Horse Racing Betting Sites
Betting on horse racing dates back a long, long way and gambling is inextricably linked with the sport so much so that it is hard to imagine the sport existing independently of betting on it.
There is horse racing in the UK on virtually every day of the year, with Christmas Day and Good Friday the only real exceptions and betting on the horses is a fun part of everyday life for millions of people.
In total, there are around 60 racecourses in the UK and many days have multiple meetings taking place simultaneously. And with racing also taking place in many other parts of the world too, including Ireland, the US, Australia, France, South Africa and Dubai, those wanting to bet on horse racing are never short of options.
For those new to betting on the horses, or the gee-gees as it’s sometimes known, we’ve got some basic information on different types of bet, rules to look out for and our guide to the best betting sites for horse racing. There are now more bookies than ever and with all them all trying to attract the custom – and of course money – of the betting public, there are more great betting offers, promotions and bonuses than you can shake a stick at, making now a great time for us punters.
Best Bookmakers For Betting On Horse Racing
Most of the top British bookmakers, the big high street institutions, started out at a time when bookmaking was almost exclusively about betting on the horses, with a bit of football thrown in perhaps. As such many of them are real specialists in horse racing betting, whilst those that came along later had the bar set very high and have responded accordingly.
Along with football, racing attracts the highest volume of bets in the UK and so it’s no surprise that online and mobile bookies – and their high street retail outlets – place great importance on their racing product.
Price Promise, risk free bets, worldwide streaming and no 5p Rule 4 deductions.
Bet365 feature as a top bookie in almost all of our sports betting guides and horse racing is no different, with all the same brilliant features applying. Their odds, as ever, are excellent, whilst their coverage is also top notch when it comes to markets, with all the UK racing covered, as well as plenty from further afield, including Ireland, Australia and several other countries.
The site works really well, both online and via mobile, whilst the ability to stream virtually any race you’ve had a bet on – even to your mobile or tablet – makes watching the races even easier, whether you’re at home, on a bus or at work and you can even access a racing archive to view old races!
Bet365 are also really strong on ante post betting for those that like to get in early and although they don’t offer quite as many features as Tote they are still very hard to fault.
One area where they actually surpass Tote is their free bets and offers, with no bookie being more generous to racing punters than Bet365. They offer Best Odds Guaranteed as standard and also offer a brilliant Price Promise, which means they will match or beat the odds from their major rivals on every single horse for all races that are shown live on ITV, making them a great choice for UK punters watching at home.
However, the jewel in the crown of Bet365’s racing promotions is their stupendous 4/1 Offer which also applies to televised races and named feature races where there is no live racing on TV. Back a winner with an SP of at least 4/1 and Bet365 will give you a risk free bet on the next eligible race up to the value of your stake (maximum freebie is £50 per race). This is effectively a never-ending supply of risk free bets – keep backing winners and Bet365 will keep offering up the goodies!
Bet365 also pay out on official winners and first past the post, even on ante post bets, where a horse is disqualified, and with enhanced each way terms often cropping up and no 5p Rule 4s, their overall racing package is virtually unbeatable.
Regular offers including money back if your horse falls/loses by a length.
As one of the UK high street big boys, Coral’s commitment to top notch horse racing betting is unquestionable and they are a fine choice for racing fans. Racing features prominently on the homepage, making accessing racing odds quick and easy, whilst there is simple access to today and tomorrow’s racing, as well as UK/Irish and International racing tabs. With a customisable racecard too, there are lots of nice touches to help you find and arrange your racing bets.
You can watch live streams of UK and Irish races when you bet just £1 on the renewal in question, with footage available on your computer, tablet or Apple or Android mobile, with Coral Radio also as a useful backup. With a nice results service too, as well as great odds, Coral is certainly a fantastic choice, although they don’t match Tote in terms of additional stats and tips – but then nobody does.
Coral do, however, offer an excellent choice of racing-specific promotions, free bets and offers. Once more they offer Best Odds Guaranteed (this is standard practice among our elite racing bookies, but not with all in the industry) and also tend to be among the first bookies to offer Non-Runner No Bet for the big meetings, as well as offering good each way enhancements on some of the biggest races and really eye-catching promotions for Cheltenham, Ascot and the like.
In terms of ongoing promotions they have two superb offers, one for the flat season and one for National Hunt. On the latter you can claim money back (as a free bet) on fallers, whilst Beaten By A Head applies to flat races and offers a similar deal if your horse is beaten into second by a head or less. For regular punters this can equate to a significant number of freebies over the course of a season and offers real extra value.
In depth form stats and a very user friendly website. Plus weekly free bet.
