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Does It Make Sense to Bet Favorites?

Posted by Pete Mitchell on 4/26/2012 11:07:05 AM

One of the great things about betting the horses is that you can do it your way…and win. Some people like betting horses across the board (win, place and show)…others only bet their picks to win (all or nothing). Some like to make multiple-race wagers (doubles, pick-3’s, pick-4’s and pick-6’s), while others prefer to structure single-race exotic tickets like exactas, trifectas and superfectas. Some players like to box horses, while others use wheels and part-wheels, with one or two “key horses”. Sometimes you can structure a bet around a horse you like…other times you can structure a bet around a horse (usually a favorite) you don’t like (like those who had winning exacta, trifecta and superfecta tickets in the Belmont leaving out Big Brown).

Whichever way you decide to attack a race, you’re always looking for value. In other words, getting a return on your investment that exceeds the chances of that investment paying off. That’s where your handicapping skills come into play, which brings us back to the topic of this article…does it make sense to bet favorites? If your analysis of a race tells you that a horse would win the race 9 out of 10 times in this exact set of circumstances, then anything better than odds of 1/9 on the tote board represents value. For example, if a horse goes off at odds of 3/5, and your handicapping analysis tells you that your horse would win this race 9 out of 10 times…you should bet the horse. The math works like this…your horse wins 9 times, paying $3.20 per race (profit of $1.20 per race for each $2.00 wager), loses once for a loss of $2.00, for a net profit of $8.80 (9 x $1.20 = $10.80 - $2.00 = $8.80). You’ve invested a total of $20.00, and your return is $28.80, of which $8.80 is profit. You’ve turned a 44% profit! Even if your horse only wins 7 of 10 such races, you’ve still eked out a net profit of $2.40, for a profit margin of 12%.

Some people say, “I never bet a horse that goes off at less than 2-1.” Well, what if you could bet Secretariat at 3/5 against a bunch of run-of-the-mill allowance horses at Philadelphia Park? Do you think he’d beat them 9 out of 10 times? This example is a bit exaggerated, but I think you get my point…there are situations that come up in horse racing where you’ve got all the edges, and 3/5 is actually a bargain. If a price looks too good to be true, you should double-check your handicapping analysis. But by all means, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a favorite if you honestly believe there’s value in the play.

You can use horses like this in a variety of ways…whatever suits your betting style. Bet them to win, or use them in exotics…they’ll return a profit in the long run, assuming your handicapping is solid.

Pete Mitchell has been handicapping horses since his teenage years. He has been a professional horse player for many years, and came to’s attention through multiple referrals from industry insiders/sportsbook owners. Pete is revered for his horse handicapping opinion and industry experts acknowledge his impressive career winning record. Thoughts or questions?



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