How To Bet On Horse Racing
Best Horse Racing Bookmakers
Horse racing is the traditional betting sport in UK betting offices and the following leading online sportsbooks offer a extensive horse racing product for those who know how to bet on horse racing:
bet365 is one of the most recognisable betting brands in the world
and provides horse racing betting. The company have no betting offices so can focus on their digital product. New customers can take advantage of £200 in free bets when opening an account but this offer is subject to stringent odds and staking requirements. bet365 offer best odds guaranteed as described below and customers can cash out bets during live matches. During Euro 2016 they offered concessions related to goalless draws and matches decided on penalties. bet365 offer regular promotions on specific sporting events such as a free in-play bet of up to £50 for selected high profile football matches.
The main event specific horse racing concession for those who are learning how to bet on horse racing is a free bet related to number of feature races when there is racing in Britain and usually including races live on Channel 4. This offer is subject to the following terms and conditions:
- The free bet is valid for customers who back a winner at 4/1 or bigger on any race live on Channel 4 or in any of the daily featured races of which there are usually at least one
- The free bet carries no risk and for is the same stake as the original bet
- The free bet can be used on the next race on Channel 4 or the next featured race
- The maximum amount of the free bet is £50
- Free bets will continue for each successive winner at 4/1 or more even if the stake came from the first free bet
- The offer applies to the first single bet on the races that count
- Cashed out bets do not count and partial cashed out bets will apply based on the remaining stake
- Ante-post, enhanced win, Tote/Pari-Mutuel and Not to Win’ bets are not valid
- Free bet can be used for horse racing betting
- A good offer for those looking how to bet on horse racing
Free bets derived from qualifying bets on the last featured race of the day will be carried forward to the first featured race of the following day. The offer is valid for bets placed on desktops, mobiles and tablets and telephone bets do not count. If the risk free bet loses the stake will be refunded within one hour. However, if the bet wins it will be immediately settled at the price that applies in line with normal betting rules. The featured races are often handicaps with big fields which are the toughest on the card to identify the winner but the favourite will often have an SP of at least 4/1.
bet365 organises their sports in alphabetical order on a vertical menu on the Home Page. Horse racing betting is the 17th of 30 sports listed on this menu. The horse racing page lists races and meetings under the headings of UK & Ireland, virtual, Australia, International and ante-post. The next 3 races are shown at the top of the page and there are links to upcoming races organised by meeting. For each race the following information is displayed: racecard number, draw, colours, name of horse, trainer, jockey, recent form, weight, age, previous odds and current odds.
Customers must login to view previous horse racing betting races and live streaming is free for customers who have placed a bet on the relevant races. Bets can be win or each-way, straight forecast and dual forecast, tricast and in system bets or accumulators. A race overview provides form analysis and background information that can be used by punters to make their betting decisions. Spotlight information supplied by the Racing Post highlights form over course and distances. Each horse’s last run is described with close-up analysis of how the race panned out for the featured horse.
Ladbrokes offer new customers a £50 bonus using Bonus Code MAXSPORT . Ladbrokes are just about the most famous name in British bookmaking. Due to the number of betting shops they have owned in the past the company were known as the biggest bookmaker in the world. They are currently talking to Coral about a merger but may have to sell some of their shops to meet competition regulations. Ladbrokes are still one of the major players in the UK retail betting division but are reluctant to sign up as an authorised betting partner with the British Horseracing Authority. Bookmakers who have joined the scheme have agreed to make a contribution to racing from bets taken overseas. Ladbrokes and other leading retailers argue they already contribute through UK tax, media rights and race sponsorship.
The £50 free bet offered by Ladbrokes is subject to the following terms and conditions:
- Offer applies to new online and mobile customers
- New registrations deposit at least £5 and place a bet
- Single bets or accumulators in one line count
- Stake of the first bet is matched in the form of a free bet up to a maximum of £50
- Free bet is valid for seven days
- Odds restriction of 1.5 (1/2) or bigger
- Only win elements of each way bets count
Ladbrokes reserve the right to disqualify new customers from this concession if they feel the offer has been abused by creating multiple accounts. In some cases identity has to be verified t0 prevent multiple accounts being opened by the same person to repeatedly take advantage of this offer. Age verification is also required because it is illegal for a younger than the age of 18 to place bets in the UK. Under age gambling is a social problem and bookmakers like Ladbrokes have to be seen to take measures to eliminate bets being placed by people who are not old enough to bet.
The new account free bet is one of several ongoing promotions that appear on the Ladbrokes website. At the time of writing they were offering a free in-play money back offer related to the Open golf championship, a price boost on a match involving the Scottish team Hearts in the Europa League and a price boost on the 1st Test cricket match between England and Pakistan. Ladbrokes also offer daily price boosts on major sporting events.
Ladbrokes are also one of the major UK bookmakers that offer best price guaranteed for all horse racing betting in the UK and Ireland. However, they go one step further by promoting best odds guaranteed plus something extra for customers who are trying to learn how to bet on horse racing. This is a unique offer which involves the best odds and an additional price boost. It applies to customers who take the price for a win or each way single bet, including early prices and board prices. If the starting price his greater bets will be settled at the SP but Ladbrokes will also apply a price boost. So if the board price is 3/1 but the SP is 7/2 bets will be settled at 4/1 to include the price boost. The maximum stake is £200 and offer is valid for all horse races at tracks in Britain and Ireland. Ladbrokes are competing with major retail and online operators in a competitive market so this concession is aimed at existing horse racing customers and new accounts that have been opened to bet on racing.
