Sunday's favourite-fest will doubtless have been welcomed by the wider punting audience after enduring something of a dry run in March, but further investigation shows favourite bettors are not exactly having a boom season. Until Sunday's six outright favourites arrived from 10 events, the outright public elect had fronted in the winner's circle seven times in 44 races (15.9 per cent) since February and only one favourite saluted in two complete meetings at Happy Valley. Now all of that is well below the 28 per cent of favourites which had won this season up to the end of February, a fairly normal sort of figure historically, but favourite backers are doing it even tougher for returns. Late in most seasons, we have published in this column a review of the season for bettors based around the performance and prices of favourites, and one of the trends which has been consistent for the past decade or more has been the dwindling odds of the outright favourites. In 1998-99, the average public favourite started at about $36 and won just under 23 per cent of the time. As the average price of the favourite has declined - running this season at just over $30 - the percentage of winners has increased. That is, punters have become better at identifying and backing the most likely winner in a race but they are no better off for it in simple terms because of the shrinking returns. The bottom line, at this stage of the season, is that backers of the outright favourite are generally doing it harder than in most years with a flat bet, losing almost $24 for every $100 outlaid, which happened for a full season six years ago but that was the only time in the past 12 years that things have been that bad. Of course, that is without the impact of the 10 per cent big-ticket rebates, which brings the returns to those $10,000-plus backers of every favourite up to an 'acceptable' level - or somewhere around the level of the house advantage, the Jockey Club's 17.5 per cent takeout rate anyway. What does it all mean? Well, a month from now it might not mean a lot because those figures make you wonder if Sunday's rash of short-odds winners might be the beginning of a resurgence for the favourites as the percentages come back into line with the average.