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Systems for Favourites

Systems for Favourites

Although I have personally never been a fan of backing favourites on a regular basis, I am sure many people do. Why people regularly back favourites is probably down to the fact that by backing them they will pick more winners than by using most other methods. Unfortunately, very few people seem to be able to make money out of backing horses that head the market. This could be down to the fact that the majority of punters find it difficult to distinguish easily between a favourite that is good value compared to one that is poor value. To gain an “edge” when betting, you need to obtain value odds for the selection you are backing – this is true regardless of price, and if you can get 11/8 about a horse whose true chance is Even money, then you have obtained that necessary value.

Over the past few years I have become much more interested in racing systems and system research. Back in 2006 I developed the idea of using a portfolio of systems – essentially rolling several systems into one package. Indeed, on I have created a portfolio of National Hunt systems that has made a good long term profit; and also has made a decent profit since going “live” to members. The reason for this portfolio approach was to mirror what many stock market traders have done for many years, which essentially spreads the risk. We all have seen successful racing systems go through bad runs, and hence this approach is designed that if a system or systems are going through a losing spell, then hopefully the other systems will balance out the results. Most punters prefer a smoother ride with their betting – they don’t want major ups and downs. Well, they are happy with the “ups” of course!! The portfolio approach should give punters this smoother ride with shorter losing runs. This consistency is important IMO for the mental side of betting.

In this article my aim is to try and find some systems that could be placed in a portfolio of systems for favourites in flat racing. I am hoping that combining favourite systems within a portfolio means that the “ride” will be very smooth indeed with a high strike rate coupled with short losing runs.

Now the problem with any system based on favourites is that it is difficult to make decent profits as the margins at that end of the market are very tight. My idea therefore was to find systems that may not have that many qualifiers a year, but when combined with several other systems would potentially produce a fair profit on a yearly basis. My aim is to eventually have between 20 and 30 systems to put into the portfolio – I started this research several months ago and here are four of those that I plan to use.

System 1 – 2yo debutants from Newmarket maidens

The rules are thus:

1 Favourites

2 2nd lifetime start

3 Ran in 2yo maiden at Newmarket on debut (with 8 or more runners)

The results have been as follows:

Bets 1023

Wins 475

Strike Rate 46.4%

Profit +£704.50 (to £10 level stakes)

ROI +6.9%

This system is a logical one – a good percentage of the best juveniles (2yos) start their life off at Newmarket and for them to be favourite on their next start, they clearly must have impressed. The reason for the 8 runner plus rule on their debut is simple – there was enough competition and also there were enough runners for a properly run race.

A strike rate close 1 win in 2 is pleasing and although returns only average out at around 7%, one has to remember that all profits are quoted to starting price – something that most punters should be able to “beat” in this age of SP+, Betfair and Betfair SP. As I stated earlier, it is difficult to produce big returns on favourites purely due to market forces. For the record a horse qualifies regardless of age – indeed over 20% of the qualifiers were 3yos who had just the one start as a 2yo (at Newmarket).

System 2 - 2yo nurseries

The rules:

1 Favourites in 2yo nurseries

2 Won LTO

3 Top 4 in weights

4 Distance - 5 to 7f

5 Days off track – less than 7 weeks

6 No blinkers / visor

7 MUST NOT be female running against males

The results have been as follows:

Bets 575

Wins 210

Strike Rate 36.5%

Profit +£1235.20 (to £10 level stakes)

ROI +21.5%

This system focuses on 2yo nurseries which are 2yo handicaps. There are a few more rules to this system but they are all logical. Rule 2 focuses on last time out winners – 2yos tend to hold their form as well as any age group so this rule is a sensible one. In terms of rule 3, you may have heard the old adage “back the top weight in a nursery”. There is plenty of truth in this and horses at the top of the weights definitely outperform horses at the lower end of the weights. The distance rule avoids longer races for 2yos – longer races for 2yos (1 mile or more) tend to less predictable. Rule 5 makes sure the horse has not been off the track for too long, while any trainer that resorts to putting blinkers on a 2yo (rule 6) is fighting a losing battle. Rule 7 focuses on the fact that we avoid backing female runners when taking on their male counterparts. This is a rule that improves your success across the board, not just in 2yo nurseries.

The strike rate of 36.5% is excellent considering these are handicap races – indeed the raw statistic for winning favourites in nurseries is 25% so the system has improved that by 11.5%. Add to that a return of over 21% and we have a system that looks well worth adding to the portfolio.

System 3 - 3yo+ / 4yo+ claimers

Rules are:

1 Favourites in 3yo+ / 4yo+ claimers

2 Ran in last 7 days

3 Top 3 in weights (inc. joints)

4 Male horses only

5 Age 8 or younger

The results have been as follows:

Bets 457

Wins 214

Strike Rate 46.8%

Profit +£834.60 (to £10 level stakes)

ROI +18.5%

This is another fairly simple system exploiting horses that are fit from a recent run and are near the top of the weights. Higher weighted horses in claimers tend to be the better animals as the more weight a horse carries, the more it will cost to claim the horse after the race. The male horse rule is used once again and there is an age ‘cap’ implemented as well.

Considering most punters avoid betting in claimers like the plague, a strike rate of 46.8% is excellent as are returns of close to 20% (at SP!).

System 4 - 3yo+ / 4yo+ sellers

Rules are:

1 Favourites in 3yo+ / 4yo+ sellers

2 Ran in handicap, seller or claimer LTO

3 Days off track – less than 7 weeks

4 Age 7 or younger

5 Month – June, July, August

The results have been as follows:

Bets 609

Wins 237

Strike Rate 38.9%

Profit +£1241.00 (to £10 level stakes)

ROI +20.4%

Sellers like claimers are fairly ‘kind’ to favourites – probably due to the fact that the races are not usually very competitive. Sellers for older horses also have less chance for unexposed horses popping up at big odds and upsetting the favourite. This system focuses on the months where racing is the most consistent, and it should be noted that this system also made a profit in May, September, October and November so you may wish to expand it.

Finally then, the question you should be asking is will these systems continue to provide profits? History suggests it will and my gut feeling says it will – however, time of course will tell!


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