Racing Ground

21/01/2015 Betting Strategies

Betting on short priced favourites is a tough gamble

The lure of backing race favourites has been around since the first official Australian horse race in Hyde Park back in October 1810. Ideally punters will bet on a short priced favourite if it is the best horse in the race and its odds are indicative of its chances of winning the race or better.The reality however is very different. A very small percentage of punters are capable of analysing the form without referring to the betting market for guidance, and a smaller number again have the means to set their own betting market. The majority of punters are guided by betting odds in some way or form before they place their bet.

 

betting odds

Odds Before Form

You might be protesting at the thought that betting odds guide your thinking and influence your betting decisions, but it is highly likely that you are in this majority group of punters. Some punters order the horses in a race by price before doing the form, comparing each horse's chances to the favourite. Other punters find themselves with little time to assess the field before the race and therefore use the odds to guide their decisions. Time conscious punters often use the betting market as a source of culling the field to arrive at eligible horses for form analysis. When there isn't much time to do the form, the court of popular public opinion usually gives the greatest guideance to punters and becomes the key driver for punters backing short priced favourites.

 

Odds Fluctuations Attract More Followers

As price fluctuations become more readily available through websites, bookmakers and racing broadcasters, their influence on punters continues to grow. It's that feeling that a punter gets when their initial pick in the race blows out in price while the Favourite's price keeps shortening as each horse is loaded in the barrier. Psychologists refer to this as the "Follow the Leader Effect". The power of popular opinion such that we doubt our own logical reasoning enough to drop previous held views on the race and adopt the view of someone else. Every punter that jumps on the short-priced favourite increases the attraction for other potential backers. Meanwhile the odds keep shorterning further and further as new punters follow. The result of this avalanche is often favourite runners with starting odds that are way under their true chance of winning the race.

Other Causes of Shortening Favourites

Besides the 'Follow-the-leader' phenomenon, there are other influences that drive punters towards backing short-priced favourites. For some regions like Hong Kong, cultural views on numbers, colours and names are so significant that they play a big part towards influencing the betting market for a race. It's one of the reasons that professional punter Alan Woods decided to focus his efforts on the region when he set up his professional betting syndicate. In Australian betting markets the media plays a similar role. Whether it be well regarded form analysts like Deane Lester or Mark Hunter who make a horse their special for the day, a full page article on one of the fancied runners posted on a popular racing website, or a Television program that signals a horse as 'one to watch', punter's are being influenced by the media. This influence often leads to runners being over backed such that their odds no longer represent their chance of winning but rather the weight of popular opinion in the race.

Betting advice

There's nothing wrong with taking a tip from a smart punter, or backing a horse that receives a write-up on-line. The key thing that punters need to be wary of is the odds that they get when they back the horse. The more people that read the article or tip sheet, the more popular that horse becomes, the skinnier the odds and therefore the more likely it is that the bet will be unders (that is less than the horse's true chance of winning). So how do punters address this challenge?

  • Bet early - Establish a cut-off point where you stop reading articles and noting punters' tips and actually place your bet. If the information that you use comes on race day, get your bet on nice and early. Remember over 50% of the money invested in a race comes in during the last 60 minutes before they jump, so you are still likely to avoid any sharp price shortening.
  • Look at odds later, after doing your form analysis. Create a discipline where you only look at market prices after you have assessed the field yourself. The first benefit you will receive is being able to note significant differences between the actual betting market and your market, enabling you to identify value opportunities in the race.
  • Reverse psychology - many punters use over-backed horses as a signal that there is value in a race. If you prefer to bet late then you can benefit greatly by identifying horses that have been over backed, with odds that are way under their true chance of winning. That's because if a horse has been backed in to be a short priced favourite, which you determine to be unders, then there will be other runners in the field that are overs (that is showing odds that are greater than the horse's chance of winning the race).

Mike Steward

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Author Biography

Mike Steward

Mike Steward

Mike has an entrenched love for a flutter having grown up in country Victoria. Blessed with a numerical mind, he has a passion for identifying trends and patterns within betting markets, always on the lookout for opportunities to fill punters’ wallets.

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