It's official: you can make money backing the outsider of three; James Pyman puts a long-held theory among punters to the test.
The theory may stem from the well-reasoned notion that form is less likely to stand up in tactical races. The betting for three-horse contests is often heavily weighted towards a favourite who may be compromised most when such contests, due to their lack of numbers, are not truly run.
The absence of an end-to-end gallop certainly seemed to be a contributing factor in the demise of 4-9 favourite Champion Court in a threerunner novice chase at Kempton ten days ago as he was effectively beaten for a change of gear in the closing stages by rank outsider Alasi, who returned an SP of 9-1. Diletta Tommasa provided another shock result in such a contest when producing a superior turn of foot to account for two better-fancied rivals in a 1m11/2f all-weather handicap at Wolverhampton last Monday. The 25-1 winner clocked a slow time - 9.13sec outside RP standard - which was a reflection of the fact the race was run at a crawl and developed into a dash to the line.
Having gone back and looked at every three-runner race staged in Britain since 2005 that featured a clear outsider, I can reveal that you would have actually made a PS1 level-stake profit of PS43.33 from backing the longest-priced runner blind (see table). The favourites and second favourites returned respective level-stake losses of PS25.57 and PS52.10.
The profits would have been minuscule without the recent contributions from Alasi and Diletta Tommasa, so a narrow verdict in favour of the outsiders from a sample of 530 races may not be enough to satisfy statistical purists and bring closure to this debate, but the fact remains that the longest-priced group have performed closer to market expectations (Market Impact Value of 0.99) than the first and second favourites, so there does at least seem to be a crumb of truth in the outsider-of-three theory.
If this research is persuasive enough for you to make the market's third choice your first port of call in such races in the future, assuming any slight edge continues to exist, you will need to show patience, discipline and fortitude to make a long-term profit.
Outsider-of-three theorists have enjoyed just 71 profitable wagers in nine years and it would have required a thick skin, and an even thicker wallet, to have weathered some of the inevitably long losing runs. For example, between November 17, 2011 and February 5, 2012 this system produced 26 consecutive losers.
You might be wondering whether outsiders generally seem to do better in threerunner races of a particular type. Well, the lion's share of the profits have come from longest-priced horses in non-handicap chases and were staged over shorter than 3m. Such runners are showing a PS1 level-stake profit of PS38.50, courtesy of 19 wins from 135 bets.
VVPYMAN's Theories: every Friday in the Racing Post
HOW THE OUTSIDER-OF-THREE THEORY HAS FARED Three-runner races with a clear outsider in Britain since 2005 market pos wins runs strike-rate p/l Market IV favourite 313 530 59 -25.57 0.95 second-fav 145 530 27 -52.10 0.92 outsider 71 530 13 43.33 0.99 *Market Impact Value = strike-rate divided by average market share. A value bigger than 1 suggests a category has exceeded market expectations
Outsider Alasi (3) gets the better of favourite Champion Court to reward theory followers