Is It Possible To Make a Profit by Laying the Favourite?

As horse racing is notoriously difficult to predict, an increasing number of punters are looking to make a profit by laying favourites. In simple terms, you are betting against the favourite and if any other horse in the race wins, you also win. In theory, this seems like an excellent idea. From data I collected from all races from 2012-2016, the favourite has won just 35.06% of the time from over 51,000 races.

Those who blindly backed the favourites over this timeframe would be on a 3662 unit loss and most likely remortgaging their house or asking for change from strangers on the street! As a consequence, you would assume that laying the favourite on Betfair would yield huge profits. After all, you would win almost 65% of the time. WRONG! Blindly laying favourites over this period would see you with a loss of 1556 units and competing with the favourite backer for spare change.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid laying favourites altogether of course. Below, I will investigate the possibility of making profit in this manner by analysing various race types, classes and distances. Hopefully, this information will help you draw your own conclusions.

For the purposes of the article I am focusing on favourites only, NOT joint or co-favourites. Additionally, I will be talking about pre-race betting only, not in-play.

Racing Code

Here is the performance of all favourites from 2012-2016 at All-Weather, Flat and National Hunt Races:

Race Code Bets Wins Strike Rate Lay P/L Units (Betfair)
All-Weather 10932 3930 35.95% -655.25
Flat 18735 6144 32.79% -445.83
National Hunt 21359 7817 36.6% -455.62


Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t do a great deal for us although we see that laying favourites blindly on AW tracks leads to the worst outcome. Let’s see if race distance does anything for us.


Race Code Distance Bets Wins Strike Rate Lay P/L
Flat 5f-6f 5904 1918 32.49% -90.65
Flat 6.5f-1m 2f 9040 2992 33.1% -300.3
Flat 1m 2.5f+ 3791 1234 32.55% -54.88
NH Up to 2m 5075 2040 40.2% -137.42
NH 2m ½f-3m 14248 5128 35.99% -270.63
NH 3m ½f+ 2036 649 31.88% -23.76
AW 5f-6f 3001 1109 36.95% -221.47
AW 6.5f-1m 2f 5582 1992 35.69% -349.26
AW 1m 2.5f+ 2349 829 35.29% -84.52


I’m sure some of you will see the above distances as arbitrary but I have to start somewhere! Anyway, we can see that laying the favourite blindly still leads to losses but in 4 of the classifications, the loss is less than 100 units. This suggests a little more digging could yield gold.

Race Class

Code Distance Class Bets Wins Strike Rate Lay P/L
Flat 5f-6f 2 395 91 23.04% +15.06
Flat 5f-6f 3 472 125 26.48% +54.48
Flat 1m 2.5f+ 6 540 155 28.7% +36.83
NH 3m ½ f+ 1 138 28 20.29% +42.16
AW 1m 2.5f+ 6 694 246 35.45% +27.59


As you can see, there is profit to be had by simply laying favourites according to Class, code and distance. Admittedly, there’s nothing earth shattering here (although laying NH favourites on this chart led to a 7% ROI), but the fairly awful strike rate of favourites using these criteria is quite encouraging. Check out the abysmal 20% win rate of favourites in Class 1 National Hunt races over 3m ½ f!

The trouble is, sensible betting practice states that you should never lay favourites at long odds. The low strike rate of the aforementioned NH favourites is that these are typically festival races where favourites can go off at SPs of 8/1 or more! If you try and lay a favourite at 8/1 and it wins, you are in serious trouble! In fairness, that would be a pretty awful bet in any case!

As a result, it would be a good idea to focus on laying favourites at specific odds; most pertinently, short odds favourites.

Can I Win By Laying Short Odds Favourites?

I decided to check the performance of favourites at various odds for all races from 2012-2016 (odds in decimals):

SP Bets Wins Strike Rate Lay P/L
1.02-2.00 10353 5936 57.34% -95.26
1.25-1.50 1549 1056 68.17% +11.64
1.50-2.00 8225 4360 53.01% -82.83
2.00-2.50 10446 4278 40.95% -106.17
2.50-3.00 13119 4367 33.29% -230.1
3.00+ 25131 6140 24.43% -1206.3


You probably already knew this but the table shows it’s clearly a fool’s errand to lay favourites at high prices. Interestingly, laying favourites at odds of between 1.25 and 1.50 seems to be a reasonable strategy with a small profit. Let’s see if we can improve matters by looking at the race Class stats pertaining to favourites with SPs of 1.25-1.50.

Class Bets Wins Strike Rate Lay P/L
1 83 61 73.49% -4.98
2 44 25 56.82 +7.22
3 100 65 65% +5
4 552 386 69.93% -7.08
5 522 350 67.05% +12.68
6 248 169 68.15% -1.2


Things do indeed look a whole lot better. Although Class 2 and 3 races are very lucrative (37% and 11% ROI respectively), there are relatively few of them. Class 5 races on the other hand offer a reasonable 12.68 unit profit.


