Horse Racing Betting Guide

Horse Racing

Horse racing is almost unique among sports in that many feel the only reason that it exists is to bet on it. The history of racing horses and indeed betting on the outcome goes back a long, long way, although in its most modern form it started in the 17 century. Racing and betting are synonymous though and today many people in the UK who rarely, if ever, gamble, make an exception for the Grand National.

Of course, this strong link between horse racing and wagering is great for us as it means there is never a shortage of top quality equine events to bet on. There are meetings almost every single day of the year and most days there are multiple meets at as many as seven different courses and that’s just in the UK! With several races at each meeting, and bookies and broadcasters covering events from all over the world one thing that horse racing fans are never short of is action.

How To Bet On Horse Racing

Horse racing is known as the Sport of Kings, thanks to its longstanding royal connections. It is also popular at every level of society and this interest makes it a wealthy and flourishing sport on which to bet. Bookmakers are always creating new and exciting markets but here we take a look at the major ones for horse racing.

Horse Racing Bets

  • To win – The simplest bet and the most popular by some distance is betting on a single horse to a given race, often also called a single or win single. Whether you stick a pin in the newspaper or study the form for days, this bet is the one most people opt for.
  • Each way – Each way betting can be done in most sports but is particularly relevant to horse racing. It is a split bet, with half your stake going on the horse to win and half going on it “to place”. To place means to finish in the top two, three or four (or sometimes more) depending on the number of horses in the race and you get paid between half and a fifth of the standard odds. If your horse wins you get paid on both parts of the bet, whilst if it finishes second (or third and so on) you only win on that part of it.
  • Accumulator – An accumulator is a bet with more than one non-related wager. Again, it can be applied to any sport but is very common in horse race betting, with doubles and trebles right up to huge accumulators all very popular. A double would involve picking two horses to win separate races. To win you need both bets to come in and your stake and winnings from the first roll over onto the second, making huge wins possible.
  • Forecast – This involves picking the top two horses in any given race and can be done as either a straight forecast (the top two in the right order) or a reverse (the top two in either order).
  • Tricast - Exactly the same as a Forecast, except you're picking the top three horses. Tricasts are tricky to pull off, but can lead to huge winnings.
  • Place betting – Like betting each way but without the win portion of the bet, you are backing a horse to finish in the top two, three or four (including winning) at reduced odds.
  • Specials – There are a huge number of specials offered in horse racing, such as which jockey or trainer will ride or saddle the most winners in a season or at a particular festival, and others relating to the performance of a particular horse, such as by how far it will win a specific race.
  • Combination bets – These have unusual names such as Yankee, Trixe, Canadian or Super Heinz and are ways of covering a range of accumulators. For example, if you want to bet on four races you could pick a four horse accumulator and place one bet or you could place four singles. Another option would be a Yankee, which would be a total of 11 bets, including the accumulator, as well as four trebles and six doubles (covering all options if two or more of the four win). A Lucky 15, which is a full cover bet (I think the name says it all), is like a Yankee but includes the four singles as well.
  • Ante-post betting – These are bets placed in advance of a race, prior to the final declarations being posted. For example quite often after one big race finishes, the bookies offer the ante-post odds for the race the following year or sometimes for the winner to triumph at the next big race.

Horse Racing Betting Rules

Ante Post Betting

There are a few little rules to be aware of when betting on horses and most concern the odds. Firstly, if you bet on an ante-post market you normally lose your bet if your pick doesn’t race. For this reason ante-post odds are often very high but you could lose your bet without ever even seeing your horse race.

Rule 4 Deductions

If you steer clear of antepost betting you should be aware of Rule 4. This is a means by which the odds are reduced if a horse withdraws once the declarations have been posted. For example, in a three horse race with a strong favourite, if the favourite withdraws the odds on the other two will become a lot lower, even if you have placed your bet and accepted “guaranteed” odds.

Starting Price

Another occasion on which you might get lower odds than you expected is if you choose to back a horse at the starting price or SP. If you see a horse at 4/1 and the horse gets heavily backed it may start the race at 2/1. Unless you accepted the 4/1 you will get paid at 2/1. Some bookies offer “Best Odds Guaranteed”, meaning if you take the price at the time of placing the bet you will get the higher odds if they drift out by the start. NB – this has no bearing on Rule 4.

First Past the Post

The final thing to consider is that some bookmakers will only pay out on the first horse past the post. This means that if you back a horse that finished second but then the winner was disqualified your bet would not be a winning one. Some bookmakers pay out on both results which is worth looking out for.

Betting Strategy

As with any sports betting, research and knowledge are the keys to success. The best strategy with horse racing is to study the form as much as possible, looking out for odds that are out of line. You must consider the form of the jockey, the stable and the horse, as well as the weather (and ground) conditions, previous form at the track, how long it is since the horse last raced and, crucially, the standard of its previous races and its upcoming competition.

Many of the national newspapers carry tipping columns and these can be a useful source of information, especially at a time when a tipster is on a successful run. Paid tipping services are invariably a bad idea, not least because by the time you get the tip the odds are likely to be lower than the price at which they would be a good bet. Just ask yourself, if the tips were so good, why would anyone give them away, or even sell them?

There are no quick and easy tricks but I urge you put the time in you will see the rewards. For most people betting on the horses is probably best viewed as fun, rather than work, but for those prepared to watch hours of footage, looking for horses with unrecognised potential there is certainly scope for substantial reward.

Latest Horse Racing Tips

Now we do appreciate the irony of offering horse racing tips after criticising the concept of blindly following tipsters in the previous section, but the way we do things is a little different. We don't list Naps or 'sure wins' in our previews, instead we highlight key information and provide suggestions of horses you should be paying careful attention to. For those of you who want more spoon feeding we do normally end with a 'pick' but that's just who we're betting on.

Coverage tends to include major races and meetings from throughout the UK & Ireland and will normally be added shortly after the final declarations are made and once the odds are known.

Latest Horse Racing Tips

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