Betting Strategy: Laying the Field

There are many horse racing betting strategies out there. None are perfect, but many, when applied in suitable conditions can be quite effective and produce long-term positive results. One of the more common horse racing betting strategies is known as “laying the field”.

A “lay” bet, as we know, is a bet against a result. So in horse racing, you’re betting on a horse to lose. So to “lay the field” is betting against every horse in the race! At first glance, this sounds like a crazy approach, after all, one horse HAS to win right?  The success in this strategy comes from the prices you set and the number of horses that you match.

The easiest way to explain this strategy is through an example, and the simplest of those involves laying the field at a price under even money.  All we need to do is match two horses at a price under 2.00 and we will be guaranteed to show a profit.  Now that sounds a bit more simple right? 

Clearly there won’t be two horses at this price before the race starts, so this is a strategy that involves betting “in play”. Betting in play is perfectly legal on horse racing gallops in Australia, and the easiest site to do this is at Betfair.

Let’s say we set the price at 1.75 and lay the field for $10 per horse, so our liability on each horse is potentially $7.50. We make sure that we set the bets to “Keep” so that they remain in play after the horses jump. The hard work is done, now we just sit back and enjoy the race.

The horses jump. It’s an exciting race, and coming around into the home straight, the horse WhatADonkey has broken away to a handy lead.  It looks a winner. It’s live odds have come in from the 5.50 when it jumped, and our lay bet has been matched at 1.75. That is, someone else is now prepared to back this horse for $10 at our odds of 1.75. So our position is currently:

WhatADonkey Wins – we lose $7.50
Any other horse Wins – we win $10

But then WhatADonkey starts to tire. It went pretty hard and has run out of gas down the straight (how often do you see that!) and another horse, WhatABeauty surges past at the 200 metre mark to take the lead.  The live market adjusts and WhatABeauty now gets matched as the 1.75 favourite.  Our position is:

WhatADonkey Wins – we win $2.50
WhatABeauty Wins – we win $2.50
Any other horse Wins – we win $20

Remember we were to lose $7.50 on the original lay bet on WhatADonkey, but now that WhatABeauty has also been laid and matched for $10, we return a profit.  Vice versa for WhatABeauty.

So now we’re in great shape! Whatever the outcome of the race, we lock in a guaranteed profit, just by having two horses matched at odds on!  But it can get even better (and more complicated) than this.

WhatABeauty looked the winner, but from the clouds it’s WhatAChampion storming down the outside! It’s a photo finish!  Guess what? It doesn’t matter which horse won. Simply because it got so close, it’s likely that WhatAChampion was also matched in the final stages at 1.75.  Let’s see what affect this has on our position:

WhatADonkey Wins – we win $12.50
WhatABeauty Wins – we win $12.50
WhatAChampion Wins – we win $12.50
Any other horse Wins – we win $30

Now we’re set for a healthy profit regardless of the result of the photo.  What a great position to be in!  No more sweating that photo finish!

It sounds easy, and it is, but where can it go wrong?

Your worst case scenario is that WhatADonkey (the original leader) kicked clear and went on to win the race easily.  In this situation, you would lose $7.50 on the race.  Now this can happen quite often, but the good thing about this system is that you know your maximum liability is only that one single bet.  You can only ever lose one bet, but you can potentially win many.  We've seen races where four or five horses can get matched that this price, which creates excellent profits.

Small downside, big upside = a pretty good system.

The trick to this method is understand which races are suitable, and what prices to set your lay bets. This is where the true strategy of this system comes into play. In the next article, we'll explore some additional options for this strategy and also talk more about the best conditions to put it to work.

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