Buyer Beware! The Reality of Horse Racing Betting & Losing Streaks

In a future article, I will be asking if we can trust horse racing tipsters. One of the issues I will discuss involves claims of strike rate and most pertinently, Return on Investment (ROI). Ignoring whether or not the systems sold by these tipsters are worth anything at all, it is arguably even more important to take a good, long look at strike rate.


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It is this win percentage that enables you to determine if long losing streaks are likely. In horse racing, unless you’re betting on short-odds favourites, your strike rate is likely to be rather low. Over the last year or so, I have provided several potential “systems” that turn a profit, but most of them have a strike rate below 30%.

The Lower the Win Rate, The Longer the Losing Streak

I came across a website called Soccer Widow which looked at the likely maximum winning and losing streaks you can expect to encounter depending on the strike rate. It provided a mind-boggling set of data that most punters would be completely unaware of. It also highlighted the foolishness of adhering to Gambler’s Fallacy.

If you’re not aware, this is the idea that an outcome is inevitable because it hasn’t happened in a specified period. I’ve often heard football bettors make a bet on a player to score a goal because he is “due” a goal. No, he isn’t!

A perfect example of Gambler’s Fallacy is a coin toss. Let’s say heads comes up three times in a row. Someone caught in the grip of the Gambler’s Fallacy might be tempted to starting ramping up their wagers to land on tails because it is “due to happen sooner.” Bad idea!

Unless the coin has been tampered with, every single outcome is independent from one another, so the chances of it landing on heads for the fourth consecutive time are exactly the same as it is to land on tails.

The research on Soccer Widow further confirms this truism. In a 50-bet spell, the maximum likely losing streak for bets with a 50% chance of winning is six! Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised if you back six horses at Evens in a row and they all lose. The maximum winning streak is also six. Of course, you could have extraordinarily good or bad luck which pushes the winning or losing streak even further.

Once you get to a 1,000-bet sample, the maximum winning or losing streak for bets with a 50% chance of winning rises to 10! Again, it is possible for it to extend even further. If this happens with systems with a 50% hit rate, what do you think could happen when that strike rate falls to 30% or below!

Realistically, a betting system should have as many bets as possible before you declare it a valid winning tactic. For the sake of the article, let’s assume that your system needs 1,000 bets before it is something worth using. Here are the possible maximum winning and losing streaks according to win rate over any random 1,000 bet sample:

  • 10%: Winning Streak = 3; Losing Streak = 66
  • 20%: Winning Streak = 4; Losing Streak = 31
  • 30%: Winning Streak = 6; Losing Streak = 19
  • 40%: Winning Streak = 8; Losing Streak = 14

Keep in mind trainers, jockeys, and horses do not perform as uniformly as numbers on a screen. The odds provided for each race will often not be a true reflection of the horse’s chance of winning. Therefore, there could be days where your 4/1 bet’s chances of winning are only 16% rather than the implied probability of 20% as per the odds.

This is one of the many reasons why your winning or losing streak could be even longer than predicted. In other words, that system with a 30%-win rate and an ROI of 14% may have a losing streak of 25+. Please bear this in mind when setting your betting bank and staking plan.

Losing Streaks in Winning Systems

In a recent article titled Top Weights & Tight Tracks, I found that it was to possible to profit by backing top weighted horses in National Hunt handicaps on the following tracks:

  • Fakenham
  • Fontwell
  • Hereford
  • Newton Abbot
  • Southwell

Here is the updated table:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)
1,25726421%19.68%

The ROI has dropped by 1.21% since the article was written but the strike rate remains the same. It is a system that has been profitable on Betfair for five years in a row. As you can see, the win rate is just over 20%, and there are over 1,000 bets. As a result, we can expect the maximum winning streak to be 4 and the losing streak to stretch to 31.

As it happens, there has been one instance of a 5-bet winning streak and two occasions where 4 bets won in a row. The maximum losing streak is just 26, but there have been 26 instances of 10+ losers. If a few of these bad streaks happen close together, your bankroll will take a major hit.

During my research, I also found that backing all of George Baker’s rides in Flat races was worth looking at. Here’s the data since the beginning of 2014:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
1,59926816.76%17.10%

Although you would endure a slight loss so far in 2018, Baker has provided a profit in the previous four years. An ROI of 17% is very good overall but check out the strike rate. At 16.76%, you can expect a losing streak of even longer than 31 bets.

As it happens, Baker once went 35 rides without a win and has never had more than three successive winners (which he managed on two occasions). Moreover, there have been 40 occasions where Baker has been winless for 10 or more races. While you ultimately make money by holding firm, how many punters would throw in the towel after hitting loss #20 (which happened five times with Baker)?

By the way, Baker has retired as a jockey after a serious fall; I am only using him as an example.

Final Thoughts on Losing Streaks

The dreaded losing streak is a fact of life for anyone who bets on sports regularly. It is especially the case in horse racing where professionals can make their living by backing the occasional long or medium-priced winner. While I will continue to do my best to provide you with worthy systems, every single one of them comes with a guaranteed losing streak (or twenty) attached.

It is entirely up to you to decide if have what it takes to ride out a bad spell, or a sequence of heart-breaking losing streaks. Those who get it right and hang tough, tend to come out of it smiling. The questions you have to ask yourself are:

  1. Are you mentally prepared to proceed?
  2. Can your bankroll, and indeed your bank balance, handle a 35-bet losing streak?
  3. Are you able to lower your bet sizes to stay within your bankroll management rules if you hit a losing streak and your bankroll shrinks?

If the answer any question is “no,” I would advise you to either avoid betting on horse racing completely or have a casual flutter now and then. After all, it is perfectly possible to enjoy the Sport of Kings without having anything riding on a horse other than the jockey!