The 2011 Grand National remains the ultimate equine test over four-and-a-half miles and 30 of the most demanding fences imaginable. Lottery was the name of the first Grand National winner back in 1839 and a couple of years ago we had Mon Mome going off at 100/1 but is the great race still a lottery and what are the key statistics for serious and once-a-year punters ahead of the 2011 renewal?
1. Sam Waley-Cohen is bidding to become the first jockey since Jim Culloty back in 2002 to land the Gold Cup/National double courtesy of Oscar Time. The one before that? John Burke back in 1976 when he landed the National via Rag Trade and Gold Cup with Royal Frolic. Dentist Waley-Cohen is looking to become the first amateur to ride the winner since Marcus Armytage in 1990 aboard Mr Frisk whose course record time is unlikely to ever be beaten.
2. The last horse to win the race two years in succession was the great Red Rum back in 1973/4. Don't Push It will be attempting to buck that trend in 2011. Only Rummy since 1936 has carried top-weight to victory. Don't Push It will carry top-weight next month.
3. What A Friend finished 4th in this month's Gold Cup and Sir Alex Ferguson's horse is reported to be on course for a crack at the National. The last horse to win the National having been placed in the Gold Cup was Rough Quest who finished runner up to Imperial Call in 1996 before scoring at Aintree.
4. Finishing unplaced in the Gold Cup is not necessarily a barrier to success, however, with Grittar, Rhyme N' Reason and Miinnehoma all following up with a win at Aintree having finished down the field at Cheltenham.
5. Only two grey horses have ever won the National. The Lamb in 1868 and Nicolaus Silver in 1961. Greys expected to line up this year include recent Haydock winner Silver By Nature, Quolibet, Character Building and Piraya.
6. Six of the last eleven winners have been trained in Ireland Bobbyjo (1999), Papillon (2000), Monty's Pass (2003), Hedgehunter (2005), Numbersixvalverde (2006) and Silver Birch (2007). Before this period they had a 24-year barren period, however, when 121 Irish runners travelled to Aintree and they all lost! In fact, from 1976 to 1998 only six Irish horses finished in the first three. They appear to hold a strong hand this year with The Midnight Club, Backstage and Oscar Time at the front of the betting at victorchandler.com
7. Although only 12 favourites won last century five winners since 1996 have started favourite (Rough Quest (7/1) in 1996, Earth Summit (7/1) in 1998, Hedgehunter (7/1) in 2005, Comply or Die (7/1) in 2008 and Don't Push It 10/1 jt fav last year). It is an urban myth that only outsiders win the National; since 1990 15 of the 20 winners have started between 7/1 and 16/1; all featured in the first eight in the betting.
8. Five horses have won the race at 100/1; as well as Mon Mome in 2009 there is arguably the most famous National of the lot when Foinavon in 1967 came from another parish to win following the pile up at the 23rd fence, Caughoo in 1947, Gregalach in 1929 and Tipperary Tim in 1928 when only two finished.
9. Since 1990 15 of the 20 winners have carried a weight between 10 stone 4lbs and 10 stone 12lbs – just an eight-pound margin but the last two winners have carried 11st or more (Mon Mome 11st 2009 & Don't Push It 11st 5lbs last year) and most pundits would agree that the dominance of the low weights is soon going to be a thing of the past with BHB handicapper Phil Smith looking to condense the handicap. Red Rum carried 12st to victory in 1974 whilst Don't Push It the top weight this year will carry 4lbs less.
10. Older (and therefore more experienced) horses tend to fare better; in the last 35 years all bar three victories have gone to horses aged between 9 and 12. Recent history favours horses aged 9 or 10 with 12 of the 15 victories since 1996 going to that age group including the last half dozen. Bindaree in 2002 was the sole 8-y-o, Red Marauder in 2001 the only 11-y-o and Amberleigh House in 2004 the only 12-y-o to win during the period.
For all your sporting odds this weekend check out victorchandler.com