Could students use science to predict the Grand National?

It is difficult enough to predict the weather, but what about the winners of one of the most hotly contested horse races in the world? Three students tried.

Back in 2015, three students of zoology, veterinary science, and mathematics were tasked with predicting the winner of the race.


Former Durham student Laurie Barrow picked Shutthefrontdoor to win the at Aintree with an equation that took into account historical wins, weight, and ground type. The fact that this equation came up with a horse ridden by people’s favourite AP McCoy probably didn’t hurt either!


Greenwich student Max Masters predicted a win for Rocky Creek, the bookies’ second favourite, would take the trophy. His complex formula for picking the winner involved the horses’ form over the last five races, how conditions affected their performance, the age and weight of the horse, and the number of past wins for the trainer.

Veterinary Science

Liverpool vet student Emma Winward picked a 25/1 shot for the victor with Spring heeled. For her formula she took a more simple approach in comparison with the other two students in only accounting for the age, rating, and average distance the horses win over to come up with her choice.


Two years later, could you use their formulae to predict the 2017 Grand National betting with William Hill? The formulas, no matter how complex, did not manage to pick the 25/1 Many Clouds to win back in 2005, so it seems mathematics does not have the answer.

The bookies, however, do have some favourites as they do every year, based on their own data and personal ideas about the animal and the course. The horse Cause of Causes carries a weight of 10-8, was a double winner at Cheltenham Festival, and promises a lot for this Grand National. Alternatively, The Last Samuri, a horse that ended second at the National last year, and carries a weight of 11-5 is another strong option. As is Vieux Lion Rouge, which for a young horse is considered a future talent to watch.

Or maybe it is just as good to just pick the jockey with the prettiest hat?

Photograph by Tookapic

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