The Demise Of Ante-Post Betting?

January 15th, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

You can bump into some quite interesting discussions on the racing channels when things are quiet and there was one late this afternoon between Angus McNae and Tony Calvin about ante-post betting.

I think we all now accept that ante-post betting is more a shop window for the big firms than what they call in marketing terminology a ‘driver’. However I had no idea that the ante-post market constituted such a small part of the betting market. For example, earlier this week the Racing Post devoted four pages to Tom Segal’s ante-post analysis of the World Hurdle, yet on the day – and a quiet one at that – less than 1 per cent of the Ladbrokes business was on that race.

Going back to last year’s Cheltenham Festival, one firm said that only 6 per cent of the turnover for the Gold Cup was made up of ante-post business.

This is no surprise really. Seldom does one see great value in today’s ante-post markets. For example I am currently writing about the 2000 Guineas for my Dark Horses Annual, and who could possibly advocate the merit of taking the top price of 11/10 about Air Force Blue with the race just under four months away? Yes, if everything goes well and the field cuts up Air Force Blue may start at 2/1 on or shorter, but would anyone see the value of locking in money for that sort of return?

The recent innovation that may have influenced backers is the number of incentives and benefits offered by bookmakers nearer the time of the race or meeting. For example in the case of Cheltenham you can already get the ‘non-runner, no bet’ concession on the big four races with some firms, but those terms will apply to every race within a week or so of the Festival.

Then there will be price enhancements or even ‘money back’ concessions on bets opposing the favourite. For example, Min is already no bigger than 6/4 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Come the day I would expect at least one firm – possibly Paddy Power – to offer money back on bets struck against Min if the favourite wins.

As someone who has enjoyed ante-post betting in the past – in fact it has proved one of my most profitable areas of interest – I am still keen to seek out value if I can find it. However the opportunities seem to be fewer than they were. I do, though, find myself attracted to the early prices that appear in the week on weekend racing. The risk is less, owing to the short timescale, and late information – for example that a short-priced favourite will miss the race – can present enormous value elsewhere.

I still maintain that there has never been a better time to be a backer. The exchanges now offer us all an opportunity to hedge and protect our stake, or even trade into profit. However we have to conclude that ante-post prices, invariably offered in the minutes after a trial, do not lead to the rush of backers that we saw in the days when one hapless bookmaker’s PR offered 10/1 about Shergar winning the Derby after he romped home in the Guardian Classic Trial. As the late Richard Baerlein wrote in his newspaper column, that was the time to “bet like men.”

Mind you in those days the bookmakers would take a bet – at least they would from a well-respected member of the press box. Sadly, those days are now also long gone.