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Tuesday 15 May 2018

Value Bets

The word ‘value’ frequently bandied around so often in horse racing circles that it’s almost lost all meaning. If we say that a horse represents value at the odds on offer, we mean that the betting market – in other words, the bookmakers and the betting public – has underestimated its winning chance and hence offered longer odds than expected. Of course, whether or not a horse represents value is a matter of opinion, based on your assessment of its winning chance.

One way to formalise the process is to create an odds line, which expresses an opinion, in the form of odds, about the winning chance of each horse. You can read all about creating your own odds line here but, essentially, you need to:

Assign a numeric rating, such as a Racing Post Rating (RPR) or Timeform rating, to each horse in the race.

Add up the ratings for each horse to obtain a total.
Divide each individual rating by the total to obtain the probability of each horse winning the race.
Calculate the reciprocal of each probability to obtain the odds against the horse winning the race.
Compare the ‘real world’ odds on offer with those in your odds line to determine which horses represent value and which don’t.

Of course, you may not have the time, inclination or resources to create an odds line for every race you analyse and, certainly, in smaller fields it’s possible to calculate acceptable odds for your selection in a less formal way, by using your skill and judgement. By way of illustration, imagine a hypothetical race with six runners, in which you’ve identified a likely selection and a possible danger to the selection, based on your analysis on the form book. Allowing one point, or even money, for the unexpected and one point for the danger to your selection, 2/1 or longer odds would represent value, while anything shorter than 2/1 would not.

Note that allowing one point for the unexpected means that, even in race where your selection has no apparent dangers, the minimum odds you’d accept would be even money. This precludes backing any horse at odds-on, which isn’t a bad philosophy for the average punter. If you back, say, a 4/7 chance, you’ll be more relieved at not losing 7 points than winning 4 points once the race is over. Try it if you don’t believe me.

Many bookmakers now offer ‘guaranteed’ prices, which mean that even busy punters are no longer subject, solely, to the vagaries of the S.P. market. If you’re making selections based on sound winning potential, it’s only reasonable to expect that other punters will draw the same conclusions about them and shorten the odds on offer about them in due course. A quick look at Oddschecker, or a similar odds comparison site, will soon tell you if the odds on offer from your chosen bookmaker are competitive and, unless they’re artificially short, there’s really no reason not to take a guaranteed price.

As a final word on the thorny topic of value, while it’s true that horses that fail to complete the course over hurdles or fences, for whatever reason, are often sent off at seemingly generous prices on their next start, beware of apparently ‘unlucky’ losers. If a horse falls or unseats its rider with a race apparently at its mercy, it may be priced as if it had actually won the race and, if so, may be best left alone until is does actually win a race.


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