Horse Racing is where sports betting all began, and it is still one of the most popular betting categories on a bookmaker’s sports list. It is definitely seen as a more traditional sport to bet on though, and due to the complexities of the bet types and the learning curve associated with studying form etc., it is also one of the least accessible.
Add to this the extra expense of managing a horse racing book, and you can understand why many newer bookies choose to omit the Sport of Kings from their offering, at least while they get themselves established.
That’s not to say it’s hard to find odds on horse racing though; it’s certainly readily available at all the big brands, and many newer brands will choose to include at least UK and Irish horse racing to keep their punters happy.
All bookies do things slightly differently though, so just because two bookmakers both offer prices on horse racing, it doesn’t necessarily make them equal.
For example, some might offer a lot more extra places than others; some might offer odds on races as far and wide as Chile and America, while others focus on meetings closer to home; best odds guaranteed might not be available at some of the smaller bookies; some bookies might have much lower margins on the sport than others – it all depends on each individual bookmaker’s approach to their horse racing book.
This page will recommend some of our favourite bookies for horse racing, but we will also use it as a place to get some information on betting on the horses in general.
For anyone wanting to learn about horse racing betting, this is a good place to start, as all the basics will be covered as well as some of the simplest and most popular bet types, common offers, features, and promotions associated with horse racing, as well as any betting rules or terms it pays to understand when placing a wager on the gee gees.
How to Bet on Horse Racing
If you have used a betting site before, then you probably won’t need this bit and can skip on, but for anyone starting from scratch, here’s how to make a bet on horse racing.
Once your account is live and you have some funds in there, you will need to find a race and then a horse to bet on.
All online bookmaker interfaces are a little different, but they usually follow a very similar template so you will be looking at something like this:
Horse racing is a popular sport for punters so it will be made nice and easy to find, with more than one route to your destination – in fact, the vast majority of bookies will show the most imminent races right there on the home page as you can see in the image above.
If you wanted to bet on one of these, you could do so right there and then without going any further simply by clicking on the odds next to the horse you want to bet on.
This will then add the selection/s to your betslip, at which point you can add the amount you want to bet, turn it into an each way or multiple bet if you would like to (more on that later), and then hit the Place bet button to make it official.
This is a great help if you already know what you want to bet on and need to get the bet on quickly, but for someone who is browsing the odds or wanting to do a bit of research, it’s no good.
You typically won’t be able to see the whole field from the home page, so you will need to click through to the full race card if you want to look at things properly, weigh up the competition, and study a bit of form.
Really then, to find your bet, you are going to have to navigate to the Horse Racing area of the site.
There will usually be quick links as horse racing is a favourite with punters, as there are in our BetVictor example images here, but if not, you will need to use the sports list or A-Z, which lists all the sports that bookie currently has odds on.
This is almost always on the left of the page and in alphabetical order so you can’t get lost.
The image below shows you a few navigation options with the site we are using, and the site you use won’t be dissimilar:
Clicking on any of these options will take you to the horse racing page on the site, where you will be able to see all the meetings taking place for that day, and also further options to view races for the next day and any future markets.
There might be some offers or price boosts on display too, giving extra value.
Again, it will be displayed slightly differently depending on who you bet with, but the same options will be available to you.
This bookie presents the options as drop down menus, and we have expanded Newcastle and can see the times of the various races taking place that day.
If we select the 17:00, we can now see all of the runners, their current and previous odds, trainer (T:) and jockey (J:) names, and their previous form, as well as an option to see more detailed information:
BetVictor also show odds to place (again, more on this later) and to bet without the favourite, but the default will always be to bet on the outright winner.
The way any extra information will be displayed – you won’t be surprised to hear – is individual to each bookie. Here. it sort of shows up over the top of the last screen which is quite unusual; at most bookies it just shows up as a drop down.
Now we have a lot more info on each horse as well as a brief paragraph which explains the opinion of those in the know.
You can use this information along with your own knowledge and research to decide which horse to bet on and which bet to make, with a lot of the final details being handled in the betslip itself as previously described.
So that’s how to find and place a bet on the horses, but to do that, you are going to need to be a little more clued up on how horse racing betting works, which leads us on to the next part of the article.
How to Read a Race Card
To give you a fighting chance of looking at form, we will go over the basics to reading a race card as it looks like complete nonsense to the untrained eye.
This will just cover enough to get you going rather than going into all the finer details such as cheek pieces and what not, as that would be overwhelming to someone just starting out. To be honest, a lot of race cards now come with explanations of each number or symbol if you hover over it – the benefits of internet technology.
