Although the summer's just coming to a close, it'll be Christmas soon enough and then the New Year before you know it. And every year, as New Year becomes a distant memory and we start looking forward to the arrival of spring, there's something else for all horse racing fans and the nation as a whole to look forward to as well the Grand National. With the grand national 2014 coming up it's a good idea to have a plan for how to pick a winner, and the earlier that you get your bet on, the better the odds will be. The Grand National is a race that is always full of uncertainty and surprise results, but there are some characteristics to look out for when you're trying to pick the horse most likely to be first over the line or even to reach the finish line at all! The first thing to remember is that the National is a handicap and that weight is a very important factor. Winning weights have crept up over the last few years, but if you look at the records before Hedgehunter won in 2005, the last time a horse won carrying more than 11 stones was in 1983 when Corbiere won carrying 11-04. In general, those horses carrying the top weights aren't the best choice for a winner at the Grand National, although you do get anomalous wins happening now and then. Another important factor is age. In recent years, the age of all the winners has been between 8 and 11 years. Although Red Rum won the race in 1977 when he was 12, there have only been two other 12 year old winners since then with Royal Athlete in 1995 and Amberleigh House in 2004. Horses that are younger sometimes don't have the experience necessary for the National and older horses don't always have the required stamina to win. Then, of course, there are the odds to consider. These change constantly, from the ante-post market through to betting on the day itself. But if you're betting on race day dismiss any horses at 50/1 or more, as the times the long-shots win really are few and far between like Mon Mome in 2009 (100/1) and 2013's shock winner at 66/1 Auroras Encore. If you don't know much about horses, but like to have a bet or two on the Grand National, bear these comments about weight, age, and the odds in mind when you're drawing up a shortlist. Avoid choosing a horse that doesn't like the ground on the day or who has a poor record when it comes to jumping, and you just might choose the Grand National winner next year!