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Thursday 21 May 2020


Statistical analysis of British horse racing results reveals that roughly one-third of races, of any denomination, are won by the market leader, or favourite, while roughly two-thirds are won by one of the first three in the betting market. However, American humorist Will Rogers’ assertion that, ‘A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries’, is certainly as true today – at least with regard to the ‘Sport of Kings’ – as it always was. Bookmakers’ odds reflect subjective opinions – firstly, of the bookmaker and, secondly, of the betting public – on horses’ chances of winning races.

On the whole, the betting public is pretty shrewd when it comes to assessing the relative chances of horses, so it should come as no surprise that, every year, strike rate is inversely proportional to starting price. Of course, outsiders can and do win, often at generous odds. However, backing an outsider, by definition, involves taking an equally subjective, but contrary, view and running against the ‘herd’, which many punters are loath to do. Nevertheless, while punters looking beyond the obvious, popular selections must accept that they will be wrong more often not, the more accurate they become in assessing races the more often they will find to bet for the important, but elusive, commodity known as ‘value’ and increase their chances of making money in the long term.

Notwithstanding newcomers from powerful stables and the like, the betting market for any horse race is likely to be dominated by runners that have displayed recent proven, progressive or promising form, that act, or are likely to act, over the course and distance on the prevailing going and – in terms of class, value and weight – are attempting little, or nothing, more than they have achieved in the past. By contrast, outsiders invariably have question marks against them, for one reason or another, so require more educated guesswork, perhaps even a ‘leap of faith’, on the part of the punter.

That said, a change of circumstances, in terms of course, distance, going, headgear or even trainer form, can often bring about a revival in the form of horses that have proved themselves capable of winning in the past. Punters must, of course, look at the ‘bigger picture’, perhaps stretching back months, or even years but, in so doing, may uncover valuable betting opportunities.