The basic things to look out for on a race card are the horses’ trainer, jockey, and recent form. You can dig into the horse’s history at the same course or in different weather/ground conditions by looking at their record too, and once you get to know a few horses and perhaps follow them, you can take into consideration the other finer points.
To begin with though, we will just point out the most important parts.
From the image above, let’s first focus on the information in the yellow box.
We have the race name, the length of the race in miles (m), furlongs (f), and yards (y), the going (‘standard’ in this case), and the each way terms which explain how many places are being paid out and at what rate.
So this is the Vickers.Bet Handicap run over 5 furlongs, the ground condition is standard, and the bookie is paying out on 3 places at 1/5th of the odds to win.
Onto the red box then, and this details the practical information about the horse.
We have the number the horse will be wearing, then the lane the horse is starting (the number in brackets), the jockey silks shown as an image, plus the horse’s name and the name’s of the jockey and trainer.
The information in the green box is arguably the trickiest to remember. First we have the horse’s form and official rating. The form shows where the horse finished in its last 6 races, so Dandy Dinmont came 5th, 2nd, 8th, 4th, 5th and most recently, 3rd.
You might also see letters and symbols here too, such as – denoting a new year and / denoting a new season, giving you some idea of how often the horse has been raced; P means the horse was pulled up, U means it unseated the rider, R means it refused to race.
There are lots of these abbreviations and plenty of places to study them online, but to avoid overwhelm it’s probably best to look them up as you find them rather than trying to remember them all off the bat.
The official rating changes after each race, and is an indication of how ‘good’ the horse is, which helps the handicapper to decide what weight all the horses should or should not carry to keep the race competitive.
A horse may not have an official rating; they only get one after a win, or after finishing in the top 6 three times.
Moving along then, and we have the horse’s allocated weight (what the horse must carry including the jockey and saddle), and on this race card, the RPR. This stands for Racing Post Rating, so it’s just another person’s opinion on how strong a runner the horse is. Not all race cards will have this one.
Lastly, we have the horse’s age and their TS, which stands for Top Speed. Again, not all horses have a TS rating.
What you do with all of this information is up to you, but at least now that you know what it means you can decide whether or not to use it to help make your betting decisions.
What are the Most Common Horse Racing Bet Types?
Horse racing bet types can be confusing, but broadly, they are split into two categories; singles, and multiples.
Looking at the single bet types first, we have:
- Win – The simplest bet of all. You select one horse to finish first in a particular race. If your chosen horse wins, you collect your winnings, any other result means you lose your bet.
- Place – A Place bet involves picking a horse to finish in the places, which is the top 2, 3 or 4 depending on the number of runners in the race. The number of places for each race will be clearly displayed when you make the bet, and it doesn’t matter where in the places the horse finishes, as long as it is within those parameters.
- Each-Way – An Each-Way bet is a combination of a Win and a Place bet. You bet on a horse to both win and place, effectively placing two bets. If your horse wins, you receive both the Win and Place payouts. If it places but doesn’t win, you receive the Place payout. Note that placing a £5 each way bet will therefore cost you £10.
- Forecast – A single bet that predicts which horses will finish 1st and 2nd in the correct order.
- Reverse Forecast – As above, but the two chosen horses can finish 1st and 2nd in any order.
- Tricast – The same as a forecast bet but with three horses finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the correct order; so this is a much harder bet to get right. Equally though, the odds will be better.
- Reverse Tricast – The same as a Tricast but the three chosen horses can finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in any order.
- Bet Without – This bet basically removes a specified horse, often the favourite, from the race. That horse will still run in reality, but for the sake of the bet, it is ignored. It can turn a race that looks like it’s all tied up into something much more interesting.
Although some of the above bet types involve more than one horse, they are still considered to be singles because they all pertain to a single race.
Multiples, on the other hand, are bets containing predictions from several different events, but in order for your overall bet to win, all of those predictions must be correct.
This is where things can start getting a bit complicated, especially as we move past the accumulators, because there are absolutely loads of different names for the many bet combinations you can make using the same selections.
We will explain them here but don’t be intimidated by them – most punters don’t bother with anything more complicated than an acca.
- Double – A single bet on the winners of two different races. So you are choosing two horses to win their respective races, but only making a single bet.
- Treble – As above, but with an extra horse from a third race included into the mix. Again, this is one single bet on the outcome of three different races.
- 4-fold+ or Accumulator – An accumulator (or acca) is a bet containing 4 or more selections. Most bookies allow up to 20 selections in an acca, but the more selections you add the less likely the bet is to come off. For this reason, people enjoy placing small stakes on long odds accas, because although the losses will be frequent, they are small, whereas if an acca comes in, the wins can be huge because the odds are multiplied every time you add another selection (or leg). An acca with 6 selections might also be referred to as a 6-fold, for example, or an acca with 9 legs might be referred to as a 9-fold. Bookies often run acca promotions because they make so much money from them.
