What Drives Pre-Race Price Movements In Horse Racing?

In the world of sports betting, the public’s opinion is a powerful force that drives the movement of markets in horse racing and other sports. This opinion is most effectively gauged on betting exchanges, where backers and layers make their predictions for every possible outcome in a sporting event.

As the event draws closer, the public’s opinion gradually reaches a consensus, resulting in odds that are at their most accurate, thanks to the phenomenon known as the “Wisdom of Crowds.” In this article, I delve into the various factors that contribute to the formation of public opinion in the lead-up to horse races, both consciously and unconsciously.


1. Statistics & Form

Many bettors are heavily influenced by facts surrounding an upcoming horse race. Some influential items of data are:

  • Horse attributes: Horse attributes can also play a role in pre-race price movements in horse racing. Some of the key horse attributes that can impact odds include:
    • Age: In horse racing, younger horses may have more potential to improve and may have shorter odds than older horses.
    • Gender: Male horses, or colts and geldings, may have an advantage over female horses, or fillies and mares, in certain races, which can affect the odds.
    • Pedigree: A horse’s pedigree, or its family tree, can influence its racing ability. Horses with strong bloodlines and successful ancestors may have shorter odds.
    • Distance: Horses may have a preferred distance that they perform best at. If a horse is running at its preferred distance, its odds may be shorter.
    • Running style: Horses can have different running styles, such as front-runners, pace-setters, or closers. Depending on the race and the competition, certain running styles may be more advantageous, which can impact the odds.
    • Weight: As mentioned earlier, the weight carried by a horse can impact its performance and therefore its odds.
    • Health and fitness: Horses that are in good health and fitness may have an advantage over horses that are struggling with injuries or illness. This can affect the odds as well.
  • Form: The most significant factor influencing the odds is the recent performance and form of the horse. If a horse has been performing well in recent races, it will attract more backers and its odds will shorten.
  • Race type: Race type is another important factor that can impact pre-race price movements in horse racing. Different types of races, such as Group races, Handicap races, and Maiden races, have different levels of prestige, and horses with different characteristics may perform differently in each type of race.
  • Jockey & Trainer: The reputation and experience of the jockey and trainer can also influence the odds. A horse ridden by a top jockey or trained by a successful trainer may have shorter odds.
  • Weather conditions: The track conditions such as the state of the ground, weather, and visibility can have an impact on the performance of a horse, and therefore on the odds.

Bettors carefully analyse these factors and consciously or unconsciously assign weightings to them based on their perceived importance. Some use basic methods such as reviewing the Racing Post to identify horses, while others apply more advanced techniques such as analysing thousands of data points in Excel, or complex data mining.

Best websites for horse racing statistics.


2. Outside Influences

Outside influences such as commentators, media coverage, and public opinion can also play a role in pre-race price movements in horse racing. These influences can impact how the betting public perceives a particular horse’s chances of winning, and as a result, the odds for that horse may change.

Commentators, for instance, can provide insights on a horse’s form, recent performances, and other factors that may influence its chances of winning. If a well-known commentator speaks positively about a horse, it can increase the horse’s perceived chances of winning and lead to a decrease in its odds.

Similarly, media coverage can influence public opinion about a horse’s chances of winning. For instance, if a horse is featured in a high-profile publication or news story, it can generate buzz and lead to an increase in its odds.

Other factors that can influence pre-race price movements include public sentiment and market liquidity. If there is a surge of betting on a particular horse, it can cause its odds to decrease. This is common when bettors follow the recommendations of a highly rated horse racing tipster. Conversely, if there is a lack of betting on a horse, its odds may increase.

Overall, these outside influences can impact the market perception of a horse’s chances of winning and lead to changes in its pre-race odds.


3. Bookmakers

On the lead up to a race, betting activity at bookmakers will cause many significant price movements.

Bookmakers are the ones responsible for setting the initial pre-race odds for betting on horse racing. They use a variety of factors to determine these odds, including the horse’s past performance, form, jockey, trainer, track conditions, and other relevant information. These “early” prices set a precedent that influences the public’s initial view of the race. However, they are subject to (potentially large) fluctuations.

Bookmakers adjust their initial odds based on the amount of money being bet on each horse. If a significant amount of money is being wagered on a particular horse, the bookmaker may lower the odds for that horse to limit their potential losses if that horse wins. On the other hand, if there is little interest in a particular horse, the bookmaker may raise its odds to entice more betting.

