In this article I will explain what Steamers and Drifters are and how they can be used to make a profit on Betfair from betting. Well, that’s what we are all here for, isn’t it?

What, you may ask, are Steamers and a Drifters?

Basically, they are horse racing terms, jargon if you will, for hoses whose odds shorten or lengthen. It’s that simple.

A ** Steamer** is a horse whose odds decrease.

A ** Drifter** is a horse whose odds increase.

But surely, I hear you cry, the odds on all horses increase and decrease. That’s what a market is all about – matching backers with layers and finding the odds at which both parties are willing to trade. Yes, of course, you are right. But, for the most part, once the odds on a particular horses in a particular race have been established and have settled down, they don’t change appreciably. Yes, the odds may increase or decrease slightly as a result of odds being offered and taken, but, in the main, their odds remain fairly constant. But Steamers and Drifters are different. Their odds change quite dramatically and in quite a short period of time. In addition, their odds don’t fluctuate up and down, as is normally the case. Their odds consistently increase or decrease. In the case of a Steamer, the odds consistently shorten. In the case of a Drifter, the odds consistently lengthen.

So far then, we know that the odds on Steamers and Drifters consistently increase or decrease. But then comes the question – how much must a horse’s odds change, and over what period of time, before it can be classified as a Steamer or a Drifter?

Unfortunately, there is no ‘standard’ answer to this question since it depends on who is asked the question.

In my opinion, if the odds on a horse decrease by 50% or more in the last hour of betting before a race, then I classify it as a Steamer and if the odds on a horse increase by 50% or more in the last hour of betting before a race, then I classify it as a Drifter. For example, let’s take the case of a horse whose odds are 4.0 one hour before the race. If the odds, before the off, decrease to 2.0 or less, I would classify it as a Steamer and if the odds increase to 6.0 or more, I would classify it as a Drifter.

Other classifications that I have heard of are:

- If the odds on a horse decrease by at least 40% of its opening odds, then it is classed as a Steamer. If a horse’s odds increase by more than 40% of its opening odds, then it is classed as a Drifter. For example, if a horse’s odds opened at 5.0 and it shortens to 3.0 or less, then it is classed as a Steamer. If the odds lengthen to 7.0 or more, then it is classed as a Drifter.

- If the
*percentage chance*of a horse winning varies by at least 5% in the last two hours before the start of the race, then it is classed as a Steamer or a Drifter. The percentage chance of a horse winning is calculated by dividing 100 by the horse’s decimal back odds. For example, suppose that a horse’s odds are 4.0, then the percentage chance that the horse will win the race is 100/4 = 25%. Suppose that, two hours before the start of the race, a horse’s odds are 4.0 and that, shortly before the start of the race, the odds are 5.0. At odds of 5.0, the percentage chance that the horse will win are 100/5.0 = 20%. Therefore, the percentage chance of winning the race has changed by 5% (25 – 20). Therefore, the horse is classed as a Drifter. Let’s take another example. Suppose that, two hours before the start of the race, a horse’s odds are 5.0 and that, shortly before the start of the race, the odds are 3.0. At odds of 3.0, the percentage chance that the horse will win are 100/3.0 = 33.33%. Therefore, the percentage chance of winning the race has changed by 13.33% (33.33 – 20). Therefore, the horse is classed as a Steamer.

- If, in the last ten minutes of betting before the start of the race, a horse’s odds increases or decreases by three ‘betting points’ or more, then the horse is considered to be a Steamer or a Drifter. For example, if a horse’s odds increase from 2/1 to 5/2, to 3/1 and finally to 100/30 or more in the last ten minutes of betting, it is considered to be a Drifter. If a horse’s odds decrease from 5/1 to 9/2 to 4/1 and finally to 7/2 or less in the last ten minutes of betting, it is considered to be a Steamer.

It is now up to you as to how to define a Steamer and a Drifter. Perhaps you will select one of the above methods or maybe you have your own.

That’s the difficult bit out of the way and we can now recognise a Steamer and a Drifter, can’t we? Now let’s get to the interesting bit.

**What does the fact that a horse’s odds are increasing or decreasing indicate?**

If the odds on a particular horse increase, it is because the general opinion is that it will lose. Why do odds increase? Because opinion is causing the horse to be layed to lose, rather than backed to win. As a result, layers are prepared to lay the horse to lose at ever increasing odds because they believe that it will lose. The odds to back the horse to win will also increase since increasingly higher odds are required to tempt punters to back it to win because they feel that it will lose.

If the odds on a horse decrease, it is because the general opinion is that it will win. Why do odds decrease? Because opinion is causing the horse to be backed to win rather than layed to lose. As a result, backers are prepared to back the horse to win at ever decreasing odds because they believe that it will win. The odds to lay the horse to lose will also decrease since lower odds are required to tempt the layers to lay it to lose.

Therefore, Steamers are opinion-driven winning horses and Drifters are opinion-driven losing horses.

*But, are the opinions accurate?*

In my opinion, based upon my research and my experience, no. In the case of Steamers and Drifters, opinions and facts are diametrically opposed. Statistics reveal that Steamers only win slightly more than 20% of their races and Drifters win slightly less than 20% of their races. In other words, Steamers only win slightly more races than Drifters. The difference is about 3%. Those are the facts, as opposed to the opinions.

These following examples are taken from five real races.

