal profile of a Grand National winner is an experienced horse over the age of eight and under the age of 13 with plenty of winning form at distances in excess of three miles.
Form in one of the other major 'Nationals', the Irish, Scottish of Welsh versions, is a bonus as ten of the last 14 winners had at least run in one and six of those had finished in the first three. Four of the last five winners had also shown previous winning form in April, so latching on to a spring horse is not a bad idea.
Auroras Encore may have won at odds of 66-1 last year, but he was winning for the fourth time in April and one of his defeats in that month came when he was second in the previous year's Scottish National, so he had plenty going for him despite the price.
This year's favourite Teaforthree was third last year and clearly has plenty going for him, but second favourite and top weight Tidal Bay is going to have to bust some stats to win as he is a 13-year-old set to carry 11st 10lb. Only Aintree legend Red Rum has managed to shoulder such a weight to victory in the last 60 years, while the last 13-year-old to win was Sergeant Murphy in 1923, so he's not for me.
At a much bigger price take a look at Lion Na Bearnais, an Irish National winner two years ago who has never fallen over fences. He may be a 12-year-old, but horses of his age group have won nine of the last 52 runnings, which is a pretty good return considering how few go to post (there will be a maximum of two this year).
Best of the British contenders could be Burton Port, who was top class a couple of seasons ago and has been teased back to form by Jonjo O'Neill on his last couple of starts.
In fairness, he hasn't run in a National or won at Cheltenham, but he has been in the first four twice at the Cheltenham Festival, including in the Gold Cup, the most prestigious jumps race of all.
He has also never fallen and has twice run at Aintree, winning a Grade 2 as a novice and finishing second at the highest level the following year. Neither of those runs were over the National fences, but all of Aintree's fences take some jumping.
And if you want to throw all trends out of the window, I suggest you back Double Seven. There's a fair chance he will be the choice of champion jockey Tony McCoy and that, plus the fact he has a number in his name, means he will almost certainly be a lot shorter than his current 16-1 on the day!
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