Why Young Horses Are Bad Bets At The Grand National

The Grand National is the biggest racing event in the UK – and one of the most renowned across the world. It features an insane course filled with countless jumps and inclines, leading many horse racing experts to dub it the true test of a horse and jockey’s skill. 

It also happens to be one of the most popular horse racers from a betting standpoint. Early pre-race odds are already available at a host of UK betting sites not on GamStop, though punters are warned not to treat the Grand National like a normal horse race. 

Traditionally, your eyes are on some of the younger horses. They’re the more energetic, and as long as they’ve been trained well, they can easily outmatch the older horses. In regular racing events, this line of thinking will usually prosper. At the Grand National, it’s the other way round. 

Young horses are considered fairly bad bets – but why? 

The Facts Behind Young Horses Performing Poorly At The Grand National

Sometimes, the horse racing world throws up comments like this and you take them with a pinch of salt. Someone at a racetrack may say that young horses don’t do well at the Grand National and it gets passed around without any facts behind it. 

In this case, there are genuine facts backing up the claim! 

Information from The Jockey Club shows that only 1 winner in the last 30 runnings has been under 8 years old. 

Ironically, the winner was 7 years old, which is hardly much younger! To drive the point home even more, this was the first 7-year-old to win since 1940. Perform some quick calculations and this tells you that in 83 years, two horses under the age of 8 have won this race. 

Compare this to two other huge global horse races – the Melbourne Cup and the Dubai Cup – and the contrast is staggering: 

  • 7 and 8-year-old horses have won the fewest Melbourne Cups (12 and 3 wins respectively) 
  • 5 and 4-year-old horses have the most Melbourne Cup wins (45 each)
  • Since 1996, only three horses aged 7 or over have won the Dubai Cup

There’s such a massive difference, so what is it about the Grand National that makes it better suited to older horses than younger ones? 

Aintree Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

The course an Aintree is over four miles and has 30 jumps. It’s far from the usual sprint that a lot of horses normally partake in. This isn’t a massive issue for older horses as they’ve got experience behind them. An 8-year-old horse is likely to have raced at long courses in their lifetime. Even if they haven’t, they’ve spent years galloping and building up stamina. 

Comparatively, young horses are fresh and inexperienced. 

Jockeys are unlikely to train younger horses on long tracks. It doesn’t make sense when you consider that the majority of races aren’t like the Grand National at all! Instead, they focus on shorter races and sprints with minimal jumps. 

The more you think about it, the more sense this makes. A horse is at its fastest when it is young. 4 and 5-year-olds are largely when a horse is at its “peak” speed – and that’s reflected in the age of winners for other big global horse races. Why focus on training the horse for something it’s not naturally good at when you can spend all your time winning shorter races?

Old horses call upon years of experience to build up the stamina required to win a long race like the Grand National. You often see younger horses race into a lead but fall behind as their lack of stamina kicks in or their inexperience shows at the fences. It becomes a classic case of slow and steady wins the race. 

Older Horses Tend To Carry Less Weight

Another reason behind the lack of young horse victories at Aintree is the additional weight these horses carry. Younger horses will have more muscle mass and tend to achieve their highest weight. As the horse ages and enters its latter years, it becomes leaner and more wiry. 

During the Grand National, you can’t afford to be carrying so much extra weight around such a long course. That’s why old horses generally do better; they can run at a more consistent pace because of the slight weight disadvantage. 

All things considered, young horses are never a wise bet when the Grand National comes around. Funnily enough, horses younger than 7 aren’t allowed to race there anymore specifically because they are so badly equipped for a race of this size! If you’re going to take a punt on the race this year, aim to bet on an 8 or 9-year-old. 

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