A year of lows for suffering punter
With the final two meetings of the season unlikely to move the figures much, our annual look at the betting market and how things played out for punters tells us something we pretty much knew already - it was tough to win in 2010-11.
Key points among the figures were a record low average price for a winner and the record low average price of the favourite.
The average payout for a winning HK$10 bet has its ups and downs from year to year but the longer term trend has been down.
In 1999-2000, it was a tick under $105 that you collected for the average winner. Three years ago it was $93.15, two years ago $95.10 and just over $99 in the 2009-10 season, but in the season just about to be completed average winner was worth less than $90 for the first time. Just under $87, in fact, and around $12.50 a winner less than you collected in the previous term.
Then there was the first public favourite: the most likely winner of the race, in the opinion of the most betting dollars. This figure has fluctuated too, but its reduction has also been fairly consistent since the average odds of the favourite were over $36 12 years ago. In 2003-04, it dipped below $31 for the first time but recovered again for a few years before dropping to $30.98 in 2008-09 and $30.90 in 2009-10.
This season, the public elect has dropped to averaging less than $30 for the first time and it was by no means random.
In the year in our figures that the favourite averaged the longest odds of $36.29, that was the season when favourite punters lost the most, with less than 23 per cent of those favourites successful - an enormous gap. In the season just about to pass, the favourite was a shorter price on average than ever before but also won at a more frequent rate, with almost 32 per cent of them victorious.
Added to the statistic that winners at odds of 10-1 or less came in at a high 79.4 per cent of the races, it was a year when punters were highly accurate at collectively narrowing down the field and getting it right. Only the 2007-08 season saw the views of punters closer to reality when they hit the line.
If you simply had a flat $100 bet on the favourite, you lost $14.63 for every bet, which is a pretty accurate rate, considering the Jockey Club takes $17.50 out of the win tote bets before it pays out. And if you were betting $10,000 tickets and getting 10 per cent back on the losers, you were narrowing that margin right down.
Whether it was the outright favourite or just one of the favoured runners that won, the winners were better found than ever and we all saw it played out in the green and brown lights on the tote board in the minutes before they jumped.
Interpretation of these figures is in the eye of the beholder. The conspiracy theorists will have their own ideas about how the betting became so accurate. The probability theorist might call it a fluctuation that could turn a different direction next term. And there will be others who point to continued sharpening of the range and quality of information that punters have at their disposal.
On the track, racing had 1,316 individual starters in 2009-10 and is sitting on 1,311 this time, with 495 of them, or just under 38 per cent, having won a race. That was a touch worse than Hong Kong's longer-term proportion - just on the other side of 38 per cent winners to runners - but a decent figure compared with most jurisdictions and of those winners, more than 33 per cent won again at least once.