What is the Average Age of the Grand National Winner?

Horse Numbered 9The Grand National is arguably the most thrilling race on the British jump racing calendar. Whilst racing purists will always talk of the Cheltenham Gold Cup as being the best, the National is the event that grips the public imagination. It is a race that even those that don’t like to bet on horse racing will often have a wager on, with workplaces and friends up and down the country doing a sweepstake for it every year.

Because it is the kind of race that everyone likes to have a flutter on, those that don’t normally care about horse racing suddenly want to read the tea leaves to see if there’s any information that they should consider when coming to place their bet. Is it as simple as just picking the favourite? Should you look into a horse’s form? Or is it as simple as just looking to see what their name is and if you like it? Here we’ll look at whether age is a factor you should consider.

What Is the Average Age of Grand National Winners?

The average age of Grand National winning horses between 1946 and 2023 is 9.6 years old. Nine year old horses have won 35.5% of races in this time, with eight year olds the second most frequent, winning 19.7% of Grand Nationals run since the Second World War.

During this period, there has only been one seven-year-old winner, Noble Yeats in 2022. The last seven-year old to win prior to Noble Yeats was Bogskar in 1940.

Grand National Age Restrictions

3D Grass Number 7All horse races have age restrictions in place, whether it be because they’re aimed at younger horses or because the course is so testing as to mean that inexperienced horses will struggle with it. The Grand National very much fits into the latter category, based as it is over four miles and 514 yards and featuring 30 fences that the competitors will need to get over if they hope to have a chance of winning the race.

The event’s length means that participating horses will need to have a good degree of stamina, which is the sort of thing that is built up over many years of racing and doesn’t typically tend to just be something that a horse is born with. The fences on the Grand National course, meanwhile, are much larger than the sort of fences that most National Hunt events have, meaning the horse needs to be large and strong enough to jump them.

So it is that horses that owners and trainers wish to run in the National need to be aged seven or older. Not only that, but they also need to meet certain other criteria in order to take part in the race. As well as being seven or over, the horse also needs to be rated 120 or higher by the British Horseracing Authority and have previously finished within the places in a steeplechase that was run over three miles or more.

Why Age Matters

Two Chestnut Horses in Profile

There are two main reasons why an age limit would be added to a race, with the first being that it gives younger horses a chance in the races that are aimed at them. If you have a hurdle race aimed at giving three-year-olds an experience of taking part in competitive races, for example, then you don’t want nine-year-old steeplechasers taking part and virtually guaranteeing themselves a win every single time.

Equally, there’s no point in a three-year-old hurdler being allowed to take part in a race that will largely be populated by chasers aged eight and over. By adding age restrictions or restriction on some other aspect of the race, such as them being for maiden horses, you limit the chances of the race being unfair to those taking part. The other reason, meanwhile, is for the safety of the horses that are running in the race.

Young, inexperienced horses will struggle with hurdling events, let along those that involve large and imposing fences. Never is that more true than with the Grand National, which is an event that features some of the most imposing fences in all of jump racing. A four or five-year-old horse with limited experience would struggle with a jump like The Chair, say, and so taking it on could cause them serious damage.

There’s also the possibility that an inexperienced and young horse would simply refuse to jump a particularly scary fence. That not only means that they’ll have failed in the race but also puts other horses running alongside them in danger. A famous example of this occurred in 1967 when a loose horse named Popham didn’t want to jump the 23rd fence, veering across it and causing a melee of other horses.

Ages of Grand National Winners

The best place to start when considering the sort of age that you might want to look at for your selections for the Grand National is by looking at previous winners of the race. We’ll look at the event from the post-Second World War onwards, essentially defining that as being the modern version of the race. Here’s a look at the winning horse, their age and the weight that they were asked to carry:

