"The bigger the field, the bigger the certainty” in horse racing means that the more horses in the field, the greater it is that the favorite is likely to win. “Backers were apparently acting in full belief of the adage, “the bigger the field the bigger the certainty’” was cited in print in 1898. “Mythbusters: Five Racing Adages Under The Microscope” published on geegeez (UK) determined that the adage was true.
“The bigger the field, the bigger the certainty” has been infrequently applied outside of horseracing—to the favorite in a marathon race or the favorite in a political field, for example.
January 1898, Baily’s Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, pg. 60, col. 2:
Backers were apparently acting in full belief of the adage, “the bigger the field the bigger the certainty,” for there was nearly always a warm favourite, and Dule Tree, who won, was an even money chance in the Cuerdon Plate in a field of eighteen.
25 April 1901, The Manchester Guardian (UK), “Epsom Spring Meeting,” pg. 11, col. 5:
A baker’s dozen did battle for the Tadworth Plate, but on the principle that the greater the field the greater the certainty backers took short odds about Simon Glover, who was ridden by the younger Reiff.
28 April 1902, The Manchester Guardian (UK), “On the Palace Banks,” pg. 8, col. 2:
“The bigger the field,” he said, “the bigger the certainty.”
24 October 1906, The Bystander, “Racing Notions,” pg. 154, col. 2:
It is, perhaps, annoying to be obliged to accept such a small price about any horse in a field of twenty runners, but there is an old saying on the Turf that “the bigger the field, the bigger the certainty.”
9 April 1908, Washington (DC) Post, “Great Sport at Benning,” pg. 8, col. 4:
She made a show of her field and verified a turf axiom that “the bigger the field the bigger the certainty.”
University of Kentucky
8 March 1924, Daily Racing Form (Chicago, IL), “Paris Jumping Season On,” pg. 1, col. 2:
There is a well known racing adage: ‘The bigger the field the bigger the certainty,” and this was proved again at Auteuil.
Old Fulton NY Post Cards
12 November 1928, Standard Union (Brooklyn, NY), “Herodian One to Defeat in Feature Race” by Bill Dale, pg. 17,col. 1:
“The bigger the field the bigger the certainty” is an adage that may be applied in the sixth, a six-furlong claimer, in which Mordine, with Laverne Fator likely back in the boot, should romp home.
The Guru and the Golf Club
By David Benedictus
‘The bigger the field, the bigger the certainty,’ Jack Rubin offered irrelevantly.
Field of 36,000 for the London Marathon and Wilson Kipsang is 9-4 to beat the lot. Old adage: the bigger the field, the bigger the certainty
4:03 AM - 13 Apr 2014
By Ronald A. Moore
Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse UK
There was an old racing saying: “the bigger the field the bigger the certainty”; I wondered whether this was going to be the race.
November 6, 2015
Mythbusters: Five Racing Adages Under The Microscope
by Matt Bisogno
5. “The bigger the field, the bigger the certainty”
Last but not least is the ultimate contrarians’ maxim, “The bigger the field, the bigger the certainty”. Put another way, short priced horses in big field races are a good bet. It seems quirky, but does it hold water? As ever, the truth lies not in the sound bite, but in the murky guts of a racing database.
Framing a question for a database around this one is, again, less straightforward than some which have been covered already. But it is far from impossible.
The biggest ‘certainty’ in any race - in general terms - must be the horse at the top of the market, i.e. the favourite. So we’ll use that as a starting point for the ‘certainty’ element.
True or False? TRUE