Sky Bet’s racing site is really easy to access, both online and on a computer, and as with all our racing top picks, accessing the odds for the horses couldn’t be easier, with quick links to the next three races, races over the next 24 hours and the complete racing area.
Bet+Watch offers live streaming of UK and Irish races when you stake £1 on the relevant race, whilst Sky, as with football, offer plenty of specials, including jockey, trainer, track and enhanced daily doubles and accas. Their ante post coverage is very strong and whilst they don’t have quite as much international coverage, nor quite as good odds as the other top racing bookmakers, they still easily make our top five.
One nice feature they do have is the ability to use your Sky Bet login to access Sportinglife’s site and check out in-depth form stats, including videos of past races, as well as the handy My Stable service to get reminders whenever your favourite horses, jockeys or trainers are in action. With Sky Bet Inside Track letting you filter horses by any number of criteria, the form and stats side is really strong at Sky, making them a great choice for those who like to research their bets.
When it comes to offers, Sky take a slightly different approach to the likes of Tote and Bet365 and tend to focus more on price boosts and enhancements than regular ongoing promos. They offer Best Odds Guaranteed and their Bet Club is ideal for regular racing punters, offering up a free £5 bet every week when you place a certain value of bets, but in terms of dedicated racing offers they fall short of many in our top racing sites.
Decent odds, enhanced place terms that go up to 7 places.
BetVictor are our final pick as a top bookie for horse racing fans and again, they offer a strong all round package, with good odds, a wide range of races from various countries, and, of course, all UK meetings, as well as a site that makes it clear racing is a priority.
In terms of streaming they go beyond some who just offer UK and Irish races by also offering footage of certain international meetings, including those in South Africa and the UAE. They offer virtual racing as well and whilst their odds are excellent, the range of markets falls slightly short of the offering at Tote and Bet365. And thought there is access to results, in terms of stats, customisable options and form guides, BetVictor are outdone by all four of the bookies above them in our list.
The offers at BetVictor are also slightly less impressive and whilst they offer Best Odds Guaranteed and are among the best bookies for enhanced each way payments – sometimes down to seventh place or more! – they are, like Sky, a bit shy when it comes to racing-dedicated promotions.
In 2014 they did offer free tickets to a variety of meetings at Kempton, where they are a major sponsor, but in terms of bonuses and money back deals it’s very much a case of wait and see at BetVictor, with promotions surfacing for the biggest meetings and races.
Great all rounder, excellent coverage and decent offers. Plus the home of totepool betting.
Totesport is almost definitely the only bookmaker in the history of betting that came about thanks to an act of government, and certainly the only one for which Sir Winston Churchill is ultimately responsible. Tote’s forerunner, The Racehorse Betting Control Board was established following the Racecourse Betting Act 1928 with Churchill intending to provide a safe, legal betting alternative at tracks that would create tax revenue and keep some of the gambling money within the sport. In the 1960s this became the Horserace Totalisator Board, and so Tote was born.
As you would expect from a bookie that developing solely to deal with horse racing betting, Tote take the sport very seriously. A state-owned entity until 2011, Tote is now owned by Betfred but their commitment to racing remains.
Their site, whilst covering other sports, has dedicated tabs for Totepool betting (of which more later) and racing and so finding your racing markets is easy, despite the vast and excellent coverage of the sport.
The odds are well above average and the site is packed full of useful features, including loads of stats powered by the Racing Post, customisable racecards, trainer and jockey form, horse trends and even breeding information.
Tote also offer loads of racing promotions, including Best Odds Guaranteed on all UK and Irish races, enhancements on Lucky 15s/31s/63s if you get just one winner and great each way terms on some of the biggest races.
Perhaps their biggest racing “offer” is the aforementioned Totepool betting though, a form of pool betting that regularly offers huge lottery-style jackpots, with record wins well into the millions on the fabled Scoop6 and Jackpot games. Whilst these bets can be placed at other bookies, the home of Totepool betting can provide supporting information, stats and live updates that are second to none, making Tote a must-have account for anyone serious about their horse racing.
How To Bet On Horse Racing
Betting on racing really is very simple, with the huge range of markets and bet types found on football absent from the world of the horses. That said, for a beginner the options can still be a little confusing – just witness the panic and pandemonium of a high street betting shop on Grand National day! Thankfully we’ve got details of the most common bets right here so you’ll be an expert before you can say Red Rum!
Horse Racing Bets
Most horse racing punters stick to just a few main bets, with win singles and each way bets accounting for a huge percentage of wagers placed on the horses. However, beyond the specific markets, horse racing also tends to lend itself to different types of multiple bets and we’ll take a look at those too.