Grand National Winners, Ages & Weights – 1946 to 2023

Year Horse Age Weight Carried
1946 Lovely Cottage 9 10 stone 8 pounds
1947 Caughoo 8 10 stone
1948 Sheila’s Cottage 9 10 stone 7 pounds
1949 Russian Hero 9 10 stone 8 pounds
1950 Freebooter 9 11 stone 11 pounds
1951 Nickel Coin 9 10 stone 1 pound
1952 Teal 10 10 stone 12 pounds
1953 Early Mist 8 11 stone 2 pounds
1954 Royal Tan 10 11 stone 7 pounds
1955 Quare Times 9 11 stone
1956 E.S.B. 10 11 stone 3 pounds
1957 Sundew 11 11 stone 7 pounds
1958 Mr. What 8 10 stone 6 pounds
1959 Oxo 8 10 stone 13 pounds
1960 Merryman 9 10 stone 12 pounds
1961 Nicolaus Silver 9 10 stone 1 pound
1962 Kilmore 12 10 stone 4 pounds
1963 Ayala 9 10 stone
1964 Team Spirit 12 10 stone 3 pounds
1965 Jay Trump 8 11 stone 5 pounds
1966 Anglo 8 10 stone
1967 Foinavon 9 10 stone
1968 Red Alligator 9 10 stone
1969 Highland Wedding 12 10 stone 4 pounds
1970 Gay Trip 8 11 stone 5 pounds
1971 Specify 9 10 stone 13 pounds
1972 Well To Do 9 10 stone 1 pound
1973 Red Rum 8 10 stone 5 pounds
1974 Red Rum 9 12 stone
1975 L’Escargot 12 11 stone 3 pounds
1976 Rag Trade 12 10 stone 12 pounds
1977 Red Rum 12 11 stone 8 pounds
1978 Lucius 9 10 stone 9 pounds
1979 Rubstic 10 10 stone
1980 Ben Nevis 12 10 stone 12 pounds
1981 Aldaniti 11 10 stone 13 pounds
1982 Grittar 9 11 stone 5 pounds
1983 Corbiere 8 11 stone 4 pounds
1984 Hallo Dandy 10 10 stone 2 pounds
1985 Last Suspect 11 10 stone 5 pounds
1986 West Tip 9 10 stone 11 pounds
1987 Maori Venture 11 10 stone 13 pounds
1988 Rhyme ’N’ Reason 9 11 stone
1989 Little Polveir 12 10 stone 3 pounds
1990 Mr Frisk 11 10 stone 6 pounds
1991 Seagram 11 10 stone 6 pounds
1992 Party Politics 8 10 stone 7 pounds
1994 Miinnehoma 11 10 stone 8 pounds
1995 Royal Athlete 12 10 stone 6 pounds
1996 Rough Quest 10 10 stone 7 pounds
1997 Lord Gyllene 9 10 stone
1998 Earth Summit 10 10 stone 5 pounds
1999 Bobbyjo 9 10 stone
2000 Papillon 9 10 stone 12 pounds
2001 Red Marauder 11 10 stone 11 pounds
2002 Bindaree 8 10 stone 4 pounds
2003 Monty’s Pass 10 10 stone 7 pounds
2004 Amberleigh House 12 10 stone 10 pounds
2005 Hedgehunter 9 11 stone 1 pound
2006 Numbersixvalverde 10 10 stone 8 pounds
2007 Silver Birch 10 10 stone 6 pounds
2008 Comply Or Die 9 10 stone 9 pounds
2009 Mon Mome 9 11 stone
2010 Don’t Push It 10 11 stone 5 pounds
2011 Ballabriggs 10 11 stone
2012 Neptune Collonges 11 11 stone 6 pounds
2013 Auroras Encore 11 10 stone 3 pounds
2014 Pineau De Re 11 10 stone 6 pounds
2015 Many Clouds 8 11 stone 9 pounds
2016 Rule The World 9 10 stone 7 pounds
2017 One For Arthur 8 10 stone 11 pounds
2018 Tiger Roll 8 10 stone 13 pounds
2019 Tiger Roll 9 11 stone 5 pounds
2021 Minella Times 8 10 stone 3 pounds
2022 Noble Yeats 7 10 stone 10 pounds
2023 Corach Rambler 9 10 stone 5 pounds

That gives us a sample size that is more than good enough to lead us towards some conclusions, with one of the first ones being that the average age of a Grand National winner is 9.62. That suggests that a horse that is aged 9 will have more chance of winning the race than horses of other ages. We can also look at the number of times the race has been won by a horse of each age:

Chart That Shows the Ages of Grand National Winners Between 1946 and 2023

Again, this shows that more nine-year-olds have won the race than horses of any other age, with 35.5% of all race winners being aged nine.

Does Weight Carried Matter?

In addition to the age of the horses, the table of winners above also tells you how much weight the horses were asked to carry when they won the Grand National. This wasn’t just a random decision, instead drawing attention to the importance of weight when it comes to a horse’s chance of winning. We can breakdown the weight even further, looking at the average weight for each age group of winners:

Chart That Shows the Average Weight Carried by Age of the Grand National Winners Between 1946 and 2023

This chart shows us that on average, eight year old winners have carried a heavier weight to victory when compared to other ages, 1.2 pounds higher than the average nine year old winner. The average weight carried by all winners since World War II is just under 10 stone and 10 pounds (149.8lbs). The average weight carried drops down for the nine year olds, peaking again at age 11 before falling at age 12.

That means that if there’s a twelve-year-old you like the look of but you see that he’s being asked to carry more ten stone and 10 pounds, for example, then it’s worth taking a moment to consider whether that’s more weight than an twelve-year-old could reasonably be expected to perform well whilst carrying. We know what the average weight carried by a winning horse has been, but it is worth remembering that there is a lot of variance between the weights carried. The difficulty is knowing what weight is too much for an individual horse.

Ultimately, how much weight a horse carries is a crucial factor in the Grand National, with successful horses typically being stronger and therefore more able to perform well when carrying excess weight. If the horse that you’re hoping to bet on is being asked to carry a weight that seems excessive then it’s always worth having a look at their form. Have they carried that much before? If so, how did they get on when doing so?

It is interesting to note that the average amount of weight carried by winners seems to decrease after the age of 11. This is suggestive of the idea that the handicappers are under-valuing a horse’s ability as they age, meaning that it’s possible that you might be able to take advantage of that. also, if you see a nine-year-old that is carrying less than ten stone and ten pounds and is in good form, they might just be worth a look.