Can You Become a Sprint King & Beat the Bookies?

Horse racing sprints are fast, furious, and a whole lot of fun! For example, a five-furlong race can be over in under a minute; 50/1 shot Stone of Folca holds the all-time record at this distance with an incredible time of 53.69 seconds at Epsom in June 2012.

Races of 5f – 7f are usually classified as sprints so in this article, I will try and find some winning trends at different distances in Flat and All-Weather races.


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5 – 5.5 Furlongs

The best place to start is with the performance of clear favourites in both codes. All data comes from the beginning of 2010 unless otherwise stated.

CodeBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
Flat5216166131.84%-7.53%
All-Weather214775635.21%-2.58%

Considering that there are over 2100 bets, a loss of just 2.58% from backing every single All-Weather favourite is not bad at all! It would seem that with a little filtering, we could find a profitable trend. However, there is no advantage to checking Number of Runners, Race Class, Odds of favourite or any number of criteria.

However, I did find that laying favourites on All-Weather races at Chelmsford City pays dividends. Racing only reopened at the track in 2015 but since then, just 31.1% of favourites have won and laying them all would yield a profit of 13.25% with a positive ROI in all five years so far.

Things are even better in the last two years as clear favourites have won just 25% of races at Chelmsford City! From 60 bets since the start of January 2017, laying every favourite would result in an impressive profit of 33.63%.

It is less straightforward with horses on the Flat although you would have made a 50% profit by using these criteria since 2010:

  • Flat
  • 5.5-6f
  • Handicap
  • 11-20 runners
  • Non-favourites
  • 1-7 days since their last win.

The trouble here is the inconsistency of this “system.” You would have earned double-digit profit in six of the last nine years but it is far from a guarantee. Also, there are only 15-20 opportunities a year.

However, it is certainly worth looking at big-priced horses with recent wins. For example, in 2016, only 2 of the 14 horses that meet the criteria above won but your ROI would have been almost 63%. You would be looking at horses in the 10/1 – 20/1 area here.

Another clear laying opportunity comes with top-weighted horses in All-Weather races. In theory, horses carrying top weight in handicaps are the best in the race. However, only 18.74% of clearly top weighted horses win in AW races over this distance. If you laid these horses, your profit since 2010 would be 9.36%.

6 – 6.5 furlongs

Once again, I looked at the performance of clear favourites over both codes in this distance.

CodeBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
Flat6302202932.2%-3.89%
All-Weather3544123434.82%-2.1%

The initial results are encouraging. Backing every favourite over the last nine years would have yielded relatively small losses. However yet again, filtering the data resulted in no profitable scenario from backing favourites over the long term. Once more, we rely on poor favourite performance. The following yielded a profit of 6.63% when laying favourites on Flat races from 2010 – 2016.

  • Class 2, 3 & 4
  • Non-Handicap
  • 6-6.5f

Oddly enough, after seven straight years of profit, this system turned around in 2017 and so far in 2018, the win rate of favourites has been 44% or thereabouts. In the last 18 months, you would have made a profit of around 7% by backing favourites, a clear warning that any “system” can turn on its head.

7 Furlongs

As 7f races give classier horses a greater opportunity to assert themselves, one would expect favourites to do better over this distance. However, the strike rates and ROI losses are very similar. Instead, I had a look at how they do across selected courses.

CourseBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
Newcastle (AW)1435236.36%8.15%
Chelmsford(AW)1705934.71%5.3%
Southwell (AW)44215334.62%-9.02%
Catterick 2719133.58%4.28%
Epsom 1313728.24%-16.55%
Goodwood1886333.51%14.28%

Newcastle has only hosted AW racing since 2016 while Chelmsford City was reopened in 2015. Both courses have been good to favourite-backers but it remains to be seen if it continues to be this way or if one or both tracks go the way of an established course such as Southwell.

It is interesting to note the difference between world-class racing at Epsom and Goodwood. Fancied horses do poorly at Epsom but extremely well at Goodwood over 7f.

I would also recommend laying top weighted horses in 7f non-handicap races as they only win 17.31% of the time. Doing so would result in a 13.74% profit since 2010.

Aside from 2018 where top weighted horses have won 33.33% of their races so far, this tactic would have yielded a profit every year since 2011. This year is a complete anomaly because the previous highest win rate was just 18.48% back in 2010!

Further research on this topic revealed that July to December is a fantastic time to lay top weighted horses in non-handicaps. Although the win rate has been 20% and 21% in the last two years, you would still make a profit.

In fact, you would have made a profit every year since 2010 and a total profit of 36.9%! Since such horses are massively overperforming right now, it could be the perfect time to make hay.

Final Thoughts on Sprints

As you can see, favourites don’t tend to perform well in shorter races so if you wish to become a sprint king, it is best to consider laying favourites and top weighted horses.

The continuing dreadful performances of top weighted horses over 7f non-handicap sprint races is fascinating. I would go even further and recommend non-favourites in those races as their win percentage is just 8.22% since 2010!