Level Stake Betting on Heritage Handicaps

Backing the starting price favourites from August to November in Heritage Handicaps up to one mile in distance over the last three years produced an 88.10% return on investment.

That is valuable information as we embark on the turf Flat season and the first race of this nature, the Lincoln at Doncaster.

Today, we’re looking at 100 such contests and the outcome of backing the market leader at level stakes.

Handicap races are an important part of the racing programme in the UK, both on the Flat and over jumps.

The concept of a handicap is based on each horse being allocated a weight which reflects its ability and historical form. This weight allocation equalises each horse’s chances of winning a race and in theory makes it a level playing field. The handicapper loves to see tight finishes involving a number of horses but this rarely occurs.

The open nature of handicaps makes them attractive for bookmakers who sponsor some of the major ones. In conditions and graded races the waters are not muddied by weight differences except for allowances and the best horse will prevail more often than in handicaps.

Punters enjoy betting on handicaps due to the perceived betting value and attractive place terms which means they can be paid out on five places sometimes.

The Grand National is a handicap and this is the most popular betting race of the year.

Heritage handicaps are the most prestigious handicaps of the season and can be identified with these words in the title of the race.

In 2017 there are 33 heritage flat handicaps run on turf, and the list includes all the major handicaps at the big meetings. They are run over a variety of distances from five furlongs to two miles two furlongs. Many are run on Saturdays and just about all of them are live on terrestrial TV.

Today we’ve looked at the results of 33 heritage handicaps over the last three years, in addition to the Lincoln of 2013, so the study includes 100 races.

This is perfect for analysis and percentage study.

The Lincoln is run over one mile at Doncaster at the start of the turf Flat season and is also the first heritage handicap of the season. The last one is the November Handicap at the end of the season.

The purpose of this analysis is to determine if backing the starting price favourite in heritage handicaps is a winning strategy.

We have assumed a level stake of £10 on the first favourite in 100 races at SP. In the case of joint or co-favourites, the bet is on the horse with the lowest racecard number which is how bets are settled by bookmakers when there is more than one favourite in a race.

We’ve also split the races into those run up to one mile and those longer than one mile and heritage handicaps run up to the end of July and those in the second half of the season.

So how did this fare?

Well, in terms of profitability handpicking the shorter races from August to November provided the best returns.

There were 21 races that met the criteria over the course of the study of which 8 won. Betting £10 on each qualifier returned £395 which equates to a profit of £185.00 and that ROI of more than 88%. The average price of these 21 favourites was 5/1 and their average finishing position was sixth.

There is some consistency of these averages when the 100 races are split and in most categories the market leader was on average 5/1 and finished sixth on average across all the breakdowns of races.

The overall result is… that backing at level stakes on the favourite in all 100 races brings a 8.25% loss but there are variances when you examine the races by distance and when they are run. Twenty favourites won across the sample of 100 races and the total SP odds of the winners was 91.75 which equates to a return of £917.50 for the £1000 staked at £10 a bet.

It seems a good dividing point to look at races run over five to eight furlongs and those run over longer distances. There were 67 shorter races of which in 17 the favourite won producing a return on investment of 16.04% based on stakes of £670.00 and a profit of £107.50. There was a slight movement away from the mean in the context of the average finishing position of the favourite which was seventh.

Conversely, races run over more than one mile made a loss for punters who blindly backed the SP or 1st favourite as it is named when betting online. You can write the letters ‘FAP’ on your betting slip in betting offices and the bet is on the favourite at the start of the race and the racecard number is used to decide the bet when more than one horse has the shortest price at race time. Thirty three qualifying races left punters 57.58% in the red in heritage handicaps run over more than one mile.

Sixty four heritage handicaps have been run between April and July over the last three seasons plus the 2013 Lincoln. This level stake strategy backing each favourite results in a negative return on investment of 30.08%. To balance the books qualifying races from August to November won you £110 on 36 bets £10 bets. That equates to a healthy return on investment of 30.56%.


Bringing all these figures together tells us if we want to bet on heritage handicaps we should do so from the start of August and focus on the races run over less than one mile because the outcome is a return on investment of more than 88%.

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Ian Hudson

Ian Hudson has 15 years experience in the sports betting industry in a number of roles. He has worked as an odds compiler and trader for bwin and Expekt. He was head of trading for several sports and gained extensive experience of in-running trading. He also has trading experience in licensed betting offices and on-course. Ian is a writer for several sports websites covering the main British and European sports. He has expertise in soccer, horse racing, cricket, tennis and golf. One of past current assignments was working as a Betting Editor for the Daily Mirror and he has been published in The Independent online. A publication called A Guide To Sports Betting is part of Ian’s portfolio. In that book, he focused on individual sports and he wrote a chapter on the best policies for winning on horse racing. Money management and staking when betting on racing were covered with reference to a number of successful strategies. Ian is now heavily involved in providing racing content to a number of websites in an engaging and informative way. We hope you can benefit from insight developed over many years of experience betting on and writing about racing. His in-depth knowledge of the sport and betting will be a great asset for your betting on horse racing.
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