Horse racing generally has far fewer betting options than many other sports. As with most sorts of race, the main, and sometimes only, element that matters is who wins. As such, the race winner market very much dominates the horse racing betting landscape.
However, as well as the most obvious alternatives or variants, such as each-way betting, or the place market, there are some less well-known bets. You might decide to bet on the distances involved in a contest or place a specials bet over a whole meeting or festival. However, our focus here is ‘betting without’.
How the Betting Without Market Works
The betting without market is usually offered in races where there is a very strong favourite, a horse whose odds are so short that they do not appeal to too many punters. At the same time, however, those same racing fans cannot see the jolly being beaten. If we look at the Punchestown Festival’s Grade 1 Novice Chase in 2023, for example, the brilliant El Fabiolo, winner of the Arkle at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, was offered at odds of just 1/4. The second favourite was the promising Dysart Dynamo … priced at 11/2, who just one year previously went of as joint favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with jump racing superstar Constitution Hill.
Now, whether you think 11/2 is value or not is another matter but the reality is that El Fabiolo, as impressive a horse though the six year old is, will not attract much cash from standard recreational punters at 1/4. However, few will fancy going for Dysart Dynamo, even at 11/2, whilst the rest of the four runner field were 15/2 and 40/1. With only four runners, each way betting was not an option so many would instead head to the betting without market.
Here the market makes it clear that this is betting without El Fabiolo. You will usually see words to the effect of “Back selection to win, market is settled ignoring position of ‘without’ selection.” In this particular market there is, of course, no El Fabiolo. Dysart Dynamo, therefore, becomes the favourite, priced at 5/6, with the second favourite in the new without market being Saint Roi at 11/8 (versus 15/2 in the main race-winner betting), and Indiana Jones the outsider at 11/2 (40/1 with El Fabiolo).
Now, rather than an unbackably short favourite, punters can opt to back a new ‘favourite’ at 5/6, the market having a more normal (or appealing) look to it. Or if they prefer they can take Dysart Dynamo on (perhaps wise as he fell in his previous run), they might not have fancied Saint Roi or Indiana Jones longer-odds options to actually win the race, but they might have believed them capable of getting the better of Dysart Dynamo.
Betting without is not, however, offered only when there is a big favourite. You will also see it in races where there is no clear favourite at all and in such contests it may be offered on more than one horse. Let us imagine a race where the two market principles are priced at odds of 5/4 and 7/2. There might be ‘betting without’ for each of them individually but also for both of them together. In the latter scenario, the third favourite in the main odds will now become the jolly and the two above that will be ignored.
It is also worth noting that sometimes the horse that is being excluded from the hypothetical results might not be the favourite at all. This is almost always because the without market was published based on a prediction of who would be sent off at the shortest odds and the market has moved in the meantime, as shown below.
Ultimately though, whatever horse or horses are excluded by this market, it functions in a simple way. The named runner(s) is just discounted as far as the result and you are betting on another horse to win the race. If your fancy crosses the line first, your bet will be a winner, whilst it will also be a successful punt if the only horse ahead of it is the one named in the without market. The odds in the without betting are shorter but otherwise everything else is the same and you are paid at those full, stated odds.
Are There Any Similar Bets?
This market is an alternative to a number of other options but we would not really say it is especially similar to them. As noted, many punters choose to use it instead of the main race winner market, be that as a straight bet on the nose or an each way one. To some extent it can also be seen as an alternative to backing a horse for a place. Obviously if you think the favourite will win, but aren’t keen on the very short odds, you may be tempted to back a rival for a place.
Betting without is also, perhaps to a lesser extent, a little like the money back markets that some sites offer. These go by various names, with some calling them insurebet, or similar insurance-based monikers. Whatever they are called, you back a horse and if it wins, you get paid out; but if it doesn’t win but finishes within the stated places you get your money back. Depending on the race you may have the option to insure two, three or even more places. The more places you opt for, the greater your insurance but the lower the odds for the win.
All of these are probably viable alternatives to betting without, at least to some degree. To give us a better idea of how they all compare, let’s take a look at the odds for some of these options.
Comparison of Odds
The table below is not intended to be exhaustive or wholly scientific and is just a snapshot of the odds compared for the field in a ten-runner flat handicap at Beverley, at one bookie. Even so, it gives you a very good idea of what to expect in terms of the prices from betting without and how these compare to the other options above. With three places for each way bets here, all bets would return zero if the horse finishes fourth or worse.
|Horse||Outright||W/O Cantora||Insurance||Place Only|
As you can see, there are subtle variations in the returns between these bets. Much, self-evidently, depends on how likely you think it is that the horse will win, or place, and how confident you are about the runner that is the named horse in the betting without market. In our example above, Cantora was priced at 11/8, so it was certainly far from certain that it would win. Much as those returns for those further down in the betting without market look generous compared to the place or money back returns, it has to be remembered that should they finish second, they would only be triggered if it was the favourite that pipped your selection. In contrast, with those alternative two markets, the payout for second or third would be made no matter who won.
Betting Without Strategy
When it comes to the strategy for this bet it is a tough one because you are making a prediction about the horse you are backing, as well as the horse named within the market. This brings two further bets into play, the forecast and reverse forecast. When you opt for a wager on this market you are essentially saying that you think the only horse capable of bettering your pick is the one that is the betting without animal.
If you are convinced that the named horse will win, a forecast could be the best option. It carries less chance but the rewards could be more substantial. Here you are naming the first two horses to cross the line in the correct order. Returning to our example above, if you backed Cantora and Papa Rico for the one-two you would be looking at odds of more like 9/1 or even higher.
Alternatively if you think that the only horse capable of beating Cantora is Papa Rico but you think there is a decent chance that either could win, with the other second, the reverse forecast (one-two prediction but in either order) might be the bet you prefer. This might offer effective odds of around 11/2.
These further betting options perhaps only serve to muddy the waters and ultimately the fact that there are several markets to choose from might only give you more decisions to make. Quite simply you will have to make your own calculation about what sort of probability-to-reward ratio you want, and how you think the race will play out. And of course, as ever, underpinning all of this should be thorough research into the race, including analysis of the runners, jockeys, going, form, handicaps and everything else that could affect how the contest goes.
Any Rules to Watch Out For?
When it comes to betting without, there are not any rules that you need to be aware of. This market functions as you would expect, with dead heat rules applying as they would to a normal race. Of course, if your horse dead heats for first with the betting without runner, then it will settle as a winner. Should it dead heat for second behind that animal, the standard rules for such a tie will apply. Other than that there really isn’t anything else to add. If your horse wins, you win, whilst if it is second to the named horse … you also win!