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SCIENTIST HAS THE WINNING FORMULA.

Byline: THOMAS MARTIN

WITH less than two weeks to go before the Grand National, scientists have made a formula to pick a winner.

The research team at The University of Liverpool, which studied data from 15 years of Aintree's biggest race,found horses who had successfully completed the course before were twice as likely to finish again.

They were also two-and-a-half times less likely to fall than those that had never run the race before.

The team at the university's Large Animal Hospital in Leahurst,Wirral, also found ground condition and starting price influenced a horse's chance of completing the Grand National.

Ground classed as soft or heavy leads to significantly fewer finishers, as seen by Red Marauder's win in the mud in 2001 when just four horses finished.

The most unusual finding was that the most notoriously difficult jumps were not the ones that posed the greatest threat.

Dr Chris Proudman, senior lecturer in equine surgery, said: ``Slightly surprisingly, we found the first fence was the most risky on the course not Becher's Brook or the Chair.

``Horses who've experienced the National's course and haven not fallen are twice as likely to complete it.''

The research, funded by Aintree Racecourse and part of a larger study of National Hunt racing, will be used in improving safety in jump racing for both jockeys and racehorses.

Dr Proudman is one of a team of vets from the university who look after the welfare of horses throughout the three-day Aintree Festival which includes the Grand National.

Charles Barnett,managing director of Aintree Racecourse, said: ``Equine welfare is our highest priority at Aintree and scientific research in this field was clearly required.

``We hope that we will be able to implement many of the recommendations and are indebted to the work carried out by the University of Liverpool.''

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STUDY: Dr Chris Proudman correlates information at the Leahurst stables
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 25, 2004
Words:317
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