Monday Myths: Are Longshots Fit for the Place Slot?

Welcome to a continuing handicapping series for our Monday blog space, “Monday Myths.” Each week I’ll use the power of the Betmix database to take common handicapping assumptions and either support or dispel them with data. Betmix data powers the 1/ST BET app and its features like Angler and Birddog give data-minded horseplayers a treasure trove of information in which to query your own curiosities.


Longshots are more likely to run second.


You’ll hear a lot of handicappers talk about back-wheeling a longshot in the exacta because said price horse is more likely to finish second than win. Is that true by the numbers or a defensive approach that lacks confidence in the selection because the public may disagree?

Data Points:

I fired up the Betmix database to look at its max sample size of 10,000 runners to see how horses 10-1 or more perform in terms of results. I then looked at the last 10,000 favorites and last 10,000 horses 5-1 in odds to see if the results were proportional.


Longshots: 3% win, 6% finish second, 9% finish third, 81% finish out of the money

Favorites: 38% win, 21% finish second, 23% finish third, 27% finish out of the money

5-1 Shots: 15% win, 16% finish second, 17% finish third, 52% finish out of the money

Bottom line:

Longshots 10-1 or more, in fact, finish second twice as often as win by a 6% to 3% ratio. That’s in stark contrast to favorites, who win far more often than finish second (by a 17-point margin). Mid-range horses at 5-1 finish across the board first, second or third in about the same margins, give or take a point. The numbers suggest that putting a longshot second is a sound strategy. The $1 ROI for betting the 10-1 plus runners is $.73 to win and $.69 to place, so even though they click more often second, betting them to place is not a fruitful exchange. Second in the exacta makes more financial sense.

Additional details:

You can go into Betmix and run your own queries for a deeper dive into this theory and any that you can create. For instance, run this assumption at your favorite or local track to see how it shakes out.