Finding false favourites

Finding false favourites is something I try to do all the time as a value-hunting punter. If you can find a race in which the jolly is too short, it’s almost certain that you’ll be able to find another runner or two that are too big and thus worth a bet.

This is no different at Cheltenham and while plenty of favourites win there, more often than not each race is extremely strong in strength and depth, so I’d advise anyone getting stuck in at short odds to be careful. In most cases, a favourite running even a pound or two below form may struggle to land the odds. And, amazingly, in others, a favourite can run to a higher rating than ever before and still not win.

As always, to an extent, value is in the eye of the beholder. One semi-objective way of assessing value in the favourites is to use Racing Post Ratings (RPRs) as a guide. Disclaimer: I don’t believe RPRs are always accurate and don’t use them religiously to support my betting. I do, however, think they provide a relatively trustworthy assessment of each horse’s ability, and are useful in analyses such as this one.

Which favourites look bad (or good) value in the Cheltenham Grade Ones?

The table below suggests those at the top are bad value and those towards the bottom are good (reasonable) value.

For example, 1) in the Ryanair, current favourite, A Plus Tard, has an RPR 10lb below that of rival, Min, yet the latter is 0.75 points bigger in the betting; and 2) in the Arkle, current favourite, Notebook, has an RPR 5lb higher than his closest rival, Esprit Du Large, although he is 9 points shorter in the betting.


Race Favourite Difference in Nearest rival
RPR Odds
Ryanair A Plus Tard -10 0.75 Min
Champion Hurdle Epatante -7 30.25 Verdana Blue
RSA Champ -7 2 Allaho
Stayers Paisley Park -3 32.33 Apples Jade
Supreme Shishkin -2 3.25 Asterion Forlonge
Triumph Allmankind -2 2.5 Aspire Tower
Gold Cup Al Boum Photo -1 5.5 Clan Des Obeaux
Ballymore Envoi Allen +1 6 Sporting John
Mares Hurdle Benie Des Dieux +2 1.08 Honeysuckle
Albert Bartlett Thyme Hill +2 4 Latest Exhibition
Champion Chase Altior +3 1 Chacun Pour Soi
Arkle Notebook +5 9 Esprit Du Large


Note that Paisley Park is something of an anomaly, in that he is actually 3lb below Apples Jade on peak RPRs, but the latter looks unlikely to run to that level at present and may well not even run. If she doesn’t, Paisley Park is a long way ahead of the others on RPRs and might therefore not be bad value.

 Arguably the most interesting discrepancy is in the Supreme. Uniquely, Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge are owned by the same connections, yet seem set to take each other on in the curtain raiser. Yet the latter is 2lb better on RPRs but 3.25 points bigger in the betting. He is also proven in Grade One company, whereas Shishkin isn’t.