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false favourites

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Knowing how to spot false favourites in horse racing is a very useful skill. Blindly backing favourites without doing your research can play havoc on your bankroll and expected profit margins. So, it can pay to be one step ahead.

This piece is about finding false favourites and the best way to deal with them. In addition to expert advice, we provide potentially profitable betting strategies and tips that can help you up your game.

What is a False Favourite?

A false favourite is a horse with the shortest market odds before a race – but one that usually lacks evidence to justify their price. Odds for these horses may drift considerably between ante-post betting prices prior to final declarations and Starting Prices (SP).

False Favourites in Horse Racing

False favourites in horse racing happen for many reasons. For example, punters may blindly back tips from pundits which are circulated days before a race. This can lead to shortened odds via a sudden surge in bets from people piling in on the favourite. Further market reactions may see that initial price shorten again before drifting out.

On average, horse racing favourites tend to lose more races than they win, so market leaders don’t always translate into good bets. Assessing form, win percentage stats, and previous performance of favourites helps you make better decisions when taking a punt on UK online betting sites for the day’s equine action.

How to Identify False Favourites in Horse Racing

Identifying false favourites in horse racing is something that can be achieved with practice. However, if you’re only learning how to bet on horses, you’re unlikely to know what to look for. Consider the following advice when looking to take on the market leader:

  • Market Clues and Drifting Odds – If odds offered by bookies on market leaders are getting bigger, this is a potential indication of a false favourite. Drifting favourites suggest most bettors are not as confident in a horse’s chances as they were as we approach a race.
  • Trainer and Jockey Credentials – Always examine the win rate of trainers, as they can indicate whether a horse is primed for success. We also recommend studying jockey statistics, such as strike rate in similar races to the one you are betting on. These stats may say a lot and could a long way to identifying a false betting favourite.
  • Going and Distance – Underfoot conditions (going) and the winning or losing margins of horses matter. For example, if the horse has performed poorly on soft ground or is not a stayer on the flat where it matters, do the odds reflect that?
  • Form and Attributes – Race cards only tell some of the tale when it comes to suitability for a race. Weigh up the form of favourites in recent times with their expected value to ensure betting odds are commensurate with expected future performance.
  • Reputable Tipsters’ Predictions and Picks – If several seasoned pundits and tipsters are going against the early jolly, that can be telling. Should they expand on this, and instead suggest backing other horses like 2nd favourites or those below them, ask yourself why.

What to Do When Finding False Favourites

You have two main options when you find false favourites – completely discount them from your betting options or lay them on a betting exchange. Here’s how to approach both scenarios.

  • Avoiding False Favourites in Horse Racing – One of the best ways of dealing with these horses is to avoid them completely. While there is a slim chance of success, they’re often better left to other punters to pick.
  • Use False Favourites as a Lay Betting Opportunity – If you identify and lay false favourites early, there may be potential to make consistent profits before the race or in running. You will need to be signed up with online betting exchanges to lay false favourites.

There are times when the performance of favourites doesn’t match up to their odds. On the flip side, false favourites can win races. By nature, horse racing is a volatile sport – on average, favourites win one in three times.

Although this may be the case, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use strategies when placing your bets. Whether it’s a straight-up wager or as part of cover bets or system bets, your selections should always be well thought out, especially when such horses can harm your chances of success.

False Favourites System Strategies & Tips     

Although sometimes best avoided, you can use false favourites in profitable betting strategies. But only if the odds, betting market, and other factors make it feasible to lay them. Here are three strategy tips that will help.

Go Against the Crowd

The betting public tends to be committed backers of favourites in most types of races. This means serious money changing hands on horse racing betting sites for Bismarks and other perceived false favourites. There is often value to be had on smart bets that go against the crowd, so make sure to take this on board.

Take On Market Leaders in Big Field Handicaps

These races usually have more false and beaten favourites than in conditions contests. Handicap horse races with 16+ runners may offer enough value outside of the favourite to justify a wager or two, especially when adding fancies to “exotic bets” like Yankees, Trixies, and Heinz wagers.

Make Good Use of Stats and Data

You may not know the differences between handicaps in National Hunt racing, or how to study favourites for a current race. But there are enough free stats and data out there to help factor in horse form and other tangibles into your knowledge of betting markets. The more you know, the less likely you are to lay false fancies than back them in your straights or forecast bets.


Identifying false favourites in horse racing is not difficult once you know what to look for. Ruling out horses that don’t offer tangible value is part of that process. In much the same way as laying them for consistent profits on a betting exchange can also be.

Your chance of success in any race comes down to making educated and informed betting decisions. Putting in the hard yards with your research will help you increase your chances of seeing returns. We recommend using this data alongside a proven false favourites system rather than paying for a tipping service. Your own research and nous may be effective enough when making picks on mobile horse racing betting apps or using the desktop sites.


How to find false favourites?

Does taking on false favourites work?

How often do favourites in horse racing win?

Can I bet on a horse not win without using the exchanges?

Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes

Adam joined in August 2023, bringing almost a decade of betting knowledge with him. A former writer for, Adam prides himself on spotting a good bet, and loves to share his tips and picks across a wide range of sports and events. Adam is a huge boxing and MMA fan, and started his career writing about both. He is also passionate about his favourite sports teams, which are Glasgow Celtic, Dublin GAA, and Leinster Rugby. At the casino, you're most likely to see him at the poker or blackjack tables. But what he loves more than anything is writing about sports and the gambling industry. You can find his expert insight and commentary right here.