There is an old saying in horse betting circles, ‘play the odds’. It may be a simple saying but it is one that still rings true. Successful betting on any sport revolves around punters being able to utilise and interpret the odds given to them by bookmakers.
This does not, necessarily, mean that one should always place their betting preferences exclusively by the order of odds stated, more that odds should always be a fundamental component of any betting decision. They are not there to be ignored or undervalued. But, if odds are only one of the many factors a bettor should consider, what are the others? The answer is statistics.
Throughout any given race’s history, statistical patterns will emerge. Maybe the event has been won predominately by horses of a certain breed or age. Perhaps in some cases certain odds have more regularly produced a winner. Or, as simple as it may seem to state, horses with x number of wins that season have prevailed more often. There may be an identifiable reason for this, such as track conditions or layout. At the same time, there may be little rhyme or reason as to why a certain type of horse, or jockey, have been so successful at this particular event.
It does not really matter if there is a reason or not, the simple fact of the matter is that history often repeats itself. Therefore, a horse ticking all the boxes of tried-and-tested winning qualities at a certain event is as good an indication of a winner than it being given the most favourable odds. So, with this in mind, let us see if favourite Shutthefrontdoor fits the statistical mould of the normal winner at Aintree.
Between 1952 and 2014, roughly 70% of the winners have had Grand National betting odds of less than 20/1. However, in contrast to this, only 11% of the favourites – which works out at just seven horses – have won the event during this period. Therefore, whilst Shutthefrontdoor is in the right odds bracket, his position as the favourite somewhat dilutes this advantage.
When it comes to age, the Grand National is not a race that values youth. It has been more than 70 years since a seven-year-old won, and a full century since a six-year-old galloped to victory. Moreover, it has been almost as long since a novice has claimed a win.
Therefore, seasoned eight-year-old Shutthefrontdoor has just crossed the threshold on this one. A more conclusive factor is quality of prior wins. In the last ten years, every single Grand National winner has won a £17,000 or more event prior to landing the big one. Here, Shutthefrontdoor has no issue, having landed two races with bigger prize money on offer.
The one area that Shutthefrontdoor is slightly going against history is weight. However, this statement does come with an asterisk of sorts. Prior to 2004, there had only been a handful of horses that won weighing more than 11 stone. Which, if Shutthefrontdoor had been running during this period, would have put him at a distinct disadvantage as he weighs more than 11 stone.
However, since 2004, three of the last eight winners have weighed over this weight and an additional two have won at eleven stone. Therefore, if this trend continues, Shutthefrontdoor should be aligning himself perfectly with the statistical curve.
Therefore, overall, Shutthefrontdoor is as statistically viable for the Grand National title as his odds suggest. The only mark against him, ironically, in this regard, is the very odds themselves.