Grand National In-Play: Lessons from history

Teaforthree (nearside) raced and jumped with élan in last year's race, but found less than expected after the last
Teaforthree (nearside) raced and jumped with élan in last year's race, but found less than expected after the last
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A race synonymous with dramatic in-running storylines, it's no surprise that the Grand National and Betfair have delivered a few headline In-Play betting stories in their brief history together. Here, Jack Houghton outlines two theories that can help you ensure you're on the right side of any stories that emerge this year...

"It’s worth keeping an eye on those horses who are questionable stayers, questionable jumpers, or have a questionable attitude. Even better if they have a history of racing prominently..."


The In-Play market tends to undervalue horses with bigger starting prices

In betting terms, the 2009 Grand National provided the biggest betting story for a generation. Mon Mome, at 100-1, became only the fifth horse to win the race at such a gargantuan starting price. However, as the old-school broadcasters and press pack demonstrated their Luddite tendencies by focusing on this relatively inconsequential numerical occurrence, more savvy betting commentators realised that the real story had been on Betfair.

Mon Mome went off at a Betfair SP of 143.0, before hitting the maximum price of 1000.0 on three separate occasions In-Play.

The story would be less notable had Mon Mome staged a remarkable recovery from some significant early mishap on its way to winning the race. However, apart from being towards the rear in the early stages, Liam Treadwell had a near faultless round on the horse, slowly creeping into contention on the second circuit. If nothing else, this teaches us that, if your eye is keen enough, there is value to be had in the In-Play markets, especially on those horses that are ridden more conservatively early on.

And Auroras Encore was little different last year. Although making slight mistakes at the tenth and four out, the gelding raced prominently throughout and some lucky punters were able to improve on his 127.0 Betfair SP by grabbing 400.0399/1 In-Play.

Is there perhaps a pattern emerging here: do In-Play punters tend to undervalue the chances of bigger-priced horses who are travelling well?

With this in mind it's worth keeping an eye on some of those further down the market who are guaranteed stayers and have a history of staying-on under pressure. Here is my list of those horses I'll be trying to snaffle at triple-figure odds in-running, providing they are travelling sweetly by mid race (not all are guaranteed to line up):

Double Seven
Merlin's Wish
Triolo D'alene
Victrix Gale
Mr Moonshine


The In-Play market tends to overvalue horses travelling well with a long way to go in the race

Four basic facts worth reasserting: the Grand National is a long race; the fences are challenging; it has a history of calamity; and it has the second-longest run-in of any racecourse in the country (in case it comes up in a pub quiz, the longest is Cartmel). For these reasons many horses, despite seeming to be going well and trading at low prices on Betfair, end up not winning. Some examples...

In 2005, thousands were punted on Clan Royal In-Play - at prices as low as 3.02/1 - despite a slipped saddle, his relentless early pace, and the fact that he had a third of the race yet to run when he was taken out by two loose horses approaching Becher's.

In 2007, Mckelvey traded at a low of 1.51/2 In-Play and third-placed Slim Pickings at a low of 2.01/1.

In 2008, with Comply Or Die rounding off a dream day for this punter, a remarkable nine horses traded at 7.06/1 or lower In-Play, with five of those horses trading at 3.052/1 and lower.

In 2010, both Black Apalachi and Big Fella Thanks traded at an In-Play low of 3.02/1.

In 2011, Big Fella Thanks was at it again, trading at an In-Play low of 2.546/4, whilst eventual runner-up Oscar Time hit a hard-to-understand low of 1.21/5.

In 2012, Sunnyhillboy traded at a low of 1.031/33, and last year Teaforthree hit 1.42/5 when leading to the final jump.

With this in mind it's worth keeping an eye on those horses who are questionable stayers, questionable jumpers, or have a questionable attitude. Even better if they have a history of racing prominently and so are likely to trade artificially low.

Here is my list of those horses I'll be trying to lay at short odds during the race (not all are guaranteed to line up):

Teaforthree
Long Run
Colbert Station
Monbeg Dude
The Rainbow Hunter
Alvarado
Shakalakaboomboom


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