Many horse racing punters who consistently back heavily favoured, often odds-on, favourites do so in the belief that they are ‘on’ a horse with an obvious competitive advantage. This is not, necessarily, true. Fairly obviously, the shorter the odds the higher the strike rate, but the fact remains that, across the whole spectrum of horse racing, roughly one-third of favourites win. Therefore, two-thirds of favourites must, by definition, be ‘false’ favourites. Indeed, according to one study, backing every favourite that was sent off at odds between even money and 1/5 over the last 25 years or so would have resulted in a loss of just over 5% at starting price.

That is not to say that backing a short-priced, even odds-on, favourite is altogether a bad idea. Many such bets can even be combined with the various bookmaker horse racing offers out there. If a horse can be backed at odds which, in the eyes of the punter, are longer than the odds representing its true chance of winning, it could still embody value, regardless of the actual odds on offer. However, a typical ‘chalk eater’ – bookmaker parlance for a punter who bets, almost exclusively, at short odds – is often tempted to invest heavily on a selection, regardless of its winning prospects and/or regardless of whether or not the odds on offer represent ‘value’.

This latter approach is fraught with danger at almost every turn. The habitual short-odds punter must, even when winning, significantly beat the starting price in order to make just a very small profit. Similarly, the punter can expect a high strike-rate, consummate with prohibitive odds, but even a short losing run can be hugely costly, possibly wiping out a betting bank altogether or, at least, increasing the likelihood of chasing losses. No staking plan, however ‘foolproof’, can compensate for an adverse sequence of results and, consequently, punters have a little or no chance of making money by backing short-priced favourites in the long term. By contrast, the occasional, modest bet, on a short-priced favourite with excellent winning prospects – especially if the horse in question appears over-priced – is an attractive proposition, but consistently backing such horses willy-nilly is a route to the poorhouse.

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