Guide to Betting on Horse Racing
Horse racing is one of the oldest and historical sports and is still hugely popular around the world. It is also one of the most complex!
Most people in the UK will place a bet and/or watch the Grand National once a year whilst casual race fans will enjoy the Breeders Cup in the USA, the Melbourne Cup and of course, the Cheltenham Festival.
It can be a minefield at times and knowing the quirks and trends of each racecourse, trainer and horse takes complete dedication. Those who turn that time into money have been rewarded for their graft and there is no feeling quite like picking out a big priced winner!
Types of Horse Race
In the UK & Ireland, there are three types of race – National Hunt, Flat Racing (Turf) and All-Weather Racing.
Some horses can compete across all three areas during their careers but the majority tend to specialise in one.
In the US, flat racing is king but there are a number of different surfaces including Synthetic, Dirt and Turf.
National Hunt is the umbrella term for any racing which includes obstacles. There are two main types of National Hunt races in the UK – Hurdles & Chases (sometimes given their formal title of steeplechases)
There are also National Hunt Flat Races (NHF), these are few and far between and are generally for horses getting used to the feel of a racecourse. It’s probably best not to worry about these.
Chases – The Grand National is the most obvious example of a chase. Horses are required to jump over large fences (often made of different materials) and complete the course. Large and agile horses are required for this. Races can range from 2miles to 4miles 4 furlongs (Grand National). These can include water jumps and ditches and if a horse miscalculates one of these – they often don’t finish the race.
Hurdles – Competed over smaller obstacles which make it slightly easier. Crashing or blundering through one of these will not necessarily spell the end of the race and will simply provide a slight hindrance. These still require a certain amount of dexterity and skill, but aren’t as taxing or energy sapping as fences.
This is the easiest to understand. It is simply a case of finishing first past the post. Speed is the name of the game although distances will vary and the amount of moisture in the ground can prove the difference between finishing 1st or 13th.
Flat Racing is hugely popular around the world and the UAE has regular prestigious flat races which are competed by horses and jockeys from around the world.
Similar to flat racing but competed on a synthetic surface. These can vary, for example – Southwell (UK) has fibre-sand whilst Wolverhampton (UK) is competed on tapeta. All Weather racing has increased its popularity in recent years as it is rarely affected by poor conditions and can take place all year round. Most US tracks plus Dundalk in Ireland also possess a synthetic track.
National Hunt racing generally runs from October to the end of April, although there are ‘Summer jumps’ in the UK from the likes of Newton Abbot, Perth and Stratford.
UK Flat racing starts at the beginning of April and will run until the end of October. The hottest races tend to take place in June and July.
All Weather – As mentioned, this can take place all year round with few restrictions on these types of races.
Betting On Horse Racing
Every online sportsbook will have markets priced up on the day’s racing. US Racing & events from South Africa and Singapore are likely to be featured too.
For those of you who are keen, some sportsbooks will release prices overnight or from around 6pm the night before. Big stake punters tend to wait for these in order to snap up the best prices!
There are two main types of bets:
Win Only – Simple enough. You are predicting that ‘Horse X’ will finish first past the post. If it wins, you will be paid out at the price. For example 5/1, you will receive £5 for every pound wagered.
Each Way – This is a slightly more cautious, but often profitable method. A competitive field can often make it difficult to single out one particular horse, so betting each way allows your chosen horse to come in the top 3 (see below). Most online sportsbooks will pay a ¼ odds for the places.
This requires double the stake. For example £1 each way bet is split into 2 – 50p Win/50p to Place
If the horse wins, you will be paid out on both. If the horse just misses out, you will paid out at ¼ of the odds. For example – you backed a 10/1 2nd place finisher – 10 divided by 4 = 2.50 x 50p = £1.25. You would receive £1.25 + 50p stake (for the each way part of your bet)
Bookmakers will pay out:
2 places – 3-7 runners
3 places – 8-15 runners
4 places – 16 runners or more.
Other Popular Bets
This is specifically picking the first two horses to cross the line.
Occasionally there can be a clear gulf between the first two in the market and the remainder of the field. A forecast predicts ‘Horse X and Horse Y’ to finish in that order. A reverse forecast allows them to finish 1st and 2nd or 2nd and 1st.
This is only available on betting exchanges as opposed to sportsbooks. Essentially, this is predicting that ‘Horse X’ will not win the race. It can result in large losses if it doesn’t go your way!
Some sportsbooks offer these on bigger races throughout the year. Ladbrokes’ do a good line in these. ‘Horse X to beat Horse Y’ in the 3:50 at Ffos Las is one such example of this bet. Even if those two horses finished 9th and 10th in the race, you would still be paid out if ‘Horse X’ finished ahead of ‘Horse Y’.
Betting in Multiples
Similar to football, punters do enjoy a horse racing accumulator. These can be risky however as just one horse could blunder or become bogged down in the surface to let down the entire bet.
Doubles and Trebles are a popular way of securing returns, but there a number of other possibilities:
Three selections required for a Trixie and it’s 4 x the stake. For example a £1 Trixie would cost £4.
This covers 3 x doubles & a treble. If just two of the selections are victorious, you will still be paid out. If all three of the selections cross the line first, it’ll leave you jumping for joy!
This is an extremely popular way of wagering. Lucky 15 = 4 selections, Lucky 31 = 5 and Lucky 63 = 6.
The number reflects the amount of bets covered within.
For example – Lucky 15 covers:
1 x Four Fold
4 x Trebles
6 x Doubles
4 x Singles
Landing three of the four selections (at reasonable prices) can often secure a profit whilst landing just one or two will ensure at least some return from your outlay.
These are terrific ways of betting and assuage the disappointment of missing out by just one selection! We all know that feeling…
What to look for
Every punter has a different system and will be able to bore you over a pint if you ask them to explain it!
Research is required. Always look out for fast finishing horse on its next run. If a horse is hampered at the beginning or failed to secure a clear passage, but still managed to secure 4th place. Next time, a clear run could be the key to winning the contest.
Try and get in the mind-set of a trainer. Owners and connections of each horse will be very vocal about the kind of race their animal should compete in BUT it’s often down to the discretion of the trainer to find the perfect winning opportunities.
Some trainers will aim for a particular race whilst others will target their favourite tracks. Ask yourself plenty of questions – Why has this trainer sent their horse 290 miles to compete in a race? They obviously think it’s worth it. Why has this top jockey gone all the way to Ayr racecourse for one ride? He believes it can win.
Some trainers have success when importing horses from Europe and giving them a first run in the UK. Other get the best out of horses they’ve acquired from other yards.
Going can be key. If the going is listed as heavy (severe rainfall can often create boggy conditions), look for horses with a history of competing on this type of surface.
Good to Soft is a tricky surface as it’s hard to judge, but certain horses thrive in a muddy quagmire and even if they haven’t been close to winning, heavy going can bring out the best in them.
There are so many elements to consider when betting on horse racing, but take some time to study the trainers, jockeys and horses themselves. Listen to people who have been working in the industry for years and following the fortunes of certain horses can often result in success.