Retired trainer Barry Hills, who landed a touch or two in his time, once said, “Never bet odds-on. If you could buy money they would sell it at a shop down the road.” However, every once in a while, a horse comes along that consistently stands head and shoulders above it rivals and wins with such regularity that it inevitably starts favourite, often at long odds-on. Backing horses of this calibre is as close as it comes to “buying money” in the sport of horse racing.
Frankel, for example, who retired unbeaten in October, 2012, and topped the World Thoroughbred Rankings from May, 2011 onwards, started favourite for every one of his 14 races, which included ten at Group One, or “championship”, level. In fact, with the exception of his debut, in a maiden stakes race at Newmarket in August, 2010, for which he was sent off 7/4 favourite, he started odds-on for all his races. The shortest price at which he was returned was 1/20, when very easily beating three rivals – one of which was his pacemaker, Bullet Train – in the Qipco Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in August, 2012. I suspect he popped up a time or two (or three!) in OLBG's horse racing tips.
Sea The Stars, Cartier Horse of the Year in 2009, won eight of his nine career starts, including a sequence of six Group One wins during his three-year-old campaign, yet surprising started favourite on just five occasions. However, he did start odds-on to win his last four starts, in the Coral-Eclipse, the Juddmonte International Stakes, the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes and the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Big Buck’s, four-time winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, ran up a winning sequence of 18 consecutive races between 2008/09 and 2012/13. The sequence began when he was put back over hurdles after unseating his rider at the final fence in the 2008 Hennessy Gold Cup, but in his next 18 starts he started favourite, at odds-on, 15 times. The shortest price at which he ever started was 1/12, when beating three rivals in a canter in the Sportingbet Long Distance Hurdle in December, 2012.
Triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq won 23 of his 26 completed starts over hurdles, including 13 Grade One races, between 1996/97 and 2001/02. He started favourite on all bar his debut in a novice hurdle at Punchestown in November, 1996 – we he went off 6/4 second favourite and was beaten a head – and was odds-on on 23 occasions. Indeed, in his last 22 races, the only times he started at odds-against were in the Champion Hurdle in 1998 and 2002. The shortest price at which he ever started was 1/10, when not extended to beat two rivals in the December Festival Hurdle in December, 1998.