How to pick your horse in the 2012 Grand National?

Mon Mome after winning the Grand National

Powered by Guardian.co.ukWith 40 runners lining up, Saturday’s Grand National is a pretty confusing affair, even for those of use who spend the whole year watching horse races. If you’re one of the many who hasn’t given the game a second thought since last year’s race, it’s bound to be baffling.

This page is an attempt to help you find the right horse for you. All you have to decide is this: what kind of horse are you looking for?

A grey!

Well, it’s about time. There hasn’t been a grey Grand National winner since Nicolaus Silver in 1961. In fact, there have only been two winning greys in the race’s entire history, which goes back to 1837, and the other one, The Lamb, reportedly turned black by the end of his career. Anyway, this year’s grey hounds are:

Neptune Collonges

Alfa Beat

Chicago Grey

Swing Bill

A chestnut!

A bit more like it. We get plenty of those, like the (fairly) recent winners Mr Frisk and Seagram and Bindaree. Chestnuts, for those who don’t know, are the pretty, orangey ones. Some people believe their pigmentation makes them more sensitive to temperature than your average bay or brown horse, making them more likely to run well in warm weather. The science on this is entirely absent. This year’s chestnuts:

Junior

Always Right

Treacle

The Midnight Club

Becauseicouldntsee

Vic Venturi

Viking Blond

A horse trained in Ireland!

Irish raiders went from 1975 to 1999 without a single Grand National success but there have been six since then. This year’s typically strong team:

Alfa Beat

Black Apalachi

Chicago Grey

Seabass

On His Own

Rare Bob

Organisedconfusion

Treacle

The Midnight Club

Killyglen

Quiscover Fontaine

Tharawaat

Becauseicouldntsee

Vic Venturi

In Compliance

A horse trained in Wales!

There hasn’t been a Welsh-trained National winner since Kirkland in 1905, a month before Las Vegas was founded. It’s a long time to wait but an odd feature of recent jumps seasons has been the emergence of Welsh stables as a powerful collective force. Doing it for the dragon:

Deep Purple

Cappa Bleu

State Of Play

Postmaster

A horse who has won the Grand National before!

Multiple National winners are extremely rare. There were only two in the last century, Reynoldstown (1935-6) and Red Rum (1973-4 and 1977). We have two previous winners in this year’s field. Is either of them another “Rummy”?

Ballabriggs

Mon Mome

A horse who has won one of the other Nationals!

A shrewd choice. Clearly you know something about the game because it is fairly common for National winners to have proven their stamina in the equivalent races in Scotland, Wales or Ireland. Stepping up to the big time this year:

Synchronised (Welsh National)

Hello Bud (Scottish National)

Organisedconfusion (Irish National)

A really young horse!

Horses have to be at least seven years old before they are allowed to run in the National, making them more than twice as old as the callow beasts who run in the Derby, but even that is a young age for this race. The last horse as young as seven to win was Bogskar in 1940, shortly before the evacuation of Dunkirk. This year’s children:

Organisedconfusion

Tharawaat

Viking Blond

A really old horse!

There is no upper age limit for National runners, which is a pity because racehorses generally lose their ability pretty quickly after turning 13 and no one likes to see old favourites being returned to the fray when the chance of success is remote. The National has not been won by a horse older than 12 since Sergeant Murphy in 1923. Galloping grandads:

Hello Bud (14)

Black Apalachi (13)

A horse wearing blinkers!

Well, they should help you to pick your horse out from the crowd but blinkers are thought to be a disadvantage in the National. They narrow a horse’s field of vision dramatically, whereas it may be helpful to see that loose horse approaching from your side. Since 1975, only Earth Summit and Comply Or Die have worn blinkers to National glory. Taking a narrow view:

Alfa Beat

Junior

Viking Blond

A horse who won at the Cheltenham Festival!

It sounds like a good idea but in fact it is 21 years since Seagram was the last horse to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival and continue to Aintree glory a month later. National winners are often big, slow, tough, burly types who can be brought to their peak maybe twice a year. It can be for Cheltenham in mid-March or Aintree three or four weeks later. Both is asking a lot. Pushing their luck, therefore:

Synchronised

Sunnyhillboy

A horse who won its last race!

That broadens the net a little, though the precedents are still not especially propitious. Just two of the past 10 National winners had also won their previous race. Trying to follow up:

Synchronised

Calgary Bay

Seabass

West End Rocker

On His Own

Sunnyhillboy

Killyglen

Postmaster

Giles Cross

A horse who ran really badly in its most recent race!

Odd as it may seem, the Grand National often produces excellent performances from horses whose recent form has been dubious at best. Some beasts need this sort of extreme test to show their true form, others have been deliberately held back for the big day. Four National winners in the past 10 years were either pulled up on their previous start or finished more than 30 lengths behind the winner. Stuffed out of sight when we last saw them:

Weird Al

Alfa Beat

Tatenen

Always Right

Organisedconfusion

The Midnight Club

Mon Mome

Arbor Supreme

Swing Bill

Vic Venturi

In Compliance

Viking Blond

Hello Bud

Neptune Equester

Good luck!

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