Racing Market Movers Explained

A horse race with an indicative wave of data superimposed over the top of them

In this piece we are going to explore the ins and outs of horse racing market movers. What causes them, how they work and what are the mechanics behind them are some of the questions we’ll try to answer for you. We’ll also examine the relationship between the exchange and sportsbooks and how one heavily influences the other. Want to know more? Then keep on reading.

What Is A Market Mover?

In all sports, a market move is when a price/the odds change. In horse racing, for example, when a horse’s odds lengthen, they are known as a drifter. On the other hand, when the odds go in the other direction and shorten, that horse is known as a ‘steamer’.

Is The Market Always Right?

Some punters live and die by following market moves. For those bettors, it is as simple as backing the horses that have shortened the most and laying the horses that have drifted the most. However, there are multiple reasons why a market might move and learning to differentiate genuine market moves from moves that might happen for other reasons is the key to profitability.

So is the market always right? Most certainly not. Obviously, a percentage of market movers will win but plenty of them lose and it is not that uncommon to see horses that are weak in the market run massive races.

Some market moves are entitled to more respect than others and we’ll delve further into the reasons behind this later on.

How Does The Exchange Affect Sportsbook markets

The exchange, where punters can play the role of bookmaker, can have a big bearing on the prices on offer from sportsbooks. Generally speaking, when it comes to horses at the head of the market, odds on the exchange are usually one or two points bigger than on sportsbooks.

We looked at the odds for a recent random six runner race at Tipperary to illustrate the relationship between odds available on the exchange compared to Betway’s sportsbook.

HorseExchange Odds*Sportsbook Odds**
Alessia Fernanda2.402.38
Party Dress14.5012.00
Quantum Light9.808.00
Tasmanian Girl140.0081.00

*Betfair Exchange **Betway Sportsbook

As you can see, the odds for the top five in the betting were just slightly bigger on the exchange. However, the rank outsider Tasmanian Girl was 60 points bigger on the exchange compared to the 81.00 that was on offer from Betway.

So, if you fancy a long shot to win, back it on the exchange because nine times out of ten, the odds will be a lot bigger than you’ll get on any sportsbook. One thing to remember is that most liquidity on the exchange is on the win only market so for each way betting, sportsbooks are a better choice.

Mechanics Of Market Movers

So, what causes markets to move? The simple answer is money. The more money that goes on a horse, the more its price will shorten. If a horse hasn’t been supported in the market, this causes the price to drift.

The amount a market moves doesn’t just depend on the volume of money. Where the money is coming from also plays a part. Betting on racing is basically a game of opinions and some opinions hold more weight than others.

For example, if a sportsbook takes a bet from a trainer or owner that has a reputation for being a good judge, they’ll shorten their prices accordingly. They can also use this information to guide their strategy towards taking on other horses in the race.

Usually, the exchange shapes the sportsbook markets but when respected trainers/owners have a substantial bet, the opposite happens and the exchange price reacts to the sportsbook market move.

Horse Racing Market Movers

Horse racing market movers can often be expensive to follow. The reason for this is that everyday punters usually don’t know why the market has moved so it is near impossible to know whether the money has come from a source connected to the owner or trainer.

To illustrate this point, we have looked at the five biggest market movers from the day this piece was written (May 31, 2024). As you can see, one won, two placed and two came absolutely nowhere.

HorseOdds ChangeResult
Mount Teide2/1 into 4/9Won
Airspeed (6 runner race)9/4 into 1/13rd
Hamish25/1 into 4/12nd
New Charter4/1 into 15/87th
James Webb3/1 into 6/42nd

So how can you know which market moves to trust? It is never easy to be 100% sure (unless you are the punter that is moving the market!) and the only way to learn is through experience.

Certain owners tend to back their horses heavily if they are expecting a big run. Getting to know these owners and learning their betting patterns/timings/habits is the key to spotting whether market moves are genuine or whether a price has simply shortened because a high profile tipster has put it up as a selection.

On Course Market Moves

These days, the vast majority of betting on horse racing is done online. However, there are still some grizzled veterans for whom cash is king and they often like to back their horses in the traditional way, with a bookmaker in the ring at the track.

On course market moves usually happen shortly before the start of the race. After the owner has chatted to the trainer and jockey pre-race in the parade ring and the horses are cantering down to the start, the owner heads to the betting ring to weigh up the odds that are available.

Once the owner sees a price he likes, money changes hands and the bet is placed. If the bet is big enough, the on course bookie will slash the odds and will then begin laying off the bet with other bookies and on the exchange. This then causes the odds to shorten across the board.

