Form comes and goes, but class lasts forever, or so they say, and that’s certainly something to bear in mind when looking for a big-priced winner. Not all rank outsiders, not even those who are sent off at triple-figure odds, are necessarily forlorn hopes. They may be unfancied for any number of reasons, such as being asked to race on unsuitable going, over an unsuitable distance, or both, or simply running poorly last time out.
Take Mon Mome who, in 2009, became the first 100/1 winner of the Grand National since Foinavon in 1967. The previous year, on good going, Mon Mome had finished a never dangerous in the National, off a 7lb lower mark, so from a handicapping perspective his chance of winning the race at the second attempt was not obvious. He’d also been beaten 57 lengths over 4 miles 1½ furlongs on soft going at Uttoxeter and 42 lengths over 3 miles 3½ furlongs on heavy going at Haydock – admittedly in valuable races – so he wasn’t exactly in form, either.
However, by virtue of having won three lower grade steeplechases on soft and heavy going during the 2005/06 season, as a novice, Mon Mome had been labelled a mudlark. Nevertheless, closer inspection would have shown that his best form in the months leading up to the Grand National had come on good to soft going at Cheltenham the previous December, when he’d beaten Star De Mohaison and Possol by half a length and 19 lengths in a Listed handicap chase over 3 miles 1½ furlongs, off a handicap mark of 140. One or two observant tipsters spotted this at the time, presenting Mon Mome as one of their Grand National tips. On the basis of the form, he’d been made favourite for the Welsh National at Chepstow, but ran below expectations on the soft ground, as he did on subsequent outings at Haydock and Uttoxeter.
Prior to the 2009 Grand National, Mon Mome had never won beyond 3 miles 1½ furlongs, so had his stamina to prove. On the plus side, though, he had experience of the National Course and the prevailing going at Aintree was good to soft, so off a handicap mark 8lb higher than at Cheltenham, he was – or, at least, should have been – one to consider.
Bookmakers obviously aren’t stupid, but while horses that win at massive odds aren’t exactly ten a penny, they do occur more frequently than you might imagine. If you can find a horse that is attempting the same as it has achieved in the past, or only a little more, and you can make a solid case for it on the grounds of distance, going, handicapping or any other relevant factor(s), don’t be afraid to take a long price. There would be, or rather is, nothing worse than having your eye on an outsider with something about it, then deciding not to bet and seeing it romp home. When betting at large or generous odds, the value is there, and so there’s something to be said for making a proactive decision rather than overthinking.