Beware betting on backmarkers

Horses that get back in their races and finish strongly become punter’s favourites very quickly.

They appeal to the thrill seeking psyche of a gambler since you expect, visualise and bet on this type of horse to finish over the top of them. Sure, this profile of horse is exciting to back and they can look really impressive when things go their way, but the problem is they often need a lot of luck in running to win.

Horses racing at the tail of the field need the pace on, they need to make ground without racing too wide and then need clear galloping room in the straight. Relying on luck and the best ride in the race isn’t a great betting strategy but many punters are blinded by the burst a backmarker can produce when everything goes right.

Over the last two Saturday’s in Sydney and Melbourne there were eleven experienced horses (so we know their pattern) at 5/1 or less that speed maps predicted to race in the final third of the field.

Here are their results: Moonee Valley R3 N7 Ebony Rock lost at $5.20 Moonee Valley R4 N1 Tanby lost at $2.60 Moonee Valley R6 N4 Rekindled Interest lost at $4.80 Moonee Valley R7 N10 Chateau Margaux lost at $5.40 Rosehill R1 N4 Mon Soleil lost at $5.30 Rosehill R3 N7 Coup Acclaim lost at $5.50 Rosehill R8 N11 Velrosso won (by a pimple) at $3.30 Caulfield R9 N6  Soft Sand lost at $3.80 Randwick R4 N1 Dear Demi lost at $2.70 Randwick R5 N3 Torio’s Quest lost at $4.50 Randwick R6 N8 All Too Hard lost at $4.40 Clearly that’s only a small sample size so let’s broaden our analysis. Looking at runners under 5/1 for all Sydney and Melbourne metro races the last 5 years: Last start settling position           POT next start 1                                                            -3 2                                                              -2 3                                                              -3 4                                                              -5 5                                                              -1 6                                                              -6 7                                                              -18 8                                                              -10 9                                                              -17 10                                                           -7 11                                                           -21 12                                                           -18 13                                                           -14 14                                                           -37

That data on its own is compelling but let’s group the runners for further clarity. Horses hard in the market that settled in the first six last start lost just 3% on turnover next time out. Those that had settled 7th or worse last time out (and there were close to 5000 of them) lost 15% on turnover at their next start. So simple, yet so decisive.

It can’t be any clearer that people over-rate horses that settle back and finish hard. ‘Flashing light’ horses are dramatically over-bet as a group. They need a lot of things that are out of their control to go their own way, whereas on-pacers tend make their own luck and be far more reliable betting propositions. So make sure you have a very good idea of where your horse is likely to be in the run, because what happens late in a race depends greatly on what happened early. A punter without a speed map is like a jockey without a whip; there will be the occasional winner but it’s going to be very hard work.

Value is everything in punting, but you very rarely get it when backing a backmarker. Good punting David Duffield