Forecast and tricast bets have often been decried as ‘mug’ bets by experienced punters. In their eyes, these ‘exotic’ wagers are akin to going for a four or five horse accumulator. The odds are long, the potential payoff is massive, but the chances of winning are minimal. However, are we looking at these bets all wrong? Are they a bookmaker’s delight, or is there a method in the apparent madness?
What Are Forecasts & Tricasts?
Simply put, a forecast bet is where you predict the first and second placed runners in a race. You can do a:
- Straight Forecast: A basic prediction of the winner and second-placed horse.
- Reverse Forecast: This is two bets; you choose two horses to finish in the top two in any order.
- Combination Forecast: Similar to a reverse forecast but comprises several bets. If there are three horses that you fancy for instance, you can create six forecast bets: Horse A first, horse C second, AB, BA, BC, CA, and CB. If you want to do a combination forecast with four horses, you are making 12 bets.
If a forecast bet is tricky, a tricast bet is positively outrageous:
- Straight Tricast: You must correctly predict the top three horses in order. This bet is typically only available in races with at least six runners.
- Combination Tricast: This is when you choose at least three horses and place a series of bets for them to finish in the top three in any order. Multiply the number of selections by the next two numbers down. For example, if you want to do a combination tricast with three runners, it is six bets. With four horses, it becomes 24 bets: 4 x 3 x 2 = 24.
What’s Wrong with Forecasts & Tricasts?
If you have any experience whatsoever in horse racing betting, you’ll know that choosing a winner is hard enough. When you try to predict the horses that finish second and third as well, you are relying on a lot of luck to go with your judgement.
Let’s say you are trying to pick a winner in a six-horse race. There are only six possible outcomes. With a forecast, there are 30 possible outcomes! With a tricast, there are 120 potential outcomes. The odds only become more stacked the bigger the race:
- 7 Runners: 42 forecast outcomes, 210 tricast outcomes.
- 8 Runners: 56 forecast outcomes, 336 tricast outcomes.
- 9 Runners: 72 forecast outcomes, 504 tricast outcomes.
- 10 Runners: 90 forecast outcomes, 720 tricast outcomes.
To make matters worse, some punters attempt forecast and tricast doubles and trebles! We are entering lottery winning odds territory with some of these bets! In pure probability terms (not taking into account the odds of each bet), there is an 899/1 chance of a successful forecast double, and a 26,999/1 chance of a forecast treble.
In the UK, payouts are the official industry forecast return, which is determined by a horse’s odds, number of runners, and several other factors.
I chose a race at random. As you can see, a tricast in this particular 10-runner race on horses with odds of 14/1, 28/1, and 9/1 respectively offered odds of over 3677/1. There is almost no chance of that bet winning, which makes it a mug’s bet, regardless of the odds. But is it possible to gain an edge with these seemingly foolish bets?
Can You Make Forecasts & Tricasts Work in Your Favour?
The simple solution would be to say ‘no’ and end the article, but I believe it is worth further investigation. I assumed there was no database on forecast bets, but there is ample information as it happens. I was able to find out that since the beginning of 2014 in UK races, only 28.57% of Forecast favourites win the race. Backing them all resulted in a Betfair Exchange loss of 6.35%.
It should go without saying that if you want to back clear Forecast favourites to win in your Forecast, it is best to stick with non-handicap races because they win 38.9% of the time. In races with 1-10 runners, the win rate jumps to 41.15%. It increases to 44.68% when you focus on National Hunt races only, and 47.57% in Chase events.
23.45% of clear Forecast second favourites in 1-10 runner non-handicap races win, a rate which improves to 25.18% in NH Chase races. This means 64.5% of races are won by the Forecast favourite or second favourite, and the rate is 72.75% in Chase events. It is an indication that perhaps you can create a system of sorts for Forecast betting at least. If almost two-thirds of races (significantly over two-thirds in Chase events) are won by one of two horses, it makes sense to consider a reverse Forecast, assuming the odds are worth it.
The trick is finding races that meet the criteria.
This All-Weather race at Kempton is an example of a bad forecast betting opportunity. There are three horses clustered together odds-wise in an extremely competitive race. For a good Forecast, it is better if there are two horses well out in front; although savvy bettors would argue that this tactic means lower payouts.
It is an arguable point that this race is a solid Tricast opportunity. A straight tricast on Midnight Vixen, Havana Jane, and Merchant of Venice pays 26/1. You could try a six-bet combination tricast and receive a win of at least 26/1 if you are right. However, none of these horses look convincing; it is Havana Jane’s debut, Midnight Vixen has been outside the places in three consecutive races, and Merchant of Venice finished ninth in its only career entry.
The above seems like a good forecast opportunity, but a Dalileo/High Command Forecast pays just 1.91. It does have the anatomy of what to look for in a forecast. You need two horses well ahead of the pack, with one far more likely to win the race than the other. Tricasts are a LOT trickier.
If you are contemplating Forecast and Tricast bets, your best chance may lie with non-handicap chase races with 1-10 runners. However, there are a few other ways to gain a possible edge. At certain courses, draw bias potentially halves a field before you even look at the form and other factors.
You should also look closely at horses that run well without achieving victory. Numerous horses regularly place but seldom win. If you see them in a race up against a likely winner, that’s a good Forecast opportunity; and a rare chance to benefit from seconditis!
Finally, it is often a case of simply going through a race like you normally do. If you find two or three horses that stand out, it is worth a reverse forecast (something I wished I had bet on for the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup) or a combination tricast depending on the odds.