Seven steps to picking a Grand National winner

Auroras Encore won last year's race.

Auroras Encore won last year's race.

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East Yorkshire expert Tony McCormack, who runs www.irishbigracetrends.com has given readers his advice on how to pick a winner of this Saturday’s Grand National.

How many times will you hear, “Well, it’s a lottery, isn’t it” over the weekend?

It’s time for the greatest jumps race in the world, the Grand National.

Forty runners, jumping a total of 30 fences, over a gruelling four miles and three-and-a-half furlongs.

All runners came back safe in 2013, a victory for the Aintree authorities and the new redesigned fences. But we are reminded “It’s naive to think there is no risk with any type of horse,” said Donald McCain, whose late father, Ginger, trained Red Rum and became a National winner himself with Ballabriggs in 2011.

“We keep them to the best of our ability, we dote on them in everything we do, and the safest place for a thoroughbred racehorse is in my stable, not in a field somewhere in the cold and wet.

“Some horses thrive on coming to these days. There are no more accidents in the National than in many other disciplines involving horses, it’s just more high-profile. It’s the greatest test of a horse on the planet.”

So how do we go about finding the ‘lottery’ winner of the first-million pound National?

A good place to start would be the attributes of the winners of past races and seeing if any trends can be established. Trends are often ridiculed in racing, usually by those who either don’t understand the criteria on offer or stalwarts of the form-book, the latter suffering some well documented ‘bloody’ noses in recent years.

100/1, 66/1 and 33/1 winners in the last five years were not to be found in any form book.

Here are seven trends, which you can find in any daily newspaper racecard on Saturday, to help you towards a selection for the big race.

1. The last eight winners were aged between nine and 11.

2. The last eight winners were French (Fr) or Irish (IRE) bred.

3. The last eight winners carried between 10-3 and 11-6.

4. Seven of the last eight winners were running within 45 days.

5. Seven of the last eight winners finished in the first three in at least one of their last three runs.

6. Of the last 32 horses to finish in the first four, 31 were aged between eight and 11.

7. Of the last 32 horses to finish in the first four, 29 were running between 21 and 60 days.

For racing, a safe spectacle is paramount come 4.15pm on Saturday, as a jockey told me recently at Wetherby: “With 40 runners, you can bet there are at least 30 jockeys with instructions to be in the first 10 at the first fence’’ so excitement waits.

Unpredictability is the very heartbeat of the National.

It was not designed as a championship event, with horses running at level weights.

It was conceived by the owner of a local hotel, to attract spectators, and potential guests, to watch an unrivalled spectacle, rich with excitement and uncertainty.

The crowd that turned up for the first National had no idea what to expect.

The reason for its enduring appeal and immense global audience is that, nearly two centuries later, we still don’t.