Back the wrong horse and bet on the wrong horse are two versions of an idiom that has been in use for centuries. We will examine the meaning of the idioms back the wrong horse and bet on the wrong horse, where they came from, and some examples of their idiomatic usage in sentences.
To back the wrong horse or to bet on the wrong horse are idioms that mean to support a losing cause, to promote a loser, to make the wrong decision about which outcome will be successful. The phrases come from the sport of horse racing, and refers to placing one’s wager on a horse that loses the race. The expressions back the wrong horse and bet on the wrong horse are as old as horse racing, but the idioms became very popular in the latter 1800s, especially when used to describe political races. Of the two variations, bet on the wrong horse has become more popular since the mid-twentieth century. Related phrases are backs the wrong horse, backed the wrong horse, backing the wrong horse, bets on the wrong horse, betting on the wrong horse.
Australia could choose not to wake up in a couple of decades wondering where our collective prosperity went because we continued to back the wrong horse in the face of all the evidence. (The Guardian)
Alexander Zevin examines the newspaper’s influence on liberal history — and its tendency to back the wrong horse (The Financial Times)
Woojune Kim, the head of global sales at Samsung’s network business, told a British parliamentary committee in July: “You could say that we placed our bet on the wrong horse.” (The Los Angeles Times)
As it turned out, JE Dunn bet on the wrong horse, as the Kansas City Council voted in September to select the terminal modernization team led by Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, based in Bethesda, Md. (The Kansas City Business Journal)