Realistically, most punters have experienced the woe of losing money on a favourite. From personal experience, I still remember Annie Power falling at the last during the Cheltenham Festival while looking certain to win a few years ago. It was a costly fall for many people; especially me since it would have been the final leg of a 20/1 fourfold!

Since the start of 2010, only 34.85% of clear favourites have won their races in the UK and Ireland. In other words, they lose over 65% of the time over all codes! There are many reasons why it happens. The horse could be a ‘false’ favourite, have a bad break from the stalls, get boxed in, or receive a poor ride from a jockey.

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Are Rested Favourites Reliable?

There is a school of thought which suggests that beaten favourites are worth backing after a rest of 31+ days; with the added proviso that the horse has previously won over today’s distance.

If nothing else, the logic is sound. After all, a beaten favourite was expected to win its last race and may simply have underperformed. After a rest, and over a distance he is comfortable with, it is understandable to suggest that he will perform closer to his level of ability than in the last race. Let’s see what the data has to say about this particular strategy.

Let’s begin with a basic search using the following criteria:

  • All races since 2010.
  • Clear favourite in last race.
  • Finished second or lower.
  • Has at least one win over today’s distance.
BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

Now, let’s check according to the days since last run for these horses. I have divided it into three categories.

Days Since Last RunBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

There is nothing to recommend this course of action whatsoever. In fact, horses returning after a break of 31+ days perform the worst with a loss of almost 9% and a dismal strike rate of a little over 15%.

Here is the record of such horses if they are also a clear favourite in today’s race.

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

As expected, the win rate increases but it is still an abysmal return. Let’s go back to all beaten favourites running after a 31+ day rest to see if there is any preference in race code.

Race CodeBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
National Hunt2,57546117.90%-13.95%

Although the strike rate on All-Weather is only a tiny bit above the overall win rate, your losses are down to under 1% which gives hope for horses on AW surfaces. However, such horses that are also clear favourites in the upcoming race make for poor value:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

Here’s what happens with non-favourites:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

The strike rate is dismal, but you practically break even. If you focus on AW races with 1-10 runners only, you go into profit for the very first time:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

It is NOT a consistent profit because wins and losses vary widely over the last nine years. 2017 and 2018 would see a loss while 2015 and 2016 would have resulted in a double-figure profit. Interestingly, focusing on Class 1, 3, and 6 races only yields far better results:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

Once again, however, the profit is all over the place on a year-by-year basis. There are relatively few opportunities and so many criteria to consider that it really is a non-starter.

Conclusion: This is a System Best Avoided!

Although it was a theory that merited further exploration, my analysis has revealed that there is no reason to believe that beaten favourites only need a rest to get back to their best. You would have thought that the fact these horses had previously won over the distance would improve their strike rate, but this isn’t the case.

In the beginning, I looked at beaten favourites since 2010 with a 31+ day rest and at least one win over today’s distance. Here is a reminder of what I found:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

When you look at beaten favourites with no wins over today’s distance, you end up with this:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)

You are slightly better off looking at beaten favourites after a rest if they have never won over today’s distance! Even so, it still means a loss with few ways to narrow things down to make a profit.