When undertaking research for my book Horse Racing as an Investment, I found myself studying racing statistics from numerous angles.

I was already aware that favourites will win, year in year out, around 30 per cent of all races run. I was also aware that any punter who chooses to back every favourite for a win will inevitably lose. I decided to examine a few statistics which just may help give punters that extra edge which would enable them to actually make a profit backing  favourites.

Obviously, if a punter is going to lose by backing favourites which win 30 per cent of the time, they need to start backing favourites which will win significantly more than 30 per cent of the time.

The first factor I took into consideration was the record of favourites over various distances at metropolitan tracks across Australia. The fact that I chose to start with distances is of no significance. It was simply a matter of having to start somewhere.

At Sandown, the best distances for favourites were recorded over the 1000m and 1500m. At the time of my research, favourites had won 11 of the 17 races staged over 1000m that season, for a truly fantastic strike rate of 64.70 per cent.

Over the 1500m at Sandown, seven of 18 favourites were successful, for a strike rate of 38.88 per cent.

Royal Randwick turned up four distances at which favourites had recorded significant win percentages. At 1100m, 37.87 per cent of favourites had won. At 1200m, the percentage had increased to 39.68 per cent. Things continued to improve. At 1800m, 40.62 per cent of favourites won, whilst at 2400m, the percentage was up to 46.42 per cent.

At this point something which had started out as a rather mundane exercise was starting to look more interesting.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I was heading in the direction of a successful system? The adrenalin was starting to flow.
I swung over to Flemington. Here there were just two distances where favourites produced an exceptional strike rate. Over 1000m, favourites had a strike rate of 46.34 per cent. At 1200m, the strike rate dropped to 36.0 per cent. Still, 36 per cent is not a strike rate to be ignored. It could well prove to be a strike rate which will ultimately provide punters with that winning edge that we all seek.

I found these figures for Flemington interesting. On second thoughts, interesting is perhaps the wrong word. A little deflating might be a better description. I say that because in my book and in an earlier column which I wrote for PPM, I stated in my Rules for Successful Punting on the Races:

“Do not bet on races up the straight six at Flemington.” (Of course both the 1000m and 1200m races are run up the straight six.)

I continued: “Too often in these races, you will find that there is track bias which will favour horses coming down the outside to win one week, then down the inside to win the next week. Such bias can result from certain parts of the track providing better “going“, or just the direction of the wind at the time. Unfortunately, you the punter will not usually know which horses will be favoured by any track bias , until after the race.“

I still believe what I wrote at the time about the problems of betting on races down the straight six, and I know that I am not alone in expressing scepticism about the vagaries of the Flemington straight. Over the years I have heard or read numerous complaints being expressed by members of the media, regarding the perceived inconsistancies of the straight six. However, these are just opinions. The statistics do not support such opionions.

Instead, the statistics show that favourites win an average of 41.17 per cent of all races run down the straight six.

Moving on, let’s take a look at Doomben. Here the best results for favourites was recorded over 2200m, where 14 favourites were successful in the 36 races run over this distance, for a strike rate of 38.88 per cent.

At Ascot in Western Australia, the 1000m races again provided a good percentage of favourite winners, with 46 favourites scoring 120 race, for a win percentage of 38.33 per cent.

The 2400m races at Ascot also saw favourites perform well, with 10 of them winning in the 27 races run at this distance for a strike rate of 37.03 per cent.

The only other track and distance which saw favourites enjoy significant success was at Mooney Valley, where nine favourites saluted in 23 of the races run over 2500m, for a strike rate of 39.13 per cent.

One thing that really struck me from the statistics that I had accumulated, was the success of favourites over the 1000m at Sandown, Ascot and Flemington. At the time I did my research there had been a total of 178 races run over the 1000m at these three tracks with favourites winning 76 of these for an overall strike rate of 49.79 per cent.

