How Do You Handle An Odds On Favourite?

What's the best way to approach a short-priced runner?

spring racing Manikato Stakes Cox Plate Moonee Valley Group 1

It was back to Caulfield on Saturday for Victorian punters, and a day of carnage ensued for many.

It was VOBIS Gold Raceday, which can throw up a relatively strange collection of race fields. This is due to the vastly inflated prize money pools put in place as a reward for owners of horses which are VOBIS Gold qualified.

This means races that are contested by horses of perhaps more average quality also attract some very high achievers.

The result? Some very short-priced favourites.

Kiwia jumped in Race 4 at $1.80, and favourite backers recoiled in horror as he couldn’t run down $16 pop Self Sense.

The highly-rated Nature Strip repeated the dose next up, getting rolled at $1.65 by $61 shot Sam’s Image. Finally, Cliff’s Edge – the shortest of them all at $1.55 – failed to fire a shot and barely beat a horse home in Race 6.

With a large percentage of punters reeling, it begs the question… is the old “odds-on, look on” policy one you should always follow?

Followers of Champion Bets Melbourne analyst Trevor Lawson avoided the odds-on pain. Trev’s advice early in the day read: “Unfortunately with the theme of the day, there are a lot of short priced horses which are clear top picks, but no real value. No value in betting around them. Unfortunately, a quiet day.”

It highlights the importance of betting selectively: if you can’t find genuine value in a race, then you need to have the control to protect your bank and not bet on marginal propositions. That can mean you go many races without a bet. It might sound simple, but if you’ve spent hours doing the form and framing your own markets, simply sitting through nearly a whole day of racing without betting is anything but easy. But that sort of discipline is what makes a successful, profitable long-term punter.

Saturday was a great example of this – with most punters well and truly broken, Trev actually finished in front on his Melbourne Ratings package after only betting in three of the nine races on the card. Patience throughout the day paid off as he found the winner of the last, Fastnet Tempest, at $11. A small profit for the day locked in, the bank stays safe and we fight on for the next day’s racing.

On the odds-on question particularly, we asked Trev whether a blanket “odds-on, look-on” policy is a good one.

“I don’t normally take odds-on. I’ve taken some in the past and watched them go under. At the moment, I’d really prefer not to take much less than $2.70,” said Trevor.

“I think you’re outlaying too much money for not a great return.”

But as we know with the punt, one size doesn’t always fit all. So to get a different perspective, we asked NSW analyst Bryan Haskins the same question. He’s a little more open to backing odds-on pops, but only where there’s real value.

“I’m not one to agree with the odds-on, look-on approach. Every horse has its right price and can still be value even if its odds-on,” said Bryan.

“A good example would be: if Winx was $1.80 in the Queen Elizabeth, would you back her? I’m sure almost everybody would.

“I don’t back too many, but if I had one marked really short I certainly would.”

So the message is clear – be very wary on odds-on favourites, but as with all things punting, the key lies in one thing: value.