Get ready for Aintree clues
Richard Dunwoody looks ahead to this weekend's Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock and brings us all the vital big-race trends.
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With Cheltenham now less than a month away most trainers will be keeping their Festival big-guns away from the track, so this weekend the trials continue, but now with the Grand National, run on April 6th, the focus.
I took this trial race back in 1990 aboard the Gordon Richards-trained Rinus and to his credit he followed-up that victory with an excellent third in the Aintree showpiece later that season - although Neil Doughty was doing the steering that day as I was on Bigsun (finished 6th) for the Duke.
So, although this weekend's Haydock race is billed as a Grand National Trial it's worth pointing out that the winners haven't really upheld that title in recent years. I've gone back to 1980 and we've not seen a winner of this trial go onto land the Liverpool marathon in the same season.
That said, it's certainly worth looking out for any horses that ran well in this race without winning. Why? Well a certain Neptune Collonges was a neck runner-up in this contest 12 months ago and we all know what he went onto do at Aintree, while the 2009 Grand National winner, Mon Mome, was seventh in this race before landing the world's greatest steeplechase a few months later.
Others to quickly mention are the 1997 winner, Suny Bay, who went onto run second in the National a few months later, while the 2005 victor, Forest Gunner, later ran a decent fifth in the world's greatest steeplechase.
Anyway, onto this year's race and because it's a bit early in the week to know exactly who will take their chance in Saturday's 3m4f contest it's probably better to home in on a few key trends so as we know more later in the week we'll be ahead of the game.
Form: With 9 of the last 10 winners finishing in the top three last time out this is certainly a trend to have on your side, while if you want to take this further still 8 of the last 10 were actually placed 1st or 2nd in their latest race.
Age: 70% of the last 10 winners were aged 9 or younger, so it could pay to focus on the slightly younger legs.
Weight/Rating: 8 of the last 10 were officially rated 135 or higher, while in terms of weight 7 of the last 10 carried 11-0 or less. That said; don't completely ignore those with welter burdens as 3 of the last 10 winners did in-fact carry 11-12 to victory.
Betting: We've only seen one winning favourite in the last 10 years, and that was Giles Cross 12 months ago. 7 of the last 10 returned a double-figure price, 80% of the last 10 winners came from outside the top 3 in the betting, while the average winning SP in that period is 10.5/1
Favourites: 5 of the last 10 runnings have seen the favourite finish unplaced, while, as already mentioned, we've had just 1 winning favourite in the last 10 renewals.
Last Race: Coming here off the back of a fairly recent run is another key thing to note as 8 of the last 10 winners had raced within the last 7 weeks.
Welsh National: Always worth a look back to this race as 4 of the last 10 winners ran in the Coral-sponsored contest, while 3 of the last 10 winners actually finished 1st or 2nd in that race - this season's Coral Welsh National 1st and 2nd were Monbeg Dude and Teaforthree.
Grand National Trial Trends:
10/10 - Won between 2-4 times over fences (rules) previously
10/10 - Won by a UK-based stable
9/10 - Won over at least 3m (fences) previously
9/10 - Placed in the top three last time out
8/10 - Won by a horse aged 10 or younger
8/10 - Winners that came from outside the top 3 in the market
8/10 - Raced within the last 7 weeks
8/10 - Placed in the top two last time out
8/10 - Officially rated 135 or higher
8/10 - Won only 2 or 3 times over fences (rules) previously
7/10 - Carried 11-0 or less in weight
7/10 - Won by a horse aged 9 or younger
7/10 - Winners that returned a double-figure price
6/10 - Went onto run in that season's Grand National (all unplaced)
5/10 - Favourites unplaced
4/10 - Raced in the Welsh Grand National last time out
4/10 - Won their latest race
4/10 - Irish-bred winners
4/10 - Winning distance - exactly 15 lengths
3/10 - Placed 1st or 2nd in the Welsh Grand National last time out
3/10 - Carried 11-12 in weight
2/10 - Won by the Lucinda Russell stable
1/10 - Favourites that won
The average winning SP in the last 10 renewals is 10.5/1
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