It was once said that ‘the best way to predict the future is to study the past’. With that in mind, we looked at the previous five winners of the Scottish Grand National to try and create a profile of the sort of horse that might run well in Saturday’s race.
2014 – Al Co (40/1)
Jockey: Jamie Moore
Trainer: Peter Bowen
The unfancied Al Co made a mockery of his 40/1 odds by winning the 2014 Scottish Grand National. Jockey Jamie Moore, one of racing’s famous Moore family, had won the Scottish Champion Hurdle on Copeland a decade earlier, so was delighted to add the prestigious win to his tally.
It wasn’t straight sailing though and he nearly fell off twice, including yards from the line. He said: “Twice up the run-in he spooked at the boards or something. I honestly nearly fell off twice and thank God I didn’t”.
Despite his nervous finish, Al Co was fairly comfortable in victory, edging the previous year’s winner, Godsmejudge, by a length and a half yet never looked in real danger of being passed after the final jump, despite threatening to throw his jockey off.
It was Moore’s second time on the horse, having finished 11th from a field of 13 at Bangor a couple of years earlier. However, Al Co was in good nick building up to his win at Ayr, with a second and first to his name from his previous four starts.
2015 – Wayward Prince (25/1)
Jockey Robbie Dunne
Trainer: Hilary Parrott
A second consecutive winner at a big price, Wayward Prince claimed the victory in 2015. Having stalked Amigo for much of the closing stages, Wayward Prince suddenly made his bid for glory in the fourth fence from home which he leapt like Pegasus before bursting into the lead.
With Amigo tiring, Wayward Prince established a lead of several lengths before suddenly looking as though he was fading himself as they approached the last. He cleared it safely but had Benbens and Goonyella gaining rapidly in the home stretch, eventually hanging on to seal victory by three-quarters of a length in what proved to be his final race.
Jockey Robbie Dunne said: “When he got to the front he started idling a bit and when they came to me at the last I thought he was done, but he dug very deep.”
2016 & 2017 – Vicente (14/1 & 9/1)
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
In 2016-17, Vicente became the first horse since Androma in 1984-85 to win consecutive Scottish Grand Nationals, with a pair of victories for jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
The Paul Nicholls horse was 14/1 for his first win in 2016 and won it in style, beating Alvarado by nearly three lengths. Nicholls said after the race: “That was one of Sam’s best ever rides, I’d say. He’s learning all the time and he’s a fantastic guy. That has been the target for Vicente all season. I thought Cheltenham would do him good and you don’t win these races without a prep run.”
Indeed, the Vicente / Sam Twiston-Davies combination was trusted again the following year and they once again proved triumphant, although this time by a far narrower margin. Twiston-Davies had Vicente travelling well around the final circuit and found himself in second place, narrowly trailing Cogry as they entered the final straight.
With Nigel Twiston-Davies, Sam’s father, training Cogry, a fascinating family battle unfolded as they neared the line but ultimately the younger family member won bragging rights, pipping Cogry by a neck on the line to enter the record books.
2018 – Joe Farrell (33/1)
Jockey: Adam Wedge
Trainer: Rebecca Curtis
Vicente looked briefly as though he might make it a hat-trick in 2018 and was in contention with four fences to go but after he fell away an almighty battle broke out between Joe Farrell and Ballyoptic, resulting in a photo finish.
Joe Farrell, ridden by Adam Wedge, looked to have the race comfortably won on pace until he awkwardly jumped the last and lost momentum, allowing Ballyoptic back into contention. The Rebecca Curtis trained horse kept his nose in front though and was awarded the race on a photo finish.
Curtis had never set foot in Scotland beforehand and was coming into the race off the back of a difficult season, however she left with a smile on her face after the win. She said: “We’ve had a difficult season. I thought it was a big ask. He’s still a novice for a race like that but I knew he’d stay all day.”
The average age of winning horses over this five year period, and indeed since 2000, is 8.8 and ten of the last 19 winners have been eight or nine years old. It seems to be a race that suits horses who like good ground, with the going good or good to soft in each of the last five years.
There have been two double winners since 2010 (Merigo & Vicente), which suggests that, if the right horse runs, it is easier to win than the ultra-difficult Grand National which boasts a larger field. With only one favourite winning in the last five starts though, the race is open to outsiders and the average price of the five most recent winners is just short of 25/1.
The race seemingly suits horses carrying between 10 – 10 1/2 stone in weight, six of the last nine winners have been in this range.
Taking these factors into account, three horses which look as though they might have a decent run are: Geronimo, Impulsive Star and Brian Boranha.