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Short odds favourites?

About 6 months before I started Focus Ratings I also started a small blog which detailed my learning curve with all things Horse Racing.

Once Focus Ratings was under way though, I found that I didn't have time to do both and so I stopped updating the blog.

I am now shutting down the blog and have decided to move some of the content over here - purely for your amusement only.

Whilst it must be lovely to have a 20/1 shot come in, for most of us this doesn't seem to happen too often.

But, then again, if we have a slew of short odds favourites coming in, we tend not to rush down to the pub to tell all out mates about it?

Why, I wonder, do we discriminate against betting on short odds favourite and...

Are we wrong to do so?

Well, being fairly new to the sport of Horse Racing I don't seem to be too overburdened by some of the old prejudices and I have to admit that I have no problem making a few quid by betting on a short odds favourite.

Am I wrong?

Some stats...

Results statistics (extracted from are as shown below...

Results of the Favourite in races where the favourite is Evens or Odds On
Starting Price of Favourite Races Wins % Wins
Less than 1.2 362 300 82.87%
Between 1.4 and 1.2 2665 1989 74.63%
Between 1.6 and 1.4 3339 2068 61.93%
Between 1.8 and 1.6 6868 3732 54.34%
Between Evens and 1.8 9009 4264 47.34%

We can see from the table above that by backing short odds favourites we can achieve a really rather interesting strike rate.

However, strike rate on its own is useless unless we are making a profit.

Some interesting angles....

With a bit of initial analysis we can mathematically derive some interesting angles that we can apply to help generate potential selections.

Some of these are...

a). Price differential : If Black Beauty is the favourite in a race and is priced at 1.9 I'd have a lot more confidence in her winning if the second favourite were priced at 8.2 rather than 2.8.

More importantly, using data from we can clearly identify and mathematically define the relationship between the price differential between the short odds favourite and the second favourite and the eventual outcome of the race.

b). The Price of the short odds favourite : Obviously (and, as can be seen in the table above), the lower the price of the favourite, the higher the likelihood of it winning.

Once again, using data from we have been able to determine and quantify the relationship between the price of the short odds favourite and the eventual outcome of the race.

c). The Race Type : Not all races are equal and we adjust the confidence level according to the race type.

d). The Race Course : Surprisingly enough, there is a measured variance (at the end of the market) between the results of short odds favourites over different race courses.

I'm sure that there must be logical reasons for this but I'm happy just to go along according to observed results.

e). Recent Form : A number of filters are applied to the short odds favourite's recent form to produce another adjustment to the confidence level.

The most important of these, statistically, is the number of wins in the last 5 races; for short odds favourites that is the key form factor.

f). Best Odds Guaranteed : If you can back a true short odds favourite at a better price early in the day (or the evening before) by using a bookmaker who offers Best Odds Guaranteed you can achieve real value.

Remember, at the sort of prices that are common for short odds favourites, even a small advantage is, proportionally, quite important.

Findng value...

Of course, regardless of the starting price of the horse, it is only worth betting on it if you are finding value.

In other words, if you are backing a horse at 1.9 it should really have a price of 1.8 - just as if you were betting on heads or tails and you were being offered odds of 2.2 rather than the real odds of 2.0 (or 1/1)

Some people say that odds on favourites are over bet and thus there isn't the value to be had.

I like to think that plenty of people are averse to betting on odds on favourites and, thus, the price goes up to create value.

But why would you want to?

Well, even if you share the prejudice that "Short Odds Favourites" aren't the sexy end of the market, wouldn't it be nice to have some Banker Bets that could help finance your exploits in the more risky (but higher paying) gambles?

And also, if your clever 10/1 selections don't work out, wouldn't it be nice to have some winners - even just from a psychological point of view?


I don't think that you should shy away from Short Odds or Odds On Favourites just because of the price.

Then again, backing them blindly isn't going to make a profit.

What needs to be done is to add another layer of selectivity to allow you to identify those short odds (or odds on) favourites that are more likely to win than their price suggests and then...

Back them just as you would any other horse.

Links and further study...

1). There's an excellent post which also touches on short odds favourites over at the equally excellent (a strangely named but massively enjoyable Horse Racing blog run by the knowledgeable Paul Whelan) that can be found at - an excellent starting point for anyone looking to make sense of this end of the market.

2). In his fourth book on betting and horse racing, Dr David-Lee Priest sets out to arm punters with a sweeping analysis of profitable approaches. 'The Betting Edge' covers every aspect of betting successfully in the internet age including strategy, psychology, money management, spread betting, the exchanges, and practical recommendations to help you win money. David-Lee Priest has a wealth of experience in analysing horse performance data and includes working as a racing journalist for a regional newspaper and serving as a horseracing trader for a spread-betting firm.

Get the book here... The Betting Edge: Joining the Two Per Cent of Profitable Gamblers

keith-eckstein  the horse racing scholar

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