How Often Do Odds-On Horses Lose?

I was asked this question recently:

“How often do odds-on horses lose, and how much?”

And I thought, what better way than to investigate!

So, I got all the data from 2013 for odds-on horses and began to dig in.

There were 2054 runners who had an SP of less than 2.00, and 1208 of these won. That gives odds-on runners a strike rate of 59%.

But… you would have made a loss of -114 units at SP. That’s a 6% loss on the amount you bet.

If we look at the selections to Betfair SP, the profit is -12 units before commission. After commission a loss of -52 would have been achieved.

Whatever way you look at it, Betfair SP would have produced significantly better results.

But is there a way make a profit from these odds-on runners?

After all, a 59% strike rate is what dreams are made of. But it’s no use to us if it’s going to make a loss.

Let’s take a look at the results if we break them down by class:

Class Wins Bets SR Profit
1 48 79 61% -0.43
2 14 35 40% -11.81
3 71 116 61% 2.93
4 275 463 59% -18.37
5 325 551 59% -5.90
6 177 283 63% 14.15

What we see here is that Classes 3 and 6 are both profitable with Class 6 being the most profitable.

Alright, 14.15 units (5% ROI) per year isn’t going to make you rich but a 5% ROI isn’t bad considering that we’ve done no kind of analysis except to focus on selections who are odds-on in Class 6.

Now let’s look at the different race types:

Race Type Wins Bets SR Profit
NH Flat 63 116 54% -8.27
Chase Turf 145 251 58% -6.09
Flat Turf 385 672 57% -33.51
Hurdle Turf 340 543 63% 4.58
Hunter Chase 20 31 65% 1.79
Flat AW 255 441 58% -11.04

All race types have made a loss except Hurdle Turf and Hunter Chase, although there isn’t really enough data in Hunter Chase races to be accurate.

Still not as good as the Class break down.

So far we’ve used no ratings or data that can’t be obtained by the majority of the betting market!

Let’s take a step back.

We know that…

  • Odds-on selections in 2013 won 59% of the time
  • Odds-on selections in 2013 made a loss of -52 units to Betfair SP
  • Odds-on selections in 2013 in Class 6 races made a profit of 14.15 units to Betfair SP
  • Odds-on selections in 2013 racing on Hurdle Turf made a profit of 4.58 units to Betfair SP

From this information we can assume one thing:

It’s going to be pretty hard to find any value in odds-on selections with standard market data

That doesn’t mean we couldn’t find a very small sub-niche where we do make a profit. But, it’s going to be tough.

What happens if we add in data that can’t be found easily. For example the number of days since a horse last won.

It makes sense that if we’re placing bets on horses that are odds-on, we want them to have won recently. Some odds-on horses haven’t won a race in over a year, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to bet on them

Sixty days seems like a good starting point to expect an odds-on horse to have won in. This produces the following results:

435 Wins
692 Bets
63% SR
24.16 BF Profit

Now that we’re using information that is not easily available we see an instant improvement. Although you would need to be betting with very large stakes to make the profits worthwhile and you would only be making a 3.49% ROI.

So what is the final answer to the question:

“How often do odds-on horses lose, and how much?”

We’ve discovered that these horses lose 41% of the time and make a 2.5% loss to Betfair SP.

Using information that’s easily available to the market, such as race Class, this can be improved to generate a small profit of 14 units. Using information that’s not easily available to the market, such as Days Since Last Won, can improve this profit further.

But at the end of the day, you will never make a lot of profit betting on odds-on selections. They’ve been too well accounted for in the market and the odds do not offer enough value. The time spent building a profitable strategy for these selections is almost certainly not going to be worth it.

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. looks like a possible profitable lay horse system…i read a book totally unrelated called flip it as the title suggests think outside the box,think the other way round.have used this method many times on useless systems.

    1. Great suggestion. I haven’t looked at it from a laying perspective but shall do in the future for an article. I certainly agree with thinking outside the box, it’s very important 🙂

  2. What about focusing on class 3 & 6 races, less than 60 days with a daily profit target, rolling over losses to the next selection? I know this kind of staking is not popular with most but surely the strike rate would minimise exposure levels somewhat? The kind of losing runs that there have been on these selections would obviously be a statistic to consider…

    1. I’m not a fan of staking plans that increase stakes with a loss, but the right one in a situation where a very high strike rate is achievable could certainly work. I have made a note to take this investigation further in another article.

  3. When you’re subsetting by class and race type you’re investigating variables without a prior hypothesis and should really have out of sample data to verify your results.

  4. Hi

    Have statistics relating to favourites that stretch back to 2005. I realised many years ago that odds-on (and evens) win bets were a no-no and that laying would be more profitable.

    I keep stats relating to odds-on for every course and the most profitable course for laying odds-on is Wolverhampton. Additionally I can tell you which odds not to lay at any course. There seems to be a liking for certain prices at certain courses.

    Yesterday (2nd October) was in my opinion a poor days racing. Out of 28 races , 9 had favourites that were odds-on. Of those 9 races the favourite won 6. If you had bet on every favourite to win you would have lost 0.03 points gross. If you had layed every bet you would have won 0.03 points gross.

    Check the results at Wolverhampton today At the last meeting there was one odds-on favourite and it lost.

    Bear in mind the fact that when laying odds-on your return if the horse loses is your stake (net), if it wins you only lose the price. The above example being a good illustration of this. In my opinion this is the only way to lay bet – above evens and you are the loser in the end!

    I post each day on my site ( the percentage of favourites that win every race every day.

  5. Have not done the investigative work needed, but I’m confident that profits would be enhanced by betting only when the ‘odds-on’ horse is one of the three most consistent. By that I mean; add together the last three placings of each horse and bet only when the selected runner is one of them.
    e.g. in say a 7 runner field with form figures 302 121 725 454 321 001 242 ; the odds on horse should have form figures 121, 321 or 242. Sounds elementary I know, but if someone has the time to check it should prove interesting.
    p.s. If a runner has only run once or twice, calculate as if it’s last run was repeated etc.

  6. Been looking into this ‘laying’ the favorite business, as I see so many races where the favorites is evens or less and I know its not going to do anything.

    I believe purely betting on odds and class wont get you far, but taking everything into account as if you were looking to back a horse, could pay dividends.

    Why not look at a few factors, the class, is the favorite stepping up in grade/class/trip, does it have a different jockey, how did it run last time, then look at the field, is there any newcomers that may spring a suprise, are there any rivals, is it a maiden race, how many horses are running.

    If you total them all up and think, this favorite shouldn’t be favorite, or another horse should be favorite, then why not place a small lay. If you back every favorite to lose its going to be tough, just like if you do em all to win, but if you try and understand the race, looking for indications that the favorite could lose with an ‘excuse’, then it could be time to lay.

    I saw a 1/18 shot lose a few months back, by a newcomer who had never ran before (20/1 winner) and was only a 4 horse race!

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