At 5.15pm on Saturday 9 April one of the most anticipated sporting events in the world, the Grand National, will get underway. It is estimated that 600,000,000 people will watch the race worldwide. To put that figure into perspective, that is more than three times than those who watch the Super Bowl.
For nearly two centuries the Grand National has captured the imagination of the public, and not just those who are partial to a flutter on horse racing. Part of the allure of the Grand National is that any horse can win and you certainly don’t need to be a savvy tipster to pick the winner. Down the years five horses have won at odds of 100-1, the most recent being Mon Mome in 2009.
The big odds and big field attract those who would not normally bet on horse racing. But there is also the mythology of the big race: say the names Red Rum or Bob Champion and it will evoke an emotive reaction in someone who has never even seen a horse race before.
Who will win the 2016 Grand National?
So should you just pick a name out of a hat for 2016? Not necessarily. Yes, the Grand National is always a tough race to call, but there is also some science behind picking the winner. First of all, the age of the horse: nine out of the past 10 winners were aged between nine and 12 years old. So, perhaps avoid horses outside this age bracket.
Secondly, the weights: if you were not aware, horses carry weight as a handicap depending on past successes in the National or similar events. Last year’s winner, Many Cloud, will be carrying top weight of 11 stone 10 pounds. The last horse to win carrying more than that was Red Rum back in 1974.
Finally, because the race is so tough — run over 4 miles with some of the most famously tough obstacles to navigate — experience is a key factor. Look for horse that has competed in more than 10 chases, and perhaps won at a distance of over 3 miles.
So where does this leave us for the 2016 Grand National? Many Clouds is a class act, and despite carrying top weight, has the ability to defy the handicappers. His jockey Leighton Aspell will be going for three in a row in 2016 and that nous and experience may count for a lot.
However, the smart money may go on Silviniaco Conti. The Paul Nicholls-trained mount has shown he can beat a class field after wins in the King George VI Chase in 2013 and 2014. He has admittedly had an up and down time since then, but if anyone was to witness his 20 length victory in the Ascot Chase in February they would see that this horse has more to offer in the National.
Jockey Noel Fehily has a brilliant strike record aboard Silviniaco Conti and the duo should be seriously looked at for Grand National glory in 2016. Other horses likely to have a say in the big race include Carlingford Lough, a tough as nails Irish Gold Cup winner, and Shutthefrontdoor, who proved his mettle over a similarly tough course when winning the Irish Grand National in 2014.
Regardless of who wins the 2016 Grand National, we will still witness one of the most compelling horse races in the world today. Fourty horses will take to the field, with even finishing the race regarded as an achievement. Past heroes may return, or new stories may be written. Whether you are taking part in an office sweepstake, or placing a bet on the Grand National online, enjoy it for what it is — one of the greatest sporting spectacles on earth.