Elsewhere on the site I’ve spoken of bookies who offer Faller Insurance. This is where you can get your stake back as a free bet if your horse falls or unseats its rider during a race. That particular offer is traditionally available in the National Hunt jump season, and is replaced by an offer that allows you to get your money back if your horse is beaten by a head or a length in the flat season.
But what does this entail, exactly? And what is a head? What is a length? Is one better than the other? Here I’ll have a little look at this type of offer and explore whether it’s worth taking a bookmaker up on it.
Best Beaten by a Head/Length/Neck Offers
What Classes A Head Or Length?
The British Horse Racing Authority explains that distances are calculated different depending on several factors. The time that elapses between each horse crossing the finishing line is noted along with a Lengths Per Second Scale, or Lps. This changes depending on whether you’re talking about flat or jump racing. The type of surface is also taken into account, as is the going on the day.
Thankfully bookmakers simplify this by having a set rule for figuring out what distance your horse was beaten by. Speaking very simplistically a length is literally the length of the horse from its nose to its tail and a head is the length of its head. Most bookies say that the Course Steward’s decision as published by the likes of the Press Association is final.
A nose is considered to be 0.05 of a length; a short head is 0.1 of a length; a head is 0.2 of a length; a neck is 0.3 of a length; half a length is, as the name suggests, 0.5 of a length and a three-quarters of a length follows the same rule and is .075 of a length.
If your take up the offer that sees your money given back if your horse loses by a length then this typically means that if your horse finishes second and is within a length or less distance from the winner you’ll get your stake returned to you. Likewise if it’s a head then you’ll get your refund if your horse loses by a head, a short head or a nose.
It goes without saying that giving you your stake back on bets where you lose by a length is more generous than offers where you get it back for losing by a head. You’ve got the best part of the full length of a horse on your side, there. Of course horse races can often be quite close, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend that you dismiss the latter offer out of hand.
Key Offer Features
One of the first things you’ll want to know is whether you get your money back as cash, bonus funds or as a free bet. Being honest it’s far more common to get it back as a free bet token, so if you see a bookie offering it back as real money then I’d get straight onto that.
There will often be maximum stakes available with this deal. That doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to bet more than, say, £25, but that if you bet £50 and your bet loses then you’ll only get £25 back as a free bet. The rest of your money will be taken by the bookie for a job well done.
Dead heats aren’t all that common in horse racing any more, especially with the technology available to the Course Stewards to look at what’s going on. Interestingly, though, if there is a dead heat for first place between two horses then the money back offer normally doesn’t apply as both horses will be paid out as winners and the next horse will effectively have come third. On the flip side bookies will normally refund on both horses if there’s a dead heat for second place.
The money back offer is normally applied to selected UK & Irish horse races, so keep your eyes peeled to see which bookies are covering which races. They may not all cover the same meetings so you might be able to place bets with different bookmakers for the different races that you want to bet on.
This deal normally applies to Win bets or the Win part of Each Way bets. Say you bet £2.50 EW on a race, for example, and your horse loses by half a length. Well you’ll have bet £5 in total but you’ll only get £2.50 back as a free bet if you took a bookie up on a ‘Money Back If Beaten By A Length’ type offer.
How The Free Bet Works
In the majority of cases your stake money will be returned to you as a free bet. When this happens there are normally some rules and Ts & Cs that you’ll have to be aware of. I can’t give you a definitive list of things that you’ll have to do but normally there are a few givens.
The free bet token often has a time limit on it that means you need to use it before it expires, for example. You might also find that you can only use it on bets with certain odds. Some bookies may specify that you need to use it on a horse racing bet, whilst others will let you use it on any event in their sportsbook.
If your stake is returned to you as bonus funds then you may need to roll the free bet over a number of times before you can withdraw it. Say you’ve received a £10 stake back as a free bet and need to roll it over fives times before you can withdraw it, that means you’ll need to wager £50.
Is The Offer Good Value?
The reality is that races can often finish quite close. You’re talking about finely tuned horses that are handicapped or aided in order to make it a fair race, so it’s not hugely uncommon for the result to be tight. With that in mind there’s little wrong with giving yourself some additional insurance so as to make the disappointment slightly less if you just miss out.
What I would say, and this is purely my opinion so someone might tell you different, if you tend to place Each Way bets I’m not sure it’s all that useful. After all you’ll be getting some winnings regardless. If you often go for straight Win bets then it can be very helpful indeed.
