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Backing jockeys – a bookies benefit? By David Renham
This week I am going to look at an area of racing I rarely look into …… multiple betting on jockeys.
As experienced punters all readers of this newsletter will appreciate that backing jockeys “blind” is almost always the way to the poor house. To help illustrate my point, below is a table showing the top 20 jockeys in terms of wins covering the past four years (2005 to 2008). The profit/loss figures are based on £1 level stakes on all mounts.
Top jockeys (20052008 flat racing)
Of the 20 top jockeys, 19 showed a loss. Just George Baker managed to show a profit and that was only a 1% profit. Indeed, 11 of the 20 suffered losses in excess of 20%, including a certain Frankie Dettori; 3 Jockeys suffered losses in excess of 30%
Of course, despite these figures, some punters will point you to the 28th September 1996 and the memorable day Franke Dettori rode seven winners at Ascot from his seven rides. For the record, his winners that day were:
WALL STREET WON 2/1; DIFFIDENT WON 12/1; MARK OF ESTEEM WON 100/30; DECORATED HERO WON 7/1; FATEFULLY WON 7/4; LOCHANGEL WON 5/4; FUJIYAMA CREST WON 2/1.
Now, on this day, the bookmakers took a severe caning – even more so if punters took early prices, as for example the last winner Fujiyama Crest was an early price 12/1 before being backed into 2/1. Of course the reason for the cut in price, was not volume of late oncourse money, it was down to the potential massive liabilities the bookmakers had on this runner. The reasons for such liabilities were down to the numerous armchair punters who had combined Detorri’s mounts in multiple bets (doubles, trebles, fourfolds, etc). To give you a better example of how well some punters did, consider the following returns if you had combined Dettori’s seven mounts a sevenfold win accumulator – a £1 win bet would have returned an amazing £25,096.00 – yes just over 25 grand for a quid! Now not many punters would have had all 7 in one accumulator, but you can bet that several hundred perhaps did a Yankee or a lucky 15. Anyone having a £1 yankee (outlay £11) on Dettori’s first four rides would have made a tidy profit of just over £2647.
It was estimated that the bookmakers lost around £30 million on these 7 winners, but the purpose of this article is to actually show you that this type of multiple betting on your favourite jockey is really not a good idea in the long run. That day was a freak event and Dettori, or any other jockey for that matter, has not got close to repeating that sort of feat since.
Let me focus on Frankie Dettori as he is still the most famous jockey in the country, and arguably the one that numerous armchair punters will have numerous multiple bets a day on his rides. For the remainder of this article, I have taken data from 2000 to 2008 and looked at the meetings where Dettori had exactly three rides. The reason for this was essentially for ease of working out – working out returns on 3 rides per meeting takes a lot less time than 6 rides for example. With 3 rides, I wanted to work out the returns on win singles, win doubles (3 per meeting) and win trebles (1 per meeting). There were 208 meetings during this period where Dettori had exactly 3 rides.
Firstly let us look at what would have happened if you had backed all Dettori’s mounts in £1 level stakes win singles:
The results show a loss of around 15 pence in the £. These are pretty standard returns.
Moving onto win doubles – he had 31 winning doubles (so around 1 meeting in 7 he landed a successful double). Backing all 3 doubles at the 208 meetings would have produced the following results:
OUCH! Losses of over 48 pence in the £ do not make good reading. The big problem with doubles is that the prices can make such a difference. Let me try and illustrate what I mean:
Imagine two win doubles that contained four winning horses; two on one day, two on the next – the winners being priced 7/1, 9/1, 7/4 and Evens. Let us assume that the winners on day 1 were at 7/1 and 9/1, and the winners on day 2 were at 7/4 and Evens. If you had placed a £1 win double on both days / bets you would have made a profit of £83.50. If however, the prices on day 1 were 9/1 and Evens, and on day 2 were 7/1 and 7/4 the profit would have been much less at £40.00 – less than half the profit had the prices been the other way round. For win singles, the order of the four winning selections would make no difference; however for win doubles the position of the winning prices can make a huge difference as you can see. Hence, I would argue that luck can play a massive part in the betting process if you are backing horses in multiples. In my example above, you could have been lucky and made £83.50, or been very unlucky making just £40.00.
Now, many of Dettori’s winners were at short prices and hence even winning doubles do not tend to produce big returns. Indeed 22 of his 31 winning doubles paid less than 10/1 – his worst return coming from a winning double with prices of 1/12 (12/1 on!!!) and 2/5 (5/2 on)  this paid out at around 1/2 (2/1 on). Hence knowing this, it perhaps makes it easier to understand why this type of betting regularly fails, and why bookmakers encourage multiple betting.
Moving on the results for Dettori win trebles, we can see that he had just 2 winning trebles from the 208 meetings. Backing all 208 trebles (£1 per bet) would have produced the following results:
Treble OUCH!! Losses of 66% make sorry reading – ok, one could argue that 2 or 3 more trebles would have nudged him into profit (dependent on prices), but the fact of the matter is that using the theory of probability, he hit the number of winning trebles you would have expected with his overall win single strike rate of 21.3%. The expected strike rate using probability theory comes to 0.97%  virtually the same as the one that was achieved in reality (0.96%).
The idea of multiple betting appeals to many people – the reason is simple – potentially big returns for small stakes. However, as the latter part of this article indicates, the chances of winning vast sums of money with multiple bets is not very likely. This is not to say that all other jockeys would have all produced similar losses – however the sad fact is that the vast majority of them would have done.



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