How many times have you wrestled with the problem of whether to back a favourite? How many times have you backed a favourite and seen it get beaten by a longshot? How many times have you backed a juicy longshot and seen it knocked off by the favourite?

Okay, tell me about it! I know the feeling so well. As some of you may realise, from my various ramblings in this magazine, I am a longshot chaser who bets on the basis that there is much to be gained from a small outlay - and not too much pain if the bet goes awry.

That doesn't mean I don't lash out now and then on a favourite. I do. For example, Alfa at 7 / 4 on October 26, a bet I simply could not resist, having marked the former Tasmanian galloper as a 2/1 ON chance to beat Intergaze.


Races Favs Winners % Places % Av.Win
4111 4480 1322 30 2656 59 $3.20 $1.60
FAVS BY STATE (metropolitan meetings)

Favs 1107 1090 1144 1139
Win Strike % 30 29 31 28
Place Strike %        
61 60 60 56
Av. Win Div $3.10 $3.40
Av. Place Div $1.55 $1.60 $1.55 $1.60
Win % Level -6 0 -5 -9
Place % Level -5 -1 -7 -10

Favs 714 2470 659 380 247
Win Strike % 28 30 29 28 36
Place Strike %        
61 59 59 56  60
Av. Win Div $3.15 $3.10
Av. Place Div $1.55 $1.55 $1.60 $1.65 $1.60
Win % Level -10 -7 -3 -2 +19
Place % Level -4 -7 -2 -6 -4
But those sort of high-confidence bets are few and far between for me. I get a lot more fun and thrills from playing the longer-priced horses. But I am always looking at the statistics on favourites to see if there is some light at the end of the rather long tunnel.

Recently, via correspondence over the Internet with the Ausrace discussion group on racing, some statistics were posted by an Ausracer named Rudy Dumas, who runs a pretty slick and detailed database of form on his personal computer.

His stats make absorbing reading. You'll see them in detail on these two pages, but let me just explain a few of them. Firstly, the stats are for the period April 1, 1994 to September 28 this year. The prices listed are SP and the percentages have been rounded off to the nearest whole figure.

In all there were 4111 races, with a total of 4480 favourites or co-favourites. Of these 1322 won, which is a commendable strike rate to the betting public of 30 per cent (three winners every 10 races).

The favs were placed in the first 3 in 2656 races, a strike rate of close enough to 60 per cent. Not bad, either. The longest run of cuts was 22 for the win, and 8 for the place. That means, if you were betting each fav for the place, your longest losing run was only eight, which doesn't seem too disastrous to me.

But the losing run of 22 for the win basis is certainly something to ponder, isn't it?

Rudy's statistics are broken down into the four States. This gives us an even clearer idea of how we can expect the hotpots to perform.

The highest strike rate of 31 per cent was achieved on South Australian racing. The place strike here was 60 per cent, with an average win dividend of $3.05 and an average place dividend of $1.55. The next best strike rate for favs was in NSW which had 30 per cent for the win and 61 per cent for the place, with average win divs of $3.10 and $1.55 the place.

Victoria had the lowest strike rate for favs, with 28 per cent winning and 56 per cent placing (average divs of $3.25 and $1.60), while Queensland's strike rate was 29 per cent and 60 per cent respectively (average divs of $3.40 and $1.60).

This sample of races, embracing many thousands of races, is certainly broad enough to give the statistics much veracity.

Now we get around to the money side of things - and here the picture is not so good, though perhaps not as bleak as you might imagine.

Queensland punters could have ended up 'all square' by betting every favourite, South Australians lost 5 per cent, NSW punters lost 6 per cent, while those poor old Victorians were down 9 per cent (betting level stakes). The losses on place betting were NSW (-5%), Queensland (-1%), South Australia (-7%) and Victoria (-10%).

Taking a line through these figures, it would not seem too difficult a task to adopt a process of 'sifting' to eliminate some favourites and thus propel your betting into a profit situation. This is especially so in Queensland, where a punter would have lost no money by betting all favourites.

Imagine, if you could eliminate 10 per cent of the losers?

Interestingly, the figures from Rudy Dumas, when taken a step further, show that favs on HEAVY tracks can be winners for punters which goes right against most of the general thinking that sensible punters don't bet when it's wet.

The stats show that 36 per cent of 247 heavy-track favourites won, and 60 per cent were placed. The average dividend for the winners was $3.30 and for the place $1.60. Now, the good news: On level stakes, the heavy track favs showed a huge 19 per cent profit!

This is quite astonishing, though it has to be said that it does cover a period in which there were only 247 heavy-track favs. Still, it is an optimistic finding, I'm sure you'll agree.

On fast tracks, the favs (724) won 28 per cent but lost 10 per cent at level stakes. On good tracks, the favs (2470) won 30 per cent of their races and lost 7 per cent at level stakes. On dead tracks, the favs (659) won 29 per cent of their races and lost 3 per cent at level stakes. On slow tracks, 380 favs won 28 per cent of their races and showed a 2 per cent loss.

Interestingly, then, it was the wet track favs (on dead, slow and heavy going) who returned better betting figures than favs on good and fast tracks! Once again, this flies in the face of established thinking that wet equals danger.

Jumps favourites, too, show some turnarounds. Favourites in hurdle races (81) produced a 40 per cent win strike rate and a 65 per cent place strike rate and lost only 1 per cent at level stakes for the win and 8 per cent for the place.

Steeplechase favs (51) had only a 24 per cent win strike rate and lost 14 per cent on the win bets, but made a 4 per cent profit on place betting (a strike rate of 63 per cent and an average dividend of $1.65).

Overall, in 146 races, the favourites in all types of jumps races had a 34 per cent strike rate for the win and a 63 per cent strike for the place. The average win dividend was only $2.80 and the average place dividend $1.50, meaning a loss of 4 per cent at level stakes for the win and a 5 per cent loss for the place.


Steeple 51 24 63 $3.65 $1.65 -14 +4
Rst Steeple   
3 67 100 $3.35 $1.55 +125 +55
Hurdle 81 40 65 $2.50 $1.35 -1 -8
Rst Hurdle 10 20 30 $325 $1.65 -35 -50
Mdn Hurdle 1 100 100 $2.00 $1.25 +100 +25
Total 146 34 63 $2.80 $1.50 -4 -5

by Brian Blackwell