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Fate of the Favourites - A Clerk's View

Which race favourite is due/not due? Beaten Favourite last time out?

Fate of the Favourites Table

The table shows you the fate of the Festival SP favourites since 2002. The data collected on those 3/1 and under suggests that when the price reaches that level, value usually needs to be re-assessed. Level stake laying at SP of all 172 SP favs priced 3/1 and under since 2001 would have given you, as the bookie, a profit of +27 units. Not a great return. It is becoming value to back short priced favs. '09, '13, '14, '15 ,'16 would all have yielded a punter's profit Last year you would be -1. 6 from 15 won. Douvan @ 2/9 the big talking point. 2016's bookmakers' heaven/short priced punter carnage was +3 in favour of those punters who love shorties (8 from 15 won). Un De Sceaux the only odds on shot of four not to oblige. It was worse for bookies in 2015 if you check those 2/1 and under. 6 from 7 won and none of them were 'drifters'. I look forward to hearing what Ronan Graham is offering on the Belfast Preview Night. Last year was a 9/2 treble Altior, Douvan and Unowhatimeanharry. The SP return on this treble was under 2/1 and people were queueing to get on. Good luck to them. Once Altior went in, it was manna for grubby 'arbers' like me. The 2016 Special wasn't that good for Grahams - 3/1 Vautour Ryanair NRNB. In 2015 it was Evens Un De Sceaux and 2/1 Faugheen to £50. Grahams offers always worth contemplating. The W Mullins shorties are paying. 18 of his last 26 sent off at 15/8 or shorter have won for a £1 level stake profit of £11.60. 13 horses sent out by him over the past 10 Festivals have started evens or shorter ranging from Vautour to Douvan. 4 losers, Hurricane Fly and Un De Sceaux at 4/6, Annie Power in that £40 million fall at 1/2 in the Mares Hurdle 2015 became the 'shortest shortie' to fail in the last 20 Festivals. Until Douvan.

However in each of the last three Festivals, backing the 28 favs blind would give the bookies a win of +11 last year +2.5 in 2016, +1 2015 and +5 in 2014 on level £1 stakes. As every clerk knows, 70% of all money on every horse race goes on the favourite so it is difficult to get a true picture. In 2017 the bookies won well especially on Day 1 when a 25/1 outsider wins the Supreme and plunges went adrift on Yanworth 2s and Limini 6/4. Gold Cup day is when turnover is greatest. Only favourite to win was Defi Du Seuil and plenty of money stayed in satchels after Death Duty 13/8, On The Fringe 11/8 and Le Prezien at 7/2. And I haven't mentioned Douvan at 2/9.

2016 narrowly outstrips 2012 and 2013 as the best performing year for favourites since 2003. Nine winning favs and a co fav from the 28 races. 2013 was different again in that all 9 favourites that won were 3/1 and under. Even all three of the odds on shots were successful. Unheard of. And 4 favourites won on Gold Cup day. But even backing all favourites blindly in 2013 would still have cost you 3.5 units. In 2012 the favourites profit for punters would have been +8. That year the 4 miler was won by the 5/1 fav and three of the handicap chases were won by favourites priced 13/2 twice and 9/2.

Overrounds - Always controversial stuff. In 2017 and 2016 the 14 G1s had an average overround of 120%. That's pretty good for bookmakers as in Ireland on a Friday at Downpatrick for a non handicap you might struggle to get percentages above 112-113. The biggest overround for a G1 was not the bumper but the QM at 139% followed by the Arkle at 134%. Probably because of the price of Altior and Douvan. Bookies hate 6/1, 7/1 second favs, 9s bar, in fields of eight or more. All the each way thieves come in for their 'bet to nothing'. Always think a daft bet myself as the bookie now holds your money and the horse has to get placed for you to get it back. The best race for punters on each day was in order Champion Hurdle 119, RSA (again) 119, Ryanair 111, Albert Bartlett 116. The smaller fields mean that bookmakers have to bet harder. The average for the 10 handicaps was again 134% which no bookmaker would turn their nose up. As a clerk, I think it sometimes unfair to concentrate on handicap overrounds in big fields. If everyone is backing everything, there doesn't tend to be time to push things out to bigger prices in those frenzied minutes before the off. I have never seen any general conspiracies especially in these times of exchange trading. Last year Gold Cup Day had the biggest average race overround at 127% which is handy for bookies as yes, that is the day they take the most money.

Other betting stats. 3/1 and shorter favourite winners in handicaps since 2002 are 2 from 25 ( None last year, 2016 Aloomomo 3s, Josies Orders 15/8, Squouateur 9/4 all lost. 2015 Roi Des Francs beat, 2014 Big Shu beaten in X Country). In amateur rider races they are 4 from 15 (Cantlow 9/4 and On The Fringe losing last year, 2016, On The Fringe 15/8 winner, 2015 Paint The Clouds 11/4 loser in Foxhunters, 4th). The Fringe, Back in Focus, Salsify (lucky) and Alderwood in 2013 were the first favourites 3/1 and under to win outside G1 or G2 company since Heads on the Ground in the 2007 Cross Country (23 others have tried).

In the last 22 Festivals 14 of 34 odds on shots have been beat. That's amazing. There may be at least four running in the 2018 Festival.

This time last year i put up the shorties as Altior, Limini, Douvan, Cantlow, Yorkhill, Vroom Vroom Mag, Yanworth, Un De Seaux, Unowhatimeanharry, Airlie Beach, Death Duty, On The Fringe. Lost my bottle and then said I wasn't sure in half of those would get beat as in previous years. Suggested four might get beat. Well, only three of the twelve won. At the moment this year's beauty parade include Getabird, Footpad, Buveur D'Air, Apples Jade, Samcro (the Big One?), Altior, Cause Of Causes, Presenting Percy, Un De Sceaux, Laurina and Apples Shakira.

