One of the greatest puzzles for punters during the winter months, is trying to find the winner of the world’s greatest steeplechase.
Each April, Aintree Racecourse becomes the focal point for sport fans around the world. People with little or no interest in our wonderful sport, find themselves wandering into betting shops hoping to pick the winner of the Grand National.
Various selection methods are used. Some pin their hopes on a horse with an attractive name. Many choose their favourite number or are drawn to the colour of a jockey’s silks. A grey horse may be the one to follow or perhaps one ridden by Ruby or AP. Some crazy enthusiasts believe that ‘form’ plays a part in the outcome.
There can be no doubt that whatever the technique, millions of people will be transfixed for ten pulsating minutes until the final head-bobbing action is over. Last season the result was in doubt until that very last ‘bob’ of Neptune Collonges’ head.
That thrilling finish captivated the drama of this incredible race. A first win for the greatest trainer of the modern era, Paul Nicholls. Agonising defeat for Jonjo O’Neill, trainer of the second, who also lost his Gold Cup winner Synchronised earlier in the race. Agony and ecstasy gallop hand in hand every year in the Grand National.
But, just how does the serious punter go about finding the winner?
Narrowing the field down to the most likely contenders is always a good starting point. With 40 runners to choose from, many can be dismissed instantly with little or no chance. Looking at previous race statistics can give vital clues.
Age plays a key role in the result of the great race. Over the last ten seasons, eight winners have been aged either nine or ten. Young horses have a poor record which points to the importance of experience. This seems sensible, as the winner will have to jump 30 fences over more than four miles.
The weight carried by our probable winner is also an important factor. Since 1984 only three horses have carried more than 11 stone to victory. This again makes complete sense over such a marathon distance.
With these important trends factored in, a further necessity is for the horse to possess the necessary stamina. Breeding therefore seems an important component of any Grand National winner.
Old Vic regularly produces ‘staying chasers’ of the highest order. One of his progeny came close in April when ‘chinned’ on the line by Neptune Collonges. Sunnyhillboy was so close to following other recent winners from the family-line in Don’t Push It and Comply Or Die. Back in fifth in April was In Compliance, yet another sired by Old Vic.
In Don’t Push It’s winning year the first two home were from the famous sire. Black Apalachi chased home the winner on that occasion.
The list of terrific staying chasers arriving thanks to Old Vic is quite incredible. Along with horses already mentioned we can add Kicking King, Our Vic, Snoopy Loopy, Money Trix, Racing Demon, Mr Pointment, Vic Venturi, Chelsea Harbour and Master Overseer.
Needless to say, not all family members can be as talented. But many can be described as ‘proper old-fashioned chasing types’. I have little doubt that a Grand National horse with Old Vic in his blood has more of a chance than one without.
So which of the 2013 contenders has a chance of enhancing the family name?
Sunnyhillboy certainly retains the potential for winning the big one. Edged out in an epic finish last time, he now has crucial experience on his side. Jonjo will place him well as the big day approaches. Master Overseer for the David Pipe team is likely to be aimed at Aintree after winning recently at Cheltenham. An out and out stayer, he is already a Midlands National winner.
Yet there is one horse who possesses the perfect credentials. A horse bred with the Grand National in mind. Sired by Old Vic out of a Montelimar mare. Have I mentioned that Montelimar was the sire of Hedgehunter and Monty’s Pass? Two great Grand National sires coming together to create the perfect National horse. Surely if you Join Together two such influential blood lines, a Grand National win is inevitable.
You can follow Nigel Keeling on Twitter @traighboy.