Can You Make a Profit From Short-Priced Favourites in Large Fields?

You might not like to admit it, but there’s a fair chance that you allow your selections to be completely dictated by odds. There is nothing wrong with searching for value, and since over 80% of winners are in the top 5 in the betting market, it makes sense to take the price of a horse into consideration when making selections. However, you have to avoid being led astray.

A prime example is backing or laying short-priced favourites in large fields without detailed research. It’s all too easy to see a horse at 1.66 in a 15 horse race, and a second favourite at 7.00 and conclude that it’s a foregone conclusion. Matters aren’t helped when fancied horses are tipped by pundits on sites such as the Racing Post and Sporting Life. Suddenly, the odds tumble even further to the point where a horse is unbackable.

First things first, I would always recommend that you do your analysis first, create a shortlist and only then should you look at the market. In the case of short-priced favourites, it is possible to get some semblance of ‘value’ a few hours before the race, but if you wait too long, the value is gone and betting on the favourite only benefits the bookies in terms of edge.

How Do Short-Priced Favourites Fare in Big Fields?

To begin with, I will classify a ‘big’ field as any race with 16 or more runners.

First up, here are the stats for all clear favourites (at all prices) in races with 16+ runners in all UK races since the start of 2013:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
3055 763 24.98% -7.22%

As expected, the results aren’t too great with just a strike rate of just under 25% and a loss of over 7%. Also, the A/E figure of 0.9 suggests that favourites are significantly ‘overbet’ in these races. Okay, let’s look at odds-on favourites (by SP):

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
226 129 57.08% -4.98%

Slightly better but the loss is still 5%, and there aren’t that many races to choose from in an almost five year period.

Shortening the Field

At this stage, it is probably better to focus on races with 10-15 entries as there are substantially more to choose from. Here is the initial set of criteria:

  • 10-15 runners.
  • 2013-2017 UK races
  • Favourites
Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
19745 5882 29.79% -2.8%

That isn’t too bad; a loss of under 3% is not particularly difficult to overcome. Let’s see if odds-on favourites fare any better:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
1702 982 57.7% -2.31%

The ROI loss is slightly reduced, but you’ll still be losing money.

In terms of all favourites, All-Weather races offer the best opportunity with a slight profit:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
4918 1495 30.4% 2.58%

However, when you focus on AW odds-on favourites, you end up with a slight loss of over 2%. In fact, none of the codes offers profit; National Hunt horses perform best from our perspective, but you still lose 0.65% on Betfair.

It is only when you look at handicap races featuring odds-on favourites do you see some semblance of hope:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF)
178 109 61.24% 10.65%

The profit is pretty consistent over the last few years, but the problem is: There are very few bets! There have only been 35 such opportunities in 2017 for example.

As soon as you try to bump the odds of these favourites in handicap races up to between 2.00 and 2.50, you experience a significant loss of over 10%.


After looking through various scenarios, I wasn’t able to find any specific trend or pattern that would allow you to profit from short-priced favourites in large fields. As the margins are razor thin for the most part, it isn’t worth the stress or the risk to try and gain a fairly insubstantial ROI.

The A/E figures I found throughout my research were below 1.00, so it’s clear that short-priced favourites are overbet and underpriced in races with large fields. You might think there would be value in laying these horses, but again, I found no evidence of this.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you should completely avoid short-odds favourites one way or the other. If your research shows that a horse warrants its price and should be even shorter, place your bet. Likewise, if you think the favourite is weak and underpriced don’t be afraid to lay it, especially if it is odds-on.

Above all, remember the favourite/longshot bias and don’t make the mistake of overrating an outsider’s chances while playing down the odds-on favourite. Sometimes, a horse at 1.61 is good value!

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.


  1. I have found backing in races with 5 to 10 runners in a profit if you omit maidens,claimers, sellers, juvenile, and nhf, its a theory i have given much time and trial run on this system. I do tend to stick with a consistent profile of good runs but will rarely back anything that is odds on and i always back each way because i have found that this makes more profit in the long run. I make it a rule to hardly ever back in big fields unless its the Grand National etc although i did pick the winner in the 34 cavalry charge the other day in Withhold. Thank you for some interesting articles you write on here and always read them even if i dont agree everyone to their own system.

  2. Hi Martin, thanks for reading! I will have to take a look at your system to see how much you win! 🙂 Not a fan of e/w bets myself but as you rightly say ‘everyone to their own system’. I hope you continue to read and hopefully, make a few bob from what we create on the site.

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