A question we often get from punters is that if we have our favoured runner for a race picked out, why would you back others as well?

There’s a few aspects we need to look at:

Chances of winning

This is something we touched on recently when looking at the question of value.

A critical thing to remember is that nobody – even the smartest form student in the world – knows who’s going to win a race.

They’ll have a strong opinion, but they can’t predict the future with absolute certainty!

Successful punters frame their own markets based on their assessment of each runners winning chance.

They may rate their favourite a $1.20 chance, which you may read as being a ‘moral’.  But that doesn’t mean they know it’s going to win. It means they give it an 83% chance of winning. Or more accurately, if this race was run six times then this horse would win five of them.

It’s the same with a longshot. A $41 shot doesn’t mean it could never win. It means it has about a 2.5% chance of winning. Or, if there were 40 identical races, the horse would win one of them.

Herein lies the first lesson of backing multiple runners:  if a punter backs the horse he rates at $1.20, he expects to have a 83% chance of winning the race.

But if he can come up with a working strategy to also back the $41 shot, then he’s covered his 2.5% chance as well.

By his own figures, he now has a 85.5% chance of collecting.

The higher, the better…at value of course.

It’s all about the outlay

It’s also important to remember that you don’t count profits or losses on the number of bets you have: it’s about the number of units you turn over.

That’s one of the reasons why profit on turnover (PoT), and not winning strike rate, is the reliable measure of punting success.

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 units 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’s a very similar scenario to backing an even money shot, but with the one crucial difference: we have two horses running for us.

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.

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 two 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 third favourite (and eventual winner) since it was an overlay based on your numbers, you would be all smiles.

So remember: if you’re looking for profit, there’s plenty of reasons why you want to be on multiple runners. Just ensure you’re doing it the smart way!


  1. Hi Mark,

    yes, more logical and considered advice. Gordon is also spot on about it assisting with the dreaded yips. The key of course is that it must be applied with the precision as the rest of your punting efforts. It is simply a modern and more considered take on the old ‘saver’ technique when you boil it down.

    One thing worth mentioning though is the jitters I get when I identify more than three value runners in a given race. In my experience I have learned to put such events in the ‘not for investment’ category as they have often produced blow out results. In such events I often see a despised and completely overlooked outsider saluting or an under the odds favoured runner. I don’t worry too much about the real outsider brigade unless I can see blindingly obvious reasons for their inclusion, the market does not get it that wrong often enough make those horses appealing. I tend to concentrate on the sweet spot between 3/1 and 10/1 but have had good results up to 14/1. The occaisional longshot salutes at 20/1 and upwards and that is nice, but the real bread and butter results ares usually under 10/1. These provide the most consistent returns in my experience.

  2. Many people who shy away from backing two horses in a race think nothing of backing one horse each way. Still two bets in the race but inherently more risky. It is also probable that the place odds are less than fair making the EW bet a mug’s game.