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15/3/2002 edition

Betting Tips and Strategies

Myths about small race fields

The first race at Cheltenham last Saturday was a 2YO Open over 1266 metres. There were only five runners.

On Sky Racing we were told:

"So despite the fact there's five runners you can have a bet if you don't like taking short odds." The prices of the first four horses in the market, which were from $2.20 to $4.50 were also read out for viewers, but of course not the fifth horse in the market, Making The Road, which was at big odds, finished second by half a neck and paid $6.60 for the place.

Of course more horses will be at "short odds" in small fields because they have better chances of winning. The tote bets the same win percentage on a five horse race as a 15 horse race. So it must follow that the tote prices in an open 15 horse race where you are usually told by the media there is "value" in reality gives you no more or no less betting value than tote prices offered in a five horse race.

Why do short priced favourites have a reputation for being beaten in small fields? Here are some points to consider:

1. Because there are only a few runners in the race, odds offered must be shorter to make up 100% plus the tote/ bookmaker margin.

2. That means there must be many more short priced favourites!

3. It is much easier to find an obvious "good thing" in a small field.

4. Because punters overbet short priced favourites, particularly on the tote, short priced horses in small fields tend to be sent around at very silly odds.

5. It is much easier for other jockeys to target the "good thing".

6. With a small field there is often less chance of a truly run race.

It is a myth that there is "no value" in a small field. There is just as much value as in a wide open race. It is possible there may even be more value:

1. Because many favourites are very overbet in small fields.

2. Because bookmakers find it difficult to get away with markets around 130% in small fields.

3. Bookmakers can get away with markets like that in big fields by offering around $10.00 to $12.00, supposedly "value" on a lot of the runners.

(A horse at $10.00 is 10% of the market. A horse at $12.00 is 8.33% of the market. Just divide 100 by the dollar odds.)

It doesn't take too many horses at those odds in a big field to really increase the market percentage. Then add three horses around $6.00 and you've got another 50%.

4. Many of those $10.00 to $12.00 chances should really be $20.00+ chances so the betting odds are not really value.

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