Melbourne Cup Odds - Why It's Harder To Pick a Winner

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Out of all the thousands of thoroughbred horse races run around Australia each year, the Melbourne Cup is notoriously one of the hardest races to pick a winner in. Unless you’re a prodigious follower of form and statistics (which the average Melbourne Cup punter likely is not), just going on the race odds alone doesn’t always help all that much.

In fact, drawing a horse name out of a hat in the office sweepstakes is almost as good a tactic as many others when it comes to the race that stops a nation.

Therein lies the problem. What other horse race in Australia attracts so many one time punters as the Melbourne Cup?

None that I can think of. None that even come within a few lengths of being close.

The Melbourne Cup has become a great Aussie tradition, like having Christmas dinner or celebrating New Year’s Eve. You don’t have to be into horse racing or know anything about it to want to get involved, party it up and place a few dollars down on the race.

With millions of Australians suddenly trying their hand at racehorse punting on the first Tuesday in November, trying all manner of novel ways to pick the winner, it’s no wonder the Melbourne Cup odds get skewed so badly.

Let’s think about this one thing. People are choosing horses based on the name, their favourite colour or number, the names of jockeys and trainers they recognise and a whole host of other irrelevant information. Virtually anything except a horse’s recent form.

If everyone backed the longshot simply because it had the catchiest name, that longshot horse, not given a prayer of coming first by bookmakers or professional punters, would suddenly appear to be the race favourite according to the odds.

It’s for reasons like this that Melbourne Cup favourites have a relatively poor record of coming first, often disappointing race day fans. A particular horse probably shouldn’t have been the real favourite in the first place. It was actually a false favourite.

In other more low key, regular horse races on Australian tracks, favourites win approximately 30% of the time, or just under a third of all races. When it comes to the Melbourne Cup, that percentage drops down to the very low 20s, all because of the bets placed by once a year punters.

Not that every day Australians shouldn’t be allowed to have a bet for fun on the great race, but what it does suggest is that following race odds alone for the Melbourne Cup is not the wisest ploy if you’re seriously hoping to place some bets and walk away successful at the end of the day.

Once a year punters won’t really care who wins, but anyone else will want to take note of recent form and not just place bets based on the current odds. Sure, check out the odds, but attempt to back them up with research.

If one or two horses are looking like favourites based on current odds, go back and see what their form has been like leading up to the Melbourne Cup. Don’t simply look to see how many races they’ve won, also check over what distances the races were, who the jockey was. Was the track wet or dry? Where was the race held? Does the horse have a proven record as a stayer, or is it more of a sprinter?

If the form lines up with the odds, then that’s a horse that really might be worth taking a punt on. However, if the recent form suggests the betting odds have been skewed by a slew of amateur punters, give that horse a miss and look into a different one.

Another reason why you can’t base your predictions on odds alone is the fact that so many people are betting on this one race in a short period of time. This leads to the odds jumping around all over the place. One minute a horse might be the favourite, and the next it’s a different horse.

Combine viewing the odds with thorough form research and you stand a far better chance of getting it right come Melbourne Cup day.


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