2014 Grand National betting guide

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On Saturday, at precisely 16:15 BST in Aintree on the outskirts of Liverpool, England; 40 horses will race over 4 miles and 3 furlongs (more than 7km) and jump 30 fences, some over 5ft high, to compete for a prize pot of £1 million and to have their name etched in history as winners of the toughest horse race on earth- the Grand National.

Its size and excitement means it is one of the world’s most watched horse races, and most gambled on. Unfortunately, the large field, difficulty, handicap system (horses are assigned a minimum weight depending on their form) and unpredictability (many horses are eliminated due to colliding with other competitors who have fallen at fences in front of them) means it is very difficult to predict who will do well in the race, let alone win.

With that in mind, here are my 2014 Grand National betting tips and horses to watch. Having had a reasonable degree of success over my time betting on the ‘national, I have learned many of the important trends and tricks which can help you to make the most out of the big race.

I have two golden rules when betting on the Grand National. The first is to always bet each way. With so many factors in play and so many horses, betting just to win is fool’s errand. Betting each way means that you will win some money as long as the horse comes in the top four (some bookmakers go as far as 5th place on the national for e/w bets). Although it costs you ‘double’ (you pay £10 for a £5 bet), the length of the odds of most horses in the national means that you are far more likely to end the race with more money than you started with.

My other main piece of advice is to never bet solely on name or the jockey’s colours. Although many people base their choice of horse on the colours of the jockey, or pick the horse with the best name, such as Shakalakaboomboom, this is rarely successful. There are multiple factors to consider when choosing a horse to back in the national. The jockey, trainer, form, ground preference, experience, age and weight all have an effect on a horses chances, and opting for the horse with the shortest odds is not always the best answer.

Two of these factors, age and weight, both have notable trends which should be used to narrow down the number of horses you should consider. When it comes to age, nine of the last ten winners have been aged nine to eleven, and only two horses outside of this range have finished in the top four over the past five years. When looking at weight, the optimum range is 10st-6lbs to 11st 6lbs; only three horses over the limit have finished the race in the past five years.

With this in mind, here are my top five horses for the 2014 Grand National. (odds at time of writing in brackets)

Teaforthree (8-1)

Despite what I said above about not automatically going for the favourite above, they (unsurprisingly) have a fairly decent record in the race- three of the past ten winners have started the race 10-1 or shorter, and in three of the past four races where at least one horse has started shorter than 10-1 one has gone on to finish in the top three. As to the horse itself, it fits the bill perfectly. He finished third in the race last year with the same jockey, yet will carry 5lbs less in 2014. Although some may be concerned by his form, he looks a strong choice to repeat or improve on a good performance last year.

The Rainbow Hunter (33-1)

Considering it’s relatively long odds, and failure to finish last year; many may be sceptical about backing the Rainbow Hunter. But it has a lot of positives, and provides good each way value at 33-1. It is trained by Kim Bailey, who trained the fastest ever winner of the race, Mr Frisk in 1990. He also fits the optimum height and weight bands, and has come in the top 2 twice this season in races of three miles or more. He may not be a name on everybody’s lips, but the Rainbow Hunter is one of the most appealing outsider bets for the national this year.

Balthazar King (20-1)

Having won three straight races this season, Balthazar King is arguably the form horse coming into the 2014 Grand National. His last outing was an impressive victory over 3 miles, 7 furlongs at Cheltenham off a weight of 11st 12lbs, a result which suggest both ability and stamina. He finished the race last year as well, although he ended up a disappointing 15th after starting the race too quickly. If he can maintain his current form, he has a good chance of overturning his jockey and trainer’s poor record in the ‘national.

Big Shu (25-1)

Big Shu is another horse in good form, having finished no worse than third in every race he has taken part in since 2012. All of these races have been over 3 miles, and include winning the previously mentioned Cheltenham Cross Country in 2013 and finishing 2 lengths behind Balthazar King this year. He also won a race of over 4 miles in punches town last year while carrying over 12 stone, which means there should be no worry of him tiring out. Although he lacks big race pedigree (he has only won one race of grade two or higher), all signs point to Big Shu being a strong each way bet for this year’s contest.

One in a Milan (66-1)

He may be ignored by many due to his long odds, but One in a Milan has much more than a one in a million chance of doing well. In the past 13 months he has finished in the top four in the Welsh National and Midlands National, which both replicate the unique challenge of the Grand National better than almost any other race. His trainer, Evan Williams, has had a horse finish in the top four in the ‘national for the past five years, and so knows a thing or two about preparing horses for the Aintree course.

But what makes the nine year old an interesting option to me is his ground performance. He is what many call a mud horse, one that excels when the ground is soft or heavy. And although the going is currently described as good to soft, forecast rain could make the conditions more favourable. Although he is still a long shot, a bit of fortune with the weather could give One in a Milan a chance at being placed.

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