After last month’s article on favourite backing on the flat and the AW, this month we follow up with a companion article for backing favourites over jumps.
Like I said last time, this will suit some and not others. It all depends on how you bet and, more importantly, your mind set to deal with losing runs. Favourite backing can be profitable.
It is not easy since around 67% of all favourites lose and around 33% win. These figures can be improved upon if you pick and choose where and when to back favourites and this article, along with last month’s, is intended to help with that.
Favourites over jumps do have a marginally better strike rate than their flat counterparts due to the additional factors involved such as smaller fields, no draw bias, and the jumping factor to go along with speed and stamina. It is also helped by the dominance of the big yards of Mullins, Elliott, Henderson and Nicholls. Adding all those factors into the pot usually means cramped odds and little in the way of value, but favourite backers are more concerned with winners than value.
The other thing it lends itself to are shorter losing runs, allowing for a progressive staking plan if that is something you are comfortable with. It is seen as quite a dangerous thing to do but there are a number of ways of doing it that actually limit the risk. That is probably best saved for another day and a separate article.
The truth is, a system that continually bangs in winners at a 40% strike rate, will, in the long run, turn into a profitable pastime.
Like last time I am going to look at all jumps racing in the UK and Ireland since 2012 and the performance of outright favourites.
Joint and co-favourites are not included in the analysis.
Again, we will be looking at track, trip, race type, and number of runners, previous course form and a whole host of other factors in the attempt at creating a few profitable systems to follow in the coming jumps season.
As always, some of these systems will continue to perform and others may not, so paper trading or low stakes is advised until you get a feel for how things might pan out in the long run. I will be looking for year on year consistency, a higher than average strike rate and a decent return on investment. These are the three key factors.
So, let us see what my analysis has found.
Uttoxeter is a sharp left handed track where it usually pays to race prominently, like most sharp tracks to be honest. Strong travelling types do well here but in the winter, it becomes a stamina sapping track and stamina is a major factor in the winter months.
Hurdlers that go off favourite at Uttoxeter have a 40% strike rate compared to 32% for the favourites sent off over fences, and it is the former group we will concentrate on.
There have been 281 winning hurdles favourites from 706 races since 2012 and they produced a profit of £65.11 at Betfair SP and a return on investment (ROI) of 9%. That in itself is a decent set of number but as always, we should try and improve on those figures.
The first thing to look at is race class and we find that Class 3 and Class 4 races are the ones where the profits lie, as shown in the figure below:
There are not many class 2 races and class 5 appears to be expensive to follow.
Form at Class 5 is pretty unpredictable, but it is more substantial at Class 3 and 4 and that may be why the figures come out as they do.
It is a pretty simple filter, but it increases the strike rate to 44%, increases the profit to £91.63 at Betfair SP and, more importantly, boosts the ROI to a very respectable 25%.
We could just leave it there, but we can actually boost the ROI even higher. However, we need to lose half our winners and half our bets in doing so.
Given this is going to be one angle in a portfolio of favourite backing systems; I am inclined to sacrifice those winners in return for a better ROI.
The table below shows that we can achieve this by concentrating on the handicap runners.
We also take a small hit on the overall P/L (around 10 points) and the overall strike rate drops from 44% to 40%. However, this is still well above the average strike rate for favourites in both codes and the effect is that we increase the ROI to 33%, an increase of 8%.
Before we settle on that, there is another factor that actually increases the ROI to 33% yet keeps the P/L we saw earlier, and that factor is race distance as shown in the table below:
As you can see, the race distances to concentrate on are 2m 4f and further.
There are still plenty of winners over 2m trips but these show a small loss. If we concentrate on trips of 2m 4f to 3m then we end up with the following figures:
I am more than happy to leave it there. That set of rules has produced a profit in each of the last 7 years. There are no standout trainers here that farm these races so that should help secure some half decent prices.
System 30: Back favourites in Class 3 and 4 hurdle races at Uttoxeter run over trips of 2m 4f to 3m.
Southwell’s jumps track is another sharp left handed track. Summer jumps on good ground place the emphasis on speed but the complete opposite is true under testing conditions where stamina laden horses do best and no surprise to see the field strung out under these conditions.
The other thing to note is that the hurdles and fences are quite unforgiving, meaning sloppy jumping can see plenty of casualties. You need to be a good accurate jumper here that is for sure.
