It's a reasonably well know racing “fact” that, over the long term, it is not possible to make profits backing only odds on horses. Despite what the market may believe, their short prices don't always accurately reflect their overall chances of winning, when looked at in aggregate over a big sample size. However, it would be interesting to know if it was theoretically possible to eek out profits backing at odds on prices, if we were a little more selective. How can we investigate this? Using FRED of course.
If you're not familiar with FRED, it is an online database search tool developed specifically for FormBet subscribers. Data analysis with FRED is simple and intuitive, requiring only a web browser and Internet connection. The data available within FRED begins from September 2012 and includes general race details, such as course, jockey, trainer and distance, through to all the specific FormBet ratings.
Let's begin by looking at all data in FRED, between the Betfair Start Prices (BSP) of 1 and 2 (we are going to include even money starters too). The output of this filtering produces a chart which looks like this:
Including a basic Betfair Commission calculation of 5% on every runner, the returns here show a small loss of -42 points, using a flat stakes betting strategy over 3321 runners, but with a huge strike rate of over 60%. Almost profitable, but not quite.
Using the detailed reports available in FRED, let's see if there are specific areas where the performance of odds on runners improve. Something generic, like who is riding, produced some interesting results. Looking at just the detailed FRED report for Jockeys reveals the following:
Here we can clearly see that backing those odds on horses, when the likes of Ryan Moore, Jason Maguire, Barry Geraghty, Pat Smullen, Richard Johnson and Tom Scudamore are riding, could turn our marginally loss making strategy into something profitable. It is interesting to note that many of the profitable odds on riding jockeys are from the National Hunt scene, rather than the Flat.
If we wanted to go down that route, the results could be further filtered by only looking at the rides of Maguire, Geraghty, Johnson and Scudamore in Non-Handicap Hurdle and Chase events. The sample size is starting to shrink, but the chart certainly looks encouraging!
A fantastic 75% strike rate, over 209 runs, and a level stakes profit of 34.71 points. These are filters that anyone could apply, if they were willing to compile enough back data on jockeys and their mounts. However, FRED makes it very, very easy to dig into back data like this.
While looking at jockey returns is fairly generic, let's see if there are some specific FormBet ratings that can also improve the initial small loss. The daily FormBet ratings include a Pace rating for every runner in every race. Filtering the odds on results to just the top three Pace rated runners turns a small profit, over a large sample size. It's not really enough profit to make the effort worthwhile, so let's apply some further filters. The daily ratings also include two Sad Ken ratings – SKS and SKF. Applying a filter of just the top two SKS rated horses, in combination with the top three Pace filtered odds on runners, produces the following output:
The Yield% and Strike Rate aren't as high as the previous jockeys only example, but the sample size is over three times larger and the overall points return also increases.
How does this help us for the forthcoming National Hunt season? Let's see what happens with an AP McCoy filter:
Or a Hurdle only filter:
Using FRED it is possible to combine data in almost any number of ways. The tool is still under heavy development and angles like these will only become even easier to find as enhancements are added.
In answer to our initial question, is it possible to make long term profits backing just odds on horses? Using the above examples, it is clear that this can be a profitable strategy. Whether it's applying generic data filters such as a subset of jockeys, or a more structured ratings based approach, either way high strike rates, low sequential losing bets and steady profits can be found at the thin end of the market.