Last year I said 'Take on Yanworth (again), On The Fringe, Unowhatimeanharry, Un De Sceaux and Death Duty. 4 out of 5 not bad. But, like all clerks, although I help to pay out, its not my money. Dan, my employer always like to say, 'We are playing with live bullets here.' Ok, prediction time. At least six of those shorties don't win. I'll take on Getabird, Footpad, Altior, Percy, Un De Sceaux and Apples Shakira (I have already had my fingers burnt by her in November, 'she looks very small' he smugly said standing at a wet parade ring). There, said it. Looking at the early tissues, the bookies may be hoping that Gold Cup day once again belongs to them. I can see Grahams coming in with a first day overpriced quad to get us interested. What do you say, Ronan?

On-course bookmakers will once again fight bare knuckle in the car park for a pitch (but not for one in Tatts, I hear). And with the huge expenses involved, it must work for them. 'We are there to lay the shorties' (Brian and Ronan Graham, every Belfast Europa Preview Night, the Monday before, every year).

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WHICH FAVOURITES ARE DUE? - Probably the Coral Cup (Only Xenophon '03 and one joint fav since inception in '93). No County Hurdle winning fav since Desert Quest in 2006. Surprisingly, since the same horses tend to be involved all the time, the Cross Country fav hasn't won in 10 yrs (you wouldn't have got paid on Josies Orders, go Cause of Causes) . No Fred Winter fav in seven. In 2012 Salut Flo takes the Mildmay being the second winning favourite in 27 yrs after Majadou in 1999. None since. Wichita Lineman '09 only winning fav in Tues 3m hcap Chase since Antonin '94. The Pertemps Final has had two winning favourites since 1998 including Fingal Bay 2014. Bumper favourite went in in 2015, first since 2005. The second fav won it in 2016. Hunt Ball 2012 only nov hcap chase winning fav in 11. Sir Des Champs 2011 only ever winning Martin Pipe fav in 9 runnings. Alderwood only winning Grand Annual fav in the last thirteen races. Only two from the last five Queen Mother winners were favourite. Special Tiara 11s biggest since Newmill 2006. Favs tend to do better in the small fields conditions races.

If Paul Taylor hadn't pointed it out to me I wouldn't have realised that there has been no winning Favourite in a Festival Handicap since Fingal Bay in the 2014 Pertemps. And even then, Darryl Jacob rode the second, beaten a nose. A handicap favourite is going to happen, you do know that? (Divin Bere close last year).

WHICH FAVOURITE MAY HAVE WON TOO OFTEN RECENTLY? - People don't believe me, but when you work as a clerk, you see these things taking their turn, going round. The race with the current best rate for favourites is the Arkle with five of the last six obliging and both 11/4 jt favs placed in the other. Footpad. The last three Triumph Hurdle favourites have won. Apples Shakira The Champion Hurdle is 4 from the last 7. Gold Cup has 8 from the last 15 winning. Might Bite 7 of the last 16 World Hurdle jollies have gone in but only Thistlecrack from the last five. Sam Spinner It should will be a few years before the Mildmay and Kim Muir favourites once again both win on the same day like in 2012. Quevega won the Mares a lot followed by Vroom Vroom. Apples Jade was only third fav last year. Ryanair has had four winning favs in the last six. The 4 mile Chase hadn't had a winning favourite since 1992 then from 2011 to 2013 Chicago Grey, Teaforthree and Back In Focus come together, like buses. None since. Willoughby Lodge 14s biggest priced winner of Neptune in 10 years. Nothing else was bigger than 7s

BEATEN FAVOURITES LAST TIME - In 2016 I was nearly distraught when I realised that six of the Festival winners were fecking beaten favourites last time out. One of my favourite stats. I thought it was over between us. But its always good to see a friend return (or you never lose what a friend gets?). Last year 53 of the PPDs (punters previous disappointments) ran at the Festival. One winner, Apples Jade 4/1. And I even backed her. Makes a profit on the beasts of 48pts on the week, or if you are like me, gives you something to strike out in the comic when pouring over the big fields. 2016, 55 beaten favourites last time out came to Prestbury Park. Winners were Un Temps Pour Tout, Any Currency (a given), Diego Du Charmil, Black Hercules, Ivanovich Gorbatov and On the Fringe. I can console myself with the knowledge that level stakes on all 55 would still have cost you 16 pts but it took me 12 months to get over it.

Since the turn of the century, 768 horses have run at the Festival having been beaten favourite last time out. 28 winners or a 3.6% strike rate. About a 28/1 chance for each winner. In 2015, a total of 64 ran having been beaten favourite last time out. No one believed me but none of them won. Since 2000 on £1 stakes you will only show a profit of £20.50 in the RSA and £29 in the County Hurdle. No other race in profit. Backing all beaten favs blindly to £1 would leave you £405.25 adrift. It has been suggested by the great James Pyman in the comic that the three RSA winning 'beaten favs', Lord Noelie, Hussard Collonges and Trabolgan were beaten either at 'sharp' tracks or at a distance less than 3 miles. At least seven of the 28 winners had been beaten last time out at evens or shorter (Apples Jade 2/5, Black Hercules at 4/11), nine were Irish trained, five Nicholls, three Henderson. Fantastic stuff. This is the Olympics. Do you get a second chance to disappoint? Maybe. Those that may be involved in this poser for 2018 include Presenting Percy, Ch'tibello, Hells Kitchen, Squouateur, Minds Eye, Faugheen. Not Our Duke who was sent out quickly to win the Red Mills after the Irish GC, Jessica knows her beaten favourite stats. Is that scorn I hear?

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