How To Bet On Horse Racing

Learn the horse racing basics and some valuable tips from our detailed guide to horse betting and quickly develop a viable horse race betting strategy

People have wagered on horse races for hundreds of years. Racing might not have survived without betting, as the phenomenon is fuelled by the wagers and the bookmakers. Yet, many punters know little or nothing about the sport.

With that in mind, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know to get started in horse racing betting. We’ll start by explaining the basic types of bets in horse racing, and then we’ll let you in on the differences between Flat racing and Jump racing.

Horse racing’s rich and long tradition in the UK has led to a complicated classification system that may look daunting at first. Still, we decided to keep this post as simple as possible, so we didn’t squeeze in all the details. Instead, we’ve placed links to our in-depth horse racing guides should you wish to investigate further.

In the end we’ve included 5 horse racing betting tips to help you advance from beginner to intermediate level before you know it!


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Quickly navigate to your desired topic:

  1. Types of Horse Racing Bets & Wagers
  2. Types of Horse Races: Flat Racing & National Hunt Explained
  3. Horse Racing Tips for Beginners & Beyond


Types of Horse Racing Bets

Types of Horse Racing Bets

The types of bets in horse racing are practically identical with the types of bets in greyhound racing, but because not every punter is familiar with them, we’ll start by explaining the most common bet types in horse racing at a glance:

  • Win Bet – This is the simplest of all types of horse racing bets: you are backing the runner that you believe has the most chances of winning the race. The bet is going to win only of the horse you picked ends up victorious.
  • Place Bet – A place bet is won when the respective horse finishes in the top two or three positions, according to the number of participants, bookies preferences and so on. Typically, the top three positions are rewarded if there are 8 or more participants in a race. But some bookies do it differently: The Place Bet pays when the runner wins or comes second, whereas the Show Bet generates returns if the horse you backed crosses the line 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
  • Each Way – This is a combined bet: half of your stake goes on the horse to win, and the other half goes on your horse to place. Usually, the odds for the place bet should be roughly ¼ of the runner’s odds for the win. This type of bet is often used on outsiders, as it can bring a profit even if the horse places.
  • Show Bet – You only see a return
  • Straight Forecast / Exacta – This bet implies picking the top two horses in the exact finishing order. It is a risky bet that usually comes at long odds.
  • Reverse Forecast – This type of bet allows you to pick the top two horses in either order. This involves a couple of Straight Forecast bets: half stake on each of the two possible outcomes.
  • Tricast / Trifecta – This bet works just like the Straight Forecast with the only difference being that you have to predict the finishing order of the first 3 competitors.
  • Combination Tricast – It is a type of bet that allows you to pick the horses you reckon will finish on the podium without specifying the order.

Of course, the single bets are the simplest and the most popular wagers. However, each-way betting is very fashionable amongst bettors who don’t enjoy low prices. Some punters have been lured by price boosts into multiple betting, while others are trying various systems such as Six doubles or even the Super Yankee. But because this is a beginner’s guide, we’d recommend you stick to placing single separate bets.

Bear in mind that each track sets the odds for their races minutes before they start. That is why some bookies offer you only SP – Starting Price, instead of plain odds. However, if you want to know the odds before betting, either wager with bookies that make their own odds or wait till around 10 minutes before they start to find out what the lines are.

Bookies that offer Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG) attract most punters. This means that if you take an Early Price (EP) on a race and the Starting Price (SP) turns up to be higher, the bookmaker will offer you the better odds.

Note that your odds can be reduced after you placed the bet if either competitor withdraws. The extent of that deduction will be based on the odds of the horse that has withdrawn; the bets on that horse will be refunded. This is not really one of the horse racing secrets but something you need to know.

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Types of Horse Races: Flat Racing & National Hunt Explained

Types of Horse Races

Horse races are classified into two main categories, each incorporating different classes and types of races.

Flat racing is traditionally associated with the upper classes, having a strong connection with nobility. In contrast, the National Hunt is linked with the working classes.

Nevertheless, punters are more likely to develop bonds with horses that participate in Jump races, mainly due to their longevity in the sport.


What is Flat Racing?

Referred to as the sport of kings, this type of horse racing takes place on flat terrain. Races are held between 1 km and 2 miles, with shorter dashes being run along the straight of the track, whereas the longer flat races incorporate bends and quite often more than one full lap.

