Laying Rank Outsiders: Surely a Winning Trend?

Not every horse racing betting system is based on logic. In fact, punters routinely come up with the weirdest, most wonderful (and daft) systems that will ultimately prove colossal failures. It is almost as if there’s a secret competition happening somewhere to determine the most efficient method to lose money betting on races!

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With such a focus on outlandish systems, are we guilty of overlooking ones with the potential to win? The reason they are overlooked to begin with lies in their simplicity. Simple betting systems aren’t as exciting; they don’t have that sense of mystery. Esoteric, convoluted betting systems are a siren call for a certain type of punter looking for the ultimate secret to quick riches.

Simple systems, on the other hand, bring us back into the cold, harsh reality of anything in life: the secret to success is almost always nothing more mysterious than hard work and trial-and-error.

Let’s consider one simple and basic system. Logic dictates that rank outsiders lose the vast majority of their races. Since the beginning of 2009, only 2.62% of clear outsiders have won a race in the UK.

As almost 97.5% of lay bets will win, surely the overall profit has to be healthy? As it happens, you do make a profit, but it is only 0.67%. It is better than nothing of course, but it comes from over 80,000 bets… Moreover, you would only profit in six of the ten years. In 2010, your loss would have been 50%!

This, of course, highlights the main danger with laying rank outsiders: All it takes is one winner, and you are ruined. Imagine laying an apparent no-hoper at 600/1 only to see it scrape home! It would represent 600 units lost with no way back. It’s even worse if the catastrophe happens early in your system. In July 2016, Dandy Flame won at Wolverhampton at SP odds of 200/1. In December 2017, Killahara Castle won at Thurles. Again, the SP odds were 200/1.

You can imagine that both horses could have been laid at anywhere from 400/1 to 999/1 on the exchange. However, before you eliminate the idea of laying outsiders, let’s see if it makes more sense with a less prohibitive liability.

Staying Sensible When Laying

The age-old rule of Exchange betting is to “back high and lay low.” When you lay outsiders, you are going completely against conventional wisdom. However, let’s see what happens when you lay outsiders across a range of Betfair Exchange odds.

Please note that all data comes from UK races from the beginning of 2009. Also, I am using the back odds of these horses as the precise laying odds data was not available. If a horse is 40 to win, it could be anywhere from 42 to 50 on the lay market.

Finally, the wins and strike rate relate to the number of times the horse actually won the race while the lay P+L lets you know your profit/loss from laying these horses.

Betfair OddsBetsWinsStrike RateLay P/L
2.00 - 5.0038412933.58%-27.90%
5.01 - 102,54331212.27%-0.44%
10.5 - 208,6626036.96%-7.93%
21 - 5022,8097563.31%-13.92%
55 - 10016,2881921.18%14.13%
110+29,8661120.38%7.28%

As you would expect, there aren’t many rank outsiders at odds of 5.00 or less. It is best to avoid laying these horses as you would suffer some brutal losses. In fact, you would earn a Betfair profit of 20% by backing them to win with a profit in eight of the last ten years.

It doesn’t take long for the win rate to plummet and you would effectively break even by focusing on horses at odds between 5.01 and 10 with a fairly insubstantial loss of just 0.44%.

Things go pretty badly when you focus on horses at odds between 10.5 and 20 with a loss of almost 8% despite the low strike rate. It is pretty catastrophic when you go up to horses in the 21 – 50 range with bad losses of almost 14%. Incidentally, you would make a profit of 4% by backing these horses!

It is only when you go up as far as 55 – 100 that you derive some profit. To be fair, a 14% profit is good, and you would have earned money in the last eight years. You also make money when laying odds at odds of 110+ because 99.62% of those bets will win.

However, you would only have made a profit in seven of the last ten years. Also, at least seven horses have won at a Betfair SP of 110+ each year since 2009. Therefore, it is always possible that today is the day you get stung.

If you focus on handicap races when laying horses at odds between 55 and 1000 on the Exchange, your profit increases to 16.12% as only 0.8% of these horses win. Interestingly, the profit jumps again, this time to 17.91% when you focus on horses at odds between 55 and 100. The risk is higher as 1.14% of these horses win, but at least you don’t have to worry about losing a 1000 lay bet; although losing 100 times, your stake is still terrible and hard to recover from.

In the 55-100 range, you might be surprised to learn that your profit increases to 27.5% when you stick to races with 1-10 runners. However, this is not a shock because these are normally truer run races. With fewer runners, it is less likely that horses will become jammed in the pack which can occasionally allow an unfancied horse to storm through unopposed.

Finally, it is best to avoid National Hunt races. When you lay 55-100 outsiders in handicap races in fields of 1-10 runners in Flat and All-Weather races, your lay win rate is 99.11%, and you benefit from a profit of 35.32%. This includes profit in each of the last eight years.

Final Thoughts on Laying Outsiders

As it transpires, laying outsiders IS profitable but only when you focus at the extreme end of the spectrum. Most notably, Flat and AW outsiders in smaller field handicaps at win odds of 55-100 on the Exchange should provide a long-term profit.

However, the dangers are obvious. Even with a profit of over 35% and a win rate of more than 99%, there are a handful of winners each year.

Although it only happens about once every 100 races, what will you do if you try this system and get stung almost immediately? What if it happens twice in quick succession? If you have the bankroll and can afford a bad start, perhaps you can try it, but I personally don’t recommend laying rank outsiders.