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Consideration of a horse’s likely in-run position for a race is a critical element of good analysis and betting decisions.

In a betting sense, horses that race on the lead or just off the lead win far more often and are on average significantly better value than those that race midfield or further back. They are rarely unsuited by race pace, have minimal if any ground to make up to hit the front and are much less likely to strike interference, lose momentum or cover extra ground.

On the other hand, horses coming from the back in the field are much more subject to race pace, have more ground to make up in the straight and are much more likely to cover extra ground and/or lose momentum as the jockey tries to navigate a clear path. On average they don’t win anywhere near as often as their market price suggests and are extremely difficult to profit from in the long-term.


The following table summarises the results for genuine chances up to $10 in the market based on in-running position at a selection of metropolitan tracks.

On lead 1st / 2nd Handy – 3rd / 4th Back 7th+
Track SR% POT% SR% POT% SR% POT%
Flemington 20.00% 9.40% 19.00% 4.60% 13.50% -16.60%
Moonee Valley 26.30% 28.00% 17.40% -9.00% 11.90% -30.80%
Rosehill 24.20% 15.70% 17.70% -7.50% 14.00% -15.00%
Doomben 23.60% 15.10% 17.70% -10.00% 11.70% -33.00%
Ascot 24.30% 15.60% 18.40% -7.00% 13.70% -21.80%

As you can see, there is a big gap between the strike rate and profitability of horses settling up near the lead compared to those settling back. Remember that we are looking at horses that otherwise appear to be a good winning chance, at no more than $10 in the market.


One thing I learned very early on in betting is that it’s extremely difficult to win if you consistently back horses that will settle back in the field. If the average return from these horses is -25%, you have to ask yourself if those you like are being incorrectly priced in the market by at least 30% or more. That’s the type of mistake the market needs to be making in the price on offer to overcome that position in-running disadvantage and actually provide you with a genuine value bet.

On the other hand, if you like a leader and more often than not they find a forward position in running; you can feel confident that over the long-term these bets will make you a very good profit. The overall statistics of horses that find forward positions in-running are well and truly in your favour.

My own betting records over more than 13 years well and truly confirm these principles. The horses I’ve backed that raced up on the lead have been far more profitable than any of the others. Those that settled back in the field have been big losers for me, even though I really liked them at the time of placing the bet.


One of the best things you can do to improve the profitability of your betting is to have an overriding rule to pass on any potential bet that looks certain to settle further back than fourth in running. Many of those decisions will be easy, but some will be difficult and marginal; the horse may settle in the first four or it may not. In these cases you just have to use your best judgement.

You can use your own analysis to determine the likely position in-running or any of the speed maps available through well-known web sites such as Daily Sectionals. When trying to determine the likely position of a horse you like, don’t become too concerned about wide barriers. They seem a big risk to on-pace/handy runners, but wide barriers usually provide the best betting value. You will be well rewarded over the long-term if you can overcome a bias against wide barriers.

It is important to recognise that you will never make the right call 100% of the time, but the key point is if you can improve the overall percentage of your bets that settled first/second in the run and third/fourth in the run then I guarantee that your profitability will improve.

There are certainly some specific track set ups (i.e. track, track condition & rail combinations) which provide off pace and back horses with a much better chance than the average and in those instances it’s reasonable to relax your decision making a little.

However unless you are well and truly aware that the conditions of today’s races is likely to suit those back off the pace, you should maintain the discipline needed to stick to on pace/handy runners.

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