This Saturday 10 million viewers across the UK will tune in to BBC1 and witness the crapshoot that is the Grand National with over 250m people worldwide viewing the race from afar.
Quite why this race has captured the imagination of the British public remains unclear. Perhaps it’s the 30 fences the horses have to jump, the fact that complete outsiders can win it like last year’s 100/1 shot Mon Mome – or maybe it’s because it’s the only place you get to see decent sport in Liverpool nowadays.
Either way, it’s one of those rare events that brings a country to a standstill like the World Cup final, the declaration of war or Who Shot Archie Mitchell?
So before you grab a pin, randomly stick it in the list of runners and riders or ask the Missus to pick her favourite horse with a hilarious name and pink jockey silks, here’s a cheat sheet to help you narrow down the field and try and beat the bookies, on whom an estimated £250m will be staked on this one race alone.
If your nag is carrying too much timber around that gruelling Aintree circuit it ain’t going to last the distance. Imagine having to do two circuits of Tesco’s car park with your mother-in-law on your back and you’ll get the idea. That said, my mother-in-law’s always on my back but I digress. Since 1984 there have been 103 runners who carried 11st 2lb or more and every single one has lost. Mind you, last year the first four past the post all carried 11st or more – but we’ll call that an anomaly.
National hunt horses are generally at their best when they are nine or ten years old – 11 of the last 14 winners have fallen within that age range. Only three have been aged eight since Red Rum in 1973 and its 70 years since the last winning seven-year-old. You do get the occasional golden oldie though, with seven of the last 21 winners aged 11 or 12.
Most National winners have already proved their can last longer than Ron Jeremy on Viagra by doing the business over distance. Remember this is a two times around a two-and-a-quarter mile circuit. Every winner since Gay Trip in 1970 had previously won over at least 3m.
Although we had a 100/1 winner last year this race is not a complete lottery. Half of the last 10 winners had finished in the first three in their previous race, while six of the last nine winners had previously run over the National fences. Tim Richards’ tip Black Apalachi, for example, was running well until he lost his jockey at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit last year.
The weights for the race were revealed two months ago and since then some horses have improved their official rating, putting them at an advantage as the weights cannot be changed. These horses are described as being well-in and include The Package, who is 6lb well-in here compared to future handicaps.
Right, so there you have it. If you don’t win on Saturday you only have yourself to blame, because you heard Backstage tipped up here first. Good luck.