How to pick a Grand National winner

From algorithm to blind luck, there are many ways to choose which horse to bet on


07 Apr 2017

Aintree’s Grand National festival is well underway, with the ladies of Liverpool making the most of the unseasonably warm weather. It’s not just the champagne bars that will be doing well for themselves, though. The nation’s bookies also benefit hugely from Saturday’s Grand National race; it’s estimated that a quarter of the UK’s adult population will have a punt on it.

The thing with the National is that with so many horses taking part, how on earth can you choose a winner? When there are 12 or so in a flat race, the probability of picking a winner is much higher. But with 40 horses to choose from, and the course so challenging, it’s a much harder task.

Many people have one tried and trusted way of picking their horse. Some choose by colour. Pink seems to be a favourite with the ladies, but if you look at the stats, it’s not necessarily the wisest choice. Green, yellow, or a combination of the two are the most successful colours, so bearing that in mind More of That, The Young Master, Cause of Causes, Regal Encore or Vicente might be worth a flutter.

You might prefer to pick by name rather than by silk colours. Vieux Lion Rouge and Definitly Red are two of the current favourites – which could be at least partially due to Liverpool fans putting their money on anything related to ‘the reds’.

For those who take betting more seriously, there are, of course, plenty of other ways to make your choice.  Some people – like The Spectator’s Freddy Gray – rely on clever algorithms. If you are studying the runners and riders for yourself, it might be tempting to pick a horse who knows his way round the National course, but the last seven winners were all first-time runners.

The safety changes made to the course in 2011 and 2012, which reduced the size of many of the jumps and drops and levelled out the take offs and landings, seem to have made it more of a young horse’s race – perhaps because the ‘safer’ jumps don’t require quite so much skill as the old ones. Last year’s winner, Rule The World, was nine; Many Clouds, in 2015, was eight. So Raz de Maree, for example, who came eighth in 2014 but is now 12, might not have age on his side.

Weight is also important. The course is more four miles long, and even with the recent changes, the jumping is still tricky – so every pound can make a difference. Out of the last ten winners, only three (Many Clouds, Neptune Collonges, and Don’t Push It), carried over 11 stone.

And if after all that you still really can’t decide on a horse, I direct you to this very handy website, Simply select how you’d like to choose your horse – by ‘silly name rating’, for example, or jockey colours, or age, and the site will filter out the perfect runner for you. You can’t say it hasn’t been made easy for you…

The Grand National is on Saturday, April 8, at 5.15pm on ITV