Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Three questions for a bookmaker on the 2012 Grand National

Earlier in the week, slumbering amongst the form books, somewhat unexpectedly I received an email suggesting I dreamt up three questions to ask Simon Clare [SC, @SiClare ], Director of Communications at Coral bookmakers and James Knight [JK, @jamesaknight ], Head of Racing at the same organisation.

Here's a transcript of the outcome; of course, the replies given generated more questions in my mind but that's the thing about email - it just so damned asynchronous.

PG: I see Coral are noticeably shorter about Junior and bigger about Sunnyhillboy than other layers - talk me through your thinking on those two horses.

SC: Our stance with Junior is based on the fact that he is always extremely popular with punters on the day every time he runs. He was a shocking result for us when he won at Royal Ascot and even worse when he won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham in 2011 – so we have taken the view we don’t want a big liability on him ante post, as he will be heavily backed in the day regardless.

We’re not hugely negative about Sunnyhillboy, he comes here in good form but we’d be happy to lay him in what looks an extremely competitive renewal of the race. There are literally more than 30 horses who could win the race.

PG: Between 14 and 19 have finished in the past four renewals but they were run on decent ground. Current indications are this year's race will be run on soft, possibly heavy ground, which is likely to have a marked effect on the number that finish. How will you price up that market this year?

SC:The ground rather than class of horse is the key factor in determining the number of finishers and that is what will drive our pricing. If it is genuinely soft ground or worse, which looks likely, then we could be looking at finishers in the single figures.

[I agree with Simon's view - Sky Bet's 13/8 under 11 finishers would be tempting if the going on the day comes up soft / heavy. PG]

PG: What is Grand National day like for a layer? Simon / James - what will you be doing on Grand National day?

SC: I'm lucky enough to be attending the event so I'll be spending the day in the thick of the action with our Coral TV camera crew and Chris Dixon. We'll be previewing live for Coral TV in the morning and then we'll all be enjoying the race.

JK:All of the form study is done, so National day is actually relatively quiet in the Trading room. We will spend the morning closely monitoring the risk position on the race, especially in the shops, as the turnover on the race is incredible – we almost take as much on this one race as we do on the entire Cheltenham festival. Near race time we will be assessing the position on the race and deciding whether to hedge any of our positions.

The last word to Coral spokesman David Stevens...

"AP McCoy and Synchronised could be the best backed National contenders since Red Rum won the last of his three Grand Nationals, and if the horse [wins]... bookies will face their most expensive day since Frankie Dettori rode all seven winners at Ascot, which cost the industry £40 million."

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