Caballos que hablan: 100-1 winner headlines not good news for punters

Last Monday was an afternoon that connoisseurs of the unexpected in horse racing will never forget. los 2.15 at Leicester, a fillies’ handicap over a mile, was won by Mick Appleby’s Katies Kitten, a 100-1. Five minutes later, up at Redcar, the six-furlong maiden at 2.20 was won by Ann Duffield’s Runninwild … at 200-1.

You should never say never in a sport with its roots in the 17th century, but since Runninwild was only the fifth 200-1 winner in the last 16 años, it seems likely that this was the first time in British racing history that races run five minutes apart had produced winners at such enormous prices.

As any statistician will tell you, even highly unlikely events will randomly occur in clusters if you give them enough of an opportunity, and offer an apparent glimpse of an underlying pattern when no connection exists. Al mismo tiempo, aunque, the abrupt spike in the number of winners at wild odds over the last 12 months is becoming too obvious to be easily dismissed as mere randomness.

De 2012 a 2019, the number of winners per year at 100-1 or bigger was: 9, 6, 4, 3, 3, 8, 7, 6. En 2020 – which lost nearly three months to lockdown restrictions – there were no winners at three-figure odds in the first three months of the year, y 10 after racing resumed on 1 junio. Y 2021 is well on course to beat that figure, with seven wins at 100-1 or above in a little over six months.

Otra vez, let’s not forget that these are very small numbers of very unlikely events, in a sport which normally stages 10,000 races per year. But interestingly, there is also evidence to suggest that the recent glut of big-priced winners has very little to do with a jump in the – still very small – number of rank outsiders that massively outrun their odds. En lugar de, it reflects a big rise in the number of horses starting at 100-1 más.

De 2012 a 2019, when the number of starts in the UK, both on the Flat and over jumps, ranged from 87,545 (en 2014) a 93,015 (en 2018), the percentage of those runners with an SP of 100-1 or bigger ranged from 3.12% a 3.75% – which is static, for practical purposes.

En 2020, the proportion of runners going off at three-figure SPs was just over 4% until racing was suspended in mid-March, and then jumped to 6.38% from June to December. En 2021, Entretanto, it is currently running at 6.87%, which means that since June 2020, the proportion of runners starting at 100-1 or bigger has almost doubled. The 12-month spike in big-priced winners, on these figures at least, simply reflects the fact that since June 2020, there have been a lot more 100-1 shots going to post.

And June 2020, por supuesto, was when racing resumed behind closed doors, and without on-course bookmakers to produce the starting prices. En lugar de, an “industry system” was introduced to collate pre-race betting information from the big off-course firms – something that several of the major players had been agitating for for many years – and to no one’s great surprise, that system will be retained even when full crowds and betting rings return, hopefully later this year.

The number of 100-1 winners each year is not, of itself, of huge significance to the average punter. Whether they get skewered by an unfindable winner 10 times or 20 times over the course of 10,000 races per year is neither here nor there.

What is important about the increasing number of 100-1 y 200-1 disparos, sin emabargo, is what it might tell us about the other end of the market.

Over-rounds per runner have not changed, which suggests that the big firms are giving away 1% o 2% of their SP margin on rank outsiders and getting it back by shaving the odds on the first and second favourites. Esto, de paso, is exactly what on-course bookies predicted would happen when the SP system changed to exclude them.

Desde junio 2020, it seems entirely possible that SP punters have been losing out on a daily basis, and no one appears inclined to do anything about it. Could this, you wonder, have anything to do with the fact that a healthier profit margin for the bookies inevitably means more money for the Levy which helps fund racing too?

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