Statistical guide to 2021 Grand National

March 22, 2021

The Aintree Grand National returns to our television screens on April 10th after being lost to the pandemic in 2020. There have been numerous safety measures taken in recent years along with stricter qualifying rules but the race is still a daunting test for both horse and rider. The race can be equally testing for racing fans having their annual Grand National each-way bet. We take a close look at the statistics for past winners in the hope of unearthing a long-priced winner this year.

The cancellation of last year’s Grand National meeting was inevitable, just weeks after the Cheltenham Festival was controversially allowed to go ahead. That deprived racing fans of the chance to see Tiger Roll seek a third successive National victory. The eleven-year-old has been taken out of this year’s renewal but there is still a high class entry for the four and a quarter-mile steeplechase.

Experience over Grand National fences a big asset

Horses that have previous experience of the big Grand National fences are at an advantage. Often horses return to the race year after year, some of them reserving their best for Aintree in the spring. Horses that fit the bill this year include Kimberlite Candy, Magic Of Light and Anibale Fly.

Magic Of Light is trained in Ireland by Jessica Harrington and finished runner-up to Tiger Roll in 2019. Had she done so, she would have become the first mare to win the race since Nickel Coin in 1951. Although she has held her form well since, that last statistic is certainly a concern.

Anibale Fly has been placed in two Cheltenham Gold Cups and has run well in the last two Grand Nationals. He was fourth to Tiger Roll in 2018 and fifth last year, carrying 11st 8lbs and 11st 10lbs respectively. He returned from almost a year off the track at Fairyhouse in February and the handicapper has dropped him to 10st 12lbs this year. He is now 11 years of age but that did not prevent Neptune Collonges (2012), Auroras Encore (2013) or Pineau De Re (2014) from winning the race.

Kimberlite Candy is nine years of age and was runner-up in the Becher Chase at Aintree in 2019 and 2020. In between, he won a Grade 3 chase at Warwick over three miles and five furlongs. Given his liking for the course and his proven stamina, he certainly comes into the reckoning. All but one of the last 29 Grand National winners had raced in the 55 days prior to Aintree. This could count against Kimberlite Candy and Welsh Grand National winner Secret Reprieve who last ran in December and January respectively.

Fate of the Grand National Favourites

Tiger Roll started favourite when winning the 2019 Grand National, the first clear favourite to oblige since Hedgehunter in 2005. There have been some very long-priced winners during that time including 100-1 shot Mon Mome in 2009 and 66-1 outsider Auroras Encore in 2013. The outlook is better for favourites over a longer period with roughly one in five prevailing over the past 28 years. Perhaps more significantly, over half of them finished in the first four so an each-way bet makes more appeal.

This year’s favourite is already established in Cloth Cap, a wide margin winner at Newbury and Kelso on his last two starts. He would have a stone more to carry if the handicapper had the opportunity to re-assess his weight of 10st 5lbs. He jumps and stays and races in the colours of three-time Grand National winner Trevor Hemmings.

Other horses being aimed at the National this year include Any Second Now and Burrows Saint. The latter is a previous Irish Grand National winner and both were lined up for the cancelled fixture 12 months’ ago. Both have shown good form on the track recently, are trained in Grand National winning stables and have excellent racing weights. They, along with the favourite Cloth Cap, are likely to be the punters choice but our Aintree long shot must be Anibale Fly at 50-1.

By Harvey Mayson

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