Are Odds On Favourites a Waste of Time?

It always seems as if the casual punter has no time for odds-on favourites and would prefer a speculative ‘punt’ on a horse at 10/1+. Even seasoned bettors often have a tendency to search for ‘value’ bets thus ignoring the 4/5 shot in the 2:35 at Lingfield.

The thing is, value is relative: Believe it or not, a 1/2 favourite usually offers greater value than a 50/1 outsider.

Why?

Because the 1/2 horse might statistically have a 70% chance of winning whereas the 50/1 horse might have a 1% chance. Our odds-on horse has a 66.66% (100/1.5) chance according to the bookmakers against our outsider’s 1.96% (100/51).


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In the above scenario, you’re receiving over 100% (you are technically getting an ‘extra’ 5% in this example [70 x 100 / 66.66 = 105.01] of the odds-on favourite’s true odds of winning the race. In other words, you have a slight ‘edge’ over the bookie (which might be erased by the overround, but that’s another story). However; you are only getting slightly over 50% of the ‘true’ odds on the outsider.

The truth is, outsiders are usually underpriced. Even a cursory glance on the Betfair Exchange tells you this. It is normal to get double the odds on the Exchange for a rank outsider than you receive at the bookmakers. I have personally seen 100/1 shots on racebook sites on offer for 250/1 on the Exchange. In most cases, the 250/1 price is usually a fairer reflection of the real chances of such no-hopers.

The Long Game

The beauty of backing odds-on favourites is that there is real potential for steady long-term profit. Even on a bad run, you’re likely to pick a few winners. Of course, blind backing is always a terrible decision as I’ll show below. I read an interesting piece on Frankel recently. The wonder horse was essentially unbeatable and won all 14 of his races.

By the end of his incredible career, Frankel could only be had at preposterously short odds (we’re talking 1/10 and 1/20 here). Even so, backing him to win in his last 4 races would net an enviable ROI of 43% at SP prices. Of course, even one defeat would result in a significant setback to your betting bank.

The key to long-term profit is always finding out about horses that are overpriced, and odds-on favourites are no different. Without further ado, let’s find some winning trends.

To begin with, let’s look at how odds-on favourites (SP prices but Betfair ROI) perform in the three different codes since the beginning of 2013.

CodeBetsWinsWin %ROI (BF)
Overall9095543459.75%-2.5%
National Hunt4621281660.94%-2.34%
Flat2689156858.31%-3.3%
All-Weather1785105058.82%-1.7%

You’ll notice that none of the codes offer any kind of special advantage with regards to odds-on favourites. Also, a loss of just 2.5% from over 9,000 is easily tackled because there are so many bets to filter.

Interestingly, handicap events offer the best profit option with a 2.76% ROI since 2013 from 1,531 bets. I will try and filter this later in the article.

Is there any specific class of race we should look at?

  • Class 1: -4.96% ROI.
  • Class 2: -5.63% ROI.
  • Class 3: +1.16% ROI.
  • Class 4: -1.95% ROI.
  • Class 5: -1.57% ROI.
  • Class 6: -1.93% ROI.

There are relatively few odds-on favourites in Classes 1, 2 and 3 over the last 5 years so although Class 3 offers profit; it doesn’t have enough bets to further filter in a profitable system.

A combination of Class 3, 4,5 & 6 races brings the ROI to -1.54%; still plenty of work to do. The next step was to go back to Handicap events and when I did that, here is what I found:

BetsWinsWin %ROI
141884059.24%3.78%

 

An ROI of just under 4% is okay but hardly worth your time. You may have heard of the phenomenon of trainers entering horses in races soon after they had a win to beat the handicapper. When horses with the existing criteria won their last race and last ran 1-7 days before the event, your ROI goes up to 9.44%. A loss in 2017 so far but solid double-digit profit in each of the previous 3 years.

The Track is the Key – Of Course!

Over the years, trainers such as Sir Michael Stoute and Sir Mark Prescott have made slight profits with their odds-on favourites but in general, there are few trainers with a good record from the punter’s perspective. Sometimes, it is as easy as focusing on individual courses, so I took 6 of the best from the last 5 years to give you an overview of what is possible with odds-on favourites. For the record, this data relates to clear favourites with odds of between 1.02 and 1.91.

CourseBets WinsWin %ROI (BF)
Catterick1429768.31%9.31%
Yarmouth1057066.67%11.13%
Goodwood543666.66%7.36%
Worcester1217965.29%4.81%
Uttoxeter1067267.92%9.55%
Sandown*634165.08%9.58%

*Flat races only.

While you won’t be able to retire on the winnings, at least there is potential for reasonable and fairly safe profit. Combine all the courses, and you have an average of 100 bets a year. Although you would have a very slight loss this year, it is important to have faith in a system that yields a minimum of 8% profit in each of the last 4 years.

Final Words

In summation, odds-on favourites are no better or worse than looking for ‘value’ options. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to make money, I’m afraid horse racing and this website are not for you! If you want detailed analysis designed to help you earn a steady, sustainable profit, stay tuned because there are plenty more strategic guides to come.