Seeing a horse in a given race with odds of 100/1 can look very tempting. After all, if those odds hold firm and that long shot wins the race, you’ll be paid a cool $100 for every dollar you placed on that horse.

Now, this all sounds nice in theory and on paper. Long shots occasionally surprise everybody and either win a race or at least come to a place, but can you really make money betting on long shots? Is it a punting strategy that can be profitable in the short or long term, or will you just burn through cash and tear your hair out in frustration?

What Are the Chances of a Long Shot Actually Winning?

Well, not very high at all, which is why the odds on the horse are so long. Neither the bookmakers nor the punters believe a long-shot horse has a hope of winning. More than likely, they believe said horse will either come last or at least be languishing in the dust of the more favored front runners.

Also, it depends on what kind of odds you consider to be an actual long shot. If you fancy horses that are 20/1 in the betting, then there’s a much better chance of that horse making a surprise appearance in the top three than a horse that’s been given odds of 50/1 or greater.

Studies conducted in both the United States and Great Britain show that if you were to bet on every single long shot horse that was at 100/1 or more, your return on investment would be way into the red, with an ROI as high as possibly -87%.

That’s not good. It really looks like there’s no possible way to make a profit by adopting a strategy of only wagering on the long shots. It seems like it’s more about getting lucky with the odd long shot bet rather than being able to use it as a successful strategy.

While chance can play a role in horse racing, it’s not like lotto where every number has an equal chance of appearing in a given draw. There are so many more variables at play with horse racing; including form, the jockeys, track conditions, how the horse feels physically on race day and the list goes on.

But long shots do sometimes come home. Even long-shot Melbourne Cup horses have got up and won the great race. In fact, a total of 4 times throughout the Cup’s history, a horse with odds of 100/1 or more has won, the most recent being the Prince of Penzanze in 2015. Other horses were The Pearl in 1871, Wotan in 1936, and Old Rowley in 1940.

It does happen, but only 4 long-shot winners with odds of 100/1 in a century and a half is not very often, and certainly not something you could stake your financial future on.

What Is “Favourite/Long Shot Bias”?

The favourite/long shot bias is an interesting mindset. What it basically refers to is punters way over-valuing the possibility of a long shot horse winning, and totally under-valuing the likelihood that the race favourites will get up and win.

As mentioned earlier, the whole reason a horse is a favourite and another is at long odds is because that is the most likely outcome with everything considered. Although favourite/long shot bias is a real thing, it’s more based on hope than anything tangible.

A favourite has an excellent chance of winning, or at least placing, and a long shot is likely to finish way back in the race.

The Long Shot Only Strategy Isn’t Financially Viable

Betting on a few long shots for fun is one thing, but if you actually hope to make some money from your punting, then the long shot strategy is not going to be a lucrative one, despite how tempting those odds and potential payouts may sound.

Long shots regularly getting up and winning races is really a fantasy, whereas as backing race favourites, or horses that are paying less than 10/1, is far more in touch with reality.