**Sunley Future**

This horse ran in the 15:25 at Leicester on 10th. March 2006. It was the 2 mile 4.5 furlong Ladbroke.com Novices’ Chase (Class 4). At 14:49, the odds to lay Sunley Future to lose were 4.3. Two minutes later, the odds were 4.6. One minute before the start of the race, the odds were 9.2. In the space of 35 minutes, the odds had more than doubled from 4.3 to 9.2. Irrespective of the criteria used, Sunley Future was a Drifter. According to the online betting, it had little chance of winning. For much of the race, the odds on the horse shortened steadily until they reached 1.30. At this point, two fences from home, the horse was leading and it looked as though Sunley Future would win easily. This, however, wasn’t the case and the horse hit the next fence. The odds then began to increase. At the last fence, the horse made another mistake and was passed by two other horses and quickly weakened. Sunley Future eventually finished third. The way it weakened, had it not made mistakes at the last two fences suggested that it would have lost anyway. In this case, the drifting odds before the race were a true reflection of Sunley Future’s chances of winning and it lost.

**Christy Beamish**

This horse ran in the 16:45 race at Newbury on 3rd. March 2006. It was a 2 mile 6 furlong Hunter Chase. At 16:25, the odds to lay Christy Beamish to lose were 3.9. Fifteen minutes later, the odds were 6.6. One minute before the start of the race, the odds were 11.5. In the space of 20 minutes, the odds had almost tripled from 3.9 to 11.5. Just before the start of the race, the odds decreased to 10.0. Irrespective of the criteria used, Christy Beamish was a Drifter. According to the betting, it had little chance of winning. For much of the race, the odds on the horse shortened steadily and the horse won. In this case, the drifting odds before the race were not a true reflection of Christy Beamish’s chances of winning. The horse defied its odds and its Drifter status and won anyway.

**Electrocutionist**

This horse ran in the 18:15 race at Nad Al Sheba (United Arab Emirates) on 2nd. March 2006. It was a 1 mile 2 furlong Group 2 race. At 17:00, the odds to lay the horse to lose were 2.0. Five minutes later they were 1.95. The odds then began to drift and continued to drift. At one point, the odds were 4.0. In the space of 75 minutes, the odds had doubled from 2.0 to 4.0. Irrespective of the criteria used, Electrocutionist was a Drifter. According to the betting, it had little chance of winning. For much of the race, the odds lengthened steadily, eventually, reaching 10.0. Then, the odds began to shorted and the horse went on to win. In this case, the drifting odds before the race were not a true reflection of Electrocutionist’s chances of winning. The horse defied its odds and its Drifter status and won anyway.

**Johnny Dillinger**

This horse ran in the 17:40 race at Naas on 12th. March 2006. It was a 2 mile Irish National Hunt Flat race. At 17:30, the odds to lay the horse to lose were 5.0 and it was 2nd. favourite to Kilcash Demon, a half-brother to Racing Demon. Ten minutes later, the odds were 3.7 and it was favourite. Irrespective of the criteria used, Johnny Dillinger was a Steamer. According to the betting, it was a sure fire winner. For much of the race, the odds on the horse remained steady. Eventually, the odds began lengthening and kept on doing so. This sure fire winner, according to the betting, didn’t even finish in the first three. In this case, the shortening odds before the race were not a true reflection of Johnny Dillinger’s chances of winning. The horse defied its odds and its Steamer status and lost anyway.

**Magical Legend**

This horse ran in the 17:20 race at Taunton on 13th. March 2006. It was a 2 mile 3.5 furlong Handicap Hurdle race. At 17:00, the odds to lay the horse to lose were 6.2 and it was 2nd. favourite to Blaeberry. Twenty minutes later, the odds were 3.95 and it was favourite. Irrespective of the criteria used, Magical Legend was a Steamer. According to the betting, it was a sure fire winner. For much of the race, the odds on the horse remained steady. Eventually, the odds began lengthening and kept on doing so. This sure fire winner, according to the betting, didn’t even finish in the first three. In this case, the shortening odds before the race were not a true reflection of Magical Legend’s chances of winning. The horse defied its odds and its Steamer status and lost anyway.

**What causes horses to Steam or Drift?**

The answer to this question is, in the main, hype.

Like it or not, people listen to hype. It fills numerous newspaper column-inches and consumes much commentary air time. People like to feel that they are special, that they are one of the few ‘in the know’ and that they are privy to information that is not generally known. It never occurs to them that if they know, every man and his dog also probably know.

Some pundits would have you believe that ‘support for a horse’ indicates that it is already as good as home and dry and being declared the winner by the race judge and that a lack of support is as good as a certain loser.

Once the betting bandwagon begins to roll and a horse begins to shorten or lengthen, other people begin to jump on board for fear of losing out and being left behind in the betting frenzy. As a result, the band wagon begins to roll ever quicker as more and more people jump on board. This is probably the main cause of Steamers and Drifters. It is the result of opinion running wild.

Professionals ignore all the hype and stick to their systems. That’s why, long-term, they win.

**How does knowing the true facts, as opposed to opinion, help us?**

It is difficult to place your hard-earned money on the opposite to that which the market indicates. It goes against the grain Statistically, however, it is the best thing to do in the long-term.

You should therefore * lay Steamers to lose*, especially at short odds, and

*, especially at long odds. From the profit point of view, it is far better to oppose the market than to go with the flow and follow it. Yes, it is true, on occasions, the horse will prove that the market was right, but generally, it will be prove that the market was wrong, and that’s how you can benefit and make money,*

**back Drifters to win***by opposing the market*.

But, before you try this, it is strongly recommended that it is thoroughly tested before being used to bet real money and you should never bet more than you can afford to lose.