Scottish Grand National Stats and Trends

Grand National fever strikes the British racing scene in springtime each year, providing a real contrast to the Flat racing that starts at around the same time. Following the traditional Easter Monday highlight of the Irish Grand National, the betting behemoth of the Aintree Grand National hurtles into view. However, for those who still haven’t had their fill of staying chase action following the Merseyside marvel, the racing then switches to Ayr for the biggest Scottish race of the whole season.

First run under its current title at the attractively named Bogside in 1867, this 4m contest switched to Ayr in 1965 and has remained there ever since, finding a perfect home. Given the similar demands on consistent jumping and bottomless stamina, the race regularly attracts a similar calibre of contender as its Aintree equivalent. Several horses have completed the English/Scottish Grand National double over the course of their careers, including Little Polveir, Earth Summit, and the best of them all, the mighty Red Rum.

Offering a very handy £200,000 in total prize money, the race regularly attracts a 20+ runner field, including raiders from the biggest yards south of the border and those making the trip across the Irish Sea. But what type of horse does it take to prevail in this famously unpredictable event? Here, we look back at the 23 results of the race between 2000 and 2023 (there was, of course, no race in 2020 due to the global health situation) and pick out a selection of stats and trends which may assist in zeroing in on the winner.

Age Trends

Scottish Grand National: Age Trends

Whilst being open to runners aged five and older, it is rare for a horse younger than seven to come home in front – the six-year-old Earth Summit (1994) being the only runner to achieve that feat in the post-war era. At the other end of the spectrum, the 12-year-old Willsford (1995) is the oldest winner since 1947.

Other than ruling out runners aged six or younger and 12 or older, this isn’t a strong race for age trends. Eight-year-olds fared best over the period examined, and it may be worth noting that the race was trending away from the oldest contenders – between 2013 and 2023, eight of 10 winners were between seven and nine years of age.

Weight Carried by Winner

Scottish Grand National: Weight Carried by Winner

Ahead of the 2024 edition of this race, the minimum and maximum weights are at 10st2lb and 12st. As such, the bottom five winners on the above chart would have run from out of the handicap under current conditions. Even if we take those five out of the equation, the event shows a bias towards those lower in the weights. Of the 18 remaining winners, 12 carried 11st or less, with only six carrying more than 11st, and only two more than 11st3lb.

Finishing Position Last Time Out

Scottish Grand National: Finishing Position Last Time Out

A positive previous outing has proven a solid pointer in this event. Over one in three winners had also scored on their most recent racecourse appearance, whilst 15 of 23 (65.22%) had finished in the three. Only three finished outside the first six – one of whom was Vicente, who fell early on in the Aintree Grand National before landing this for the second time in 2017.

Rating of Winner

Scottish Grand National: Rating of Winner

The quality of the Scottish Grand National has remained pretty consistent in the current century, with the winner’s rating showing only a slight upward trend. For comparison, many other similar races have seen a more marked increase in the calibre of the victor. 2004 champ Grey Abbey was the top-rated winner over this period, with 2007 hero Hot Weld bringing up the rear. The mean rating of the winner over this period is 138.78.

Previous Handicap Starts

Scottish Grand National: Previous Handicap Starts

Results suggest that all types of performers can prevail in this event, ranging from unexposed sorts, such as 2011 champ Beshabar, who scored on his fifth chase outing, to more grizzled campaigners like Grey Abbey, who had 24 appearances over fences to his name. Overall, the 11-15 bracket fared best, but the sample size is probably too small to draw any firm conclusions.

Fate of the Favourite

The difficulty in finding many concrete trends may contribute towards the poor record of the favourite in this marathon affair. Between 2000 and 2023, only four favourites or joint-favourites landed the odds. And with some of those being priced rather keenly, that handed jolly backers a loss of £10 to £1 level stakes overall.

Seven winners returned a single-figure SP; seven were between 12/1 and 18/1, with the remaining nine being 20/1 or bigger. Iris De Balme provided the biggest shock when defying odds of 66/1 in 2008.

Other Stats

  • 21 of 23 winners had previously won over 3m or further – eight had won over 4m or further
  • 21 of 23 winners had run within the previous two months. Only one winner arrived on the back of a break of more than 100 days
  • 8 of 23 winners had previously won at Ayr
  • 19 of 23 winners had previously won at Class 2 level or above
  • 21 of 23 winners had previously competed at Listed level or higher – including six who had won at Grade 3 level or above
  • The most informative prep races were Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase and the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival – each providing three winners of this
  • Ferdy Murphy topped the trainer’s table with two wins, followed by Andrew Parker, Christian Williams, and Paul Nicholls on two
  • Dom Alco was the only sire responsible for more than one individual winner – Al Co (2014) and Vicente (2016, 2017)