From this point on we start getting into more confusing territory, because the following bets are made up of lots of other bets.
So whereas you can bet £5 on a 10-fold acca and the bet will cost you £5, with the following bets, the stake will be multiplied by the number of bets that make up the overall bet.
To help you understand, let’s break down the trixie in more detail, as once you get your head around the general concept, the individual details of the rest of the bets will makes sense.
A trixie requires you to select the winners of three different races, lets call them Horse A, Horse B and Horse C. However, the bets you make are as follows: 3 doubles, and 1 treble. So betting £5 as the stake would actually cost you £20, because it would be £5 per bet and there are 4 different bets.
This means you would have a double on Horse A and Horse B, Horse B and Horse C, and Horse C and Horse A; then a treble on all of them. The bets are treated individually by the bookie, but the overall bet can be made as one to save time.
These bet types were ‘invented’ over the years in an attempt to maximise the chance of a return by covering many different outcomes strategically, therefore, it’s possible to lose some bets and win others with the following bet types:
- Trixie – A bet on three horses from three different races, made up of four bets; 3 doubles, and 1 treble.
- Patent – A bet on three horses from three different races, made up of seven bets; 3 singles, 3 doubles and 1 treble. It is a trixie but with three singles on top.
- Yankee – A bet on four horses from four different races, made up of 11 bets; 6 doubles, 4 trebles and a 4-fold accumulator.
- Lucky 15 – A bet on four horses from four different races, made up of 15 bets; 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles and a 4-fold.
- Canadian or Super Yankee – A bet on five horses from five different races, made up of 26 bets; 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 4-fold’s and a 5-fold accumulator.
- Lucky 31 – A bet on five horses from five different races, made up of 31 bets; 5 singles, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 4-folds, and one 5-fold.
- Heinz – A bet on six horses from six different races, made up of 57 bets; 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 4-folds, 6 5-folds and a 1 6-fold accumulator.
- Lucky 63 – A bet on six horses from six different races, made up of 63 bets; 6 singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 4-folds, 6 5-folds and 1 6-fold.
- Super Heinz – A bet on seven horses from seven different races, made up of 120 bets; 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 4-folds, 21 5-folds, 7 6-folds, and a 7-fold accumulator.
- Goliath – A bet on six horses from six different races, made up of 247 bets; 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 4-folds, 56 5-folds, 28 6-folds, 8 7-folds and an 8-fold accumulator.
It all starts getting a bit silly with these bets as you can see, because even a £1 Goliath would actually cost £247. Reduce that to 10p though and it’s £24.70 for an awful lot of betting action.
Also known as pari-mutuel betting, tote betting is an alternative way to bet on horse racing that many punters opt for.
There is actually a bookmaker called The Tote, and the story behind that is far too long and complex to go into here, but essentially, it dates back to 1928 when the UK government set up The Tote to combat black market bookmaking and funnel money back into the sport. It was sold off to Betfred a while back, things have changed again since then. The government are no longer involved with it anyway.
With tote betting, you don’t take odds like you would at a bookmaker; instead, you make your bet with your chosen stake, and all of the money that has been bet on that race goes into a pot.
Winning bettors then share the pot between them, relative to the size of their stake (once the commission has been taken by the bookmaker). This means that the amount you win depends on how popular the race was in the first place, and how many other people made the same bet as you.
It could end up paying out significantly more than any fixed odds that bookies were offering, but equally, it might not, so it’s a bit of a gamble in itself.
The way the returns are worked out, is by splitting the pot into dividends per £1 bet.
As an over-simplified example; let’s say 5 different people ended up splitting the pot, which stood a £5,000. Between them, they had wagered £100 on the winning horse (the rest of the money in the pot came from the stakes of losing bettors), but while 4 of them had bet £10 each, the 5th bettor had wagered £60.
We divide the money in the pot by the amount wagered on the winning horse (so 5,000 divided by 100), and we get a dividend of £50 per £1 bet.
Therefore, each bettor who wagered £10 will receive 10 x £50, which is £500, and the bettor who wagered £60 will get 60 x £50, which is £3,000.
At this point, you can also work out what odds you ended up with if you were interested to find out.
There are lots of different tote bet types, both singles and multiples, all with their own pots, but even though they may have strange sounding names like ToteTrifecta, ToteExacta and ToteQuadPot, they are all just versions of the bets we explained in the section above.