Bookmakers can also use a variety of hedging strategies to limit their risk, such as backing horses with other bookmakers or using lay bets on the betting exchange to cover their liabilities. This further influences the movement of the market.

Learn how bookmaker set their odds.


4. Human Nature

Human factors play a significant role in shaping price movements in horse racing markets, as we tend to form strong opinions on a range of factors.

Some of the most common human factors that impact horse racing odds include:

  • Pre-race observations. A horse’s appearance in the parade ring can influence our perception of its ability to perform. Its gait, sweating, or restlessness can impact the public’s confidence in a horse. The public observes and acts on signs of strength or weakness, no matter how tenuous they may be.
  • Superstition and random choices: Horses are often picked based on peculiar reasons such as their name, colour, or even a gut feeling, without any sound reasoning behind it.
  • Herd mentality: Once the market moves in one direction, many bettors jump on the bandwagon, driving the odds even further in the same direction.
  • Biases: There are a number of cognitive biases such as recency bias, and the favourite-longshot bias that can impact how sports bettors base their decisions. These choices can significantly impact pre-race price movements.

Learn more about biases in sports betting.


5. Non-Runners

Non-runners can have a significant impact on pre-race odds in horse racing. A non-runner is a horse that was entered into a race but is subsequently withdrawn before the race takes place. The most common reasons for a non-runner include injury, illness, or unsuitable track conditions.

When a horse is withdrawn from a race, it can cause a shift in the odds of the remaining horses. This is because the overall chances of winning for each horse have now increased due to there being one less competitor. As a result, the odds for the remaining horses may shorten, reflecting their improved chances of winning the race.

The extent to which the odds change will depend on the quality of the non-runner, the number of remaining runners, and the specific conditions of the race. In some cases, the odds may not change significantly, particularly if the withdrawn horse was not considered to be a strong contender. In other cases, the odds may shift dramatically, particularly if the withdrawn horse was a clear favourite.

the impact of a favourite becoming a non-runnerin a race starting at 13:10.

Market Movements for Nonrunner

  • “NR” shows the point where our sources first alerted us of the NonRunner at 07:05:29 AM
  • By 07:40 AM the odds moved from 3.25 down to 3.0 (-8% change)
  • The odds rose to 3.2 by 07:50 before hitting an all-time low of 2.84 at 08:20 AM (-12.6% move since the NR)

The volatility is high, caused by an increase in activity due to the Non Runner. When a sudden event like this occurs, the market reacts and creates a difference in opinion which, in this case, lasted for just over an hour before stabilising and reaching a consensus.

It’s important to note that bookmakers will often have different rules for dealing with non-runners. Most will offer a refund of pre-race stakes placed on a non-runner, treating it as a voided bet. However, ante-post betting operates under different rules, and unless the market specifies “NRNB,” a bettor is likely to forfeit their stake on the day of the race.

Learn more about voided bets.

To find out more on how the public opinion shapes the fair odds of a sporting outcome, read my post on the Wisdom of The Crowds theory for betting.

Toby @ Punter2Pro
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Tom Davies
Tom Davies
7 years ago

Yes, i think that some pretty irrational things cause swings in the market. Sometimes for a short period of time it goes into a frenzy… that’s where I’ve capitalised the most. The uncertainty of other gamblers on the market is where you get panic buys/sells. Plenty of pro traders are quick to the punch on those types of scenarios, though. Any tips for getting there quick?

Reply to  Tom Davies
7 years ago

Getting there quick is key.

– If you’re not already, then it’s a good idea to use a trading tool like Geeks Toy. This will speed up your bet placement, particularly with it’s ‘1-click’ feature: http://punter2pro.com/geekstoy
– You could also try to ‘get on’ value odds before the crowd using a good race analyser. I don’t recommend using popular data sources/predictors like Racing Post. I prefer less popular sources, such as ‘Before The Off’.
– If you already have some form of strategy then it makes sense to automate it. For this I recommending trialling BF Bot Manager, as it will enable you to produce bots for rapidly executing your bets: http://punter2pro.com/bfbotmanagerbuy

virginiac mendoza
virginiac mendoza
7 years ago

Applies to all sports right?
Commentators/pundits have far too much influence on the way people think about the game.

Reply to  virginiac mendoza
7 years ago

Every sport. Especially Football, where the fans seem to be most heavily influenced by opinions.