How Often do Favorites Place in Horse Racing

There are so many factors that can contribute to a horse being a favorite in any given race. These factors range from the obvious, such as the previous forms of the horses competing, to more reactional favoritism created by word of mouth, such as favorable comments from the horse’s trainer.

The shorter the price of the favorite, the more likely its position in the market is derived from the form shown on the racecourse. It is worth remembering that a horse will always be on top of the bookmakers’ boards, so in races where there is little between the better horses, horses may well switch places in favoritism until the horses are set free from the starting stalls.

How Often do Favorites Place in Horse RacingStatistics display that the favorite will win approximately thirty-three per cent of the time and place approximately sixty-six per cent of the time. Unfortunately, the odds of the favorite are skinny compared to the remainder of the field; therefore, backing only the favorite in every race will not guarantee a punter a profit in the longer term but will guarantee a loss.

Bookmakers’ Favorites – Types

You may see three types of favorite descriptions, which will vary regarding the number of runners with favoritism.

  • Clear favorites – Indicated by an F (2/1 F), signifying this horse was a top choice at the top of the Bookmakers’ Boards.
  • Joint favorites – The display will show JF (3/1 JF), meaning this horse and one other were joint top in the market at the off of the race.
  • Co favorites – This is signified by CF (4/1 CF), which shows the horse was one of at least three who share favoritism.

Bookmakers’ Favorites – When they are False Favorites

Here is where hindsight is often prevalent, as the most straightforward statement to make for the punter is to say that there was no way that horse should have been a favorite because of various factors that are now more prevalent than the race run.

Punters aim to try and distinguish the factors commonly associated with horses who are incorrectly at the head of the market. Therefore, those horses are perhaps underpriced and worthy of betting against in the lead-up to the race.

  • The form of the favorite’s previous win has not followed through, as there have been no winners from subsequent outings of horses it beat in its previous run.
  • Horses running in the race as the favorite have previously run against it and have run very close in less favorable conditions.
  • Those horses are now at an advantage versus the favorite and therefore have an excellent opportunity to reverse the placings of their previous meeting.
  • The horse has run consistently for many runs and has steadily increased its rating. Therefore, the weight the horse has to carry could be at a point where the handicapper has caught up with the horse’s ability.
  • Despite boasting excellent form, the favorite has not shown enough under today’s conditions. Sometimes, the horse’s best form has been under certain conditions or in a specific type of going. If that has changed in the current race and is not in favor of the favorite, the horse could be a false favorite.
  • Hype – when it’s all down to talk and hearsay, comments from the jockey trainer and the form or handicapping analysis do not confirm the comments. These comments should then be taken with a pinch of salt.

Bookmakers’ Favorites – Factors to Consider

Although a commonly sourced set of statistics, it is worth recognising that the actual odds of favorites for certain types of races are generally shorter than others. Therefore although a common statistic of favorites performing well in certain circumstances may, to an extent, be accurate, it does not mean anything worthwhile from a betting perspective.

The key to finding favorites who are consistently worth either backing or laying is to identify a like-for-like scenario where the horse racing analyst can justify and explain the reasoning for the support or laying of this particular favorite type with solid statistical evidence over a reasonable period.

Bookmakers’ Favorites – Statistics

  • If a punter utilizes a system that ostensibly backs favorites, the punter or racing analyst would then be better served to bet against the favorite in the races that they feel the favorite will lose, as that happens more often than not, sixty-six per cent of the time
  • If the Analyst is betting on a horse that is the fifth choice or higher, they will only win about eighteen per cent of the time. A horse could be the 5th choice and have odds of 7/1, or it could be the 5th choice and have odds of 12/1.
  • Therefore, when considering the general percentage chance of beating the public opinion, ensure that the system is utilized to predict the winner and will allow your choice to extract the maximum winnings for the selection if the correct horse is selected.

Bookmakers Favorites – Selections and Value Plays

Bookmakers’ favorites are just that, bookmakers’ favorites. An Analyst has to try and differentiate between the favorite that is a firm favorite and where is a false favorite. No matter what the Analyst’s system predicts, the bet has to be structured to extract the maximum profit possible, whether backing or laying the favorite. 

When the system selects a Value Play, try and ensure that the price that the value play is backed at will ensure the maximum profit. The favorite might be poorly ridden by its jockey, miss the break, or be boxed at a crucial point in the race. Favorites are statistically only winning thirty-three per cent of the time and placing sixty-seven per cent of the time, so theoretically, there should be plenty of opportunities to maximize the Value Plays.

Laying the Favorites and finding the Value Plays could be the key to consistent Profits!


Hi, I'm James, a long time horse racing fan. I was introduced to racing by my granddad. He taught me a little about horses and I was hooked. I have been to most racecourses in the UK .

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