Using Beaten By A Head Or Length Insurance
From the point of view of people that enjoy watching horse races, those that finish in such a way that a horse only wins by a head or a length couldn’t be more exciting. It is the sort of thrilling, topsy-turvy race that will have people out of their seats and shouting to get the horses to put that little bit more effort in. It is one of the outcomes that makes horse racing such a brilliant sport to watch, suggesting that things really can be close when it matters and that that adds excitement that the event in and of itself is perhaps lacking sometimes.
From a bettor’s point of view, however, this is the worst case scenario if it means that your chosen horse comes close but just misses out. It might seem like it should be thrilling, but in actual fact it is just disappointing that a bet that you should have won ends up missing out in such tantalising fashion. It would almost be better if your horse was nowhere near winning the race, with being so close and missing out feeling as if it is just rude. The good news is that with some bookmakers you can get your money back when that happens.
Taking Advantage Of The Offer
One of the first things that you’ll want to know about is how, exactly, you can best take advantage of bookmakers that offer you beaten by a head or length insurance. Typically speaking, the main thing that you’ll want to look into is what the maximum amount that you can place and receive a payout on. If, for example, a bookie has a maximum figure of £25 that you’ll get returned as a free bet if your horse is beaten by a head or a length, that is something that you should take into consideration. As has been noted elsewhere, you can bet more than that, but should you?
If you were to bet, say, £50, you’d lose £25 of that in the event that your horse narrowly lost out on winning. There is certainly an argument that can be made that that would be a silly thing to do when the whole point of the insurance is to ensure that you’re covered in the event of your horse only just failing to win. Why bother using the insurance if you’re still going to end up losing a large chunk of your stake? That is something that you need to think about quite seriously, largely because you’ll need to add it into your calculations.
That is to say, if you’ve got a bankroll of £150, for example, and you’re going to use £50 of that on a bet on Horse You Think Will Win at Ascot, you need to bear in mind that you’ll end up with a bankroll of £125 instead of £150 if your £50 bet only gets half of it refunded in the event that your horse gets close to winning the race but ultimately misses out. That will then have an impact on bets that you’ll be able to place moving forward, even if you add any free bet token or what have you into your bankroll calculations from then on.
Making Use Of The Free Bet
This is something that I’ll keep repeating, but a free bet should never be treated the same as a wasted bet. What I mean by that is that just because something has been given to you under the guise of being ‘free’ doesn’t then mean that you can treat it as something that you can throw away willy-nilly. A bet being free simply means that you don’t have to pay for it out of your bankroll or your bank account, instead coming from the token provided by your bookmaker of choice. It should be treated the same as if it is cash, though.
This means that you need to do plenty of research and investigation into the market that you’re going to bet on with it moving forward. The bettor that thinks of it as a free hit and bets on any old market that they don’t really understand is one that is destined to lose money in the long run. We want to be the exact opposite of that, thinking about making our bookie of choice regretting ever letting us have another bite of the apple. You need to get yourself into a headspace where you’re thinking of your battle with the bookie as an adversarial one.
By providing you with your money back in one form or another when by rights your wager should have been a losing one, your bookmaker has given you another chance to get one over on them. Do not then look that particular gift-horse in the mouth and effectively throw your bet away on something silly. Do the same amount of research as you would do if it was the last £25 that you had in your account, thereby ensuring that there is an increased likelihood that you’ll win your ‘free’ wager and improve your bankroll by the associated amount.
Things To Think About
It might seem silly, but the one thing that you don’t want to do when you’re thinking about which horse to bet on is to try to get the insurance payout. You don’t want to think at all about which horse in the race is most likely to come close to winning but narrowly miss out. Instead, all of your research and planning pre-race should be about which horse you think has the best chance of winning the event in question. If you think in that manner then you’re backed up in two ways: firstly if it does win and secondly if it only just doesn’t.
As long as you’ve done all of your research for your wager then the chances are high that you’ll either get some winning or else get some money back courtesy of the insurance. Neither thing is guaranteed, but nothing in the world of betting is so all you can do is put yourself in the best possible position to see some money returned to you at the end of the race. Ultimately, the key word in the title in this offer is ‘insurance’, given that you’re simply giving yourself a little bit of a thing to fall back on in the event that your horse is close but not close enough to winning.