Cheltenham 2023 day 1 selections

Best Free 1st and 2nd Favourite Horse Racing System

Free Winning Horse Racing Systems

A lot of punters want simple horse racing systems that work.

On this page we share a profitable horse racing system for UK horse racing that works and will have you betting favourites or the second favourites that are available at a value price.

Favourites are not always the best value and the prices can get skewed by punters who follow the money on any early odds favourites, but they do have the benefit of having a high strike rate and a better chance of winning.

When you're betting for profit a high strike rate is very helpful in maintaining confidence and managing your bank.

In this article John Burke looks at strategies and a selection process for backing horse racing favourites for profit.

Horse Racing Betting Systems

For regular readers of these articles, you will know that I enjoy looking at horse racing betting systems. However, I haven’t until now looked at how backing favourites can make your betting more profitable.

In this brief article, I will attempt to show how you can have some fun and even more importantly profit from backing favourites in UK horse racing and later on I present my free horse racing system.

Now many punters, myself included, like the idea of taking a punt on a big priced outsider in a race. You feel great when it comes off. All that study of the race and you're one of the few who's managed to pick that big priced winner that no one else has. Therefore, being more adventurous, by backing the outsider, can pay off extremely well. But it doesn’t happen often enough.

Now when it comes to backing favourites, plenty of punters avoid them. You will no doubt have heard or read people say that the tipster or punter, “they only back or tip favourites”. It’s usually said or written with a fair level of scorn too.

However, it shouldn’t be like that because backing the right favourites will stand the test of time and really is the way to long term profits.

What percentage of favourites win horse races in the uk?

34.4% of favourites have won their race over the last five years.

The table below shows the data for all UK races and the data shows the strike rate and returns for the clear favourite in the Betfair betting market at the off.

You can see that the strike rate is pretty consistent from a very large number of bets and that you would have lost a small percentage of your turnover if you had backed them all, at Betfair Starting Price and slightly less if you had placed a lay bet on them all. In this instance I think we can say that past performance is a good indicator of the future.

percentage of favourites that win UK horse races, five years data. Profit at Betfair Betting Exchange Starting Prices

The Favourite-Long shot Bias Rears Its Head

In horse racing and financial markets, you will often come across something called the “favourite-longshot bias”. Putting it simply bettors overvalue the “longshots” and undervalue favourites or in other words, favourites are under bet whilst longshots are overbet.

Plenty of empirical studies have shown this to be correct since the term first came into use in the late 1940s. If you want to read a good academic article on the “favourite-longshot bias”, then I highly recommend: “Why is There A Favourite-Longshot Bias in British Racetrack Betting Markets” by Leighton Vaughan Williams and David Paton, for the Economic Journal (Jan 1997). Now it’s over 27-years-old but its relevance remains and it’s an excellent nine-page introduction to the phenomenon.

To see if the favourite-longshot bias was still happening I took a look at the stats for the 2021 Flat season, as I thought the picture painted of winning ‘longshots’ isn’t a good one.

I took runners going off at 20/1 & bigger as outsiders. Such qualifiers produced the following set of results:

244 winners from 14718 runners and – £6,071 to £1 level stakes 

A 1.64% strike rate with 8% placing and the Return on Investment was – 41%

I further looked at how runners sent off at odds between 4/1 & 9/1 fared. They produced the following figures:

1644 winners 13654 runners – 12% Strike Rate and – £2369 to £1 level stakes

The loss on such runners was still high at -16.38% ROI

Meanwhile looking at the stats for favourites (clear, co & joint) for the 2021 flat season.

Favourites Clear Co and Joint

1686 winners from 5377 for a 31% Strike Rate and – £422

Granted you would still have lost backing all favourites during the season just gone but the loss would be a more manageable -7.85%.

So, the proportion of races won by the favourite is running at a healthy 33%.

Taking this a bit further. Odds-on favourites won around 58% of their races losing 6.73%.

Seeing those results, looking on with disdain at favourite backers doesn’t really make sense.

Backing the Right Favourites

The key, of course, if you want to back favourites for a living or for profit is to find the right favourites to back. People who back favourites tend to assume that each favourite has the best chance in the race.

This assumption is wrong!

As the above figures show just one third of favourites win their races which still means two-thirds of favourites don’t so they must be “False Favourites”.

Most professional punters will tell you that about 40% of favourites are false and I haven’t seen anything that disputes that figure. So, 40% of favourites are going off at shorter odds than they should.

Even if you get 30 winners from 100 bets, you would need to be getting average odds of 11/8 on each winning favourite to just break even. This is no easy task I can assure you.

Now if we accept that 40% of favourites are false favourites and you could find them before the race you would be looking at striking 40 losers from 100 bets which could increase your strike rate from 33% to a 55% winning strike rate.

Now I can hear you say that’s all well and good but how do you eliminate those 40 false favourites?

It is of course a big task and everybody wants a ‘how to win at horse racing system' but below we have the starting point to wheedle out the favourites that shouldn't be favourite.

But here are a few filters you can use:

  • Best Jockey – Avoid favourites not ridden by a top jockey.
  • Course – Avoid favourites that have yet to prove they handle the track they are racing on.
  • Trainers – Avoid trainers with low winning strike rates at the track.
  • Going – Avoid favourites that haven’t proven they handle the prevailing going.
  • Draw – Avoid favourites that haven’t got a good draw which is very important at some tracks.

These are just a few examples that you can use to help eliminate those 60% of false favourites and be backing strong favourites. Which will help in increasing your percentage of winners.

The savvy favourite backer, whose an investor not a gambler, by the way, won’t bet on all races but they will limit their investments to only those favourites with a strong chance.

