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How likely is the favourite to win the Grand National?

Bookmakers display their odds ahead of the 2014 Grand National

Thinking of backing the favourite to win the 2015 Aintree Grand National? Statistics show this is one race in which it may prove shrewd to avoid the market leader.



In horse racing, the stats indicate that the favourite wins around 1/3 of the thousands of contests that take place each year.

Indeed, the longer the race – and they don’t come longer than the Grand National – theoretically the better the chance that the favourite will prevail because there is more time and opportunity to make up for anything that might go awry in running.

For example, in a five-furlong sprint, one piece of bad luck, e.g being blocked in behind a rival, and usually that’s it, game over. No chance to make up the lost ground.

But over a distance of nearly four and a half miles, there is much more leeway. One famous example was the 1988 Grand National winner, Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, who slithered on his belly and almost fell at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit, lost many lengths but still caught up his rivals and went on to triumph under Brendan Powell.

Rhyme ‘n’ Reason was a very good horse who had finished third in that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup but he was not the Grand National favourite, although he was close having started at odds of 10/1.

However, when you consider that somewhere between 30% and 33% of races are won by the favourite, the Grand National record books make very interesting reading.


Rough Quest was a winning Grand National favourite in 1996

Let’s go back 42 years to when Red Rum landed the first of his three Grand National successes as one of the 9/1 joint favourites.

Given the stat quoted above, you would expect that of those 42 Grand Nationals starting with Rummy’s first victory, around 14 of them – maybe slightly less – would have been won by the favourite.

Not a bit of it. Slash that figure in half, to seven, and you get the right number. So what you can say is that in the Grand National, the favourite is 50% LESS LIKELY to win than in a normal horse race, despite it being the longest in the calendar.

Why? There are various reasons – the size of the field, with 40 runners, makes it much more open and so luck in running then plays a significant part as well. The fences are tricky and generally the Grand National is just a very difficult race to win.

So, in summary, do not automatically think that just because a Grand National runner has been made favourite it has the best chance of winning.

The last three winners have started at 33/1, 66/1 and 25/1, which shows you should not be afraid of backing an outsider if there is one that takes your fancy.


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How likely is the favourite to win the Grand National?

Thinking of backing the favourite to win the 2015 Aintree Grand National? Statistics show this is one race in which it may prove shrewd to avoid the market leader.

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