Horse racing for customers who know how to bet on horse racing appears as an option on the main sports menu on the Ladbrokes Home page. Clicking this option takes customers to the main Ladbrokes racing page which displays betting on the sport under the headings of next races, horse racing today and future racing and specials. Races on the daily calendar are from meetings in Britain, Ireland, France and the United States. Ante post markets appear for the Flat jockey’s championship and future major races including those at York and Goodwood over the second half of the summer. This section also feature ante post markets for the Breeder’s Cup and the major championship races at the next Cheltenham Festival. Even eight months ahead of the races Ladbrokes offers odds for the following years Classics on the Flat. Customers can use check boxes to create their own racecard.
The following details are displayed for each race covered by the horse racing service: racecard number, draw, display of colours, name of horse, jockey, trainer, age, weight, rating, previous odds and current odds. There is a box to select SP which means bets will be settled at the starting price but best odds are guaranteed. For each horse there is form analysis in the form of Spotlight and Form. The former is a brief summary of the horse’s prospect while the latter is an historical of each horse’s recent races. The rating is a measure of a horse ability based on recent form. Previous results show the horse’s rating at the time of the run. This information allows customers to see if a horse is improving or is decline. In theory the horse with the best rating is the most likely winner of a race but the result does not always work out accordingly.
Ladbrokes customers can bet on horse racing in a number of ways including win, each-way, straight forecast, dual forecast and tricast. Horse can be backed in single, doubles and trebles and accumulators, System bets allow customers to combine horse in various combinations and these include Patents, Yankees, Canadians, Lucky 15 and Lucky 31 bets which can be win or each way. Ladbrokes customers can bet into pools which declare a dividend based on the amount of money bet into the pool and the relative stakes on each horse. These dividends can sometimes be bigger than the SP but customers have the choice of several ways to back a horse with Ladbrokes. Ladbrokes has a massive base of customers so the amount in the pool builds up and dividends are paid after deductions for expenses and profit which is predetermined and guaranteed for Ladbrokes.
Matchbook is a betting exchange that offers a £30 Welcome Bonus using Bonus Code MAXBONUS . The purpose of a betting exchange is to allow customers to place and accept bets at a mutually agreeable price. Bets can be matched or part matched depending if a back bet appeals to a layer who will accept the bet at a price that suits both parties. The exchange betting market is dominated by Betfair who account for over 90% of all bets placed with an exchange bookmaker. New entrants come and go but Betfair are well established and have a good reputation in the industry. They cover by far the biggest range of sports and markets which generally have good liquidity while Matchbook offer a limited service and no guaranteed amount of money in a market. For example, Matchbook only offer five markets for football matches.
Firms like Matchbook struggle to make an impact because initially they have no liquidity. The more the money bet into a market and hence the liquidity the better chance of bets being matched at a fair price. There has been suggestion that some exchanges put liquidity into a market to artificially create interest and the opportunities to place back and lay odds. These stories are unproven but clearly Matchbook have problems with liquidity which cannot be totally offset by lower rates of commission. Only winning customers pay commission and at lower rates with Matchbook than Betfair. Brand awareness counts against Matchbook while Betfair invest heavily in television advertising and adverts in the Racing Post. Most bettors in the UK are not aware of Matchbook’s existence and the company would not be their first port of call for exchange betting as Betfair has a hold on the market.
Matchbook offers a £30 Welcome Bonus using the promo code MAXBONUS . This offer is subject to the following terms and conditions:
- New matchbook customers
- New account holders must place a £15 back bet and a £15 lay bet
- These bets must be placed across a minimum of two sports markets
- If both wins there is no free bet
- The maximum amount of the bonus is £30
- Back bets must be placed at odds of 2.50 or less
- Lay bets must be placed at odds of 1.67 or more
- The offer applies to bets placed and not bets settled
- Bonus funds will be credited within 48 hours of the qualifying bets being placed
- Bonus funds can be withdrawn after being turned over five times
- The offer applies to registered customers in several European countries including the United Kingdom and Japan
Some Matchbook market have 0% rates of commission and the first back and lay bets placed in these markets will not have a free bet linked to them. The bonus is expressed in pounds Sterling but is also paid in other currencies at relevant exchange rates. Funds must be risked on Matchbook’s betting exchange and not on an individual’s account. The bonus is not a massive incentive to open an account with Matchbook as the levels of liquidity will lose customers who will look elsewhere to have their back and lay bets matched. Some new customers may take advantage of the free bets and then not use the exchange because of limitations with markets and market liquidity. Betfair are so dominant that it will always be hard for a rival exchange to get significant market share especially if they don’t offer any uniqueness.
When the review of Matchbook was being undertaken the exchange was offering 0% commission on all bets placed on horse racing during a 16 day window at the end of July 2016. To qualify customers must place back or lay bets on any horse racing market. Any bets placed using automated software or through third party applications will not be subject to 0% commission and usual rates apply. Any bets placed outside the promotional period will not be eligible for this 0% commission concession. The promotion is designed to attract customers who wish to place horse racing bets on a betting exchange during a busy period of the summer. The promotion ends after the last of 5 days of Glorious Goodwood which is a major meeting in the UK Flat season.
