Fate of the Favourites   


Analysis of the Outcome of Betting on Favourites 2004-2023

All Races

All Flat Races

2YO-only Flat Races

3YO-only Flat Races

Maiden Flat Races

Handicap Flat Races

All-Weather Flat Races

All NH Races

Handicap Hurdle Races

Handicap Chase Races

Novice Hurdle Races

Novice Chase Races

Generate Custom Report

Custom Report

The favourite in a horse race is the horse which is the most popular choice amongst other people. It is also the selection with the shortest odds, so it returns the least to the backer, if it wins. So, is backing favourites a good strategy or would you do better, in the long run, by backing second or third favourites?

I have analysed the results of UK horse races from the last 16 years to indicate what proportion of favourites won races and how much money would have been won or lost by backing them.

The races have been split into different categories to indicate if favourites perform better in certain types of races.

Click on the links on the left for the details.

The Custom Report link allows you to generate your own report analysing certain types of races.

Example/Explanation :

All Races
Favourite2nd Favourite3rd Favourite
Outcome Return Outcome Return Outcome Return
Bets Win Place Win E/W Bets Win Place Win E/W Bets Win Place Win E/W
All Races 10669335%62%92%91% 9275920%49%89%90% 8644614%39%85%87%

Favourite2nd Favourite3rd Favourite
Outcome Return Outcome Return Outcome Return
Bets Win Place Win E/W Bets Win Place Win E/W Bets Win Place Win E/W
Heavy 378035%61%90%89% 332121%48%89%90% 309514%37%86%86%
Soft 1160734%62%90%90% 1010420%48%86%88% 939214%38%86%88%
Good-Soft 1331334%61%91%89% 1159620%48%90%90% 1088414%39%88%89%
Good 2775534%62%93%91% 2398120%49%88%90% 2225913%39%84%87%
Good-Firm 2890836%63%95%94% 2525120%49%89%90% 2358814%38%83%86%
Firm 660638%63%93%92% 580523%50%94%94% 546514%36%86%87%
Hard 23639%59%82%83% 21030%50%114%108% 20517%34%85%86%
AW Standard 1390732%63%90%91% 1199220%50%89%90% 1109413%41%83%86%
AW Slow 58130%61%83%84% 49921%54%98%97% 46413%41%85%90%

The first table above indicates that there were a total of 106,693 (clear) favourites analysed. 35% of these actually won while 62% were placed (for a definition of placed, see below). If you had bet the same amount on all 106,693 horses (at SP), your return would have been 92% of your stakes. So, for every 100 units staked, 92 would have been returned (a loss of 8). Similarly, an each way bet on all top rated horses would have returned 91% of stakes (a loss of 9%).

There is similar data for (clear) second and (clear) third favourites.

The second table shows the same races split up according to the going in the races. So, 11,607 of the 106,693 races were on Soft going. The favourite won 34% of these races and was placed 62% of the time. The return on backing all 11,607 horses was 90%.

Click on the links on the left for details of different categories of race. You will find that the percentage of winners and the returns differ in different categories of race. Remember that you want a high return (a return of 100% is break even) if you are backing horses or a low return if you are laying horses (on betting exchanges).

The definition of 'placed' depends on the number of runners in the race.
2 to 4 runners - 1st only
5 to 7 runners - 1st or 2nd
8+ runners - 1st or 2nd or 3rd
16+ runners (handicap races only) - 1st or 2nd or 3rd or 4th

Note that I have only included clear favourites (and clear second favourites etc.). Joint favourites and co-favourites have been ignored. This is why there are more favourites in the tables than second favourites and third favourites.