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National Hunt Favourites
There are several punters in this country that regularly back the favourite – why I hear you all cry! I would surmise it is because that favourites maintain a good strike rate and hence losing runs are generally shorter. However, we all know, or should do, that backing favourites blind will lose money in the long run. Indeed since the start of the 1997 National Hunt season, at £10 per bet, you would have lost £26,481.78 backing every single favourite. Yes, over 26 thousand pounds!! That is a considerable amount of money, despite the fact you would have enjoyed a strike rate of around 33% (roughly 1 win in every 3 races). However, all is not lost and this article tries to pinpoint a variety of profitable angles in terms of National Hunt favourites:
Courses – are there any courses where favourites make a profit? The list below shows those courses are in profit since 1997:
Just four courses have produced a profit. Perhaps no great surprise there, although seeing Cheltenham on the list would possibly be a surprise, given the quality, and the competitive nature of the racing at that particular track. It should be noted that favourites in handicap hurdles at Cheltenham do particularly well with 76 winners from 220 runners showing a healthy 75.63 point profit (+34.4%). Also when trainer Nicky Henderson saddles a favourite at Cheltenham, you should sit up and take notice. He has won 18 times from his 46 favourites for a profit of 18.08 points (+39.3%). Paul Nicholls and Venetia Williams are also trainers that have done well at Cheltenham with their favourites.
Trainers – below is a table of trainers that have shown a profit on their favourites from 1997 to November 2006. I have restricted the list to trainers that have had at least 100 runners that have started as favourite. They are ordered in terms of percentage profit:
The record of trainer Len Lungo is pretty impressive considering he has saddled over 600 favourites. Delving into Lungo’s record in more depth it should be noted that his favourites at Musselburgh do particularly well. He has been successful with 22 of his 37 favourites at the Edinburgh track (strike rate 59.5%) for a profit of 24.35 points (+65.8%). He also should be followed at Wetherby (14 wins from 29 for a %profit of 46.8%), and Kelso (39 wins from 80 for a %profit of 21.2%). Lungo also does particularly well with his younger horses when they are made favourite. His 3 and 4 year old favourites have produced 32 winners from just 47 runners (strike rate 68.1%) for a profit of 36.61 points (+77.9%). Finally, this trainer does especially well with his favourites when they run in Bumpers, Handicap Chases or Selling Hurdles.
Race Type – Hunter Chases are races where the favourites have actually shown a profit on all races. Over the past seasons, favourites in these races have scored 533 times from 1318 runners for a profit of 14.5 points. Not a king’s ransom, but a profit is a profit, and this improves if you ignore races on soft or heavy ground. Trainer Victor Dartnell is a trainer to note when he runs a hunter chase favourite – he has scored 11 times in just 14 races. Other favourites to keep an eye on are those making their debut under “rules”. These horses have produced a profit in excess of 20% over the past 10 years.
Novice hurdles are another race type where profitable angles for favourites can be found. One unusual angle to look for older horses that are favourite in novice hurdles. Amazingly there have been 81 horses aged 9 or 10 that have started favourite in novice hurdlers. For horses of this age to be favourite, they clearly must be fancied, as the majority of novice hurdlers are aged between 4 and 6. Hence, it comes as no surprise perhaps that 43 of the 81 have won for a profit of 17.65 points. Two trainers excel when their novice hurdlers are favourite – namely Nigel Twiston Davies and Paul Nicholls. Twiston Davies has produced 74 winners from 144 runners for a profit of 21.74 points (+15.1%); Nicholls has produced 137 winners from 268 runners for a profit of 29.21 points (+10.9%). Other trainers to keep on the right side on when handling novice hurdle favourites, include Tim Easterby, Miss Henrietta Knight, Patrick Haslam and Charlie Egerton.
A third race type where favourites have a fairly good record is in Novice Chases. 4 and 5 year olds have shown small profits when favourites in these races winning 51.2% of the time for a profit of 23.17 points. In addition, horses that have had a decent lay-off are good investments when favourites. Novice Chase favourites that have been off the track for more than 40 days have produced 466 winners from 965 runners for a profit of 32.43 points.
Hence, it is possible to find profitable angles when backing favourites, but you certainly need to do some digging! Unfortunately, even when you dig, it is difficult to find really profitable angles, and hence it is unlikely that you are going to make a fortune backing them.
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