Horse racing is the first option on the Matchbook sports menu. The company have markets for racing in the UK and Ireland and a small selection of ante post races. The range is limited and Betfair cover racing from all around the world as do traditional bookmakers with whom Matchbook are competing. Matchbook to not have a niche product or sport but horse racing is required because UK bettors expect to bet be able to bet on the sport with all types of bookmaker. Racing is covered every day but in no depth or detail. It is difficult to see any bettor would place bets on horse racing with Matchbook. The markets are not advertised while the leading betting brands promote their prices on television and in the mainstream and industry Press.
For each race taking place on any day the race time and meting are displayed. The Matchbook racecard includes a graphic showing the horse’s colours, racecard number and name. A back and lay price is shown and the amount of liquidity in a market. Customers can only bet on a horse to win a race but typical liquidities are below £100 which means there is no scope for big bets. Any significant sized bet will not be matched which negates the benefits of better odds than with traditional bookmakers and 0% rates of commission. Exchange betting is about bringing together customers on opposite sides of a bet who agree a price and a stake that can be matched. If bets are continually unmatched or partially matched the exchange will fail and there is plenty of competition to pick up any business.
William Hill is the most recognised betting brand in the UK. New customers can take advantage of a £20 bonus using Bonus Code MAXSPORT . As a company with a background of retail betting in Britain horse racing is an important element of the company’s operation, both in betting offices and online. William Hill also have representatives on race course in Britain where they take bets and trade in keeping wit their liabilities from off course bets. William Hill are not authorised betting partners but that may change if their main competitors in retail join the scheme.
The welcome offer £20 in free bets is subject to the following terms and conditions:
- New customers who place an initial bet for £10 will receive £20 in the form of two £10 free bets
- The minimum stake for the first bet is £10
- Only UK account holders are eligible
- The first bet must be placed at odds of 1.5 (1/2) or bigger
- Only the win parts of each way bets count
- The free bet amount will be credited after the qualifying bet has been placed
This offer is available on a one new account basis that means duplicate accounts will not qualify for this offer but it is unclear if the first valid account will be given the free bets. The free bets must be used within 30 days of appearing in an account at which point they will expire and subsequent bets will not qualify again.
Unlike other major bookmakers William Hill do not offer ongoing promotions related to sporting bets. Free bets is one of the major factors taken into account when a potential customer is considering opening a new betting account. A typical online customer has two accounts buy will consider a third. William Hill competes on reputation and brand trust so do not see the need for regular promotions. However, they are in line with other major brands by offering a cash out promotion and are best odds guaranteed on greyhounds and horse racing in the UK and Ireland.
Horse racing is the first item on the main sports menu on the William Hill Home Page. Racing markets are organised in categories that include meetings, horse A-Z, Jockeys and trainers, future races, special markets and the Tote. The next three races are prominent and other sections on the racing page include Video Race Previews and odds for upcoming races. Ante post betting is available for future races at the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and the Grand National.
There are many races covered on the William Hill site from meetings in Britain and Ireland, France, South Africa and the United States. There is a full schedule of virtual races from six meetings or more each day. William Hill customers can also bet into US and Australia pools. Each race features the time, track and distance and some form analysis. A rating is shown for each horse in addition to previous and current odds and an option to back reach horse at the starting price. William Hill accept single, multiple, combination and system bets on horse racing.
New customers to ComeOn receive a £25 free welcome bet when they open an account and place their first bet. The ComeOn Bonus code is MAXIMUMBONUS . The site is targeted at the UK market and as such features a wide range of football markets. The company offers sports betting, live betting and a casino and live casino but no horse racing. The £25 free bet is a matched bonus which equates to the amount staked with the first bet. UK based bettors who wish to place wagers on horse racing will have to look elsewhere for markets related to racing in the UK and Ireland. Despite covering over 40 sports horse racing does not feature on the ComeOn site.
Other Free Bets
Several other bookmakers offer free bets and promotions related to specific races and meetings in Britain and Ireland. Racing is a 7 days a week , 12 monthly sport so bookmakers offer topical free bets every day and adverstise them in the racing and mainstream Press. There are restrictions on the location of participants and US players are not allowed. Local laws may make betting on horse racing illegal and in some countries offering inducements to bets is seen as unacceptable.
Here is a sample of racing free bets, odds enhancements and promotions regularly available to punters based in the UK and some online customers from the rest of the world:
- Stakes returned in the form of a free bet when a backed horse at a specific meeting is beaten by one length or less
- Jackpot pool bet on the first six races at one meeting each day
- Best odds for every favourite at one meeting every day
- Stakes refunded in the form of a free bet if a backed horse is only beaten by the SP favourite at one named meeting
- Winners at 4/1 or better in selected races give customers a free bet for the same stake in the next featured race
- Best odds guaranteed and odds enhanced
- Place three bets and receive a free bet on the last race of a specific meeting
- Stakes returned in the form of a free bet when a horse is second to the winner with an SP of 10/1 or more at selected meetings in Britain and Ireland
- Enhanced place odds at a selected meeting
- Daily price boosts
Free bet and promotional activity is intensified for the major races and meetings. The Cheltenham Festival in March in particular provides many opportunities to take advantage of free bets and concessions. There are usually odds enhancements for horse in the Grand National and special place terms to attract new business.