This is a fantastic strike rate. It is also a statistic that casts an element of doubt over one of my other rules for successful punting. The rule I refer to is: “Do not bet on races of less than 1200m. Races of less than 1200m, particularly 1000m event, tend to be really helter skelter affairs where a wide barrier, a slow start, or even slight interference can mean the end of a horse’s chances. I prefer not to take such risks and therefore eliminate such races.”

In my defence though, I have to say that, overall, statistics show that betting on races of less than 1200m during the period of my research would not have been a profitable pursuit. At the metropolitan tracks surveyed, there had been 1,384 races contested over distances of less than 1200m. Favourites won 442 of these for an overall strike rate of 31.93 per cent.

While there is nothing wrong with a strike rate of 31.93 per cent, it is not a percentage that is significantly higher than the 30 per cent winning benchmark for favourites.

I now wanted to see if we could take these statistics a step further. I started to look at winning barriers.  Starting with Sandown, I found that over the 1000m trip, horses drawn in barriers 1 to 5 inclusive, won 87.5 per cent of the races, while barriers 1 to 10 provided 100 per cent of the winners. At 1500m, horses drawn in barriers 1 to 13 inclusive, won 100 per cent of the races, which would suggest that barriers at this distance, do not play a major part in determining the outcome of a race.

At Randwick, over the 1100m, horses drawn in barriers 1 to 12 inclusive, won 98.32 per cent of the races. Over 1200m, the same barriers produced 97.47 per cent of the races. At 1800m, it was barriers 1 to 10 inclusive that provided 100 per cent of the winners. Over 2400m, horses drawn in barriers 1 to 11 won 93.10 per cent of the races. This statistic is probably less significant than those recorded over the other three distances, as there would have been less starters over the longer journey.

Moving on to Flemington, my research showed that barriers 1 to 12 produced 100 per cent of winners over 1000m and 95.91 per cent of winners at 1200m.

I was unable to obtain specific statistics for Ascot, however, studies of the course layout have shown that over 1000m, horses drawing inside barrires enjoy an advantage, whilst over the 2400m trip barriers were deemed to be of little importance.

Finally, at Doomben, the smaller sized fields didn’t really throw up any definite statistics on the importance of barriers over 2200m. A study of all distances suggested that barriers 1 to 11 were the best to concentrate on over any distance at Doomben.

My next step was to combine the percentages for distance and barriers and divide by two, to discover which races overall would provide favourite backers with the greatest winning edge.

At Sandown, backing favourites drawn in barriers 1 to 10 over 1000m would provide a winning strike rate of 82.35 per cent. At 1500m at Sandown, backing favourites drawn in barriers 1 to 13 would provide a strike rate of 69.44 per cent.

Results at Randwick and Flemington, using the figures mentioned earlier, saw winning strike rates ranging from 68 per cent to 73.17 per cent.

At Doomben and Ascot, where full data was not available, I assumed a 100 per cent winning strike rate from barriers 1 to 12 for the distances referred to previously and added the favoutite strike rate to the 100 per cent. Dividing the resulting figures by two I found that the winning strike rate for favourites ranged from 68.51 per cent to 69.44 per cent.

In summary then, my research revealed that if you bet on favourites at the tracks and distances mentioned and drawn within the barrier range referred to, you will enjoy a winning strike rate somewhere in the range of 68 to 82 per cent.

Given that the majority of punters struggle to achieve a strike rate of even 25 per cent the above figures looks pretty exciting.

But how do these figures translate to a return on investment?

Well let’s assume you place 100 x $10 bets on favourites and 60 per cent of these win. If the win dividend averages out at $2.50, your return on investment would be $1,500 which equates to 50 per cent at level stakes.  Raise the strike to 70 per cent and your return will jump to 41,750, still based on a win dividend of $2-50 for a percentage profit of 75 per cent. At the top end of the scale and by that I mean an 80 per cent strike rate, the return would be $2,000 for a percentage profit on investment of 100 per cent.

These figures are certainly impressive and leave plenty of food for thought. Perhaps someone reading this may like to delve even more deeply into these statistics than I have, and with a bit of fine tuning come up with a very profitable betting system.

By Tim Egan