So here is our simple winning system for horse racing.

Favourites Horse Racing System

  1. Start with the favourite

  2. Reject any horses not ridden by a top jockey

  3. Reject any horses without good form at the course

  4. Reject any horses trained by a yard with a low strike rate or poor recent form

  5. Reject any horses not proven on todays's ground and going

  6. Reject any horses with a poor draw

  7. Back any that are not rejected by earlier steps

Backing favourites successfully boils down to being selective and finding discrepancies between your opinion and projected and predicted odds and the price offered by the bookies.

Never dismiss a favourite that’s odds on and always check the latest betting before finalising your selection. Indeed, they can be some of the best value bets you ever place.

If you have best odds guaranteed available on your bookmaker accounts use that until you lose it.

For example: If a punter puts on £1000 on a 1/2 favourite, if it wins, he’s pocketed a cool £500 profit. Another punter puts £10 on the same horse, he gets a return of £5. To the former punter, it’s a good bet to the latter the small profit doesn’t seem worth the risk.

But of course, it remains a value bet.

Betting is a long-term game with the aim of winning money over the long-term. I have a few micro-systems that involve backing favourites. The profits are small but over 12 months ROI is still better than I would get from any bank savings account.

I can’t give you the exact details of the betting systems I use, due to the fact that as soon as details of a successful betting system are shared, any profitability is soon reduced significantly and can be wiped out completely.

But I can give you some pointers to help you create your own winning horse racing favourites system.

The Right Sort of Races

For the purpose of this exercise I shall be using the Racing Post website.

At the time of writing this, it’s day one of Cheltenham’s two-day International Meeting. Going to the Racing Post website. I click through to the Cheltenham course stats and click on the favourites tab.

The page will look like this:

Cheltenham favourites statistics

What I am looking for are races where favourites have a good win strike rate, I look for 40% and above.

The higher, of course, the better.

It’s great if the favourite in these types of race makes a level stakes profit over the five years but it’s not essential if the levels stakes loss is small.

Looking at those Cheltenham course stats. We can forget about the favourites in the handicap races. Low win strike-rates and big losses!

Non-handicap hurdles are the most interesting the win strike rate is 45% with a small level stakes profit +7.73.

Now let’s turn to Doncaster, doing the same as I did for Cheltenham opens up the following page.

Doncaster favourites stats

The first thing that jumps off the page is the strength of the favourites at the track, excluding NHF races. Indeed, compare the record of handicap hurdle favourites at Doncaster to Cheltenham!

Favourites in jumps handicaps at Doncaster are doing rather well. Yet for some reason they are being under bet by the betting public.

You can go through each track to see which races offer the best potential for backing favourites and putting the odds in your favour,

Using my qualifying criteria, favourites in non-handicap hurdle races at Cheltenham and at Doncaster favourites in non-handicap chases and handicap hurdle would qualify.

The Doncaster non-handicap hurdles have the requisite high win-strike rate at 47% but the level stakes loss is big and such favourites are going off at lower odds than they should be.

Now, this isn’t the end of the process, you need to add this knowledge to the systems pointers we outlined above and you will start to know when to back the favourite in horse races and be on the way to creating your own profitable horse racing betting system.

You still need to have the right staking plan and look at the individual race in more detail. But hopefully what I have outlined gives you a bit of a flavour of how you can have some fun and make money betting on favourites.

Always remember to be selective and look for the right races to bet in.

That’s what the professionals do!

Until next time.

John Burke

If you enjoy betting favourites and winning often join John Burkes Consistent Profits service –

More from John Burke

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Is there a profitable 2nd favourite horseracing system?

In past years it seemed like every month there was a new second favourites racing system being touted as the bets thing to make money.
There's no doubt that plenty of second favourites win, but not near to the percentage of favourites that win, the fact is the basics outlined above will work for second favourites and there can be more value in second favourites because they are not so over bet as favourites, but my advice would be to assess the favourites in a race and if you can find a weakness or if you think they shouldn't be favourite then investigate the rest if the market, starting with the 2nd fav.

Do you have a good one a day horse racing system?

Again this used to be a favourite with systems betters and there is a lot to be said for selecting the best race of the day, the one with the best prize money, and assessing that for your bet.

Use the methods described above the breakdown the best race and if the favourite looks strong have a bet.

Do you have a horse racing favourites system?

Pretty much that is what is outlined on this page, start with the favourite and reject if it doesn't meet the criteria listed above.

Can I make place bets on favourites for a living?

This a great horse racing strategy especially if you can't tolerate losing runs, if a favourite meets the criteria outlined then if it doesn't win there is a good chance that it will be beaten by just one surprise entry and will finish in a place.

Can I back favourites for a living?

Many have done this over the years including some if the most famous pro gamblers.

So what can you expect, well your return on investment will be lower than betting at bigger prices because the margin on favourites is tighter, but you will have a high strike rate, in fact some skilled practicioners who use similar methods to those outlined on this page manage a strike rate in the 70's.

A high strike rate is great for confidence and for sticking with things through poor patches.

What's the best strategy for betting on favourites?

Start with the best races, check that the favourite meets the criteria outlined above and you will be on lots of winners.

What are the most profitable horse racing tips?

Given that John Burke has written this article and that he has a long record of making profit for members of his Victor Value service I would have to say that the Victor Value tips are some of the most profitable.

How many favourites have won today?

Punters who like to follow sequences need to know when the last favourite won and how many favourites have won today. We don't advice betting to sequences, instead we bet to the statistics and trust that the numbers will work out for us and how the last favourite faired is of no consequence.

Where can I find a horse racing handicapping system?

There are many ways to handicap a race we suggest trying the Dowst method

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