Copyright  2006 Pie Publishing Inc

About Favorites-

The public is very good at handicapping horse races. The horse with the most money bet on it -the favorite- will win, on average, thirty three percent of the time. This average holds up remarkably well, year after year, at virtually every track in the country. There is no well-known handicapper that can pick winners at a higher win rate consistently over the long haul. Yet while the public’s win percentage is impressive, players who choose to bet on every favorite will lose money. Another important point is that TWO out of THREE favorites are destined to lose! The purpose of this report is to show how a horseplayer can exploit this fact to increase his chance of making a profit at the races.

False Favorites

What is a False Favorite? Simply stated, a False Favorite is a horse who fits a particular profile that has shown in the past to win LESS than the thirty three percent win rate of your average favorite. These false favs are not that difficult to spot-though they do not show up with great frequency. However, the patient horseplayer who can pick his spots and wait for these opportunities has greatly reduced the edge that the track has over him through the parimutual system. The public must always pick a favorite, and in races where the public is not sure, the herding instinct often will lead to a grossly overbet horse who does not deserve to be the favorite. When this happens, it’s time for the sharp player to pounce on a great opportunity to play an animal who SHOULD be the favorite but who is not. Or to look for a sharp horse who may be going off at longshot odds when the it deserves to be given a better chance by the crowd.
Below are some profiles that I have found to be quite profitable in my search for FALSE FAVORITES. I will look at the close-to-post time favorite and see if it fits any of the following situations:

False Favorite FINDERS

1. A closer on a speed - biased track.
2. A morning line favorite going off at odds higher than his morning line.
 Example: ML 9 -5 goes off at 5 - 2. These do not win as often as bet-downs.
3. Horse trying new distance OR surface.
4. Horse who was claimed in his last race, especially if the new trainer is
not as successful as the previous trainer.
5. ANY low level claiming favorite. Refers to the bottom 2 levels at the
particular track, or ANY very cheap tracks.
6. Claiming horse taking a big drop in class (2 or more levels) after a layoff.
7. Horse who was claimed recently who is entered today for less than the new owner paid for it.
8. Claiming race - winner of last race who ran a speed figure much higher
than any of it’s other recent races (10 pts. or more). This is a prime “bounce”
9. Last race Claiming winner who is entered today at the same level. If the
trainer doesn’t try for a bigger purse after a win, something is often wrong-the owner or trainer may very well be trying to unload a horse that appears to be sharp (on paper).
10. A maiden that has finished in the money frequently, yet doesn’t seem to want to win. I would restrict this to maidens who have raced seven times or more, that have not had a recent drop in class.
11. A horse that has failed more than three times as the favorite (this is noted by an asterisk * next to the odds of a race in the racing form). The races in question should be at the same or higher class as today’s race.
12. A turf (grass) race entrant who ran the best grass speed rating last out, but is moving up in class and facing classier grass horses (by allowance or claiming price) today who may not have run to that number recently.

Where to look for FALSE FAVORITES-

The patient player will find false favorites in all types of races. Each race is a unique puzzle that may hold a surprising (and profitable) discovery. However, for the player pressed for time, (or the simulcast player with access to many tracks) there are certain types of races that tend to produce more false favs than others.   
The most common type of race where the player can find a good percentage of false favs are:

Cheap Claiming Races

The horses in these races are quite often “sore”. It has been said of cheap claimers. “Who ever feels the best wins today”. Often, the cheap claimer that ran an impressive sharp race last out will be feeling the effects of that effort today. I like to look for a freshened horse that may have had a recent layoff or rest between races, with maybe two or three non-taxing races since. Look for signs of improving form such as renewed early speed last out, a class drop or a switch to a preferred distance.

Watch next week for an article about a very Special Type of False favorite...one that is especially applicable at this time of year....The HYPE HORSE

A lucrative place to look for false favorites is a race that features a hype horse. The hype horse is an animal that has received much publicity or strong word of mouth and the public jumps all over it. Stakes races are frequently a good spot to look for hype horses. For instance in this year’s Kentucky Derby, Real Quiet was a prime example of a hype horse. The media frenzy surrounding him was so great, people who normally wouldn’t bet horse races were putting money down on him. Real Quiet and Victory Gallop were very close in numbers, and had finished close previously, yet Real Quiet was a very short price and the second-most-logical-horse Victory Gallop won and paid a very generous $11! While I wouldn’t really refer to Real Quiet as being a “false favorite” in this situation, he certainly was an “overbet favorite” leading to an obvious overlay on the second best horse in the race.
You can also find hype horses on a smaller scale at almost any track. The maiden who won his first race at a huge number and is facing winners for the first time can often be a hype horse. When a jockey is shooting for some kind of milestone, the favorites he is riding can be overbet. Another situation is if the jock has won a bunch of races on the card, and the crowd is very aware that he is “going for six” (or seven etc).
Hype horses can also be used in another way- to take advantage of the show pool. If you have a hype horse who looks “unbeatable” to the public and he happens to finish out of the money, the show prices on the other horses can be huge, often $30 or more!! Look for your second handicapping choice in these races. You will usually get only $2.20 or so back when the fav finishes in the money but when it doesn’t, watch the show prices light up the toteboard!

Hype horse situations do not arise often, but they do occur. Their very existence is useful to us in two ways, 1) they are a lucrative betting opportunity, 2) they teach us an important lesson that all handicappers need to have reinforced from time to time. The lesson is that if you are patient and you wait for opportunities where you can take advantage of the crowd’s betting patterns, this game becomes very beatable!  

Think of it. If a player had the patience to wait for hype horses before he bet any of his money, do you think he would have a much better than average chance of making a long term profit? You bet he would. Of course, we all want to play more races than the occasional hype horse race. And if we keep the mind-set of the hype horse race, and we look to see if there is a false favorite is every race we are considering playing, we can make beating this game much easier and much more fun!