2017 Trends

The Market

After more than ten years of studying Grand National trends and statistics the one aspect of the race I’ve consistently swerved has been expert opinion derived from the betting market itself.

This has principally been driven by a feeling that performance trends should be a more accurate pointer towards a winner rather than opinion but, given the big price winners we’ve observed in recent editions of the National, my curiosity has finally got the better of me and so I’ve decided to take a deeper dive into the betting market stats to see what, if anything, can be unearthed.

How do we analyse the betting market?

The simplest way of analysing the strength we can rely on the betting market for the Grand National is by using the starting prices (or SP in racing parlance) for every runner.

For purposes of this exercise I’ve used SP data over the same 2009-2016 period that I’ve been collecting detailed stats on the big race.

Why analyse odds?

Well, to put it as simply as I can the odds are driven by the collective knowledge of expert horse racing odds compilers at all the major bookmakers and, of course, the money that punters are betting.

And given most Grand National punters don’t live and breathe national hunt racing week in week out, it would be remiss not to use any insider knowledge we can use to our advantage!

What price trends tell us

Back to the question in hand, so let’s recap on every Grand National winners starting price since 2009:

2009 – Mon Mome 100/1

2010 – Don’t Push It 10/1

2011 – Ballabriggs – 14/1

2012 – Neptune Collonges 33/1

2013 – Auroras Encore 66/1

2014 – Pineau De Re 25/1

2015 – Many Clouds 25/1

2016 – Rule The World 33/1

As you can see, there has been a lot of big price winners over the last few years – the last five winners of the Grand National all went off at a starting price of 25/1 or higher – and of course 2009 winner Mon Mome famously romped home at a massive 100/1.

This alone leads me to conclude that when making your Grand National selections, it doesn’t pay to get drawn into the game of siding with favourites at the top of the betting for this reason alone.

I’ve analysed this trend in more detail over the last 8 editions of the race by categorising horses into bands based on how they rank in the betting market.

So for instance, the favourite in the betting market at the off is ranked 1, the 2nd favourite is ranked 2 and so on down the rank outsider in the field ranked 40.

Let’s start with the four editions from 2009-2012…

Results by rank in betting market (Starting Prices) 2009-2012

Rank in betting market % Finish % Placed % Win Rate
1-10 64% 30% 5%
11-20 28% 3% 0%
21-30 28% 3% 3%
31-40 42% 3% 3%

Of course, this time period produced two big priced winners in Mon Mome and Neptune Collonges, but these very much bucked a wider trend where horses at the sharp end of the market formed the vast majority of horses paying punters returns.  In fact, thirteen our of sixteen horses paying an each-way return over this 4-year period were among the top ten in the betting market.

Now let’s compare results in exactly the same way since the softer fencing and reduced run to the first fence were introduced in 2013.

Results by rank in betting market (Starting Prices) 2013-2016

Rank in betting market % Finish % Placed % Win Rate
1-10 47% 12% 0%
11-20 52% 15% 6%
21-30 36% 7% 2%
31-40 39% 4% 0%

Pay particular attention to the % Placed column and you can deduce that the race is arguably even more unpredictable than before with horses in the mid-range of the market producing winners, and a much flatter distribution of horses paying an each-way return.

In fact, when I used this method of ranking every Grand National runner I found that none of the last five winners ranked among the top 13 in the betting market – a pretty staggering statistic!

So what can we conclude?

Let me start by saying it would be utterly wrong to ignore expert opinion, and the betting market and expert opinion will always provide us with useful pointers.

But it’s certainly true that the last five Grand National winners were horses that didn’t feature very much in the build-up, received little media attention, were tipped only by a few experts and headed into Aintree under the radar at relatively big prices.

Yes it’s fair to say predicting the winner of a 40-runner handicap is, to say the least, highly challenging!

We can at least take this data and err on preferring horses in the upper half of the betting market. The trends over the last 8 years tell us the betting market provides a useful sense check of a horses credentials if nothing else.

But the Grand National is predictable only in it’s ability to throw out the unexpected – So I won’t be put off backing a few horses at big prices if the trends direct me that way!