It’s fair to say that the vast majority of horse racing bets are still placed on the basic win and each-way markets, but there’s more to wagering on horse racing than that.
Markets such as ‘Betting Without’ offer us a new slant, giving us a way to take one horse out of the equation altogether in order to open the market up and essentially give us an extra option. Gaining betting options by taking a horse out of the race may seem paradoxical, but it works and we’ll show you how.
How ‘Betting Without’ Works
This type of betting originated on the racecourse. Rails bookmakers have traditionally offered an option of ‘betting without the favourite’ when the jolly is a very short price.
They do this because, when there is for example a 1/2 favourite, business tends to be slow. People don’t want to risk huge sums on the market leader for what would still be a skinny profit, while they may not fancy anything else in the race strongly enough to back them against the favourite.
Added to all of this may be bad each-way terms. In a 5-runner race featuring a very short favourite, the others in the event may be much of a muchness and with only 2 places being offered, backing any of them each-way appeals about as much as backing the shortie.
So, betting without the favourite becomes the way to go. For these purposes, the favourite (or another nominated horse) is taken out of the market and a new one is created in their fabricated absence.
Naturally this makes the race one runner short and the odds for all the others in the event contract, but they may offer better ‘win’ options in this case.
Is ‘Betting Without’ Better Value or Worse?
Betting Without isn’t necessarily offered on every race. On course, this will only happen when there is a very strong favourite and it is still done at the behest of each individual bookie.
Many online bookmakers however will offer betting without as an option when you click into the available betting markets. In fact, you may be able to choose for yourself which horse to take out of the race and so it doesn’t always have to surround the favourite at all.
Does it offer better value overall though? We looked at three disparate examples taken from real race markets.
The first example is from a jumps race at Newcastle. The normal win market with one specific bookmaker had the six runners offered at:
This meant a total market of 110.39%. Remember, the lower the number the better. The closer we get to 100%, the less of a profit margin there is for the bookmaker.
On the same race, we checked the market without the 2/1 favourite which looked like this:
The total market here is 109.71%. Very similar to the main win market, but ever so slightly improved.
Our second race is a flat event at Southwell, meaning different types of horses, a small field once again and a shorter favourite. The win market shaped up this way:
This means a total market of 110.30%. Without the favourite shaped up like this:
The total market this time around is 109.19%. Once again, it’s very close to the margin offered in the main win market, but a little smaller and slightly more in our favour.
We also took a look at the Champion Chase ante-post market. In advance markets such as this, the margin always looks bigger as there are more horses listed than there will be on the day.
It was important to include an ante-post market for such a huge event however, in this case with Chacun Pour Soi as a well-touted 10/11 favourite who was forming the basis for so many punter’s multiple bets at the Cheltenham Festival.
Win market (20 runners quoted):
Among all 20 runners which stretched up to 66/1, the total market was 163.43%. With the market reformed without Chacun Pour Soi in it, the prices were listed like this:
Without the favourite and with the previous 7/1 second-favourite now the effective 10/3 market leader, the total book was 164.31%. This time we’re slightly higher, but very close yet again to the percentages given in the main win market.
So, what does this tell us? Well, in percentage terms we are neither gaining or losing anything of importance when taking the favourite out of the race.
Bookmakers will be basing their prices without the favourite on the ones they published with the market leader in there, so margins across the whole field remain pretty consistent.
When to Use ‘Betting Without’ Effectively
The overall margin may always remain pretty consistent and fair, but when can we use ‘betting without’ to our advantage.
Firstly, as a win bet option it would only really prove to be advantageous over time in smaller fields. Take the large Champion Chase markets listed above. True, we can choose to take out Chacun Pour Soi, but with so many runners left in the field could we really be confident enough in the second-favourite to take 10/3 about him?
In the other two races however, with just a handful of runners to assess you may well be relatively confident in the ability of one of them without necessarily thinking it can beat the favourite.
In this case, taking the favourite out of commission may have you betting on a 2/1, 9/2 or 5/1 shot which in normal terms we would say were very fair prices for a horse you are confident in.
Just for the avoidance of doubt – betting without means you are taking one horse out of the betting market and so you judge the result as though it weren’t there at all.
So, if you back the second-favourite and take the favourite out, then you need to either win the race legitimately or at least finish second to the horse you are betting without.