The Practical Guide To Profit From Laying In Horse Racing

9 min

Never make a bad lay again with our simple strategy guide to finding the best value runners who may not make the frame

Laying horses is something many bettors talk about but never do!

When faced with taking on a 5.0 shot, the potential loss is usually too much to stomach, but laying short-priced horses, especially to place rather than to win, can be a nice steady way to make a profit. All it requires is a change of thinking.

Finding Value Lays

Laying is a slower burn but less volatile route to profit and may require a larger average stake size than you are used to if you tend to back bigger priced selections. But it’s nothing to be alarmed by. Value considerations are different when you look at laying horses as the profit will sometimes be less than your “stake”.

For example, laying a horse priced at 2.5 will mean risking £150 to win £100, which is the same as backing a selection at 1.67.

Laying a 2.0 horse that should be priced at 2.5 presents enormous value, though, as the actual probability of 40% (2.5) means your lay will be profitable 60% of the time. Over 100 lays that’s a 20 unit profit, so it favours slightly larger stakes.

At a higher price, the risk-reward ratio gets a bit skewed as laying a horse at 6.0 to win £100 means risking £500. This means you have to be as certain as you would be backing a 1.2 shot to lay a horse in this price range, and that level of certainty is hard to come by in horse racing. But it’s a risk you don’t need to take as there is plenty of value to be found with laying shorter priced runners.

Most bettors focus on horses closer to evens for their lay bets, so how do you find them?

Laying short-priced runners at can be a profitable venture in the medium to long term.

Price is everything

The first thing to look for are horses that the public loves.

When the general public gets behind something, and it gets hot, it can be backed into a price where it’s sometimes hard to resist laying it, so why should you try to resist?

You can often find “weak” favourites or horses running at too short a price at the top of the betting if you look hard enough – or know the right man to ask. Luckily we have just the man here at Matchbook in Micheál Deasy.

And he says it’s not about “being against a horse at any price”; it’s about identifying a horse that will be backed into a price where you can lay it. “When a horse is hot it creates a demand and you are liable to get a good price to lay at that stage,” Deasy says.

And the key, as with all betting, is finding the value. To make a profit long term, he adds, you need to be laying at under market price.

If you are laying even money horses at 2.5, you will be losing long-term.

This means reading the market as much as it does reading the form and spotting when horses are getting “hot” after a couple of good runs or easy wins.

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Look for place lay opportunities

Sometimes though, it can be even simpler than that, and one of the best lay opportunities you can find is laying horses for a place.

The place odds on short-priced horses to place in a race can be very favourable for layers as they will frequently be calculated by automated trading software that bases the place price on the winning price.

One of the key aspects to focus on here is the style of the horse involved.

Horses who need to dominate from the front are often bad place bets when they can’t dominate from the start and they go from a decent chance to no chance at all.

There is a fine line between winning and finishing sixth or seventh for some of these horses, but this is not always reflected in the odds.

According to Matchbook Racing Pod host Tom Stanley, there is an angle for laying front-runners for a place full stop as the price is so often not reflective of the way the race is likely to shape out.

Stanley also notes that front-runners can sometimes become a lot shorter in the market because people are looking to lay them off in-running, and this means the place market is shorter than it should be.

Look for weakness, not strengths

Making good horse racing lay bets also requires a switch from looking for strengths to looking for weaknesses.

This can be in terms of the market’s pricing or the relative weakness of a horse, jockey or trainer in a specific race or under specific conditions.

Remember, you’re not trying to find a winner; you are just trying to find a horse that is likely to be running worse than its price in the market suggests.

Some old truisms, such as horses (and jockeys) for courses, will apply here. Runners that don’t like specific types of going or track, coming into a race having performed well on markedly different conditions, are a good place to start. And equally as mentioned, any horses that have been built up to the general public in advance.

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