I’m not a huge stats fan, but the uniqueness of the Grand National means they have a degree of merit and over the years I’ve used a few to narrow the monster field down. The stats I like to use to help find the winner are as follows:
8-11 years old
Had at least 10 runs over fences
Won over 3miles or more
Placed over 3m2f or more
Run to RPR of 148+
Best RPR is at least 4lbs ahead of OR
Had 3-6 runs this season
Won in a field of 14 or more
Placed in a field of 18 or more
Run in the last 3 to 8 weeks.
I’ve gone down as far as Goodtoknow for the likely field at this stage, and the stats leave the following candidates: THE LAST SAMURI, CAUSE OF CAUSES, HOUBLON DES OBEAUX, SAINT ARE, VICENTE, JUST A PAR, THE ROMFORD PELE and GAS LINE BOY.
The Last Samuri is probably too high in the weights.
Houblon Des Obeaux and Saint Are have both had 31 chase starts and are probably too exposed at this stage.
Just A Par has a nice profile, but I’m not sure he’s that well thought of out of the Nicholls entries, and rather fell in last time as the pace of the race caused a “pace collapse” as he came from the back of the field. He could run a big race though on a course that suits.
The Romford Pele has pulled up on his last 3 starts and I’m happy to rule him out on that. And Gas Line Boy is probably not good enough.
So, this leaves us with two: CAUSE OF CAUSES and VICENTE.
CAUSE OF CAUSES (160) has a really nice profile for this race. He ran to a mark of 160 on my numbers when winning the four miler a few years back, and runs here off a mark of 150 here. Winner of the Cross Country race at Cheltenham last time, it is interesting to note that Gordon Elliott used that race as a prep when Silver Birch was a narrow runner-up before winning the big race. Jamie Codd has expressed concerns that he is on the small side and may not be ideally suited to the race, but with the fences now a bit easier and the fact he was 8th in the year Many Clouds won the race I think alleviates those concerns. In short, he stays, likes the ground, handles big fields, is in form and has had an ideal prep for the race….he looks to have a massive chance to me.
The other runner I am really keen on is VICENTE (163). He helped Paul Nicholls land the trainer’s championship last season when winning the Scottish National last season and I think he can land the biggest pot of all to help him secure it again this season.
He has the right age, experience, stamina, big field form and prep to be nigh on the ideal National candidate to me. I like horses to have “National” form, Auroras Encore was second in the Scottish version, and Rule the World likewise in the Irish National before winning this and Vicente just ticks all the boxes for me.
Furthermore, there is evidence that this is the time to catch him. Looking at his form the thing that leaps off the page for me is his love of good ground. If we focus on his runs on genuine good ground or in the spring months his form reads 1P1113151. Of his defeats, he was pulled up in a handicap hurdle and found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart and was left off until the following season as a result. His 3rd, was a 1½ length defeat in a decent Cheltenham novice chase, and his 5th was a good run in a red hot renewal of the four miler at the Festival (trainer later confirmed it was a prep for his Scottish National win and he was hampered in the race). He is unbeaten all other times he has met genuine good ground or run in the spring months.
Two of his victories under such conditions include giving 8lbs and a beating to dual Cheltenham Festival winner Un Temps Pour Tout, and the other came in the Scottish National last season.
This season Nicholls has been quoted that this race has been the target all season and they have been working backwards from there. He fell in the Hennessy, was then 6th on soft ground in the Welsh National, 6th over an inadequate trip at Doncaster and down the field on softer ground last time at Haydock. In short, this race has been the target all season and you can be sure they have left plenty to work with on every occasion he has run this season.
He is a French bred which traditionally isn’t ideal for a National horse, but he is by the same sire as Neptune Collonges and Dom Alco’s seem to relish stamina tests so I’m not duly concerned about that. Also, he hasn’t had a hurdles prep this season, but his mark has dropped from 151 to 147 for this so he hasn’t been “hiding a mark” and he now runs off just 1lb higher mark than his win at Ayr last season. In that race I gave him a big number that suggests he could have at least a stone in hand on his official mark if getting back to his best. And conditions and preparation lead me to think that is very much on the cards.
Interestingly, he has been bought by Trevor Hemmings, and not that it is of any major significance to his chances, it would give the “National Story” side to things should he win given that connections lost the brilliant Many Clouds earlier in the year. Vicente is currently number 35, runs off a mark of 147 and is set to carry 10st9lbs…everything looks right for him, and at 25/1 with extra place offers around he has to be a bet.
I don’t like to be bound religiously by the stats though, and there are a few “stat busters” that I feel could run big races.
MORE OF THAT (166) is an eye catching runner, and ran a nice race in the Gold Cup. Riddled with problems the last few years, Jonjo has never hidden his love for this horse and I feel he has something in hand on his official mark here of 157. Probably the classiest runner in the field, he could be the selection of Geraghty and go off fav on the day. Worth getting him onside now at 16/1 and 20/1.
THE YOUNG MASTER (160) was a really good novice chaser a few seasons ago, and has started to live up to that promise after landing the Bet365 Gold Cup last season. He fell in the Becher this season, before having a run over hurdles in the Cleeve. He then ran a nice race to finish 6th in the handicap chase on day one of the festival and can go well here for Sam Waley-Cohen who has a good record over these obstacles.
The other one I like at a wild price is DOUBLE SHUFFLE (156+) who would be a big stats buster! Perhaps this will be too soon for him, being a 7 year old, but coming from the family of Nil Desperandum I feel going up in trip is what this horse has been crying out for and he has shown improved form after getting stepped up to 3 miles this season. Yet to run over a real marathon trip, stamina is taken on that pedigree link rather than form, but he is a young progressive chaser who looks to have something in hand on his mark. He likes good ground and travels well in his races, he can be a cheap each way play at 50/1.
- CAUSE OF CAUSES
- MORE OF THAT
- THE YOUNG MASTER
- DOUBLE SHUFFLE
- JUST A PAR
Vicente and Cause of Causes look to have everything going for them for me and they are my two main fancies for the race. The other three are runners that have something to find on the stats but look well handicapped sorts that can go well in the race.
Of the head of the market Vieux Lion Rouge looks to have lots going for him but has only had 2 runs this season, and may lack the overall experience despite having form over these fences. Either way, he is short enough now at the head of the market.
Definitly Red is another one that may lack the required experience of the fancied runners, and I’m not sure he will relish this big field. An accusation that can be thrown at Blaklion as well.
Hopefully these 6 can go well at decent prices. Contrary to popular belief this is a decent betting race, and the place market will be overbroke so backing a few to have running for you has plenty of merit.