Every year, millions of Britons eagerly anticipate the Grand National, one of the most prestigious races globally. This iconic event has been enthralling racing fans since 1839.
As an institution, it boasts a rich history of heart-stopping excitement and unexpected outcomes.
An estimated 600 million people watch the race worldwide, turning it into more than a sporting event – it’s a cultural phenomenon.
The British public loves to get involved, whether by placing a cheeky each-way bet or partaking in the office sweepstake.
What makes the Grand National so unique? It’s a true test of endurance, with 40 horses racing over a challenging four-and-a-half-mile course featuring 30 fences. The horses and their riders test their mettle in this gruelling event, creating an unpredictable, thrilling spectacle.
However, in the whirl of excitement, a cloud of myths, hearsay, and folktales surrounds the race.
These add to the event’s intrigue but often mislead the public. Let’s demystify this event by debunking persistent Grand National myths.
Myth 1: Grand National Is A Lottery
Many believe the Grand National to be a game of chance due to its handicap system. While it’s true that all participants theoretically have an equal chance of winning, this isn’t entirely accurate.
The numbers tell a different story.
If we consider the past winners, data shows that nearly 70% were aged between 8 and 11 years old. The age of a horse significantly affects its performance.
Moreover, 20 of the past 22 winners had previously won at three miles or longer.
In addition, horses carrying over 11 stone have struggled in the race. Only 3 out of the last 34 winners had this weight.
This clearly indicates that not every horse has an equal chance. We can significantly narrow down potential winners by looking into statistics and removing from your betting slip those horses that don’t fit the historical trends.
These data points illustrate that the Grand National isn’t entirely a game of chance. Informed analysis can significantly tilt the odds in our favour.
However, we can’t ignore the delightful irony that the first Grand National winner in 1839 was named “Lottery”!
Myth 2: Picking By Name – A Viable Strategy
This is one of the quirkiest myths. Each year, bettors pick horses based on appealing names, and occasionally, it pays off.
Perhaps you remember when fans of “Rule The World” had a field day in 2016? Or when Pineau De Re, a wine lover’s delight, took the win? Despite such instances, let’s not mistake coincidence for strategy. Picking by name is more luck-based than analytical.
Myth 3: Star Jockeys Always Deliver Winning Performances
A jockey’s fame can significantly influence bettors’ decisions. This is understandable, considering the accolades of celebrated jockeys like Ruby Walsh and AP McCoy.
But does a jockey’s fame necessarily mean they’re your best bet? History indicates otherwise. AP McCoy, despite his legendary status, had to endure 14 unsuccessful attempts before tasting Grand National glory in 2010 on his 15th ride.
Another case in point is Richard Johnson, one of the most successful jockeys in history, who never won the Grand National. Conversely, lesser-known jockey Ryan Mania galloped to victory on his first attempt in 2013!
In the world of the Grand National, even the most skilled jockeys need a blend of the right circumstances, a suitable horse, and a dash of luck to cross the finish line first.
So while a renowned jockey can enhance a horse’s prospects, their fame isn’t an iron-clad guarantee of success.
Myth 4: The Large Aintree Fences Lead to more Fallers
This myth sparks much controversy. The Aintree fences, notorious for their formidable size, have been modified throughout history in response to concerns over horse and jockey safety.
Many assume that the fences are excessively large, causing more fallers. But a counterintuitive argument emerges when we delve deeper.
Larger fences can act as a deterrent to excessive speed, ensuring a more careful and measured pace. This cautious approach leads to fewer accidents and a safer race.
Conversely, reducing the size of the fences, while it might seem like a logical step towards safer racing, could have the opposite effect.
Lower fences may encourage jockeys to speed up, leading to a faster, riskier race with a higher chance of mishaps.
Additionally, it’s essential to note that safety at the Grand National extends beyond fence size. Thus, blaming the Aintree fences alone for falls oversimplifies a complex issue.
Myth 5: Last Year’s Top Finishers Are Bound to Repeat Success
It’s tempting to think that the previous year’s top performers in the Grand National will continue their victorious streak. However, a closer examination of historical data reveals that this myth rarely holds.
Take the legendary Red Rum, a three-time winner in the 1970s, or the recent back-to-back triumphs of Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019. These remarkable horses managed to defy the odds and etch their names into Grand National history. Yet, they are the exception rather than the rule.
The weight allocation system, designed to level the playing field, adds a significant challenge for past winners. Previous winners receive a higher weight in subsequent races.
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This weight penalty makes it harder for them to replicate their previous success, as it places a greater physical burden on the horse.
When analyzing the statistics, we find that only a handful of horses have secured another victory after winning the Grand National.
Since the turn of the millennium, only Tiger Roll has won the race twice. Other winners have placed in subsequent years, but securing another win becomes increasingly elusive due to the weight penalties.
Therefore, while we celebrate the remarkable achievements of horses like Red Rum and Tiger Roll, we must recognize that they are remarkable exceptions rather than the norm. The weight allocation system poses a formidable challenge for past champions, making it uncommon for them to repeat their previous success.
Grand National Myth 6: Horses with High Odds have No Chance of Winning
Some people believe horses with long odds cannot win and should be disregarded when placing bets. However, history has repeatedly proven this myth wrong.
The Grand National is renowned for its underdog stories, where horses with seemingly low chances have emerged as victors.
Notable examples include Foinavon in 1967 and Mon Mome in 2009, both of whom triumphed against the odds. While the favourites tend to attract more attention, don’t underestimate the potential of those with longer odds.
Remember, when engaging with horse racing and betting on the Grand National, it’s essential to separate Grand National Myths from facts and make informed decisions based on a combination of research and analysis, or you could pick a horse because you like his name – we don’t judge here!