Best Odds Guaranteed
Several leading bookmakers including bet365, Ladbrokes and William Hill offer best odds guaranteed on British and Irish horse racing which is useful for those researching how to bet on horse racing. This means that customers will always be paid out on the top price for bets placed on race meetings throughout the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. Bettors who wager on horse racing can take the price at the time of taking the bet or the starting price which is described below. Odds can fluctuate due to weight of money and changes in ground conditions. If one horse shortens in the betting the price of one or more other horses increases to maintain the overall profit margin of the book. Whatever the bigger price customers will be paid out at that price by bookmakers who offer best odds guaranteed.
In horse racing the starting price (SP) is the odds that apply to each horse in the betting market at the track when the race starts. This is useful when learning how to bet on horse racing. Various racing jurisdictions calculate the SP in slightly different ways but generally it is arrived at when several observers monitor price changes during betting activity leading up to the race and agree a price that reflects the consensus amongst on-course bookmakers. The SP is used to settle bets that when placed no price was taken. Customers in British betting offices can request the board price or current price when placing a bet or have the returns from winning bets calculated with reference to the SP. When betting offices were first legalised in the UK in 1961 a member of staff wrote betting odds and results on a whit board. Prices taken from this board were known as board prices and the term still applies even though betting information is now displayed on television screens.
The bookmakers that offer best odds guaranteed will pay their customers of the highest odds that were available on a horse. The best price might be early in the day or it might be the SP. The payout to a winning punter is calculated using the highest price. When placing a bet on a race some hours before the race starts there is a danger that the customer might not benefit from the best price. The guarantee takes away any reluctance to take a price or accept the SP because bets will be settled at the biggest odds. Bets placed on the day of a race are returned if a horse does not run but are lost when a bet is placed in the ante-post market.
Bets can be placed on a horse to win a race or be placed. Winning bets are settled subject to place terms which specify the odds that apply when a horse finishes second to fifth. The places that count and the proportion of the SP win odds that are used depend on the type of race and number of runners. Generally the greater the number of horses in a field the more that form part of the place element of an each-way bet. Rules for settling bets are well established in the British betting industry and they are now applied to online bets taken on horse racing and other sports. The US equivalent is the Win, Place and Show and other countries have variations on the same concept.
Place terms are the odds that apply to the place element of an each-way bet. Place odds are significantly less than win odds and the terms are advertised when the bet is placed. The odds alter when there are non-runners and a new market has not been formed. There is a sliding scale of deductions based on the price of a horse when it is withdrawn. These adjustments come under the banner of a rule known as Rule 4 Deductions. Place terms are applied to a race based on the actual number of runners and not the number in the field when the bet was placed. Rules have been standardised so bettors know what they will receive for a winning place bet.
The following terms apply to on-course, betting office and online bets across the betting industry in the UK:
- Races with 1 to 4 runners are win only though walkovers do not have an SP
- When there are 5 to 7 runners in a race customers are paid out on the first two places at one quarter the odds. Therefore, if the SP of a horse is 20/1 the place odds are 5/1.
- Races with 8 or more runners are subject to place terms of one fifth the odds for the first three horse. So, if the SP of a horse is 25/1 the place odds are 5/1.
- In handicaps with 12 to 15 in which horses are allocated weights based on past form place odds are one quarter the win odds for three places. This means place odds of 4/1 when the SP is 16/1.
- Handicaps with fields of 16 or more horses are subject to terms of one quarter the odds for the first four places. The place element is 10/1 when the SP is 40/1.
For each-way bets on a winning horse both elements are successful so the bettor will be paid out twice: at the win odds and at the place odds and terms. Place terms for sporting events are similar to those described above. However, two stake units are required for each-way betting. If a horse does not win a race but is placed the win stake is lost and the place stake is used to calculate the place return.
However, bookmakers may enhance the place terms as part of a specific promotion for a major race or sporting event. For, example the Grand National is by far the biggest race for betting in the UK. It attracts millions of once a year punters so bookmakers may payout down to the fifth or sixth place to attract business that they might keep throughout the rest of the year. These bookmakers might offer reduced win odds to compensate but the bettor can choose reduced odds but better place terms. Major golf tournaments often have improved place terms ahead of the start of play.
The Racing Post
The Racing Post is the trade publication for the horse racing industry in the UK. It is daily paper that features race cards and results for every meeting in Britain and Ireland and the major international racing occasions and events. The readership is mainly professional people who earn their livelihoods from racing such as trainers, jockeys, administrators and people who work in the media. Despite information now being available digitally the Racing Post is pinned up in betting offices in the UK, showing runners in a race and collateral form.
One important aspect of the paper is tipping services which recommend horses to back in featured races. Major bookmakers advertise their special racing offers in the Racing Post. There is a respected sports betting section at the back of the paper which provides form, tips and analysis for events across many sports. Bookmakers contribute to this section with thoughts about upcoming events and information about the related betting markets. Each bookmaker has a spokesman who appears in the paper to promote betting on a sporting event with their own organisation.
Specifically the Racing Post features these sections on a daily basis: columnists, tipsters, interviews, betting markets, breeding and bloodstock, index of future entries, today’s cards, future cards, index of today’s runners, runners abroad, statistics, betting education and guidelines, competitions, industry news, greyhounds and sports betting. At the time of writing the cover price is £2.30 which is good value for a daily one stop shop for the betting and racing industry. Circulation is unknown but probably in the thousands and not hundreds of thousands or millions. The paper is printed by Trinity Mirror who also publish the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror and many regional titles.
