Grand National Takeaway

Congratulations to Rachael Blackmore for becoming the first female jockey ever to ride the winner Minella Times of the Grand National yesterday. It was a good race for Ireland generally as the top five were all Irish horses.

The race was led for a long time by 80-1 outsider Jett who at one point was about 10 lengths clear of the field but you could see that about three fences from home the horse was very tired, fading badly over the final stages of the race to finish in eighth place.

At 11-1, Minella Times would have netted quite a few people a good return on their investment. I wasn’t so lucky but had a modest success. After studying the form carefully (i.e. sticking a pin in the list of runners), I settled on Any Second Now, also at 11-1, betting €25 each way. I was pleased yesterday to see the odds shortening to 15/2 at the start, which meant quite a lot of people were backing the same horse.

In the event Any Second Now finished 3rd which was a great result given that it was badly hampered by a faller (Double Shuffle) at the 12th fence. A thing like that is normally difficult to recover from but jockey Mark Walsh did well to get back in contention, though he was too far back and too tired to catch the winner, who ran a perfect race.

The Grand National is one race where I think an each-way bet is a sensible strategy. As a handicap with 40 runners (and a very tough race for which the probability of a horse not making it to the finish line is quite high) the odds are usually pretty long even on the favourite, and most bookies pay out for a place down to sixth. I bet €25 each way, which means €25 to win outright at 11-1 and €25 for a place at one-fifth the odds, i.e. 2.2 to 1. I lost the first €25 but won €55 on the place (plus the stake). My net result was therefore €50 staked for an €80, more than enough profit to pay for last night’s takeaway dinner.

The point is that if you want the place to cover the loss on the win the starting price has to be good. If the odds are N:1 they will only cover the loss if N/5 ≥1 with the equality meaning that you break even. In a race in which the odds are much shorter the place bet is usually not worth very much at all. In yesterday’s Grand National the favourite was 5-1.

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