Over the years I have taken various positions in debates about favourites and the efficacy of backing them on a consistent basis. I am more and more drawn to the idea that there are ways to capitalise on them, albeit that I remain very much a man who looks for longshots.
It is remarkable how many people absolutely refuse to back favourites. I have never been in that league. I don't believe any punter can afford to be so rigidly 'black or white' in a betting philosophy. Often, a favourite may well be a terrific value bet. Each favourite is different and has to be judged as such.
I constantly run into punters who have one ambition when it comes to having a bet ... to find a horse that can beat the favourite! Their argument is that backing the public choice in every race will lead to financial loss, something with which I cannot disagree.
I have found, though, that the 6-Point Divisor Plan, properly used, will enable you to emerge with a profit because it aims to win six units every time winners are backed whose odds (combined) total six. You can try this plan on paper and see for yourself that it does provide a fighting chance to win.
Not for one moment, though, am I suggesting that you back every favourite. To do that is asking for trouble. There are so many false favs lurking around that you would be backing non-value losers far too often.
I can give you no set formula to determine which favs can be regarded as the 'true' favs. Horses can run a big fluke race, take on a boom after a flash trackwork gallop, or are hot newspaper consensus tips for some reason or another. The betting public takes up the 'fever' and Mr Bookmaker hauls in the cash.
It is these false favourites that make the percentage so great against the favourites' backer. The overall winning average of favs is around 30 per cent but if you could sift through and eliminate some of the wacky losers it is easy to boost that strike rate to 40 per cent.
Just a quick word about odds: They are merely an expression of the probability of an event's outcome. Bookmakers' odds are not true odds. They are governed by outside influences, by the law of supply and demand and by the determination of the bookie to fix and adjust the prices to enable him to gather in a percentage for himself.
Final SPs, I concede, are a pretty accurate reflection of each horse's actual chance. As good as you'll get really.
What you, as a punter, must do, is to isolate the true favs from the false. That's when a horse is at a price which is not fair according to his real chance.
Racing, of course, is a weird game. I have known punters to spend hours analysing a race and arrive at the conclusion that two runners have equal chances, and much better chances than any of their rivals. One of the pair, say, is quoted at 6 / 4, the other at 4 / 1, yet the punter will take the short price, influenced by the demand and the run of money and so on.
Such betting is stupid. It shows the punter has no faith in his or her judgement. If the two runners have equal chances, then the one at 4 / 1 is the value and should be backed. I have watched many very smart punters bet and in such circumstances you would NEVER see them supporting the 6 / 4 chance because, on the evidence, it is too short. It is under the odds. It is at a false price.
But now let me switch things around a little. Let's return to where we started. . . the backing of favourites and how best to do it on a regular basis.
I cannot give you any formula which will guarantee success, but I have drawn up an approach which I feel is worth some thought and research.
A couple of points:
When considering prices, never take into your thoughts the early prices that are offered.
These are generally the opinion of one or two key price-fixers and they do not really constitute price as decided by the weight of money, even though early tote figures are taken into account by bookies. Much of this early tote money is basically uninformed.
You need to check the price market three times. You make a note of the opening prices. Halfway through the betting you check again and make any alterations.
When the horses are on their way to the barrier you check the closing prices. This closing price is the one we are interested in most of all. It is after the runners have departed the mounting yard that the market takes its final shape. It is after you have taken note of the three stages of the market that you can find what I think come closest to being true favs.
You wait for the closing price. You consider only those horses which open at 3/1 or under and if one has firmed in the final call or has remained solid at its opening quote and is still favourite, then that is your bet.
You never, in any circumstances, bet if the favourite has eased beyond its opening quote, unless it is replaced as fav by another runner which opened at 3/1 or under.
If two horses should open at 3/1 or under and both firm, then you do not bet on the race. Under this approach, the punter is usually following what I like to call the 'velocity' money. The horse has opened at a short price and has held its position or firmed in the betting. In most cases, this is going to be a true favourite.
I know several successful punters who follow this idea. They don't back all favs. They bet on favs only in the manner I have outlined. The simple rule they adhere to is that you disregard all other factors such as track condition, class, weights, distances or the many other logical dos and don'ts a punter is supposed to watch.
What you are doing is playing the money that has arrived with 'velocity', the money that causes an opening fav to firm or hold its position at the top of the market.
Provided you are careful, and you are reading the bookies' boards correctly, this method of backing potentially true favourites will stand up to rigorous examination. Sometimes the prices will be short, but a short-priced winner is always better than a longer-priced loser.
Generally, I have found that false favs start at longer than their opening quote, but that rarely happens with a true fav. Briefly, then, you consider only those favourites which open at 3 / 1 or under and you back only those favs who firm or hold their position. Remember that if another runner opens at 3 / 1 or under and firms past the opening fav into final favouritism, then that horse is a bet.