The multiples like the PlacePot offer particularly good entertainment value, as a small minimum bet of £2 can last all day if your selections do well, as the bet is across six legs (six different races at the same meeting that day).
Not all bookies offer tote betting. It isn’t hard to find if you know which bookies to look at, but it’s not something that would be considered commonplace.
Best Odds Guaranteed
There are always different horse racing offers and promotions going around on bookmakers websites, but something that has become so prevalent it is almost expected these days, is Best Odds Guaranteed.
This is the only specific offer we will cover, because it is such a mainstay in the industry and something that you can and should use to your advantage where appropriate.
Betting odds change all the time as new information becomes available and the market makes its opinion known as the race draws closer, with the bookies shifting odds to try and balance their books.
This means that a horse’s odds at the off can be, in some cases, very different from the odds you might have taken when you made your bet.
Best Odds Guaranteed is a promotion that will pay you out at the starting price if that price is better than the odds you took when you placed the wager, provided it was not placed ante post.
It’s a great scenario for the bettor, because if the odds shorten and your bet wins, you still get paid out at the original price, but if the odds lengthen and your bet wins, you get paid out at the better price.
Best Odds Guaranteed isn’t available at every single bookie, but any big names will offer it. Just check that it applies to the race you are betting on, because often it’s UK and Irish racing only.
Horse Racing Betting Rules to Understand
In theory, once you understand the way the various horse racing bets work, you know what you’re doing, however, there are some important racing and betting rules that might cause a few surprises if you aren’t aware of them.
None of these are tricks or scams, they have been introduced over the years to keep things clear and fair if anything, for the bookmaker and for the punter.
All bookies will have their own terms and conditions, and while they won’t vary greatly in what they say, the following will almost certainly be in place anywhere you want to make a bet.
- Ante-Post Betting – Ante-post betting is when you place bets well in advance of the race. The odds tend to be much more attractive because so much can happen to affect them as the race draws closer, but be aware that these bets are usually non-refundable, even if your selected horse doesn’t run. So the benefit of stronger odds comes with added risks. The ante-post period is anytime up to the point that final declarations are made, which is typically 24-48 hours before the race is run.
- Non-Runners – This happens fairly frequently and ties in with ante post betting. A horse that was supposed to run the race doesn’t end up running the race. If this happens, your stake will be refunded and the bet is off. It can be annoying, but at least you’ve not lost anything. The only time your bet may be settled as a loser, is if the horse came under starters orders before being withdrawn, or if you made the bet ante post, so before final declarations.
- Rule 4 Deductions – This one can really catch you out. If another horse is declared a non-runner after you’ve placed a bet, a Rule 4 deduction may be applied to your potential winnings. This depends on the size of the field and exactly which horse was withdrawn, but the shorter the odds of the withdrawn horse, and the smaller the field size, the more likely Rule 4 is to kick in. Rule 4 deducts a percentage of your winnings relative to the strength of the withdrawn horse, so if a favourite pulls out and you have backed the second favourite, it can have a profound impact on your returns – up to 90% at extremely short odds!
- Starting Price (SP) – You can sometimes choose to take the starting price rather than the odds available at the time. If you don’t specify odds when placing a bet, your bet will be settled at the Starting Price (SP), which is the odds at the time the race begins. If your bookie doesn’t have a Best Odds Guaranteed promotion running for the race in question, this could be a good option if you think the odds will drift as the race gets closer.
- Dead Heat – If two or more horses cannot be separated at the finish line, they are considered to have dead-heated. In such cases, your winnings are divided equally among the winning horses. So if you put £10 on Horse A, and it ends up in a dead heat with one other horse, your stake is halved, and you are only paid out on £5 of the £10 stake. If there were three horses in the dead heat, the stake would be split into three.
- Abandoned Races – In the event of a race being abandoned or cancelled for any reason, bets on that race are typically refunded, even ante-post bets.
- Maximum Payouts – All bookmakers will have a maximum payout to save themselves going bust. It will be different for each sport, and the maximum for each sport will vary from one bookie to another too, but let’s say for example that the maximum payout on horse racing is £500k. This means that, regardless of the size of the stake and odds, if you win, the absolute maximum you can win from that bet is £500k, even if the odds/stake dictate it should be more. This hardly ever matter to recreational bettors, but if you have a big acca or something it might be worth checking you’re not betting more than you need to.
Hopefully you can see that these rules and terms exist to keep a level playing field between the punter and the bookmaker, and to allow both to make decisions on what odds to offer and what wagers to place to the best of their knowledge at the time.
There are of course other t’s and c’s relating to horse racing, but these are the most important to understand early on.