THE Grand National is the biggest contest in the racing calendar – and arguably the toughest to predict.
With 40 runners on the day making their way over the fences and round the twists and turns of the Aintree track, there is plenty of room for disaster.
It’s why some liken backing the winner to picking the right lottery numbers.
Despite this, there is no doubt that certain trends and key characteristics crop up year after year.
Look out for these and that can help narrow the field down to who you think can win.
Here, SunSport gives a five-step guide to picking a winner in the National – and a horse who matches each key characteristic.
1 Pick a horse that’s just the right age
Ten of the past winners have been between the ages of eight and 11.
The youngest horses this year are seven and the oldest 12.
Good news for: Most of the runners, but especially big favourite Cloth Cap, who is nine.
Bad news for: Secret Reprieve, who is seven – but has been tipped by SunSport columnist Matt Chapman – and fellow youngsters Farclas and The Long Mile.
Old-timers Takingrisks, Definitly Red, Blaklion and Vieux Lion Rouge fall foul of this trend.
2 Has won over three miles
The Grand National is an extreme test of endurance and the horses run a total of four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs (a furlong is about 200 yards).
Horses jump 30 fences in all and it is much more a marathon than a sprint.
Therefore, keep an eye out for horses that have won over a distance of three miles or more.
Nine of the last ten winners can boast doing this.
Good news for: Burrows Saint and Any Second Now (who managed it at Cheltenham Festival in 2019).
Bad news for: Minella Times, Discorama, Farclas, Class Conti, The Long Mile, Balko Des Flos, Hold The Note and Musical Slave.
3 Don’t be too good at winning!
Yes, seriously. Only one of the past ten winners has won more than twice that season heading into the race.
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Good news for: Take your pick, hardly any are affected by this.
Bad news for: The Storyteller, who won twice last October.
4 Good form
Five 100-1 shots have won the Grand National but even the most recent, Mon Mome in 2009, showed some decent form before the race.
Of course it always looks obvious in hindsight, but the clues are there.
Nine of the past ten winners had come in the top three of one of their previous three races.
Good news for: A load of horses at the head of the market can lay claim to this, but 25-1 shot Bristol De Mai looks good after coming second and first in his past two.
Bad news for: Those near the higher odds, including the likes of Balko Des Flos, 11-year-old Ballyoptic and Alpha Des Obeaux.
5 Horses for courses?
The old adage goes that certain horses love hacking up on courses they love.
And while that may be true, it does not especially hold for the National.
Nine of the past ten winners were running in the race for the first time.
The National is famed for its thrills and spills
Good news for: Take your pick, this applies to almost every horse in the field.
Bad news for: Magic Of Light, Anibale Fly, Lake View Lad and Vieux Lion Rouge.
Who’s the best shout?
As boring as it seems, big favourite Cloth Cap simply ticks all the boxes, but his short price (currently 4-1) could put off some punters.
Lord Du Mesnil at 33-1 matches many of the key trends too.
Shattered Love, at 50-1, seems decent while 33-1 Mister Malarky can go well too.
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