Backing more than one horse in a race

The Saturday before last we backed three horses in the first race at Caulfield. We rated Smokin Joey at $3.50, Instinction at $8.00 and Spacecraft at $16 and all were overlays. We were very happy when Instinction got up at $15 since that was close to a double overlay, but immediately on our live page a new subscriber to our service posed the question, “Why would you ever back 3 horses in a race?” I was a little surprised at first but soon realised that it was actually a good question from a casual punter. Backing two, three or even four horses in a race is an approach used by most professional punters and there are a number of reasons why. If you think about each race as a betting event on its own, then backing multiple horses isn’t really that different to betting on one shorter priced horse. For example if we have rated two horses as $4 chances and both are at our price or better, then we outlay 1.25 units on each (5 divided by the rated price). So on a race like this we outlay 2.5 units (representing 2.5% of our bank) and will get at least 5 units back. That is a very similar scenario to backing an even money shot, but the difference is we have two horses running for us. Going back to the Instinction race from October 13th, we outlayed a total of 2.36 units and got 9.30 back. So looking at the race as one transaction (rather than 3 separate individual bets) you could say it was basically the same as backing a $4 winner. Backing multiple runners enables us to get involved more often than if we were to only focus on races where we had a standout selection. There aren’t many races where there is only one strong winning chance and we don’t want to be limited to just those events. One important thing to note though is to still be selective in your approach. Don’t get involved in races you shouldn’t just because you believe you have good coverage. That on its own is not enough, you must also be getting good value and we have discussed many times that you can back plenty of winners and still lose. One approach that can work well is identifying races that we assess as being almost a ‘race in two’. Going one out in this situation would be unnecessarily risky, so backing two horses (or a back and save strategy) is a better approach. Another positive is that you have less losing races. Not less losing bets necessarily, but fewer losing races than betting one out all the time. Betting only on single selections means more volatility for your bank on a race by race basis and this can affect even the very experienced punters’ psyche. No matter how many years you have been at it and how confident you are in your approach, a sustained losing run hurts. It’s often better to have multiple win bets in a race instead of one each-way, since 50% of that wager is a place bet where it is notoriously difficult to find value. The TAB takeout and round down does the place punter no favours whatsoever. Having more than one runner going for you can also help reduce the luck in running factor. For example you might be desperate to take on the odds-on favourite as you rate it a true $3.50 chance. So you back the 2nd favourite at what you consider to be a value price, but it misses the kick by 2 lengths and gets beaten in a photo finish. The odds-on favourite runs unplaced but all you have to show for your analysis and effort is a losing ticket. However if you’d also backed the 3rd favourite (and eventual winner) since it was an overlay based on your numbers you would be all smiles. Money management is important for any punter, but especially one backing multiple horses in a race. At Champion Picks we limit our outlay to a maximum of 2.5% of our bank per race, with the average being around 2%. So if we are backing a horse we’ve assessed to be an even money chance we won’t back any others in the race, even if they are an overlay. We never suggest level staking in any circumstances because it makes no mathematical or logical sense to outlay the same amount on a short priced favourite as you do on a longshot, since their likelihood of winning is dramatically different. Again that applies to backing more than one runner in a race, because you need to vary your stake according to the percentage chance of that horse winning the race. There are plenty of advantages to backing multiple horses in a race so if you’ve never seriously tried this approach I strongly suggest you give it a go. Good punting David Duffield