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In-Running Blog

International Horse Race Betting

With traditional bets placed on domestic racing, you can either bet with the UK’s bookies or go to the exchanges. Whether you are looking to arb or just to punt your chosen selection, these two options give you the opportunity to get the best prices on offer. Getting the very best price is what will make it profitable in the long run.

International horse racing opens up a third market, the foreign pari-mutuel pools, which can offer drastically different prices to the UK’s bookmakers and exchanges.  The pari-mutuel pools are just like the UK and Irish tote platforms, and in general are quite bad value in their actual returns.  What can make the pari-mutuel pools appealing is the fact, that many foreign runners (meaning horses brought for the race from abroad and not local to the country hosting the racing event) end up being overlooked. Therefore you can get a much bigger price and an amazing value on these particular horses.

Quite often, you will find that the same basic rule applies to the UK’s bookmakers. They will often overlook the chances of the home based runners in favour of our horses. Bookmakers know that most of their business will come for the UK horses, as punters will be looking to back the ones they are familiar with and in general will not even consider the foreign local runners.  With the bookies, the UK horses will be a lot shorter priced than they should be and in most cases they will be way below the prices of the pari-mutuel pools. This occurs far less with the exchanges.

So your aim should be to back the foreign runners with the UK bookmakers and the UK runners on the pari-mutuel pools, ensuring you are getting the best prices possible. But keep in mind that sometimes UK horses with a big international reputation are better priced with the bookies than with the foreign pari-mutuel pools.

The downside to the pari-mutuel pools is that you are not taking a price and you will only find out your return after the race has finished. Waiting until the last few minutes pre-race, when the majority of the betting money will have entered the pools, will give you a better idea of the return you might get.  Be aware that large sums, going in very late, can cause big moves, which will not show until the final returns, when the race has finished.

You can back a horse on the pari-mutuel and lay it off on the exchanges for a nice arb, but make sure there is enough profit to absorb any late money coming in and shortening the price. There is always the risk that it could end up costing you money if the pari-mutuel pool moves enough.

It’s from the punting point of view that I am interested in the international race meetings. I will look at each race in depth, researching horses that stand out on price. I will back several of these and then search for big priced horses (UK and foreign) that are overlooked, but have the form.  I do like taking on hyped up UK runners. If they do look fairly solid, I may have a small saver on them. Mainly though, I will be looking to back the home runners at big prices with the UK bookies and the UK horses on the pari-mutuel pools.

The really good local runners can be odds on at the pari-mutuel, but way out at several times the price with the bookies. This is an example of a great situation for a decent bet, which you can tie in with savers on the UK horses on the pari-mutuel pools.

Any international event that has many UK runners, will give you the opportunity to get the odds on your side. The more UK horses in each race, the better, as this will really force the bookies to shorten UK runners, allowing you to get the really good prices on the overseas horses.

The most common opportunities will come from the French group racing, mainly because there is so much of it over the summer.  Be wary of John Gosden and Aiden O’Brien trained horses. The French public is used to these trainers going over and being very successful. Therefore, these horses can be very short on the French PMU, especially if there is no standout French horse in the race.

The big Asian meetings, late in the year, offer some of the very best opportunities to get huge price variations. There are large amounts of European runners going over, which are well known to the UK bookies and punters.  On the pari-mutuel, the Asian punters back their home favourites, making them go off really short, while the foreign horses drift to huge prices.  This is where you can profit from both markets!

To give you a clear example of such a situation, let us look back at the 2013 Hong Kong International meeting that offered some great opportunities in the four championship races.

The Hong Kong Vase saw The Fugue, trained by John Gosden, go over as a strong 6/4 favourite on both the UK and pari-mutuel markets. Running up to this race, I noticed a few local horses: Dominant and Liberator, two horses with decent form.  Dominant had won a Group 1 the year before over this distance, 12 furlongs, and was running creditably in the top local events. Because the market was dominated by European horses, I was able to get matched on Betfair at 65 for Dominant and 85 for Liberator. These were great prices! As I expected, they ended up going off at a lot less on the pari-mutuel.  The day before the race, Dominant was put up at 150/1 by Bet365 and 100/1 by Ladbrokes, so I had a bit more on it.  I only had the option of taking the Ladbrokes price, as my account with Bet365 had been limited.  I also backed The Fugue with the UK bookies and laid it off on Betfair for a free bet.  If the favourite would have won, I would have covered my stakes on the other bets.  Dominant went on to win the race and paid 136.50 Hong Kong dollars to a $10 stake, which is 12.65-1. Even though, this is an extreme price difference and backing winners at three figures odds is very rare, it does show how far out the markets can be.

In the following race, a few European horses were running. While checking the live pari-mutuel odds on RaceBets.com, I saw a strong, locally trained horse, Lord Kanaloa, odds-on at 1.8. Some UK bookies were offering this horse at 3-1, as they were expecting money for the European horses. I got my bet with the UK bookmakers. The European horses had massive prices on the pari-mutuel. For example Group One horses like Sole Power was at 77, Slade Power at 55 and Jwala at 99.  Lord Kanaloa won the race by an easy 5 lengths in front of Sole Power, which finished second.

By just comparing the different markets, you can pick out the huge price differences, allowing you to possibly back an odds-on shot at 3-1 or get on at really big prices for various runners. You can pick out several horses in a race, in order to cover more outcomes on any standout prices. Because these large international race meetings are not run that often, you want to maximise your returns, when you have the opportunity.  You will not win all the time, but it could end up being very profitable in the long run.

Phill Hayes Google 24 Feb 2014

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