Every bettor has their own strategy, but many would argue that there are best practices that are common to all regular punters.
When it comes to betting on horses, many punters swear by the little and often approach. This basically means seeking high probability outcomes with the best possible odds to gain a small but regular yield.
If you follow this approach, you will almost certainly avoid backing horses at big prices. Outsiders are usually not fancied for a reason and wagering on them is often a leap of faith – and that is not conducive to smart betting. But wagering this way means you miss out on the thrill of landing that big-priced winner, or an each-way pick such as 66/1 Grand National runner-up Magic of Light.
So, should you avoid long shots at all costs? Or are there times when it is okay to wager on the big-priced runners?
The answer depends on your method. Long-priced horses win every day of the week, so it is a case of trying to identify why and how these supposed no-hopers suddenly find the ability to win. If you can analyse statistics and trends and find a solid reason to back an outsider, there is no reason why you should not risk a small amount of your bankroll on potentially large returns.
Look at the big picture
Most punters, and indeed bookmakers, do not look past recent form when making horse racing betting decisions or calculating odds. So, recent winners and strong contenders end up as favourites. However, if you are smart you will look at the form of the field over larger sample sizes.
If a horse that had previously run well is now in poor form, there could be a clear reason why. Did they move up to a category or distance that did not suit them? Were the conditions against them? Did they have to travel far? Did they not take to the courses? So, you need to look at their past record over course, distance, conditions and grade to establish if they are likely to regain some of their old form in a particular race. A horse that has always run well at Cheltenham but has been struggling elsewhere in the last few races, might rediscover their form when next returning to Cheltenham.
If you spot a trend that suggests there were mitigating circumstances for their poor showings and that the next race suits their profile, you must then weigh up the value of the odds on offer.
If you keep your finger on the pulse of the racing news, you may find that a horse has been trained with a particular race in mind. This is particularly true for big events such as the Cheltenham Festival or the Grand National. Trainers will sometimes keep something in reserve and try to avoid over-exertion or injury in the build-up to a targeted race. This can mean two or three races where the horse finishes well out of contention but still looks fairly fresh. This can make their price much bigger than it should be for the main event.
In contrast, some horses just haven’t done enough to prove themselves yet. For example, Minella Indo had a decent record in a handful of novice races but was still priced at 50/1 when he won the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham due to this lack of experience. But those who had seen him run felt he was amazing value at that price.
So the answer is: yes, you should always keep an open mind about backing long shots. Just make sure that you do your homework and don’t just bet on a whim