How often do favourites win?

How often do favourites win? Fairly obviously, the percentage of winning favourites is inversely proportional to the starting prices of the favourites in question. For example, favourites sent off at odds shorter than 2/1 win almost twice as often as favourites than those sent off at odds of 2/1 or longer. However, across the whole range of odds, favourites win approximately one-third of all horse races.

In any horse race, the favourite is the horse which proves the most popular choice with the betting public or, in other words, the horse believed to be the most likely to win. ‘Believed’ is the operative word here, because unlike fixed-odds eventualities, such as the toss of a coin or the roll of a dice, the starting price of any horse, including the favourite, involves an element of opinion. Favourites win a higher percentage of races than second favourites which, in turn, win a higher percentage of races than third favourites, and so on, but public opinion, while usually well informed, is not always correct.

Roughly six out of every ten horse races run in Britain is a handicap, in which every runner, theoretically, has an equal chance of winning. That fact obviously has an impact on the percentage of winning favourites but, even in non-handicap races, so many variables affect the outcome, it should come as no surprise that favourites are beaten more often than not.