Racing Post App
The Racing Post app can be downloaded from the App Store and is available at racingpost.com/android. The app allows customers to place bets seamlessly with Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill, four of the major brands in the British and Irish betting industry. Users have access to cards, form and information to make betting decisions and quick links to the betting partners. Bets can be placed without leaving the app with four leading brands who offer free bets and promotions. New customers who download the app can claim up to £80 in free bets. The app can be used at racecourses for betting and many bets are now placed on mobile devices. Race goers in the UK can bet with the Tote which is a pool betting operation or with independent bookmakers who take cash bets. Betting apps have taken business away from the betting ring but the bookmaker pitches provide UK racing with some of its uniqueness and attraction. Cash bookmakers are now also laying of bets on betting exchanges so the dynamics and economics of on-course betting are changing. Funding of the sport is also changing with more contributions from remote betting under discussion.
Racing Post Online
The Racing Post also has an online version at www.racingpost.com. The site features news, tipping, cards, results, statistics, greyhounds and free bets. The site has affiliate partnerships with leading betting brands and promotes their free bets and concessions. A tipping section highlights horses that have been most tipped, most tipped as an outsider, most napped and most napped as an outsider. The site reminds readers to gamble responsibly with a graphic introduced by the industry that suggest betting should always be fun. Customers can bet from the site by following links to the betting partners.
Horse racing is one of the main sports offered by online bookmakers with a background in the UK and those based in other parts of the world. Sportsbooks provide odds on racing in the following main areas: Flat racing, National Hunt or jumps racing and international racing.
Flat racing as the name suggests is staged on course without obstacles and over distances between five furlongs and two miles five furlongs. The turf season runs from March until November but there is all-weather Flat racing on artificial surfaces all around the year. All-weather tracks have been built to provide a steady stream of racing for generally moderate horses that take place if frost and snow interrupts the turf calendar. The first all-weather track in Britain opened in 1989 but as of July 2016 there are six courses with artificial surfaces in Great Britain and one at Dundalk in Ireland.
The British Flat season features many historic and world famous meetings. The most prestigious Flat races throughout the year are the five Classics in which only three-year-old thoroughbreds can run. Each has its own distinct features and winning more than one in the same season is a rare achievement and winning the three that make up the Triple Crown is almost unique. The five Classics are described below:
- 1,000 Guineas: Newmarket over one mile in late April or early May for three-year-old colt and fillies
- 2,000 Guineas: Newmarket over one mile in late April or early May for three-year-old fillies
- The Oaks: Epsom over one mile four furlongs in early June for three-year-old fillies
- The Derby: Epsom over one mile four furlongs in early June for three-year-old colts and fillies
- The St Leger: Doncaster over one mile six and a half furlongs in September for three-year-old colts and fillies
The most famous Flat meeting in the world is Royal Ascot over 5 days in June. It is so called as the course is owned by the Queen, she attends every day and the races are named with a royal theme. The week is just as much a social occasion as a race meeting but the races are of the highest quality and they attract international runners. The other major festivals are at Chester in May, Newmarket in July, Goodwood at the end of July and York in August. The climax of the season is British Champions Day at Ascot in October.
The jockey’s championship is based on the number of winners while the trainer’s championship is based on win and place prize money. There is also a championship for all-weather racing and the leading apprentice. Trainers and jockeys are involved in British races with names that have been adopted in other racing countries. A Derby is run in just about every racing jurisdiction around the world.
National Hunt or jumps races are run over about two miles to four miles, four furlongs. The races feature obstacles that are positioned about two furlongs apart and there are two sizes. Steeplechases are run over fences while hurdle races are run over hurdles which are smaller than fences. National Hunt Flat races are run under the rules of National Hunt racing but there are no jumps and horse run on the flat. Point-to-point racing is more informal and features steeplechases and amateur riders.
The National Hunt season in Britain and Ireland reaches its climax at the Cheltenham Festival in March staged over four days in Gloucestershire. The meeting features all the main championship races over hurdles and fences for each gender and age group, though most races are open to both sexes and horses older than four. There is a major championship on all four days of the festival with different sponsors from time to time but the basic race titles are fixed as follows:
- Champion Hurdle: Championship race for hurdlers run over about two miles and eight hurdles
- Champion Chase: Championship race for steeplechasers run over two miles and eight fences
- World Hurdle: Championship race for staying hurlers run over three miles and twelve hurdles
- Gold Cup: Championship race for staying steeplechasers run over three miles two and a half furlongs and 22 fences
The Cheltenham Festival also features several other major graded races and competitive handicaps in both disciplines and over a variety of distances. Despite its importance to the industry the biggest jumps race of the season does not take place at Cheltenham. The Grand National is run on the third and final day of the Grand National meeting at Aintree racecourse near Liverpool. The ‘National’ is the most watched and bet on race in the world. It is run over four miles, three and a half fences some of which are so famous they have names like Becher’s Brook, Valentines and the Chair. The Grand National attracts many once-a-year punters and the result can have a significant effect on bottom line profit for the big UK bookmakers.
