Even with a thin field, there are generally three or four of the horses that could win. Favourites win on average about 35 percent of the time, so if you back a favourite and the race on which you have plunged is one of the 65 percent, your money is gone just as surely as if you had backed the longest horse in the field.
Favourites are a decent bet in a small field. A field of eight horses or less running a race bumps up the chances of a favourite winning any chosen race.
Statistics such as those are important to a racing punter, but they do not tell the entire story. Think back to the 2015 Melbourne Cup.
Prince of Penzance won the race with a $101 starting price, tied for worst odds in the field with Sertorius. Of the top three shortest in the field, only Trip To Paris finished in the top 10 of the finishing order.
Think you might have better chances of success with a two-outcome punt?
The answer is yes, of course, unless you happened to be one of the unfortunate who backed the Adelaide Crows over the Collingwood magpies in Round 4 of the 2018 AFL Premiership competition.
The Magpies beat the Crows, on the Crows’ home ground and soundly, so upsets are always a possibility that can see the most carefully crafted punt go down in flames.
No one can accuse punters of shrinking from a challenge.
The bookies have the edge, but the field can be tilted slightly back toward the punter by taking full and best advantage of the bookmakers free bets and bonuses.
Thoroughbred racing is so popular in Australia that the bookmakers are engaged in a constant battle to convince racing punters that theirs is the best agency with which to wager and they are tirelessly creative when it comes to incentivising wagering clients.
Free bets and bonuses take many forms.
During the autumn carnival at Randwick, for instance, Unibet was offering a first deposit bonus of 150 percent, meaning that a new client who deposited $200 would receive a bonus and could bet with $500, so long as they complied with Unibet’s rules.
Unibet had another deal going that would boost winning punts by 30 percent, with a $50 per race maximum.
CrownBet had a unique promotion running where new clients would receive up to $120 in bonus bets from a first deposit of $50, along with an extra $100 of bonus bets if Winx won, as she did, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.