There are all manner of different elements you can look at when it comes to laying favourites. For instance, I found that it was possible to lay favourites for Class 2 and 3 Flat races over 5f and 6f. Regardless of whether you back or lay favourites, doing so blindly is a guarantee of long-term losses.

It’s also clear that you’re only likely to find profit when laying odds-on favourites. While the bookies have the market well covered, there will always be ‘false’ favourites and this is where punters can really cash in. While laying long odds favourites seems like a strategy that could yield dividends, your liability is far too high and you’ll need to maintain a fantastic strike rate over the long term.

While you’re not likely to ever get rich from laying favourites, you can receive a steady return if you do your homework and focus on Classes, distances, odds and events that are most likely to see a favourite getting beaten.

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. As a matter of interest appended below are odds-on statistics for Nottingham flat races. These figures give you a better idea as to the probability of achieving a successful odds-on lay.

    Total read: 87352 Selected: 1247
    Odds-on: 214 Wins: 99 J Favs: 92 C Favs: 5 Excluded: 311
    Odds winners:
    Price Total 1st 2nd 3rd Strike rate
    1/4 5 2 1 2 Win: 40% Pl: 5 100% __________
    1/3 3 3 0 0 Win: 100% Pl: 3 100% __________
    4/11 2 2 0 0 Win: 100% Pl: 2 100% __________
    2/5 7 6 1 0 Win: 86% Pl: 7 100% __________
    4/9 5 3 0 1 Win: 60% Pl: 4 80% __________
    1/2 7 1 3 1 Win: 14% Pl: 5 71% __________
    8/15 6 4 1 1 Win: 67% Pl: 6 100% __________
    4/7 7 3 0 1 Win: 43% Pl: 4 57% __________
    8/13 11 10 1 0 Win: 91% Pl: 11 100% __________
    4/6 18 12 4 0 Win: 67% Pl: 16 89% __________
    8/11 20 12 3 2 Win: 60% Pl: 17 85% __________
    4/5 14 7 3 3 Win: 50% Pl: 13 93% __________
    5/6 12 9 2 1 Win: 75% Pl: 12 100% __________
    10/11 28 9 8 6 Win: 32% Pl: 23 82% __________
    1/1 25 13 5 0 Win: 52% Pl: 18 72% __________
    evens 7 1 2 0 Win: 14% Pl: 3 43% __________

    Totals 936 98 34 18 150 Average: 16%
    Handicaps – Total: 531 1st: 146 2nd: 94 3rd: 70 4th: 8 Average: 60%
    Total non-handicaps: 405 97 93 58 0 Average:-41%

  2. Great Post. I’ve been trying to determine which Race Types / Categories have the ‘poorest / weakest’ Favourite Strike Rate. Your excellent Post has helped. (Thanks). Please can you advise which Racing Statistic Services are worth checking out / purchasing. I’d like to see if 3 or 4 years of Stats (of the same kind you’ve used to produce this Post) give a similar picture. (Off to find where I subscribe to your newsletter / service).

  3. How would things transpire if you lay odds on fav to lose a specific amount?, for example laying an odds on fav to lose £10…..I’d like to see some data on this angle. The only time I have looked at this was a couple of years back when out of desperation I did lay an 10/11fav and a 2/7fav , the 10/11 shot won but the 2/7 shot got beat, laying both of these fav’s blindly for£10 would have resulted in a profit of just 90p but laying them to lose a total of £10 each would have resulted in an overall profit of £25!……the only reason I haven’t looked into it any deeper is the fact I’m traditionally a backer not a layer……is this worth further research?.

    1. It is possible to make a profit laying odds on favourites. However you need to find those races where there is another strong contender. Just doing it purely based on odds isn’t profitable. This is something I will look at in the future in a blog post 🙂

      1. I feel the answer to laying favorites may lie with the trainers and jockeys and the venues in which they race: (Just Saying)

        1. Could well be Gordon. I very seldom use Jockey and Trainer information, but that’s a personal preference, I know many people who is use it very successfully.

  4. can odds on favs be layed using a fibonacci system?
    ive been trying hard but think it will pay in longrun only just started

    1. I’ve not specifically tested this, but I would be surprised if it made a long-term profit because the aim is to recover losses using a Fibonacci staking plan, but because there won’t be an advantage in the bets, eventually the loss recovery will result in a large loss.

  5. I have the answer to this but I cant share it. Trust me when I say that laying favs is a massive money maker but only when done correctly. I cant get into it to much but keep looking there is a system I know this because I made 1 and its returning incredible results

    1. very much sure u r a looser from long time, who wants attention from punters. if u were really making money long run, u wouldn’t be here with us.

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