Picking a Winner in the Grand National

The utmost important part of handicapping thoroughbred races is the ability to select winners. After all, how can one begin to cash exacta and trifecta tickets without first being able to simply pick the first place finisher? Of course, like most things in this ever-complicated game, picking a winner isn’t always easy. However, I will try and present to you my theories on simplifying this process as much as possible. In just a couple of months, April 12-14th, The Grand National festival 2018 will begin and you should check out runners and odds for the Grand National 2018 today and use some of my theories on how to pick a winner.

First, let’s start with a statistic. As you may or may not know, morning line and betting favorites win at an average rate of 33%. That’s one out of every three races “the chalk” get the job done. As a bettor, this is the last thing you want to hear, but you cannot ignore statistics (chances are, you don’t ignore statistics though, otherwise you wouldn’t be playing this game to begin with). Favorites have been winning at the 33% rate for many, many years now. Compile that statistic with the ever-increasing knowledge of the betting public, and you have plenty of cheap paying winners. Cheap winners and cheap payoffs, yet over the long run, it is a profitable way of looking at things, despite however small the profits may be.

Speaking of the betting public, everyone out there is reading the same form as you. Granted, you can ask two completely sane and reasonable handicappers to read that same information and chances are you’ll always get a different interpretation. Therefore, without the presence of inside knowledge or any other pertinent insider information, we’re all analyzing the same set of figures. This does not mean that you cannot gain an edge on the public.

The general betting populous is relying strictly on Beyer Speed Figures (at least since they were first introduced in 1992). In fact, if I had to guess, I would say that 75% (if not more) of the population that visits the track on a somewhat daily basis could not tell you much more about the form besides those big, bold numbers that Beyer graciously introduced.

This is where we can start getting into things such as pace. As I have noticed 50% of all winners had a Pace advantage of some kind (whether it is early pace, mid pace, late pace or total pace) or a combination of all four. Of course, once we can interpret the pace, we see high percentage of races won by a horse that had an advantage that related to the distance running. For example, horses with short early pace sprints greatly enhanced their chances of winning at shorter distances and vice versa for horses with mid to late pace in longer routes.

The next thing we must consider is class. I’ve heard numerous theories about class and how it does and does not pertain to the horse racing industry. In fact, Andrew Beyer himself stated, “Speed represents the absolute truths in racing and class is irrelevant.” I would definitely have to disagree with this. Here is the example I give when explaining class…

Think in theoretical terms: A high school football team uses the same pigskin, the same equipment, the same sized field, etc when they’re playing… but could a high school football team ever think about beating a division one college football team? Certainly not, maybe one out of a hundred thousand times would the high school team win and why is that? Class. Same game, same everything, but the class of players is leaps and bounds from being similar. The same goes in horse racing.

Horses are a class species (just like most species for that matter). Grab a bunch of horses and put them together in the morning, and by nightfall one horse will more than likely have established himself as the immaculate dominating male while the others will typically fall in line.

So there are three basic factors that we can examine when selecting a winner. Speed figures, pace ratings, and class. Combine these all together and guess what you’ll find? …A winner. Occasionally the winner is the morning line favorite (but at least it’s justified). Occasionally it’s the “long shot” no one else seemed to notice.

To add on to the factors we examine, throw in a winning trainer and winning jockey combination, a good workout log, etc and we are easily on our way to racking up winner after winner.

Are we going to win them all, of course not, who does? But knowledge is power and no one is ever done learning in this game.