While Balthazar King ran a fantastic race to finish best of my personal picks, giving me yet another runner up, it proved to be Pineau De Re who ticked all the right boxes for a Grand National winner. Although something of a dark horse leading up to the race, he was quietly fancied by some shrewd judges (if not me!) and started at 25/1.
Trained by Dr Richard Newland, who handles just a small string of horses as a part time hobby, he was purchased last May after winning the Ulster National over 3m 4f. And that proven stamina was the key to success once again. The first four horses had all won over a minimum trip of 3m 1f, with the first and second having victories over three and a half miles plus already under their belts (as did fourth placed Alvarado).
Let's take a closer look at the profile of the winner, measured against the key trends:
√ Weight under 11st 1lb - carried 10st 6lb
√ Rated between 138 and 153 - rated 142
√ Aged between nine and elevent - 11 years old
√ Winner over minimum of three miles, one furlong - won over 3m 4f
√ Winner of a Class 1 or Class 2 chase - yes
√ Winner of a chase with 10+ runners - yes, 15 runners
√ Had at least 10 runs over fences - 14 chase runs
√ Ran within the last 56 days - last run 23 days ago
√ Between 3 and 6 runs since end of August - six runs
√ Finished placed this season - placed three times including one win
√ Placed form in a National or at Aintree / Cheltenham Festivals - won Ulster National and 3rd in Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival
The final prep race for the National may seem a bit unorthodox, but Pineau De Re actually ran in the same handicap hurdle where Don't Push It was pulled up prior to his Aintree success. He ran a fantastic race in third place, which was the first time I sat up and took notice of the horse, placing a bet on him for the Grand National at 50/1. Pineau De Re wasn't really on my radar until then as I had written off his chances after he fell in the Becher Chase back in the autumn.
But that experience appears to have paid dividends. Yet again, the winner of the Grand National had won another 'National' race, had previously run over the famous Aintree fences, and had finished placed in one of the two major jump racing Festivals. So the clues were certainly there for all to see.
Of course it's always so easy in hindsight and there were plenty of others who were more strongly fancied but failed to deliver. Nevertheless, it's amazing how many trends held true this year - you can forget the top weight, previous Gold Cup winners, previous Grand National placed horses, any horse carrying more than 11st 1lb or rated higher than 153 etc.
In fact, of the 18 finishers, only Rocky Creek in 5th (a valiant effort for one so inexperienced) and Hunt Ball way back in 17th carried more than 10st 12lb. This echoes last year's result, where only one horse carrying over 10st 11lb finished in the first eleven places. So perhaps the natural order has been restored and after four years that featured the heavier weights on 11st plus (2009 to 2012) the pendulum has swung back in favour of horses at the bottom end of the handicap. Six of the first 10 horses home actually carried 10st 6lb or less.
It is perhaps notable that 12 out of the last 16 winners were all rated between 136 and 144, just an eight pound margin. The exceptions were the four years mentioned above. And in terms of weight, a total of 17 winners since 1990 have now carried between 10st 3lb and 10st 12lb to victory, just a nine pound margin. That equates to a pretty impressive strike rate of 71%.
As always it pays to be flexible when it comes to the trends, and there's no room for complacency, but the results from the last two years do appear to have seen a return to the norm. One obvious exception is the recent record of French bred horses, who now account for three of the last six winners (including 100/1 winner Mon Mome, who ticked every other box), so that is one age old trend that has been well and truly busted.
So the Grand National trends blog has earned another stay of execution and lives to fight another day. I hope you enjoyed reading it and thanks to everyone for the positive comments and feedback. Hopefully a few of you managed to make some money on the big race yesterday, even if I didn't personally pinpoint the winner!
Until the same time next year...