On The Rails

Late-bets trend opening door for record outsider

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 8:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 9:55pm

We have brought this up before, but it isn't going away, ever, and Sunday's racing reminded us all again just how quickly bets go on in big volumes now.

Some of it is about big illegal operators betting back late in large numbers to manage their business, but mostly it's about access.

Bets are no longer placed by people standing in a line with a completed betting ticket in one hand and a fistful of cash in the other to be pushed through a limited number of physical betting windows.

Bets are no longer placed by people standing in a line with a completed betting ticket in one hand and a fistful of cash in the other
Alan Aitken

Now bets are batch-fed by computers, typed in on smart phones or so many other gizmos and contraptions. There are still lines at the racecourse or in betting shops, but they are a minor segment - everyone betting on a handheld or laptop device is their own line, tens of thousands of them, and the only limitations on how many bets go on consist of the ability of the Jockey Club's interface to process them.

That convenience means there is no longer any urgency to get bets on, and everyone from the biggest bettors to the smallest waits until as late as possible to place bets and get closer to some certainty about the odds they are getting. Paradoxically, that equation is making it more difficult to be sure of the odds, as a higher proportion of the total wagered is being slammed on late and we are flip-flopping between different horses as favourite.

No better example than the moves for Natural Champion and Public Figure, as not one but both of them halved their odds in the last couple of minutes before the fifth on Sunday. Or the final minute or two of the last - which held close to HK$200 million across all pools - as Formula Won crunched to a third of its earlier price while at least three other runners were being well-backed at the same time.

This is why we are now seeing so many horses at previously quite unusual prices - three hundred, four or five hundred to one. As the heavy, and getting heavier, in-flows surge from so many different directions in the final minute for horses with the obvious chances, these unwanted outsiders are being ignored even more than they ever were before and getting squeezed to a "non runner" percentage.

They are, by definition, horses which won't win often but the way the market behaves now, there must one day be a record-priced winner coming.

This is neither complaint nor praise - this is a new paradigm, get used to it.