- To Win – The most simple and most common type of racing bet is simply a wager on which horse will win a given race.
- Each Way – Each way betting can be done on virtually any sport but because of the nature of racing and the high odds of horses in large fields, it is particularly popular on the gee-gees. An each way bet is effectively two bets, one on the horse to win and one on it to place, the latter meaning to finish in the top two, three or four (or more when there are enhanced terms or huge fields) and paying out at a fraction, often a quarter, of the main odds. If the horse wins, both bets win, if it places, one wins, one loses and a finish outside the places makes both bets losers.
- Forecast – A forecast is a bet on which horses will finish first and second in the correct order, with huge odds often available. A reverse forecast is similar, but the top two can finish in any order and this is effectively two bets. Tricasts are also possible, where the top three horses in order must be named (with combination tricasts covering the top three in any order).
- Accumulators – Accumulators, or accas, are hugely popular in racing and can range from a double (picking two races and trying to get the winner in each) up to sixfolds (six different races) or more.
- Multiples – An acca involves several selections with all needing to win for a return but due to the difficulty of predicting several races where the winners may be at 4/1, 10/1 or even 66/1, combination bets are popular in racing. Here you may pick a number of selections and make several bets on the various available combinations. For example, with four selections, for example the winners of the 3.10 at Ripon, 3.20 at Ascot, 3.50 at Ripon and 4.10 at Kelso, you could place a Yankee. This covers all six possible doubles, four available trebles and one fourfold accumulator. If one horse wins you get nothing, whilst two, three or perhaps even four wins are needed to make a profit depending on the odds of each horse. A Yankee is effectively 11 bets in one, so a £1 stake would cost £11. Popular multiples include a Lucky 15 (like a Yankee but 15 bets as including singles too) and a Lucky 31 (31 bets in total, over five selections).
As with most sports, betting on horse racing is largely simple and straightforward, however, there are one or two rules which beginners should know so they can avoid any unpleasant shocks further down the line.
- Rule 4 – One of the most important rules to be aware of is Rule 4. This is where a deduction is applied to your winnings when a horse withdraws from a race after your bet has been placed. The deductions are on a percentage scale depending on the odds of the withdrawn horse (with a short odds favourite having more of an impact than a long odds outsider). We go into this in more detail in the next section.
- Dead Heats – Dead Heat rules can be applied to many sports and in racing they are used when horses cannot be separated, even by a photo. If two horses tie for first place, dead heat rules mean that half your stake is treated as a win, whilst half as a loss. Dead heats are exceptionally uncommon but it is not unknown for a TRIPLE dead heat to occur, meaning just a third of your stake is a winner.
- Ante Post Betting – An ante post bet is one that is placed before the full field is declared, so for example immediately after the Grand National, bookies may publish odds for the following year. Bets placed ante post are not subject to Rule 4 deductions but on the flipside, if your horse fails to make the start you won’t get a refund (unless the bookie is offering non-runner no bet) and will lose your stake.
- Abandoned and Postponed Races – Rules for these rare eventualities vary from bookmaker to bookmaker and more importantly on the exact scenario. Check with your bookie for details.
Rule 4 Deductions
All bookies apply Rule 4 deductions to bets where an early price is taken but then a horse or horses subsequently withdraw. To the layperson this may seem unfair, especially if they go to collect their winnings only to discover they receive far less than they were expecting. However, it is entirely fair and logical.
Assume a three-horse race with a huge favourite at odds of 1/10. If you back the second favourite at 3/1 and then the favourite withdraws, your horse has suddenly gone from being a 3/1 shot to the odds on favourite.
Whilst you may think that’s the bookie’s bad luck, imagine you had bet £500 on the favourite. When it withdraws, you get your stake back – the bookie doesn’t say “that’s your bad luck”. Only by making a Rule 4 deduction on the winning payouts can the bookie refund stakes in this manner and Rule 4 is an adjustment to the market to compensate for the withdrawal of a horse and make the odds a fairer reflection of the new field.
Rule 4 works on a percentage basis, with a big favourite withdrawing leading to a greater reduction than a real outsider, as would seem logical – ie: the favourite withdrawing is more likely to affect the outcome of the race than a 100/1 punt.
So, for example, a withdrawal at odds of 3/10 or less means your winnings will be reduced by 75p in the pound. After which there is a sliding scale down such that a withdrawal at odds of between 10/1 and 14/1 means a 5p reduction and withdrawals at odds of higher than 14/1 have no impact on your winnings.
Note that Rule 4 deductions are standardised across the industry (although as mentioned in our reviews above, some waive the 5p deduction as a “promotion”.)