We are sticking with the hurdlers and the favourites have a record of 217-493 (44% strike rate) for a profit of £67.88 and an ROI of 13.77% at Betfair SP. Those numbers are strikingly similar to the stats at Uttoxeter, although the ROI is a bit higher.
Also, with alarming similarity we find that it is those races over 2m 4 ½f and further that realise most of the profits. There are plenty of winners over 2 mile trips but these winners more or less break even. If we concentrate on the races over 2m 4 ½f and further, we end up with the following figures:
We do lose a fair number of winners but we add a few points to the bottom line and we boost the ROI to over 20% and that is what it is all about. Good news for us is that the strike rate remains at around 44%.
Handicappers and non-handicap favourites are both profitable over these distances and all the winners and profits have come in Class 3, 4 and 5 events. Probably safe to say we can leave it there and not add in any more filters.
It is a fairly simple set of rules, one which has produced a profit in 7 of the last 8 seasons. The one losing year was marginal and you may have even managed to beat that if you had taken prices higher than Betfair SP. That is not that difficult to do, but it does require monitoring the markets before the off which does not suit those that have to work for a living.
System 37: Back favourites in Class 3, 4 and 5 hurdle races at Southwell run over trips of 2m 4 ½f or further.
Taunton is another sharp track and they usually get racing from a fair way out on the descent down to the third last fence or second last hurdle.
Front runners do well here, taking the shortest route round the tight bends. The obstacles are tricky, and it is another course with a high casualty rate in terms of fallers and unseats.
As we have seen with our other two courses so far, Uttoxeter and Southwell, it is the favourites in hurdles races at Taunton that do particularly well. The bare form figures of the jollies since 2012 are shown in the table below:
Like our other two courses we have identified, the results for all hurdles favourites looks good with an overall record of 181-422 (43% strike rate), a P/L of £44.97 and an ROI north of 10%.
Quite a promising set of numbers even before we begin to dig a little deeper.
There are a number of different ways to improve on these figures. The primary one is race distance again. However, this time we find that races further than 2m 4f are not especially profitable and we actually see the strike rate tail off the further the horses are asked to go.
The table below shows the combined results for favourites over 2m 1f to 2m 4f:
We see an improvement in the P/L when sticking to races over 2m 1f to 2m 4f, and we also see the ROI increase to over 20% and the strike rate is now nudging up towards 50%.
The next thing we need to do is eliminate the Class 1, 2 and 3 races. These have a combined record of 25-62 which is impressive, but they only realise a marginal profit at Betfair SP.
In contrast the favourites in Class 4 and 5 hurdles races have the following combined record:
The strike rate is now a shade over 50% and the ROI is around 25%. We have dropped a couple of points but that is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things.
Lots of different trainers have been responsible for those 115 winners, including the big yards that often start some of their youngsters off at this course.
Overall though, the numbers are not dominated by the likes of Henderson and Nicholls, although the latter is the winning-most trainers at this course in recent times. Again, this is a simple little angle and no need to delve any deeper:
System 38: Back favourites in Class 4 and 5 hurdle races at Taunton run over trips of 2m 1f to 2m 4f.
Ludlow is a sharp right handed track and the chase course has tighter turns than the hurdles course. The obstacles are generally described as easy and it really does play to the strengths of the speed merchants.
Nicky Henderson introduces a lot of his horses here and they go on to be very, very smart. This time we finally get to have a look at the chase favourites, and they have the following record since 2012:
As always, those figures are excellent in their own right with an ROI of over 20% without adding in any filters. That is my ballpark figure when looking at micro-angles and systems. The rationale is that if it underperforms, we should still get an ROI around 10% or higher which is a decent return considering most people that bet, lose.
This time we do not need to actually drill any deeper than those bare figures.
Race distance has no bearing on performance with plenty of winners and profits at 2m, 3m and further. The number of runners in the race also has no bearing on the performance of the favourites. Race class, as we have seen, had been a key factor at our other courses.
However, profits are to be made by backing favourites in Class 2 down to Class 6. In fact, favourites in Class 2 chases are 6-7 since 2012.
There are a couple of interesting stats.
Most people shy away from Hunter Chases, but Ludlow run a lot and the favourites are 23-43 (53% strike rate), P/L £12.34, ROI 29% since 2012.
Beginner’s chases (5-7) and novice chases (15-26) are also giving good returns along with the handicap races.
Tom George (11-17) and Henry Daly (5-9) are two trainers to note here in recent times:
System 43: Back favourites in chase races at Ludlow.
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