Cheltenham and the Grand National dominate jumps racing and the trainer’s championship is often determined by results in these lucrative races. The champion trainer is the one that wins most prize money while the jockey’s championship is decided on races won. In 2015 AP McCoy retired from riding having won the jockey’s championship for 20 years in succession. The most famous jumps horse of all time is Red Rum, the only horse to win the Grand National three times. The race is a handicap and winners are usually allocated weight that makes winning again difficult so Red Rum’s achievement is unlikely to be beaten or even matched. In recent years the fences have been modified to prevent injuries and fatalities which have come to the attention of animal protection bodies in the UK.
Some of the most famous races in the world are run in Britain but other countries have their major racing occasions. National Hunt racing is centred around the UK and Ireland but many iconic Flat races take place in other parts of the world. The long-standing traditional races date back to previous centuries but more recent additions to the calendar include races with huge prize funds.
These are the major international Flat races that generate most betting interest in Britain and Ireland:
- Dubai World Cup: Run at Meydan in March over about 10 furlongs for three-year-old and older colts, geldings and fillies
- Kentucky Derby: Run at Louisville in May over one and a quarter miles for geldings, colts and fillies aged three
- Breeders Cup Classic: Run annually at various racecourses in the United States over one and a quarter miles for geldings, colts and fillies aged three and over
- Japan Cup: Run at Fuchu racecourse in Tokyo in November over about one mile four furlongs under weight for age conditions
- Melbourne Cup: Run at Flemington in Australia in November and a handicap over two miles for horses of all age groups and genders
- Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe: Run at Longchamp near Paris in October over one mile four furlongs for horses aged three and older
These races are shown on mainstream and dedicated sports channels in the UK, attract media coverage and are good for betting turnover but not at the levels of races at the Cheltenham Festival, the Classics or Grand National. These races are the crown jewels of British racing and overseas races will never have their history or prestige despite massive amounts of prize money. These iconic races are so popular and have enduring appeal because of the history. Many major races in Britain and Ireland were first run in the nineteenth century and winning horses are the most famous in the history of the sport. Bookmakers offer many free bets and concessions related to these historic races at the major festivals.
Best Horse Racing Betting Markets
A win single is the most basic horse racing bet because it involves backing a horse to win a race. Odds are compiled with a built in profit margin but the single gives bettors the best chance of beating the bookmaker. Market makers prefer multiple bets because they have more chances for the bet to lose. The potential returns determined by the board price or starting price will not be life changing because profits are based on single odds and are only multiplied by the stake. If there is a strong favourite in a race the price will be odds on which means returns are less than double the stake and profit. A horse priced at even money will win a bettor the same amount as the stake but stakes are also returned so this equates to a punter doubling his money. The biggest priced winner in the history of British racing is 500/1 but even winners at 100/1 or more are rare, Favourites win about 20% of races in Britain and Ireland.
When horses are withdrawn and a new betting market cannot be formed starting prices are subject to deductions based on what is known as Rule 4. Deductions are graded depending on the price of the horse that does not run when the horse was withdrawn. The rule serves to give a fair reflection of the true odds of a horse winning a race when there was not enough to frame a Newmarket before the start of the race.
Horses that are declared as non-runners early on the day of the race do not trigger a Rule 4 because the bookmakers have time to produce a new market with odds reduced for all horses across the board. In ante post betting a horse withdrawn before the day of a race will be declared a runner and stakes are not returned. Odds in ante post markets are generally better than day of the event odds to attract business and compensate for bets counting even if a horse does not take part in the race.
Each Way Doubles
Doubles are one stage on from singles because they combine two horses in a multiple bet. Odds are accumulated when both horses win. However, if one horse is beaten a double is a losing bet. A popular insurance against a horse being placed is an each-way bet and combining two horses in an each-way double is one of the best ways of winning money betting on racing.
Races with eight runners offer the best place terms. If the favourite starts at even money or bigger the place terms are one fifth the odds for the first three horses. Eight runners is the threshold for 3 places as a race with between 5 and 7 runners will be subject to two places. Races with four or less runners are win only for betting purposes. Each way bets are not taken on these races as the only the winning place counts. It is possible to have an each way double on horses with four and eight entries but the horse has to win the race that only has four runners.
Even if both horses do not win the place odds can accumulate for a decent return. If two horses are 10/1 in the win market their combined place price is 8/1. Both horse are 2/1 to finish in the third three at one fifth the odds. The return is worked out on the basis of the following calculation:
2 + 1 (stake unit) x 2 + 1 (stake unit) -1 = 8 by stake.
Non-handicap races are the best options for placing each-way doubles and these are bets that bookmakers wish to avoid. Trebles and multiples work on the same principle for calculating returns but bookmakers have more chances of these bets losing so the more horses in a multiple the better. The accumulated odds increase as more horses are added to a multiple but the probability of a winning bet falls.
Worst Horse Racing Betting Markets
System bets combine three horse or more in a number of variations and some times all permutations are covered. The most popular system bet is the Yankee which combines four horses in six doubles, four trebles and one accumulator making 11 bets, An each-way Yankee includes 22 bets and the investment is 22 times the stake unit. A derivation of this system bet is the Lucky 15 which is a Yankee with singles. System bets can feature between three and eight horses in various combinations, win or each way which doubles the number of bets.
Bookmakers like system bets as one loser eliminates most of the winning combinations. In a Yankee three horses are combined in three doubles and a treble if there is a loser. This means that the number of potential winning combinations has dropped from 11 to 4 even though only one horse has been beaten. When there are only two possible winners remaining in a Yankee the only potential winning bet is a double on the horse that have not yet lost.
