Market Movers: Should You Follow the Money?

For some punters, seeing a rapid fluctuation in the market is like holding a red rag to a bull. They simply can’t help themselves and plunge in without taking a host of other considerations into account. However, while it is easy to find stories of horses heavily backed in from long odds that go on to win; the many occasions where such horses finish nowhere are seemingly whitewashed from history!

If you check out sites such as Oddchecker, you will find dozens of market movers every single day. Then there is the small matter of bookmakers openly advertising these ‘steamers.’ It is common to see a bookie point out that a horse has moved from 16/1 to 10/1 in the minutes before a race. Should you pile in before the value is gone? Let’s face it; bookies don’t do anything that doesn’t benefit their bottom line!

The most simple piece of advice anyone can give regarding market movers is this: If you don’t think the horse has much of a chance of winning, keep your money in your pocket regardless of what the market says.

With the Betfair Exchange, it is possible to see precisely how much money is going on a horse both in terms of backing and laying. This is mainly useful if you are intent on making rapid trades to earn money before the off. Otherwise, you could fall into a trap and back a horse based on nothing other than hype.

What I intend to do in this article is find out if the data backs up the notion that following the money is a profitable strategy.

Steamers & Drifters

As you probably know, a ‘steamer’ is a horse with rapidly shortening odds, and a ‘drifter’ is a horse with a lengthening price. Let’s take a look at how steamers and drifters have performed in the last three years. As there are so many bets, I have to divide into the three race codes.

For the record, decreased by 1-5 means 1.00-5.00 points. So a horse that was 9.00 (8/1) and ended up at 4.00 (3/1) SP has decreased by 5 points.

National Hunt 

Odds Change Win % ROI (BF)
Decreased by 1-5 9.77% -11.15%
Decreased by 6+ 14.74% 17.37%
Increased by 1-5 16.28% -4.14%
Increased by 6-10 19.73% -9.93%


Odds Change Win % ROI (BF)
Decreased by 1-5 9.38% -7.71%
Decreased by 6+ 11.79% 12.6%
Increased by 1-5 14.74% -3.45%
Increased by 6+ 18.83% -12.71%


Odds Change Win % ROI (BF)
Decreased by 1-5 10.16% 0.68%
Decreased by 6+ 11.51% -20.5%
Increased by 1-5 14.57% -8.87%
Increased by 6+ 17.91% -17.39%

The data above shows that overall; punters make a profit in National Hunt and Flat racing when betting on a horse that ‘steams’ in by 6 or more points. When you combine the stats of NH and Flat races where the price decreased by 6+ points, this is what you get:

Bets  Wins  Win % ROI (BF)
1072 144 13.43% 15.26%

There have been over 1,000 opportunities of this nature since 2015, so there is almost one a day. Also, Betfair profit in 2017 so far is 19%, and it was 18% last year.

Focus on Class 4 & 5 races only, and the profit gets even better:

Bets  Wins  Win % ROI (BF)
657 88 13.39% 29.71%

This includes a 43% Betfair Exchange profit so far in 2017. While this is unquestionably great news; there is a slight problem. These statistics only relate to bets made when the horse was at or near its top price. To make the most of this data, you need to know the signs.

How to Spot Steamers 

There is no ‘guarantee’ with any system you try, and in some cases, you might have to purchase software to help you catch odds fluctuations on Betfair. However, one possible method is to take a look at early steamers on sites such as Attheraces. Once you locate these horses, take a look at Oddchecker to see the percentage of bets on a horse. Try to do it early in the morning (before 11 am) because if you leave it too late, the steamers will have left the bay.

For example on July 21, 2017, Attheraces outlined 10 steamers and 10 drifters. Its top steamer was Mancini in the 19:00 at Pontefract.

We need to be checking the market early doors, looking for potential steamers and then employing the following tactic:

  1. Look for horses that are being bet on.
  2. Get the best price we can, from any of the bookmakers
  3. Look to lay them off, on the exchanges

Here’s an example –

Mancini was available to back at 1.84, as per the image above. It was still a popular bet according to Oddschecker. We could see that the horse was a steamer and could have layed her off at 1.48.

This type of analysis will allow you to make a profit from horses that are shortening up in the market. You could either trade them for a risk-free bet or hedge your bets for a guaranteed profit, no matter what happens.

Let us know in the comments below if you would like more advice on how to trade these type of bets and we’ll create a video for you.

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. dont totally agree with this as you can still find value on horses being backed. I profit from a system I have by following Favourites backed on Betfair through out the morning if they then satify certain criteria they become a selection and by doing this I have found a profitable system. Some if not most then drift before the off giving me a better price as most of the value as you say seems to have gone and then thetraders come in and lay the horse this is were I benefit by the price then drifting and the selection becoming value again

    1. Hi David, the above is not a hard and fast rule; we just thought it was an interesting discovery. Of course, we encourage everyone to ‘Paper Trade’ when trying new systems and refine as necessary. I am glad you discovered a winning system 🙂 I love it when punters win.

  2. How do you account for those that have odds fallen simply as there are a few non-runners. There are 3 horses at Lingfield 420 that attheraces is reporting as steamers, and their own ATR rating is showing at -14.75%. Does the steamer report take this into account?

    1. Hi Simon, The report does not take that into consideration. In cases where there are non-runners, the sensible thing is to either ignore steamers in those races or try to determine if there are other reasons for a significant drop in odds aside from there merely being fewer runners.

  3. Similar to the comment above, I tried something like this a few years ago and lost a lot of money. The problem is that steamers in the morning don’t always continue to steam; many of them drift later on, so the strategy does not work. But yes I’d really like to know if you have a method of spotting horses that will go off less than the early prices on a consistent and regular basis. Or for that matter horses that shorten in running. But it has to be often enough to make a worthwhile long term profit or it’s no use bothering. Thanks for the article anyway.

    1. Hi David, thanks for reading! Sorry to hear that you lost money trying something similar to this. The main point I was making was that you can potentially profit by backing steamers to win but only if you get them early enough. I can’t speak for the strategy of backing and laying on Betfair because I have not tried it. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a way to find steamers that continue to shorten in odds on a consistent basis. All I can say is that there are a lot of interesting angles developed by Eddie and Michael on the site so hopefully, you find something that helps you win!

  4. Are You sure Your results are corect? If i bet 100 horses who drift and their price goes up 6-10 points and they WIN almost 20 %,where is the loss? Minimum 7×20 result 140.140-100=40.

    1. Hi Petrache, There is a very simple explanation. Some races will have more than one horse with a 6-10 point price drift. As a result, you end up losing if you backed every horse.

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