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Can you ever beat the bookies (one year on)?

It’s that time of year again and after the roaring success of evidence-based predicting last year’s Grand National live on BBC Radio York, I thought I’d have another crack. I might have been wise just to give it a miss this year and insist my system works just fine after one outing but I wouldn’t be a proper scientist if I did that. Last year, I managed to predict 5 of the top 7 placed horses and bagged myself a profit. I happen to think that that’s quite good. But can it be reproduced in 2012?

This year is different from the last. I’ll get all the excuses out of the way now. I’ve been busier for a start. I’m currently moving house, tomorrow in fact. I’ve been away with work for 3 days this week. We’ve had two bank holidays. I’m on annual leave next week. The list goes on. So I’ve not had the chance to apply quite the same level of anal-ness to this year but I’ll give it my best.

Age

Probably the first trend you notice is that 8 to 12 year old horses tend to win. Younger ones have lack of experience over the fences and poor stamina. Older ones are just knackered and that, I believe, is the correct technical term. The peak age of winners seems to be 9 to 11. So, I’ve discounted every horse who isn’t aged 9, 10 or 11. Risky.

Stamina

I need my horse to have won over at least three miles fairly recently. It’s a hard course and they need to stay the distance. So all the horses that have raced over short distances are cut from my list. As important as that, they need to be able to jump, so horses that haven’t raced in steeplechase races recently are out. Usual fallers have to be discounted too.

Class

I’ve looked at other Nationals; the English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh or Kerry Nationals. Roughly 80% of the winners in the previous few years not only raced but were placed in the top 3 in any these Nationals.

Weight

Looking at the past few Grand Nationals, any horse carrying from 10 stone 4lb to 11 stone 5lb seem statistically more likely to win. So they’re my limits too.

Nationality

Apart from a couple of years ago, French horses tend not to do so well. I’ve got to narrow the field down somehow and this seems like another factor which is important.

So how many are we left with this year? I had 10 last year and I’m going to go for the same this year. Annoyingly, this means a bit of guess work as more than 10 fit these criteria but you can’t bet on 18 horses can you? The great thing about the National is that it’s such an open race. These 10 might all trip up (can horses do that?) before they reach the first fence but it’s a risk I’m going to have to take.

Here are my predictions, in no particular order, with their rough current odds.

  • Treacle, 20/1
  • The Midnight Club, 33/1
  • Calgary Bay, 33/1
  • Chicago Grey, 16/1
  • West End Rocker, 14/1
  • Giles Cross, 12/1
  • Planet of Sound, 33/1
  • Sunnyhillboy, 18/1
  • Cappa Bleu, 16/1
  • According to Pete, 33/1

Thanks to the people who got in touch with me on Twitter who said I should do this again. I know bugger all about horse racing but I do like patterns and evidence-based predicting. I urge you not to follow these tips. You have been warned.

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