So, if a market moves considerably in the last couple of minutes before a race begins, there is a decent chance that will be a move that was generated by a bet placed on course in the betting ring.

Greyhound Racing Market Movers

Just like in horse racing, greyhound racing connections often like to punt their dogs. The main difference is that most greyhound market moves happen late on the day of the race, unlike in horse racing where markets are formed the night before.

The majority of bookies only price up greyhound races close to the start of a race. A few firms do offer ‘early bird’ prices but for the most part the overrounds are pretty high, usually at least 110%.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of money to move the odds on a dog these days as bookmakers are ultra cautious. Their prices are usually based on exchange odds so if they shorten or lengthen, the sportsbooks follow suit.

How Much Money Does It Take To Change The Odds?

The amount of money it takes to change the odds on a horse is dependent on a number of different factors. The night before a race markets can be particularly volatile. There is normally very little liquidity on the exchange (unless it is a major race) and as such, relatively small bets can affect the market disproportionately.

As a general rule, the shorter the odds, the bigger the bet needs to be to change the odds. The night before a bog standard handicap or maiden, it might take as little as £30 or £40 each way to change the odds of an outsider (20/1 or bigger). At single figure odds, larger bets are required to shorten the price.

The source of money can also be very influential on the market. If a trainer or respected owner has a bet online via their sportsbook account, bookmakers can utilise this information to shape the market. This story illustrates what can and does go on behind the scenes.

Other Reasons For Racing Market Movers

Money is the main reason for most market moves but there can often be different reasons behind why the cash has come for a horse.

  • Ground Changes – If the ground conditions change before the race, this can impact the market massively. Some horses like fast ground and others like it soft and this is taken into consideration when markets are originally formed.
  • Tipsters – Tipsters can often be responsible for sparking major market moves. If a well-respected high profile judge like Tom ‘Pricewise’ Segal or Hugh Taylor tip up a horse, the price will usually shorten dramatically.
  • Whispers – Anyone who backs horses will be well aware of ‘inside information’ being passed around. If there are rumours that a horse has worked particularly well (or badly) on the gallops this can have a big impact on the market. For example, if a Willie Mullins horse drifts on the exchange in the run up to Cheltenham, it usually means their work hasn’t gone well, their target has changed or they may have picked up an injury.
  • Pre-Race Behaviour – The behaviour of a horse in the preliminaries or behind the stalls at the start of a race can also have an impact, usually negative, on the market. If a horse has been fractious in the parade ring or is sweating up badly this can cause their price to drift.

Spotting Market Moves Before They Happen

Spotting market moves before they happen is a skill that few punters possess. If you back and lay horses, having that ability is a massive asset.

Without access to reliable inside information it is impossible to know for sure if a market move is imminent. However, there are a number of signs to watch out for that indicate that a market move may occur.

Has a horse got a good record at the track at which they are running? Does the jockey have a good strike rate on the horse or for the trainer or owner? Will the ground suit? Is the trainer in good form?

If a horse you are looking at ticks three or four of the above boxes, chances are the money will come. We go into more detail on how to find overpriced horses in the relevant section in our ultimate guide to flat racing.

Is Following Market Movers Profitable?

The million dollar question. Is following market movers profitable? Following them blindly, the answer is no, but if you follow the right ones there is definitely money to be made. The key to success is learning the patterns and habits of different owners and trainers.

As we mentioned earlier, market moves that happen on the eve of a race are notoriously unreliable. The main reason for this is that it is very hard to place any sort of a substantial bet the night before.

Most bookmakers heavily restrict stakes on bets placed that early and as a result, it is very rare that an owner or trainer that wants to have a proper bet tries to get on the night before. Firstly, they won’t get much on and secondly, the price will collapse.

Proper Punters

Proper punters won’t place any bets until they can get the sum of money on that they want, at the odds they want. The best advice we can give is to watch out for horses that might have drifted through the night and morning that then shorten dramatically, roughly between 11am and 1pm.

This isn’t a surefire way to find winning market movers but we’ve been involved in a few punts ourselves as owners and usually the plan is to wait for a drift, then get on at the same time either online or in shops.

Horse Racing Market Moves FAQs

How to find market movers horse racing?

Most reputable racing websites have a page where you can find the biggest market movers of the day. A horse that has shortened in price is known as ‘strong’ and a steamer, a horse that lengthens in price is known as ‘weak’ and a drifter.

Do horse racing market movers always win?

No, horse racing market movers don’t always win and that is the case across all sports. If they did, the bookies would soon be filing for bankruptcy.