Horse racing is awash with hoary, oft-repeated strategies that supposedly represent a licence to print money, despite evidence to the contrary. Possibly the ‘oldest chestnut’ of all is the maxim ‘Always back the outsider of three’, which only retains merit by virtue of being passed down from one generation of punters to the next.
Perhaps the first thing to say about three horse races is that, in the event of insufficient declarations, some, but not all, races may be reopened for a short period at declaration time, so three-horse races occur less frequently than was once the case. The premise for always backing the outsider is that, due to lack of numbers, three-horse races are rarely, if ever, run at an end-to-end gallop. Conventional wisdom dictates that a muddling, tactical affair, which turns into a sprint to the line over the final few furlongs, is less likely to produce reliable, repeatable form than only that is truly run throughout. Obviously, all three runners are affected, but the outsider may be disadvantaged least of all, or even advantaged, by the way in which the race is run.
However, the truth of the matter is that the outsider wins approximately three in twenty, or 15%, of three-horse races and, more often than not, represents poor value-for-money. Of course, it is possible that blindly following such as strategy can produce a profit, at least for a while, but strict statistical analysis of the results reveals that any such profits are due, in large part, to pure luck. In other words, while it may be possible to develop a profitable strategy – by, say, concentrating on handicap races and/or avoiding outsiders priced at 16/1 or longer – the ‘outsider of three’ theory, alone, will eventually empty your betting bank.
If there’s one thing that sport and indeed gambling has going for it that makes it ever entertaining, it’s that it’s never 100% predictable. Whether you’ve ‘lumped on’ an outsider, or someone playing the best real money online casino sites, regardless of what the odds to chance are, or are thought to be, there is plenty of scope for surprises to happen, and these surprises are what makes the event!
On November 6, 1993, at Santa Anita Park, California, Arcangues made history by becoming the first overseas-trained winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the longest-priced winner in Breeders’ Cup history. Owned by the late Daniel Wildenstein and trained, in France, by André Fabre, Arcangues swept past the favourite, Bertrando, trained by the late Robert Frankel, in the home straight to win by two lengths at eye-watering odds of 133.6/1 . Those into horse racing or other forms of online gambling, will all agree that you typically only get a winner at odds like that once in a blue moon.
The son of Sagace had won the Group One Prix D’ispahan at Longchamp the previous May, but had been soundly beaten in the Group One Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and the Group Two Ciga Prix Dollar, back at Longchamp, en route to Santa Anita Park. His victory in what was, at the time, the most valuable race in the world, was made all the more unlikely by the fact that he had never previously raced outside Europe, or on a dirt surface. Furthermore, New York-based jockey Jerry Bailey had never laid eyes on Arcangues beforehand and, in the absence of instructions from Fabre, was left to his own devices regarding how to ride the five-year-old.
Bailey later admitted that Arcangues ‘had a lot more run in him than I could have ever expected’, but Fabre was less fazed by his unlikely success. The French champion trainer described Arcangues as a ‘backward type’, but also reported that he had ‘dominated’ some talented horses in a piece of work on a dirt track at home in France a month or so before the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which was instrumental in his decision to send his charge to the United States.