How to Find Front Runners for Back to Lay Opportunities

This was something I’ve wanted to write about for a while but the notion of getting value from front-runners on the Betfair Exchange became embedded in my mind after the Chester Cup. I had backed the well-known front-runner My Reward at 14/1 and saw its odds tumble to around 9/1 by the off. Within 20 or so seconds, when the horse predictably moved to the front, his odds fell as low as 9/2. I had backed him to win but it was difficult to turn down what was a significant profit.

It was fascinating because even though it was known that My Reward was a front-runner (it was specifically mentioned in the Racing Post), his odds still tumbled when he went to the front. The Exchange has been around for a long time but even now, less savvy punters get excited when a horse rushes to the front in the early stages. A price reduction is inevitable and smart traders can cash in.

Locating Possibilities

The simple option is to find sites that claim to provide you with front-runners. For instance, I located one that suggested the likely candidates for May 16, 2018, were:

  • Mr Satco @ 3:45 Newton Abbot.
  • Strumble Head @ 4:45 Newton Abbot
  • Montague @ 4:35 York
  • Creeytennant @ 9:05 Perth

Alternatively, you can trawl sites such as the Racing Post and Sporting Life to see if they provide any insight into whether a horse is a likely front-runner. Regardless of the method, you use to find these runners, make sure you watch some videos of their previous races to make sure. 

There is a myriad of tactics one could use to find front-runners. Some traders prefer to look at races with relatively few runners in the hope they can pick up a cheap and easy profit. Subscribers to Profit Recall can check out Pace Predictor to find possible front-runners.

The above race is the 14:45 at Yarmouth on May 16. It is a five-runner race and possibly represents an ideal front-runner opportunity. As you can see, Stosur is the only horse in the race classified as a ‘Leader’ and his Total Pace figures are way above the rest of the field in that category.

The next step is to check out the Racing Post website and find out more about his previous runs. In his last race, he led the field and was ahead with 3f left before finishing third. However, his last few races have a mixture of leading and being in midfield so you have to decide if you want to proceed with the trade. 

12 minutes before the race, Stosur was just about the second favourite at 5.1. At this point, it would be wise to check out the recent runs of the rest of the field to see if any of them have front-running potential.

I was able to find out that Rayaa preferred to track the leaders in recent races; including her previous race where she started behind Stosur before overtaking her rival and finishing second.

Sula Island and Ciaoadiosimdone also tend to track the leader or get held up. Indeed, in the latter’s only win, she tracked the leaders before taking the lead 2f out. Iconic Belle appears to be the only threat having led in her last race. However, she did not lead in any of her previous five races so there is a fair chance that Stosur is a viable front-running option.

Perhaps experienced punters got wind of Stosur’s front-running potential because she was 4.6 at the off. As expected, she took the lead, albeit not by much. As a consequence, the odds remained steady until around halfway through the race when they dropped to 4.1. The old-fashioned eye test showed that she was starting to flag so a savvy trader would get out immediately (or more likely have a pre-set lay bet). Sure enough, Stosur fell apart and finished last by a mile as Iconic Belle won the race.

I decided to take a look at Pace Predictor for the four races mentioned at the beginning of the article. 

Only Montague is in a race where he is the only leader. The trouble is, it is a 16-horse race with multiple early pressers. 

Approximately 80 minutes before the race, Montague was 24/1 to win Further analysis on the Racing Post found that he had led the previous six races he was involved in. Montague also has a serious dose of seconditis having finished second in his last five races with a win prior to that unfortunate run.

Before you start to think that Montague would make a solid place bet, it is important to note that the upcoming race was a Class 3 affair and all his previous good runs happened in Class 4 and 5 company. Nonetheless, there seems to be potential value in a back to lay bet on a potential front-runner. One final warning: At such long odds, it won’t take much of a swing to leave your trade in ruins. 

When you attempt this back to lay strategy, there is a chance that you will come across a decent priced front-runner with a chance to earn a place. Montague was 31/10 to finish in the first four if you believed he had a viable shot at taking the lead and hanging on until the end. 

Ultimately, Montague went to the front and was clearly in the lead a little over a furlong into the race. He remained in front for a reasonable period but once again, he was showing signs of fatigue and it became apparent that other horses were going to swallow him up. 

Nonetheless, the odds for a Montague win had fallen to 12/1 by then and represented a nice cash out opportunity. Again, experienced lay traders would have software to avoid costly delays. For the record, Montague finished 14th out of 15 runners, some 13.5 lengths behind the winner, Clubbable.

I went to the same front-runner website as before on Friday, May 18 and it recommended a horse named Capton in the 16:05 at York. Sure enough, the Racing Post described him as a Front Runner and about 45 minutes before the off, he was 8.2 to win. 

Capton had either led or made all in his last four starts, all of which resulted in top two finishes. Therefore, in this instance, it is important to ensure he had a chance in the upcoming event. His odds suggest a reasonable chance in an open race but it was a Class 2 event; his previous good runs were in Class 3, Class 4, and even in Class 5 races; so, would Capton be able to take the front in a better standard of race?

As was the case with My Reward and Stosur, the odds on Capton winning fell in the last 30 minutes before the race. The odds fluctuated but by 15:55, 10 minutes before the race, his odds had dropped to 6.2. 

Ultimately, Capton moved straight to the front and remained there for more than half the race before running out of steam in the last two furlongs. His odds didn’t drop much more with the shortest available price at 5.8 about two furlongs into the race. Even so, it represents a decent fall in price.

Final Thoughts

Finding suitable back to lay, front-runners, requires a bit of work on your part but the rewards can be significant in the long-term. By all means, use front-runner websites to narrow your focus but check out the Racing Post for more information on previous runs and also watch out for other front-runners in the race.

If you have Profit Recall, Pace Predictor helps improve the likelihood of finding the right horse because it uses sophisticated software to analyse previous runs and offers an actual score regarding a horse’s early pace. Once you’ve found contenders, make sure the horse is likely to be competitive and not outpaced to have the best chance of making a profit. 

Depending on how confident you are, it could pay to back the horse well in advance of the race in case other punters latch on to the news that a specific entry will probably go to the front. When making these kinds of decisions, it is always wise to try dummy runs first to ensure your hard-earned cash isn’t wasted needlessly.

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.
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