In the UK, natural grass (turf) is more common than synthetic grass, but in other countries, mud or sand tracks more popular. There are 35 racecourses in the United Kingdom that stage Flat racing.

Although the top-level Flat racing takes place between April and October, this type of horse racing has become more common in the winter months due to the increasing number of all-weather tracks (artificial turf) that can be found nowadays. The weather and ground conditions are very important, with some horses favouring softer ground, while others are benefiting from the harder ground.

Royal Ascot, the Epsom Derby and Glorious Goodwood are the major UK Flat racing festivals.

Flat racing horses are thoroughbreds, and they usually peak at age 3-4. From that moment, the best ones are typically sent out to stud, and the owner will receive a hefty fee (figures can go as high as £130.000) each time the animal breeds. Alternatively, the horses who have little breeding value often end up running in Jump Races.

Feel free to head to our in-depth Flat racing guide if you want to further explore the essential Flat racing notions such as classes, groups, conditions, handicaps & types of races.


What is National Hunt (Jump) Racing?

Races where horses have to jump hurdles, fences and ditches are called National Hunt races, with the steeplechase, the hurdle and the bumper being the main categories. Bumper races are essentially flat races for beginners, where horses have no obstacles to jump.

In opposite to Flat racing, major meetings take place between October and April. Jump races are longer (between 2 and 4.5 miles), and the runners aren't thoroughbreds. In fact, most competitors are castrated male horses, also known as geldings, and they are usually older. Some of these horses can race for well over ten years.

That's possible because stamina plays a vital role in National Hunt races. Thus horses peak much later, at around 7-10 years old. Therefore, they can earn more money during a long racing career than their younger peers involved in Flat racing, even though the top prizes in National Hunting are smaller.

The Cheltenham Festival and Aintree Grand National are the major UK Jump racing festivals.

Unlike in Flat racing, where the horses begin their races from starting stalls, a tape is used to start jump races. This method allows more freedom for riders to develop various race strategies.

Punters are captivated by jump races not only because they represent a thrilling spectacle, but because they are generally more unpredictable than flat races, thus providing a higher level of value betting opportunities.

If you’d like to find out more about the different types of races, classes and grades, please refer to our comprehensive Jump racing guide.


Horse Racing Tips For Beginners & Beyond

Horse Racing Tips

Can you make money from horse racing? That's really impossible to answer. Of course, there are successful punters out there, but there's no recipe for success. Despite that, you must realise that you have to work hard and be highly disciplined to stand a chance to achieve such a level. Profiting from sports betting, in general, is pretty tricky, so don’t fall for the realm being a quick way to riches illusion!

However, feel free to follow these tips to improve your fortunes:

  1. Specialise in a few classes, follow all the respective events, take notes with anything that could become useful in the future and don't get involved in all the races. There are too many of them, especially during the summer. Take your time. Allow yourself enough time to operationalise your skills at reading the racecard and form guide.
  2. It is crucial to learn the run styles of the favourites and the conditions they perform best in. Make sure always to check out the stats that are in accordance with the current weather and track conditions (distance, surface, etc.). There's a vast difference between a fast and a soft ground!
  3. Take fatigue into consideration: a 30-60 day break for a horse is ideal. If a horse has let’s say 90 days since he last raced, he’ll need to regain fitness before he can perform. On the other hand, too much racing will cripple their work rate: a racehorse can handle 12 starts in two years, anything more than that will significantly affect his performance.
  4. Highly popular horses are often overbet, so skip these bets because they seriously lack value. Instead look for beatable favourites, horses that have shown early speed in some of their most recent races or horses that have previously won at high odds, as they are likely to repeat that performance.
  5. Always bet where you can find value and not on the most likely winner. Don’t let yourself affected by losses and focus on the long-term gain.

How to bet horses successfully? – There's no sure recipe for that I'm afraid.

Even if those who know how to bet on horses and win would share all their secrets with us punters, they couldn't ensure that we'd have any success. Although placing bets on the horse races is not the same as playing online casinos games – where the odds are stacked against you, – there can be no guarantees in the betting realm.

But, we’re going to invite you to take a look our imperfect hedging strategy before we end this beginners guide to horse racing. Although it may work best on betting exchanges, you should be able to get it working to some extent on most betting sites. It’s a simple betting system which requires you to place 5 bets in total, picking the most likely horses to win (commonly the lowest horse racing odds from the top ten participants).

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