Market movers: What is a market mover in horse racing?

See why market movers are important for your bets in this latest horse racing betting guide…

market movers in horse racing


Successfully betting on horse racing based purely on the odds is an art form very few can master. Considering the number of variables that go into racing betting – from the types of going to the form, the jockey and the weights – it’s unlikely that the odds alone can ever accurately predict the outcome of a race.

But most bettors rely on the odds to provide a guide on where their wagers should, in theory, go. A short-odds favourite is likely to be a good accumulator banker. Likewise, a well-rated outside shot is probably worth an Each Way bet.

And another important aspect of betting based on odds is looking out for market movers. These are horses whose odds have shifted – either up or down – and their presence has affected the rest of the market.

In this guide we’ll take you through everything you need to know about market movers in horse racing, why they’re important for wagers, and what you can do about them. You’ll also learn how to spot market movers yourself, and understand how to best react to them.


What is a market mover?

A market mover in horse racing betting is a horse whose odds have either significantly expanded or deflated leading up to the event. Horse racing odds are live a few days out from a race and change depending on the volume of bets placed on each horse. In effect bookmakers react to the popularity and unpopularity of horses, and adjust their odds accordingly.

So, if a bookmaker witnesses a flurry of bets placed on an outside tip at 8/1, they may push the horse’s odds in to a less enticing price of 5/1. Meanwhile, the odds on the other horses in the same race will likely rise in reaction to this shortening.

Market movers are common in horse racing but can sometimes be considered a hindrance, rather than a benefit, to bettors’ choices. After all, if one horse whips up so much popularity and backing that its price makes it a heavy favourite, this might not accurately reflect the actual ability of the horse.

There are two types of market mover in horse racing to be aware of: drifters and steamers.

market mover in horse racing

Drifter in horse racing

A drifter in horse racing is a horse whose odds are beginning to expand – in effect, they’re drifting away. This usually happens when no-one is betting on the horse. The bookmaker expands its odds in order to make the horse a more viable bet.

There are many reasons why a horse’s odds might drift. It may have slipped under the media radar, or be poorly rated among tipsters, and so no-one wants to bet on it. It might also have poor form, or have suffered a fall or pulled up in its last race. It might even simply have a bad name that general punters betting on, say, the Grand National aren’t inspired by. Whatever the reason, a drifter’s odds expand due to a lack of betting action.

Steamer in horse racing

A steamer in horse racing is a horse whose odds are coming in, thanks to a wave of bettors backing it. Steamers are the opposite to drifters but their odds react to betting activity in exactly the same way. In this instance, more and more people are betting on the horse and it forces the bookies to cut its odds.

Now, steamers can suggest the punters know something the bookies don’t. However, there is often a concern with steamers that they’ve being over-backed to such an extent that their new odds don’t accurately reflect their winning potential.

Steamers odds rely on popularity, and when a market mover like this is spotted then it can trigger more bettors to back the horse, and in turn send the odds falling even further.

Market mover examples

As we’ve seen, there are two types of market mover in horse racing: drifters and steamers. Below is an example of a drifter in horse racing. As you can see, Tommy Taylor was originally priced at 8/1 to win its race, but the odds swiftly moved out to 12/1, then 16/1 and currently sit at 20/1.

The odds have drifted away and Tommy Taylor is now not even a worthwhile outside pick for this race – due largely to bettor neglect. 

drifter in horse racing

Meanwhile, below is an example of a steamer in horse racing. Steamers are harder to spot until perhaps 20 minutes before a race, at which point bettors dive on the odds and drive the prices down.

Here, Tiger Stevie began the day at odds of 30/1 but the odds crashed to 7/1, before levelling out at 8/1. That’s a big fall and indicates this horse – in only its second ever race – has caught the eye of punters.

steamer in horse racing

What to do with a market mover?

Bettors tend to favour different ways of reacting to a market mover. Some will try and jump on the bandwagon of a high-priced horse whose odds are beginning to creep in. They hope to snag a good price before the odds collapse on the weight of popularity.

Others will ignore steamers and look at drifters who may have been wrongly ignored. They’re in the market for a big-odds Each Way bet that goes against the flow of most other bets.

Reacting to a market mover, therefore, is very much a bettor’s choice. But remember, the odds aren’t the only variable to look out for when betting on horse racing.


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