Odds-on, look on?

‘Odds-on, look-on’ is a saying most of us have heard many times during our punting career.

But is this old cliche actually good advice, or is their money to be made in backing short-priced horses?

Let’s go to the statistics and take a look at the last 3 years:

Odds-on favourites (and there were more than 5000 of them) lost 10% on turnover at TAB prices. Favourites across all price ranges had a 32% winning strike-rate during this period for a 9% loss on turnover. So there was only a very marginal difference in profitability (1%) for odds-on favourites and as expected a very good winning strike-rate of 53%. But bear in mind that if you are backing a horse at $1.70, for example, a 60% strike-rate isn’t much better than break-even. So within this group of odds-on favourites were there any major clues in the figures? Any particular niches that may be profitable to follow or wise to avoid?

Well the answer is not really. The profitability of odds-on favourites was similar across most classes and there was no major difference in metropolitan, country or provincial results. Last start finishing position was also relatively unimportant, as was the distance of today’s race. So which factors were more important? The track condition did give us some pointers: Good = 9% loss on turnover Dead = 14% LOT Slow = 13% LOT Heavy = 10% LOT Nothing startling there, although it does appear that if we’re betting odds-on we should generally stick to dry tracks. Field size appears to be something of a factor: 7 or less runners = 13% LOT 8-12 = 8% LOT 13+ = 14% LOT You could draw the conclusion that small fields offer little value, and larger fields mean there are many horses for an odds-on favourite to beat, so 8-12 runners appears to be the optimum field size if you are backing an odds-on favourite.

But too much of that type of analysis lends itself to backfitting. The previous two articles in this series asserted that, overall, inside barriers are overbet by the punting public and it’s actually the outside barriers that represent the best betting value. The figures for odds-on favourites hold true to that general rule (although it must be said that barriers 9+ represents quite a small sample size): Barriers 1-4 = 11% LOT 5-8 = 12% LOT 9+ = 2% LOT Based on the fact that the profitability of odds-on favourites is basically no worse than other favourites, there isn’t a strong case for ‘odds-on, look on’. Do the form like you would any other race and determine whether the horse you want to back is value.