Backing a horse to win a race is difficult enough because of the number of variables. The degree of difficulty increase significantly in forecast betting which involves selecting horse to finish first and second or first, second and third in a race. The word forecast is used as forecast bets are about predicting which horses will win a race and which ones will be placed. Dividends are declared roughly based on the staring price of the horses involved in a winning forecast.
The straight forecast requires bettors to predict the first two horses in a race in a specific order. In any straight forecast bet the bettor must state the order in which the backed horses finish. The difficulty of the bet is reflected in the dividends and returns but the straight forecast is still a bad bet for punters. The dual forecast is derived from the straight forecast but the finishing order does not have to be specified. Bettors can cover a number of horses in permutations but the total stake increases depending on the number of horses combined. Three horses in a fully covered dual forecast is six bets and the cost of the bet is six times the stake unit.
A tricast takes forecast betting to the next level because the bet involves which horses finish first, second and third in a race. Tricasts can be straight bets whereby the order is specified or permed bets in which three horses are named to finish in any order. More horses an be added to the tricast but each successive horse increase the number of possible combinations and the total stake. The staking increases dramatically as more horses are added but the potential return can be significant especially if some outsiders are included in the bet.
The Tote is the privately owned pool betting organisation that was formerly owned by the state. The company is now run by Betfred which is one of the main shop bookmakers in the UK and they also have a digital division. The Tote specialises in exotic bets which offer big returns to small stakes. The Tote accept forecast bets and there is a pool which is open to customers in betting offices. On some occasions the Tote forecast dividends are bigger than those declared at the track but not always.
The Tote Scoop Six is in which customers must predict the winner of six major races which are usually shown on television. There are consolations for five winners but if the main bet is not won it is carried over to the following week. Winners of the Scoop Six can select a horse to win a bonus race the Saturday after winning the Scoop Six. Races are selected to make the bet difficult to win and there could be carryovers in a number of consecutive weeks. The main prize grows and this creates media interest and more money bet into the pool.
Horse Racing In-Play Betting
Traditional bookmakers live stream races from British meetings but don’t offer in-play odds. Flat races can last as little as one minute and the firms don’t have the technology to update odds so quickly. In theory National Hunt racing lends itself to live betting as the shortest race takes about four minutes. Sports like tennis and football make it possible to automate odds changes based on past records and statistics but trends in racing are less useful in forming betting markets. Bots can be used to automate bet placement before a race begins but the time issues make them unworkable in the live environment.
Betfair is an exchange whereby odds change purely based on supply and demand and weight of money. The process is automated and odds are more responsive. The price of a horse at any time is determined by opinions and backers and layers. Betfair has the technology to update prices quickly and accurately in response to the amount of money being wagered on both sides of the market. In any exchange market there are winners and losers and prices are determined by the balance of backers and layers. Odds react immediately and that makes in-play betting on horse racing possible.
However, anyone trading on horse races in-running must be aware of the transmission delay. British racing is shown on Racing UK and At The Races but the coverage is several seconds behind the live action. Even though the delay is just a few seconds that window can be expensive if other traders have faster and more real time coverage. When watching a Betfair market the prices react before the action but somewhere somebody has quicker pictures and exploiting this advantage. Prices move very quickly so a liability can be built up in a short space of time with no opportunity to rectify the situation.
The financial benefits of being only marginally ahead of the rest of the public can be huge so dedicated traders go to great lengths to maintain that edge. Some really keen gamblers have tried to use drones to see the racing in real time. Some racetracks supply office facilities to in-play traders who can view races with their own eyes. Millions of pounds are traded on racing in the UK and having a slight edge in viewing races can bring huge rewards but at the expense of viewers watching at home.
Summary of Horse Racing Betting
Here are some guidelines for betting on horse racing:
How to bet on horse racing
- In betting offices, at the course and online
- Using betting exchanges
- Singles, doubles and trebles and accumulators
- System bets that include a number of combinations
- Fixed odds or pool betting
When to bet on horse racing
- On the day of the race
- Ante post betting
- In-play on betting exchanges
- Board prices or early prices or at starting prices
- Ahead of a race with bookmakers that offer best odds guaranteed
Where to bet on horse racing
- Racecourses in the UK and Ireland
- On desktop computers and mobile devices
- Licensed betting offices in towns and cities
- Unregulated betting in licensed premises
- In-play betting in customised rooms at courses
Leading Participants – Flat
During the first half of the 2016 turf season up until the middle of July the leading participants and those worth following were as follows:
- AP O’Brien
- John Gosden
- Richard Fahey
- Richard Hannon
- Roger Varian
- Mark Johnston
- Charlie Appleby
- Clive Cox
- Sir Michael Stoute
- Hugo Palmer
AP O’Brien is based in Ireland but trains for one of the leading syndicate in the world who can target their horses at the most prestigious and lucrative races in Britain.
