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CHOOSE A SPORT
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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
How to pick a winner
By Chris Charles

Bookmaker's office
Home sweet home for some

Bookie regulars must dread Grand National day. How would you feel if a troupe of little old ladies invaded your house once a year?

You can imagine the tuts and superior glances exchanged by these barflies of the gambling world as Joyce from the launderette sticks down 20p each way on a desperate old nag that will struggle to finish on Derby day.

But does an in-depth knowledge of form, ground and the handicap really assist the amateur punter? Course it doesn't!

If you want to know the best way to pick your National hero, follow our cut-out-and-keep guide to picking the winner.

TIE YOUR COLOURS TO THE MAST

Does what it says on the tin - pick out your favourite colour combo from the jockeys' silks and stick your shirt on it.

Little Britain 'The only gay in the village'
Will Dafydd have a Strong Resolve?

Politics fans will be split between red and blue with the General Election around the corner, while the green and yellow worn by Clan Royal's Tony McCoy will appeal to Norwich fans like Delia Smith.

You can just see her watching the big race on TV as McCoy enters the final straight - "Come on! Let's be 'avin you!"

If the silks don't do it for you, how about the colours of the horses themselves? There's Forest Gunner - that old chestnut - or anything black (the colour you'll hope to be in after the race).

But if you're a fan of Little Britain, it's got to be Strong Resolve - a horse that can truly claim to be the only grey in the village.

PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY

Yes, it's a variation on the popular kids' party game. Get your partner to blindfold you (steady) and place a list of the 40 runners within easy reach. Then take a wild stab with a pin and see which one you pick.

We tried it out using three office guinea pigs and a print-out of Honest Frank's Sweepstake - and ended up with Hedgehunter, Amberleigh House, It Takes Time and two needing treatment for accidental stab wounds to the hands.

JUST A COINCIDENCE?

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Parker Bowles

The switching of the Royal wedding to Saturday and the subsequent delay to the Grand National has angered traditionalists - but many punters are seeing it as a significant pointer.

Clan Royal has already attracted some serious money, along with Royal Auclair and second reserve A Piece Of Cake, while It Takes Time might appeal given all the hold-ups involved in getting the pair hitched.

The cruel among you might take it a stage further and look for the horse with the biggest ears or even Spot The Difference - named after Camilla perhaps?

Elsewhere, Michael Jackson fans could plump for Take The Stand - while Jose Mourinho is bound to have a few euros on Simply Gifted after guiding his team to victory over Bayern from afar.

I HAVE A DREAM

I've had a couple in fact. The night before the 1987 Grand National I found myself watching a race that appeared to have the entire cast of Village People on the horses.

Village People
The housewives' favourites

There was the cowboy, the Indian, the sailor and the builder. But, seemingly from nowhere, a thoroughbred with a Maori on board charged home to win.

A quick check the following day saw Maori Venture listed at 33-1 and half an hour later I was trousering a tidy sum.

Six years on (and this is slightly more tenuous), a friend of mine called Esther punctuated my dream sleep and Esha Ness romped home. Sadly, due to a false start, the race was declared void. In the words of Jim Bowen...here's what you could have won.

So far this year, number 17 has cropped up (It Takes Time), along with a vision of Paralympic legend Tanni Grey Thompson finishing second in a race. Grey you say? It has to be Strong Resolve again, then.

OFF THE WALL

Bob the Builder with The Queen
A merchant and his friend
This particular selection process has no Rhyme or Reason (almost the 1988 winner) so on that basis will probably prove most effective. Here's the gist of it....

If your best mate flogs building supplies for a living you should go for Merchant's Friend, if you're terrible at spelling, what about Iznogoud - and if your great uncle is in the Eskimo police force it's got to be Arctic Copper.

So there you have it.

Based on these random theories, my 1-2-3-4 would have to be It Takes Time, Strong Resolve, Clan Royal and Spot The Difference.

See, it's A Piece Of Cake. Ooh, hang on a second.





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