Is it Worth Backing the Horse Racing Favourites

One big question to ask yourself when betting on horse racing is, should I back the favorites? Some bettors are more than happy to do so. These are called favourite backers. Others, however, look for any and every reason to take them. Betting on the horse racing favourites can be pretty challenging to master. You need to be aware of trends and stats such as how often do favourites win and how to determine if the odds are in your favour. Some questions need to be answered, like what are false favourites and when should you back the horse racing favourites.

Best sites to bet the horse racing favourites

Below you can find the top 3 bookmakers that you can bet the horse racing favourites. We chose them by evaluating the odds and payouts for the market leaders as well as whether they offer enhanced odds on them. 

What does 'horse racing favourites' mean

A favourite is simply the horse with the shortest price. Market leaders have the smallest odds because it is believed they have the highest chance of winning the race. There can be more than one favourite. If there are two, then these are called joint-favourites. Should there be more than two horses at the head of the betting at the same price, then they are called co-favourites.

Sports betting traders will have good reasons for making a horse favourite to win a race. This could be based upon the past form in other races over the same distance. Other factors that go into this include the current form of the stable a horse represents or the jockey riding them, the official rating given to them by the handicapper, favourable race terms, or their potential for improvement.

How often do the horse racing favourites win

The short answer is not always. Sport has an infinite capacity to surprise. As horse racing favourites statistics show below, over the last five years in the UK, favourites have won just less than a third of all horse races. This is one sport where there are so many variables that can explain this. It may depend on the race type in question. Are all the horses racing off level weights, or is it a handicap or weight-for-age race? In theory, the higher the number of runners in a race, then the more potential there is for favourites not to win.
Race Type Runners Favourite Wins Favourite Strike Rate
Handicaps (all types) 35,051 9,000 25.68%
All-Weather Stakes 4,754 1,905 40.07%
Flat Tire Stakes 9,531 3,626 38.04%
Hurdles 6,652 2,764 41.55%
National Hunt Flat 1,178 392 33.28%
Steeplechases 3,574 1,492 41.91%
Average Favourite Strike Rate 31.69%

Horse racing trends to look out for

Individual horse races have trends that you shouldn’t ignore. If horse racing favourites statistics show the market leader has a good record of winning an event, then it could be worth your while betting on them. Traders at the bookies will identify trends to help them come up with the betting market. If horses of a certain age, profile, form, or a particular trainer’s stable often win a race, then this will be factored into the prices they offer. Remember, trends can be your friend.

What do the odds on a favourite tell you

High oddsBehind the odds, for every horse, there is implied probability. Specific races are only run once a year, but this model shows you how many times a horse would need to run the race to win. For example, a horse returned at 3/1 (4.00) was thought to have a chance of winning the race once in four attempts. The implied probability, therefore, is 25%. Even-money (2.00) favourites have a far greater chance. They are thought to win once in every two attempts, which is an implied probability of 50%.

Average odds for horse racing favourites are highly variable depending on the type of race, quality of field and number of runners. A handicap with many horses in it will generally have the market leader returned at a more significant price than a smaller field condition. When bets develop and punters pile into a horse, these distort averages as it is likely to be sent off at a much shorter price than it should have been. Betting traders are obliged to adjust odds in line with market interest to protect liabilities.

Best odds horse racing bookies

Benefits and drawbacks of backing favorites

prosThe first plus side to backing a favourite is they have the highest implied probability of winning. In theory, you have the best chance of winning. If the market speaks in favour of a horse, then it is likely that most other bettors are supporting it too. You can feel confident if the majority have reached the same conclusion and fancy the horse. Horse racing favourites are often the horses best suited by race terms; so, if they have form, fitness and other reasons to support them, it makes sense to do so. 

The market leader only wins, on average, about a third of the time. Hence, a significant drawback is you will be on a losing bet with two out of every three favorites. You have to stake more on favourites to get the same return as you would with a more prominently priced runner. That means you risk more capital when betting on them. A favourite is unlikely to be an each-way price, which means you may not even get your money back if it places. There comes the point where backing the market leader is no longer value.

What to look out for before betting on favourites

The form is key to every horse race. You don’t know for sure what a horse will do in its next race, but you can make informed choices based upon past performances. Particular attention should be given to how a favourite has done over the course and distance for the race in question. What conditions and surface does it act best on? A favourite who is switched from turf to the all-weather may not like the artificial ground underfoot.

You have to consider how a horse’s trainer and jockey have been doing lately, too. Also, if a horse has to carry a penalty for previous success, that makes things harder. How well-handicapped is the favourite? If there looks to be further improvement to come, then it could be worth siding with. Is the race its real target or just prep for another event in the future? All of these are things you must look out for before betting on the favourite. 

Varying your stakes

You need to come up with a staking plan for short-priced favourites, and it helps to have a figure in mind. Let’s say, for example, that you want to try and get €100 back from your bet. If the favourite is even-money (2.00), then that is a short price, and you will have to risk more than a horse at bigger odds. It takes a €50 stake to get €100 back here. If the favourite is 4/1 (5.00), however, then that tells you the race is a lot more competitive. To make the desired €100 return, you need to only put a €20 bet on. Always remember that you get your stake back with winning bets and that there comes the point when the price of a favourite is no longer value for money.

What are false favourites

There are also times when it is worth taking the favourite on. False favourites exist because betting traders are only giving their opinions based on similar data and questions that you should be using and asking when looking at racehorses. However, people can reach different conclusions from the same information. Learning how to spot a false favourite is part of your horse racing betting education.

If a market leader has no good form at the racecourse, in the conditions or over the distance, then those are reasons to take it on. The betting market can also be your guide here. If a favourite becomes weak, i.e., its price drifts, then that indicates other bettors are no longer supporting it and have found other horses they like for a race. It may be a false favourite. Such horses whose odds of winning increase does not automatically mean they won’t win, however.

Is betting on the second favourite a better option

How many second favourites win horse races? Recent studies showed that the horse behind the market leader wins about 20% of the time. That is roughly one in every five races. Such horses can still be prominent in the betting market. The closer a horse is in price to the favourite, then the more of a danger, the bookmakers believe it to be. A 2nd favourite may be a better option, but it is all relative. If the favourite is definite but the next horse in the betting weak, then it doesn’t make sense to back a drifting second favourite for the win. What these horses can be, however, is each-way or forecast value and considering alternative betting markets to just a straight win is something you should do.

Should you always bet on the favourite

The short answer is no. There will be times when you simply cannot make a case against the favourite in a horse race, no matter how hard you try. In such scenarios, however, there may be little or no value supporting it for a win, especially if the horse is odds-on (shorter than 2.00).

If there is another horse that you like besides the market leader, then another angle into the race could be betting without the favourite. Many bookies will have this option available on the day of the meeting. It is a market in effect for who will finish second, but also pays out if the horse you pick beats the favourite and comes first.

Is there value backing favourites: by Book Spy

As horse racing favourites statistics demonstrated above, the market leader does not win all of the time or even most of the time - in just about a third of all cases over the last five years. You, therefore, cannot make money if you back every favourite. The best advice we can give you about horse racing favourites is to think very carefully before betting on one. Maybe there are other bets you can utilize to increase your profits. 

Full list of horse racing betting sites

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