The Grand National is a unique race with equally unique fences but the Grand National isn’t the only race each year to make use of the Grand National fences so even a horse who is taking in his first Grand National could have experience over the Grand National fences.
Previous experience of the Grand National fences can often help a horse around the course and a horse who is proven over the huge obstacles can often provide a safer run for your money than other Grand National runners but some punters actually see previous experience of the National fences as a negative. Let’s see if it’s a help or hindrance. See a full list of Grand National runners here.
Other than the Grand National, there are four other races on the national hunt calendar that use the Grand National fences. Those races are the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase and the Becher Handicap Chase at the November meeting and also the Topham Chase and the Fox Hunters Chase at the Grand National meeting. The most recognised of these races as a Grand National trial is the Becher Chase which is run over 3 miles 2 furlongs.
Several Grand National winners have won this race since it began in 1992 on their way to National success, most recently Silver Birch won the 2007 Grand National having won the Becher Chase back in 2004. In 2004, the first two home in the Grand National (Amberleigh House and Clan Royal) were second and first respectively in the Becher (Amberleigh House had previously won the Becher as well in 2001). Other recent Becher Chase winners such as Vic Venturi and Black Apalachi are amongst those who won the Becher and then were unlucky to fall or unseat late on in the National when still in with a major chance, both would have at least placed with a bit more luck. West End Rocker, who is well fancied for the Grand National this year, won the most recent Becher Chase by 22 lengths!
Other recent Grand National winners have also had experience of the Grand National fences but not necessarily successful experience. There have been twelve Grand Nationals this century and no less than seven of those Grand National winners since 2000 had already faced the Grand National fences. Five of those horses had contested the Grand National the previous year, including 2009 winner Mon Mome who won at odds of 100/1. Mon Mome had finished tenth the previous year and the only other recent winner to have finished the Grand National the year before was Amberleigh House who came third the year before, when he won the Grand National he was having his seventh race over the Grand National fences!
The other three Grand National winners since 2000 to have contested the race the year before (Silver Birch won at 33/1 in 2007, Hedgehunter won at 7/1 in 2005 and Red Marauder won at 33/1 in 2001) had fallen on their previous attempt meaning horses who fell last year certainly shouldn’t be ruled out. The other two recent winners of the Grand National to have previous Grand National fence experience were contesting their first Grand National but had previously placed in the Topham Chase the year before. Montys Pass won the Grand National in 2003 having finished second in the 2002 Topham whilst Bindaree won the Grand National at 20/1 in 2002 having come fourth in the Topham in 2001.So it seems the 2012 Grand National winner is most likely to have faced the Grand National fences before and amongst the most fancied Grand National runners to have experience of the fences are last year’s winner Ballabriggs (but no horse has won more than one Grand National since 1977), Killyglen who fell when in contention last year, West End Rocker who was brought down in the race last year and went on to win this year’s Becher Chase easily, Becauseicouldntsee who fell early last year, Shakalakaboomboom who came seventh in last year’s Topham Chase and also Calgary Bay who was another who fell relatively early on in the National last year. Use this predictor tool to select Grand National runners who have previous Grand National form.