Horse racing has had some big news lately at two very different levels, with organisers announcing changes to the format of the Grand National whilst one of its most high-profile jockeys revealed an extension of his career.
Amidst concerns for animal welfare and general safety, the Jockey Club took the decision to reduce the number of runners in the UK’s most prestigious race from 44 to 34. Meanwhile, many fans were surprised to see Champion Jockey Frankie Dettori cancel his retirement and make plans for a longer career in the US.
SBC reached out to Henry Beesley, Fitzdares’ Head of Content, and Adam Baylis, Smarkets’ Marketing Director, to gain the operators’ viewpoint on what these separate developments could mean for bookmaker trading.
Henry Beesley, Fitzdares – Could this field reduction have any effect on betting engagement with the Grand National or is the event entrenched as British racing’s flagship fixture?
I think we all expected some changes to the conditions of the Grand National after April’s unfortunate scenes.
The reduction in the number of the runners from 40 to 34 poses some interesting questions regarding the place terms we’ll be able to offer on the day. Typically, we’ve always been able to provide punters with up to six places on the day for each-way betting. The reality is that we’ll likely have to reduce this now.
The other thing that jumps out at me is how the changes are likely to further enhance Ireland’s dominance of the famous old race that we’ve seen in recent times.
In the past three Grand Nationals, all but five of the 18 horses numbered 35 to 40 (which will now be excluded under the reduced number of runners) were British-trained. In turn, this reduces the chances of the race staying on home soil in future renewals.
Adam Bayliss, Smarkets – Could Dettori’s decision to postpone his retirement and race in the US fulltime encourage more UK and Irish bettors to brush up on their North American racing knowledge?
Where Frankie Dettori goes, the media and wider-audience attention inevitably follows and so there’ll obviously be more eyeballs on how he’s getting on in the US.
What I would say is that there’s been an upturn in interest in Northern American racing from UK and Irish bettors ever since covid as racing continued in some states through large parts of the pandemic; in addition it gets much better coverage than it once did from the likes of Sky Sports Racing and stand-out events like the Breeders’ Cup have generated more interest from UK and Irish bettors year-on-year.