There are two groups of punters who invariably go to the races, or their TAB agencies, with the percentages piled high against them. They are the backers of favourites and longshots.

No matter what you tell some people, you can never persuade them to alter bad habits. I know a man who has lost at racing all his life and yet, week after week, he persists in the same betting approach. He will not admit, even after a lifetime of losing, that what he does is incorrect. It has a fatal flaw.

People who back favourites all the time do so in the mistaken belief that each favourite has the best chance in a race. This is wrong. Most favourites are false favourites, as evidenced by the fact that only about three out of 10 of them actually win.

No-one, unless he is satisfied with very small profits and operates a foolproof staking plan-backed by a huge betting bank--can ever hope to win by backing favourites. Naturally, a punter following this method of investment will strike runs of consistent profits; there will be other times, though, and plenty of them, when losses will spiral to massive amounts.

I've known periods in Sydney racing when successive favourites were beaten in 20 and 30 races in a row. Any punter trapped in such a devastating sequence of losses would require a large bank and a bigger heart to survive. Long runs of cuts for favourites are not as rare as you might think.

Most professionals estimate that 40 per cent of all favourites are 'false favs'-and that means a lot of sucker money is going to be pulled into backing them, when the true odds suggest they should be at much longer prices.

Even if you got 30 winners from every 100 bets, you would need to be averaging 2.33 to 1 on each winning favourite, just to break even. Statistics show you would be very lucky to achieve this average price.

If you could eliminate the vast majority of the false favourites you would then reduce your losing bets. If we accept that 40 per cent of favourites are 'false' and could find them before the race, we would then be in a position of striking 30 winners from every 60 bets-a tremendous 50 per cent average!

In such circumstances, a flat bet on every favourite-and assuming an average price of 2.33 to 1-would see you outlaying 60 units for a return of 99.9 units, a profit of 39.9 units.

This all sounds tremendous in theory but how is it possible for the average punter to eliminate the false favourites? How does he isolate them and have the courage to not bet on them?

Most punters will run into plenty of strife trying to answer these questions. Even professional punters err in this regard. The average punter eventually gives up and backs just about every favourite going. And loses. There is no mechanical way to help a punter decide if a favourite is fully entitled to its position in the betting. What we can do, however, is take a searching look at some ways of avoiding jumping into the deep end without testing the water. A plan along these lines could take in things like price, jockey, barrier, track conditions, recent form, class, distance etc.

JOCKEY: On metropolitan tracks, discard favourites that are not ridden by firstclass jockeys, or excellent apprentices able to make use of their weight allowance.

TRACKS: Ensure the favourite is able to handle the track at which it is racing. The form of many horses reveals their best tracks.

GOING: If you intend taking a short quote about a favourite you really must be able to know 100 per cent that it can handle the track conditions. There are many false favourites because attention is not paid to this vital point, particularly in winter.

DISTANCE: Another key factor. A horse may finish brilliantly to win over 1600m but that doesn't mean it can win over 2000m. Make sure that a favourite under consideration is suited to the distance of the race.

BARRIER DRAW. No matter what you hear at certain times, statistics show that inside barriers are best at most tracks with turns. Bear that in mind.

FORM: Favourites must have form for the job in hand. Too many horses are made favourites on the strength of good trackwork and 'boom' newspaper headlines. Few live up to expectations.

CLASS: Young, improving horses can win their way from one class to another. Improvers can always go on to better things, but a study of form shows that often a galloper with a poor background is stepped up in class following an easy win in weaker class, and because of the 'boom' on him will be expected by many to perform the impossible. Unless you are sure they are improvers, don't back favourites when they are racing in a Class in which they have yet to show good form.

A plan drawn up along these lines would mean you would only be backing strong favourites. I am confident you would be able to dramatically improve your winning percentage.

Another important factor regarding favourites is this one: BEWARE ALL FAVOURITES WHICH WERE BEATEN AT THEIR PREVIOUS START WHEN THEY ARE UP IN WEIGHT AND DOWN IN PRICE.

An example is this: A horse turns in a very smart performance when at good odds, and apparently not well backed. Next start, he is asked to carry more weight and is at short odds in the market. It's been my experience that these horses rarely win. They are just false favourites.

A professional punter I know continually updates detailed research into favourites. His research concentrates on discovering what type of race produces the highest winning percentage of favourites. You can understand the logic behind this obsession. Some races do throw up more winning favourites than others.

Early two-year-old races produce a high percentage of winning favourites. These are 2yo. races run at set weights. Young horses are usually consistent, at least for three or four runs. Between October and November, favourites in these 2yo. races are well worth following.

While favourites may win only 30 out of every 100 races, they do run in the first three placegetters many more times. Recent figures show them figuring in the first three placings about in 60 out of 100 races. This is a clear indication that backing favourites for a place can be worthwhile.

In this regard, I would strongly urge you to consider place doubles. These can prove most profitable. Let's say that on an eight-race card you have discovered three false favourites. These races are then ignored. You have five favourites on which to bet. This is a total of 10 doubles. You link up all the favourites in these doubles.

Assuming you have got rid of the correct false favourites you should be in line to get at least four of your five favourites up for a placing, possibly all five.

Let's assume you got the following place odds: 4-7, 4-6, 1-2, 4-5 and 4-6. Not big odds I agree, but the results will make interesting reading for you. We'll say, for the purposes of this exercise, that four of the five run a place.

Your winning doubles are as follows:

* 4-7 into B 4-6 = $2.50 or odds of 1.5-1.
* 4-7 into C 1-2 = $2.25 or odds of 1.251.
* 4-7 into D 4-5 = $2.70 or odds of 1.70-1.
B 4-6 into C 1-2 = $2.55 or odds of 1.551.
C 1-2 into D 4-5 = $2.70 or odds of 1.70-1.
B 4-6 into D 4-5 = $3.00 or odds of 2-1.

You have six winning place doubles from a total of 10 doubles. Your total return for the outlay of 10 units is 15.7 units, a profit of 5.7 units or 57 per cent on turnover.

Imagine if you were able to bet in $100 units. Your day's collect would be $1570 on an outlay of $1000, for a profit of $570. You would need to be able to do this just once a week to become a professional punter of modest means.

Having said all this, I must warn you yet again to tread carefully in the favourites area. Bookmakers love racegoers who are compulsive backers of favourites and, after reading this article, I'm sure you now understand why.

I've drawn up the following set of rules to add further impetus to your own betting change-around. Become a good punter of favourites and not a headless one.

  1. Don't bet on all races.
  2. Limit investments to favourites with excellent winning prospects.
  3. Always put a portion of your winnings aside. Don't punt all the profits back.
  4. Always bet within your means. Many punters go to the wall because they ignore this simple message.


By Jon Hudson

PRACTICAL PUNTING - JUNE 1987

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