- Slivestre De Sousa
- Ryan Moore
- James Doyle
- Andrea Atzeni
- Joe Fanning
- Franny Norton
- Adam Kirby
- Paul Mulrennan
- Luke Morris
- Jim Crowley
The best horses during the early part of the 2016 turf season based on ratings are as follows:
- Order Of St George
- Fascinating Rock
- US Army Ranger
- Jet Setting
- The Gurkha
Leading Participants – National Hunt
The leading trainers and jockeys for the 2016-17 National Hunt as at July 2016 season are shown below. The trainer’s championship is based on prize money and the jockey’s championship is bases on winning rides. Both titles are decided over a 12 month period running from April to April
- Paul Nicholls
- Philip Hobbs
- David Pipe
- Charlie Longsdon
- Nicky Henderson
- Alan King
- Peter Bowen
- Neil Mulholland
- Jonjo O’Neill
- Tom George
Willie Mullins won the Irish Trainer’s Championship and was second in the British Trainer’s Championship in the 2015-16 season, Hs tally of wins was modest but he won many of the major races that carried the most prize money.
- Sam Twiston-Davies
- Richard Johnson
- Aidan Coleman
- Tom Scudamore
- Nico de Boinville
- Sean Bowen
- Paddy Brennan
- Wayne Hutchinson
- Tom O’Brien
- Harry Skelton
The leading steeplechasers at the end of 2015-16 season were:
- Don Cossack
- Cue Card
- Sprinter Sacre
- Un De Sceaux
- Silviniaco Conti
- Al Ferof
The leading hurdlers at the end of the 201516 season were:
- Annie Power
- Arctic Fire
- Hurricane Fly
- My Tent Or Yours
- Nichols Canyon
National Hunt horses tend to have longer racing careers than Flat horses so ratings for them are more relevant and useful as a guide to betting over subsequent seasons. Flat horses are more likely to be retired for stud duties earlier in their career so ratings are not so useful over more than one season. A proven horse on the track with a good pedigree will command large stud fees so it makes more sense to have a short racing career and move into the breeding industry. In both spheres the highest ratings are awarded to horse that run well in stakes and conditions races and not handicaps.
In betting on horse racing the following factors for each horse should be considered when making betting decisions:
Even before the onset of the internet the sport of horse racing was blessed with extensive records of past performances. There is now an even greater wealth of stats and records on past races and how horses compare. The odds will reflect the most obvious records and the most relevant indicators. However, data can be interpreted in different ways and it who does this best that will be most successful. Bookmakers have access to the same information but odds compilers are employed full time to make accurate assessments of the information at hand. They have the time to watch recordings of past races and the ability and training to compile odds that attract business o horse they are happy to build a liability.
Form information can be found in national newspapers but no to great depth. The Racing Post is the industry publication and this paper publishes a vast amount of data each day. There are also subscription based and free websites that are a god source of relevant and up-to-date information. Timeform is a ratings publication which assesses the past form of each horse in a race and assigns ratings. The top rated horse is the most likely winner of a race but this is often reflected in the odds. Improving horses are marked up because the current rating might not reflect the ability of the horse. Unreliable horses are also indicated if they have shown widely different levels of form in similar races. Horses are not machines and can be inconsistent.
Some of the key form factors are the horse’s recent efforts, the weight the horse is carrying in a handicap, previous weights in handicaps, the class of the race, the form of the trainer and jockey and previous performances over similar conditions and in similar ground. Some horses excel on specific tracks due to the familiar nature of the course and the surroundings. However, bookmakers look at these factors when compiling their odds but some little known information can be used to get an edge. Improvement at home might not be generally known or slight injuries could have impaired a previous performance. The key to successful betting on horse racing is having more or better information than bookmakers. The process can be made easier by focusing on one type of race.
Betting odds generally move to react to weight of money. A bookmaker will know the liabilities and profit on each horse and will change the odds to reduce the risk and win money regardless of the outcome though this is not always possible. Some bettors just follow the money as they believe a horse is being backed by people with inside information. Odds changes are subject to the momentum affect and might not be due to some strong information that is being used by people close to the horse. Wise guys set the markets through their betting and ted to bet early before the market formulates. And is an accurate reflection of the prospects for each horse.
Bookmakers have been known to artificially cut the price of the horse to prompt a reaction if they have an unbalanced book. Following the market does not guarantee success and the market may be being manipulated to suit vested interests. People latch onto drifters in the belief an individual knows something is not quite right for the horse but these assumptions can often be unfounded or incorrect. Betting is about perception and recognising a price that does not accurately affect the chances of a horse winning a race. Value seekers will back a horse when the price is bigger than expected I the context of all the dorm factors in racing.
There are many betting systems that can be researched in literature or online or bettors can pay for information supplied by tipping services. Bookmakers rarely feat a betting system because they know the odds and margins are always in their favour. Tipping services that appear in the Racing Post are proofed to ensure impartial reviewing. However, there are many services out there that do not provide accurate past results of their service so resort to misleading potential customers with false claims.
Money management is an important element of any racing system. Bets can be placed at level stakes when the stake remains the same despite past results. Adjusted stakes allows customers to reign in their betting during a bad run and be more aggressive with staking during a winning run of results. Some system focus on one element such as Flat or National Hunt racing or certain types of races within each discipline. Specialisation is an important element of a successful tipping service or system.
The following statistics and information is relevant to the relative chances of each horse winning a race: draw, trainer, jockey, past performances, rating, weight, age, headgear, early price, current price, preferred going and form analysis. Trainer and jockey records are available online and in the Racing Post. Wins by each type of race can be researched and profits or losses that would apply for a level stake bet of all the runners associated with a trainer or jockey. Winning and losing runs also indicate if trainers and jockeys are in or out of form. Records are analysed by race type and wins and places.
Here is a list of some useful websites that provide odds and information for horse racing betting: