Bookmakers and those offering pool betting have long since offered ‘unnamed favourite’ options.
This is something that can be used in a number of different ways, but especially by those fairly new to the game or by those playing in multiple races who simply don’t have the time to study the form of every single participant.
In an ideal world, you’d always be keeping a close eye and have some expert insight on form, breeding, ground and weather conditions before you take on a bet, but occasionally that’s just not feasible. It doesn’t mean you cannot be involved, however.
Betting on an unnamed favourite is fairly self-explanatory. If you trust the betting market, then without having to even name a horse you can place a bet on whatever happens to be the official SP favourite, and if the market leader wins the race, you win your bet.
We wouldn’t ordinarily recommend you backing a horse blindly for any reason, including when they happen to be favourite for their race considering only around a third of favourites win, but unnamed favourite betting markets remain popular and there is a good reason for that.
How Unnamed Favourite Betting Works
The SP or ‘starting price’ is something we’ve gone into more detail on in our other pages, and it is hugely important within the industry for many reasons. SP’s are monitored to ensure they remain fair for all punters, the official price being taken from a sample of trusted SP Qualified on-course bookmakers.
The starting price basically represents the final, official odds of a horse at the off. While prices will always fluctuate in the moments before a race, those not having taken a price by choice will be paid out on all singles, multiples and each-way bets according to the SP.
The key point here is that the official SP’s decide who is/was the race favourite. A horse can be made favourite initially for many reasons; their form, breeding or even because lots of money is coming in for said horse which makes the bookmakers adjust their books and prices accordingly.
While some of these variables are ones you can judge yourself, occasionally there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why one horse is favoured over another. Horses work every day in their yards and may do so to great effect. When that happens, a stable whisper can lead to solid money for them and that’s something we just cannot predict, influence or judge.
With that in mind, sometimes it’s OK to place your faith in the betting market rather than your own knowledge of the game.
How to Take Advantage of Unnamed Favourite Betting
Naturally, there is risk attached to betting on an unnamed favourite. What if the market gets it wrong? Around two thirds of all races see the favourite beaten after all, so the odds at a glance are not on your side. This form of betting can be used for profit however when applied properly.
Here are the key places to look and the things to keep in mind when taking an unnamed favourite:
Trends on their own are nonsense. Just because a race is won most often by a four-year-old, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be won by a three or five-year-old.
However, there may be reasons why certain types of horses win certain races and those reasons may well be outside of our window of horse racing knowledge.
One such trend could be the record of favourites in a given race. If over ten years 7, 8 or even 9 favourites have won the race you’re looking at, then it may be just too strong a trend to ignore. Backing the unnamed favourite in this case, statistically speaking, may well be a wise thing to do.
Ticking the unnamed favourite in some legs of your Placepot could prove to be very wise, especially given that we don’t even need them to win in order for them to be of use to us.
When picking your Placepot horses on the Tote, it may well be that you have strong views on four of the races but are a little stuck on the other two. In this case, rather than just guess at it, using the unnamed favourite option may well simply keep your bet ticking over in the hope that the market gets it right.
After all, how likely is it statistically speaking that on the very two legs you’re stuck on, the favourite doesn’t even make the places?
Group/Grade 1 Races
The more competitive a race and the further down the handicap you go, the more downright unpredictable things can prove to be.
The better quality the horses you’re looking at, the more predictable they are in terms of form and so the market gets it right more often in top-class races than in run-of-the-mill ones.
In this case then, you may not need to be much of a form student. In top-grade races (non-handicaps), the market leader is usually in that position for a good reason and so you can be more confident in using the unnamed favourite option for your bet.
Maiden / Novice Races
As we touched on earlier, horses are capable of improvement behind closed doors. When that’s the case, and especially when they have not yet hit the race track but are working well at home, strong money can come in for them without us truly understanding why.
Put simply, trainers and their staff know things that we don’t! This very often influences the betting markets, so while some people hate betting on horses they know nothing about, we say it can be prudent to “trust the trainer”.
After all, they are the ones with the real knowledge, so if they know they are about to unleash the next superstar and the market reacts to that, we can get involved by backing the unnamed favourite.
The Issue of Joint-Favourites
All of the above is enough to take in, but remember that every day somewhere there is a race featuring joint or even co-favourites. This happens when, at the off, the betting market simply cannot split two or more horses at the head of the market.
When there are joint-favourites (two) or co-favourites (three or more), this obviously impacts the unnamed favourite markets.
When the market produces joint-favourites, the basic procedure is for bets to be settled in the same way as a dead-heat. So, if you’d placed a £20 bet on an unnamed favourite and then there are joint market leaders, your bet is effectively split into two £10 bets on each of them.
With co-favourites your bet is split into even smaller chunks depending on how many ‘favourites’ there are.