When it comes to all forms of betting, whether it’s on horse races, other sports, casino gambling and even playing the lotto, many people try to work out winning strategies or at least discover strategies that will lower the odds and give them a better chance of winning.
It’s human nature to do this and only makes logical sense to increase your chances of success if you can.
Horse racing attracts all types of punters looking for an edge. If you talked to 50 different punters you would probably hear 50 different strategies to one degree or another.
A common strategy many punters adopt, particularly those new to the game, is to continually back race favorites.
After all, if a particular horse is favored to win the race, then there’s a very good chance it will. Right?
It sounds good in theory and seems like it should be profitable, but if it was as easy as simply backing all the favorites, then we’d all be rolling in the cash. It doesn’t work out that way though.
It’s similar to the strategy of always backing long shots because the chance of a big payday if one comes home first is very alluring.
Let’s look at some key reasons why only placing your money on favorites doesn’t guarantee a handsome profit or even a profit at all.
Favorites Tend To Pay Less for Starters
Many race favorites are at short price odds. Sometimes the odds are so short that it’s no longer even an attractive bet at all.
The average payout on all favorites combined if they come in first lies only somewhere between $2 and $3 for every $1 bet. Now that’s not much of a profit, even if every single favorite came home first past the post.
Obviously, if you had a huge bankroll and could place big wagers on each favorite, the profit would be great, but that tactic also comes with bigger risks.
In fact, throughout its history, only 23% of favorites have ever won the coveted Melbourne Cup.
Most Favourites Are “False” Favourites
The estimate by many horse racing punting professionals is that about 40% of race favorites are what are known as “false” favorites, meaning they are not the horse that actually has the best chance of winning the race, but simply the horse that’s been most heavily backed by punters.
The problem is, it can be hard to recognize the false favorites. I’m sure some racegoers are quite adept at it, but for most mere mortals it’s likely close to impossible.
And did you know that statistics show that only about 3 in 10 favorites actually go on to win the race? That’s only 30%, and that’s just an average.
If you combine that sad statistic with the short odds favorites pay when they do win, and you’ve seriously got a flawed and losing formula if you only ever back favorites to win races.
The only plausible way to make this strategy even remotely profitable would be to become an expert at picking which horses are false favorites and only put your money on horses you believe are genuine favorites to take a victory.
Even if you could do this, to make decent money, you would have to be placing a lot more down than $1 per bet.
If you backed 100 true favorites and they all won, if you only bet $1 and the average payout was say, $2.50, then you’ve only made $250 minus your $100 worth of wagering.
So that’s really only a profit of $150 across 100 races, and every single race has to be a winner to even achieve that amount.
There is a phenomenon called the favorite/long shot bias. I mentioned earlier that some punters only back long shots, and that it’s a similarly flawed strategy as only ever backing race favorites.
Whether you favor the long shot or the favorite, you’re actually over-valuing the likelihood of a favorite winning the race.
The stats speak volumes, with favorites only coming home first past the post roughly 3 times in every 10 races.