A profitable event for followers of betting.betfair over the years, Jack Houghton thinks Geoffrey Mutai is the value ahead of race-favourite Wilson Kipsang. In the women's race, it is hard to look beyond Tiki Gelana to add to her Olympic victory.
"At [5.8], Geoffrey Mutai looks the best-value win-bet in the field, especially as his sub-59 minute half-marathon in February shows he is bang in form."
Prior to Monday's news from the Boston Marathon, the biggest talking point around this year's men's race in London had been the decision by Mo Farah to run the first half of the race before dropping out. The reason given - which has been diligently repeated by all those who speak for Farah or the organisers - is that this is ideal preparation for a full-blown attempt on the race in 2014, as Farah looks to move up to the marathon distance in time for Rio 2016.
Well, perhaps, but given that Farah has already run two half marathons - in New York in 2011 and New Orleans in February of this year - and that there are plenty of high-profile half-marathons that Farah could have targeted, it is a little disingenuous for those concerned to suggest that this appearance is a necessary step in Farah's progression from track star to marathoner. Rather, it is a (likely very successful) attempt by organisers to link their event with the popular success of last year's Olympics, an attempt they are no doubt having to reward Farah handsomely for.
The rest of the elite field are maintaining the party line, with favourite Wilson Kipsang suggesting that Farah's presence to half-way - and the extra crowd support that will bring - may help push the field on to an eventual marathon world record. If Farah can keep up in the early stages, that is. There is every chance that other pacemakers will take the field over Tower Bridge and through half-way in around 61 to 62 minutes - a pace which would see Farah at his limit based on what he has shown over the distance to date.
To my mind, there is as much chance that Farah's presence on Sunday will harm his longer-term marathon prospects as it will help them. Struggling to stay with an elite field over half the distance will leave a lingering doubt in his own mind as to whether he will ever be able to make the transition. He would be far better to target a lower-profile full marathon later this year, allowing himself to toe-the-line in London in 2014 in the knowledge that the distance holds no fears for him.
Farah aside, the elite race is, as usual, packed with talent. Defending champion Wilson Kipsang ([3.75]) is a worthy favourite. Second on the all-time fastest list, the Olympics last year provided a shock, for it was the first time since his debut marathon in Paris in 2010 that Kipsang didn't win a marathon he started. Much of that, though, can be put down to the Olympic course. Unlike the route they will tackle on Sunday, the maze-like course they ran in August led to times in both the men's and women's races that were around three minutes slower than you would expect of a top-flight marathon these days. Back on a course that favours fast running, Kipsang will be hard to beat.
For that reason, Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich ([30.0]) is probably best ignored. Yet to break 61 minutes for the half marathon, he is likely to have fallen away from the lead group by the time they enter Docklands.
Some may be surprised to see world-record holder Patrick Makau as big as [9.00] in places. His record in London is dubious, though: he tripped up at half-way in 2011 before going on to finish third, and dropped out at 12 miles last year. Furthermore, a hastily arranged warm-up handicap-half-marathon in Honolulu, which he completed, in terrible conditions, in over 65 minutes, would not have especially boosted his confidence, and it is hard to determine how Makau has been affected by being linked to a doping scandal in his native Kenya. If Makau is with the leading group at 20 miles, he will be a danger, but I doubt whether he will be.
The two Mutai's (unrelated) are both worth considering. Emmanuel ([16.0]) won the race in 2011, and a repeat of that time would see him in the mix again, but, that London win aside, he has tended to always find one or two too good in the major city marathons. Geoffrey, on the other hand, has run a marathon faster than any other contender here - albeit when winning the not-sanctioned-for-world-records Boston Marathon in 2011 in a breath-taking 2.03. It's worth remembering, though, that he backed that up with a 2.04 in Berlin in 2012, and has a habit of winning. At [5.80], he looks the best-value win-bet in the field, especially as his sub-59 minute half-marathon in February shows he is bang in form.
If you're looking for a couple of longer-priced outsiders to cause a potential upset, Stephen Biwott ([16.0]) and Ayele Abshero ([16.0]) aren't without a chance. Biwott took a significant step forward when winning in Paris last year, and Abshero, who has a poor record in completing marathons, has nonetheless run a 2.04, and, at 22, is still young enough to improve.
Given the weather forecast for the race is predicting perfect marathon conditions, and given the quality of the field, betting on a new world record at any price over [7.00] would represent some value, and it has to be a [1.50]-shot that the course record will go.
Given the absence of Mary Keitany, Olympic champion Tiki Gelana ([2.70]) is a worthy favourite in this year's race. Although one of four athletes to have run sub-2.20 in the field, she is likely the only one who will repeat the feat on Sunday, and has shown that she has the potential to go sub-2.18 in the right conditions. I expect those odds might look quite generous by the time brunch is finished on Sunday morning.
At a bigger price, Joyce Chepkirui [(30.0)] is of interest. Debuting at the marathon distance and a previous pacemaker in London, she has a half-marathon personal best that suggests she could do some damage if suited to going the distance.