Let's look now at a recent day's betting, applying the rules of this method. It makes for most interesting reading. I have chosen November 15 as the day, mainly because it is the closest Saturday to when I am writing this article for PPM.
We will look firstly at Eagle Farm. In race 1, Chappel Dance opened at 2 / 1 but eased to start 9 / 4 favourite. No bet.
The second race saw no runner open at less than 7 / 2. No bet.
In race 3, Roulette opened at even money, went to 5 / 4 and started, at 10 / 9. This horse virtually held its position in the betting even though it shifted very slightly. But under the terms of the method we will ignore it as a bet.
In race 5, the only horse to open in the desired price range was Faux Tiara at 3 / 1, but it eased to start 9 / 2 equal fav. No bet.
The 6th race saw our first bet for the day. Graffiti Boy opened at 2 / 1 and by the final call had firmed to 11 / 8. A BET! This first bet saw us land a winner, too. Graffiti Boy won by a nose at 11 / 8.
The final two races did not produce a bet. Nevet opened at 5 / 2 in race 7 but eased to start 3 / 1 favourite. No bet. In the last race, no runner opened at 3 / 1 or under. No bet.
That was Eagle Farm, then. One bet and a winner at 11 / 8.
There was more action at the Rosehill meeting.
In race 1, Wicked Burrito opened at 7 / 4 and remained firm at that price. It ran 5th.
In race 2, Capuccino opened at 7 / 4 and eased to 9 / 2. In the same race, Volokai opened at 9 / 4 and firmed into 2/1 favouritism, thus becoming the bet. Volokai ran 4th, Capuccino ran 5th.
In race 3, Dodge opened in the betting at 5 / 2 and firmed into a final quote of 9 / 4. He became a bet and won.
There was no bet in race 4, with Graphics (3rd) easing from 9/4 to start favourite at 3 / 1.
Race 5 saw one bet, Olaf, who firmed from 5 / 2 into 2 / 1 but ran 6th.
There was another loser in race 6, with Sovereign State opening at 13 / 8 and firming into 5 / 4. He ran 6th.
There was no bet in race 7, in which Miss Solitaire opened at 7/4 and eased to 5/2 favourite.
In race 8, Flinders Street opened at 9 / 4 and firmed into 2 / 1. He became a bet and won.
Now we have a look at the Sandown card in Melbourne.
There was no bet in race 1, where Weather Alert opened at 5 / 2 and eased to 3 / 1.
Three runners opened at 3/1 in race 2 but all eased by the final price. No bet.
There were no openers at 3 / 1 or under in race 3. No bet.
The action came in race 4, in which Special Dane opened at 9/4 and firmed into 7/4. He won.
The next race saw Sweet Delight open up at 3 / 1 and ease to 4 / 1. No bet.
Race 6 had Vonanne opening at 9 / 4 and easing to 13 / 4. No bet.
In race 7, Quick Flick, firm at 7 / 4, was the bet but could finish only 5th.
In the last race, two runners opened at 3 / 1 or under but both eased in the final quote. No bet.
So we had two bets in Brisbane for two wins, six bets in Sydney for two wins, and three bets in Melbourne for one win. That's a total of 11 bets for five winners, a strike rate of 45.5 per cent. The usual strike rate is, as we know, around 30 per cent.
Betting in level stakes, the profit works out at 2.75 units, or 25 per cent on turnover. In running order according to the times of the races, the order of bets went like this:
Lost, lost, WON 11 / 8, lost, WON 9/4, WON 7/4, lost, lost, lost, WON 11 / 8, WON 2 / 1.
The longest losing run on the day was three bets.
Had you employed the 6-Point Divisor on these selections, starting with a target of 12 and a divisor of six (first bet two units), you would have laid out a total of 29.5 units and got back a total of 41.75 units, for a profit of 12.25 units, or 41.5 per cent on turnover.
Okay, some of you will know all about the 6-Point Divisor. Others won’t have a clue what I am talking about. There is no space in this article to go into the whys and wherefores of the 6-Point Divisor but I will bring you a special feature article on it in the February issue of PPM.
Suffice to explain here that betting the true favs in 6-Point Divisor-style, saw an initial series of bets of six, with three winners and a profit of 8.25 units. A second series was started and this resulted in five bets for the other two winners and a profit of 4 units.
If you have the patience and, most importantly, the discipline to run the bets via the 6-Point Divisor, you will increase your profitability and put yourself into a position where you can really cash in on those winning well-backed favourites. Believe me!
Click here to read Part 2 : A full explanation of the application of the 6-Point Divisor staking approach, with complete workouts of the ‘Find the True Favs’ selection approach at recent city meetings.
By Martin Dowling
PRACTICAL PUNTING - JANUARY 1998