Horse Racing Betting Sites

Horse Racing JumpBetting 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 over 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.


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.

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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 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 a bit shy when it comes to racing-dedicated promotions.

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Horse Racing Bets: How to Bet on Horse Racing

Betting stands

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!

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.


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, 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.


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 – 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 positive return 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).

Betting Rules

Jockey riding in horse race

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).

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 – i.e., the favourite withdrawing is more likely to affect the outcome of the race than a 100/1 punt. Below you can see a table of these deductions, as stated in the Tattersalls Committee Rules on Betting.

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 some waive the 5p deduction as a “promotion”).

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 & 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.

Racecourses in the UK & Ireland

Major Horse Racing Festivals & Meetings

Throughout the racing calendar there are some meetings and races that stand out more than others. These big money events draw out the best horses from the most successful stables for a chance to witness the pinnacle of horse racing. These are also the races where you’ll find the biggest and best offers.

Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival

  • Where: Cheltenham
  • When: March

The Cheltenham Festival is widely regarded as the biggest National hunt meeting in the world. It’s predominantly made up of horse from Britain and Ireland, and includes more Group 1 races than any other event. The prize money on offer is only matched by that of the Grand National and the meeting always takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse across March. Organisers tend to try and coincide the meeting with that of St Patrick’s Day, which in turn brings flocks of Irish over to come and enjoy themselves.

Across the 4 days are 14 Group 1 races with some of the highlights including the Champion Hurdle, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, RSA Chase, Champion Bumper, World Hurdle and Spa Novices Hurdle before on the Friday the Cheltenham Gold Cup takes place. The Gold Cup on its own carries a massive purse of £575,000 making one of the richest races in the world. The race is best known for horses such as Golden Miller (7 time winner), Arkle, Kauto Star and Denman.

The jockey who rode Arkle to all three of his triumphs was that of Pat Taafe and it’s he who has the mist wins in he Gold Cup with 4 in total (other winner being that of Fort Lenny in 1968). Ruby Walsh is the most decorated jockey to ride in the festival, winning Champion jockey on 9 separate occasions.

Grand National

Grand National horse race

By Paul, Flickr

  • Where: Aintree
  • When: April

The Grand National is one of the most famous horse races in the world. It’s also one of the oldest with the first race being run way back in 1839. The race is designed to test the horses ability to the max and often find that that the majority of the field wont even finish, let alone have a chance of winning. It’s ran every year at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool and the course measures a gruelling 4 miles and 517 yards, which is just shy of 7km.

The purse for this race alone is a massive £1 million. Given that the Gold Cup is almost just half of this amount, really puts the scale of the race into perspective. The winner of the race will be looking to take home a cheque in excess of £500,000. The race will include 30 fences that the horse need to navigate over, many of which have become synonymous within the racing industry such as Becher’s Brook, The Chair and Canal Turn.

The most successful horse to have won the race, and arguably one of best-known horses of all time is that of Red Rum winning on 3 separate occasions in 1973, 1974 and 1977. Red Rum, trainer by Ginger McCain, is also the only horse to win the race back to back. The jockey who has won the race more time than anyone else is that of George Stevens, winning 5 times on Freetrader, Emblem, Emblematic and The Colonel x2. The most horses to ever finish the race was that of 23 in 1984, highlighting just how demanding the course is, with the lowest number being that of just 2 in 1928.

1000 & 2000 Guineas

Rowley Mile at Newmarket

By Alarnsen, Wikipedia

  • Where: Newmarket
  • When: May

Both the 1000 & 2000 Guineas are now two of the most popular horse races in the industry. They are run at the Newmarket Racecourse in Suffolk, England and attract some of the best three-year-old fillies and colts in the business. Interestingly, the names of each race are named after the prize fund that was originally up for grabs in each race. The 2000 Guineas actually came before the 1000 in 1809 and the 1000 followed suit 1814.

The 2000 Guineas is always run before the 1000 and this race is open to thoroughbred colts and fillies. The race is over 1mile and is essentially as much as a sprint as you’re going to find in horse racing terms. The 1000 Guineas is only open to fillies, but both races carry exactly the same prize money with a purse of £450,000, with roughly £280,000 of that going to the winner.

The most prestigious jockey in the 2000 Guineas is that of Jem Robinson who has rode 9 winners in total from 1825 to 1848. The 1000 Guineas pays homage to George Fordham who won the race 7 times from 1859 to 1883.

Epsom Derby

Epsom Derby

By monkeywing, Flickr

  • Where: Epsom Downs
  • When: June

The Epsom Derby is Britain richest and one of their oldest horse races. The race has been taking place at the Epsom Downs racecourse and is run over 1m 4f. Whilst the term ‘Derby’ has now been attached to many horse races all around the world, The Epson Derby was the first and is definitely the most recognisable out of the lot. The prize fund on offer for the race is a staggering £1,325,000, making it more than £300,000 more lucrative than winning the Grand National.

The race itself takes place on the first Saturday in June and has been running on that day since 1995 to increase popularity and viewing figures in what is one of Britain’s most premier horse races. The race itself includes three year old horses and has a weight allowance of 9st 0lb.

Lester Piggott is the most decorated rider in Derby history winning no fewer than 9 titles from 1954 to 1983. There are three trainers that have 7 wins (record), which are Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling. The leading owners are that of Sue Magnier and Michael Tudor, both winning 6 races as a partnership from 2001 to 2014. Some of the most famous horses to have won the race are Sea the Stars, Authorized, Workforce and Golden Fleece.

Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot

By Ambernectar 13, Flickr

  • Where: Ascot
  • When: June

Royal Ascot is widely renowned as the most prestigious horse racing meeting in the world. The main reason behind is because every year there is always a member of the Royal Family in attendance of every day of the meeting. These will vary from the Queen, Princes and Princesses each day, but it’s Queen Elizabeth II who is apparently the biggest racing fan out of them all. In fact, the Royal Family have their own stables and often have several runners at the festival. The Queen’s arrival at each event is highly anticipated, and the bookmakers even run markets as to what colour hat she will be wearing on each day.

The event has been running since 1711 when it was founded by Queen Anne. It takes place in June each year and will last for 5 days, making it one of the longest meetings in the industry as well. The racing pedigree across the 5 days is second to none, with the highlight being that of the Ascot Gold Cup, run on the Thursday. Other notable Group 1 races include Queen Anne Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Coronation Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. All races in the meeting are named after something to do with the Royal Family, whether that be a member or simply a place of residence.

Glorious Goodwood

Glorious Goodwood

By cormac70, Flickr

  • Where: Goodwood
  • When: July

Glorious Goodwood is one of the most beautiful settings for any race meeting. It’s set in the grounds of Goodwood Racecourse and is always absolutely immaculate, making it a picture perfect setting for race goers. But, the emphasis is definitely on the calibre of racing throughout the meeting, which takes place over two courses that are laid out in the grounds. The first course is a six-furlong sprinter, whilst the second measures just over 1m 2f and is a lot more challenging for the horses.

The meeting is set out over 5 days and with each day comes at least one Group 1 race, making tickets very desirable. The first day includes race such as the Qatar Lennox Stakes, offering up a purse of over £300,000. Day 2 arguably holds the biggest race of the week in the first of the Sussex Stakes, which carries a huge prize fund of £1 million, which also makes it one of the richest flat races of its kind. On top of that you will also see The Goodwood Cup, King George Stakes, Queen Plate Stakes and Thoroughbred Stakes, all of which are Group 1 races.

Cheltenham November Meeting

Cheltenham grandstand

  • Where: Cheltenham
  • When: November

The Cheltenham November Meeting, formally known as the Cheltenham Open, separate to the Cheltenham Festival, is one of the more popular jump season events in the calendar. It runs for only three days in mid November through Friday to Sunday, which is pretty uncommon, but much more accessible for the majority of race goers these days. The event takes place at Cheltenham Festival, but since the it’s introduction back in the 1960’s has seen it jump around from a number of different race courses, before finding it’s home at Cheltenham.

The racing is spread pretty thick over the three days although it could be argued that it doesn’t have the pedigree that some of the higher profile events do, as named above. Some of the racing highlights include the Handicap Chase, Cross Country Chas e the Jockey’s Handicap hurdle. The Saturday includes the Paddy Power Gold Cup, and thanks to sponsorship from Paddy Power it gets a lot of media coverage and in turn a load of the best horses for its class.

Winter Festival / King George IV Chase

Kempton Racecourse

By Carine06, Flickr

  • Where: Kempton
  • When: December

The Winter Festival is held at Kempton Racecourse, in Surrey, England. The festival was first ran in 1878 and actually only lasts for 2 days, starting on Boxing Day and is almost designed as a sign off to the years racing. But, they have gone all out to make sure they go out with a bang by offering a large number of high quality races bringing in the best horse from across Britain and Ireland.

The first day – Boxing Day – holds three Group 1 races on its own and with this see’s a plethora of pedigree amongst it. The King George IV Chase is probably the highest profile and that has been running since 1937, named in honour of the new British Monarch of the day. The race last for over 3 miles and there are 18 hurdles in which the horses need to navigate over. Some of the best horses of all time have won it though, including Silvianco Conti, Kauto Star and Desert Orchid, to name but a few.

The other two Group 1 races on Boxing day are that of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and the Christmas Hurdle, but ran over the shorter 2 mile course, but both with prize pools exceeding £100,000. Interestingly, the Kauto Star Novices’ Hurdle was named after the great Kauto Star, who won that race on 5 separate occasions, a feat that has yet to be matched.

Horse Racing & Betting

Knights on a Chess BoardBetting is perhaps more closely linked with horse racing than it is with any other sport. Whilst we’re sure there are lots of people who love horses and marvel at the beauty and athletic ability of the animals, for the majority of racing fans, betting is at the very least 50% of the fun. Take away the gambling aspect of racing and, so many would argue, you simply have lots of small people riding horses in a field.

Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, we assume that if you are reading this, you have at least some interest on betting on the horses. In the previous section of the page you can find racing tips for specific races and major meetings, however in this piece we are looking at betting on horse racing in a more general way with a focus on betting strategy.

We’ll look at how you can go about trying to pick winners, as well as considering some of the different betting markets and how you can try and find winning bets within each one. Within our main betting strategy feature you can find a range of information that is even more general, such as an in-depth look at betting value and money management, and that is relevant to betting on just about anything. Here, on the other hand, we’re keeping the focus much more on the gee-gees, although inevitably there will be some cross over.

Racing Strategy: How to Choose a Horse to Bet on

Credit: mikle / bigstock

Most people who bet on the horses will probably place most of their bets simply on a horse to win a given race. That may be “on the nose” or each way, or as a single or as part of a wider accumulator but irrespective, the key question will be the same: how do you decide which horse will win?

In truth, one should not simply be assessing whether or not a horse will win but whether its chances of winning are better or worse than the odds indicate. As said, we look more closely at value elsewhere though, so here we will look at what factors you should consider when trying to ascertain a horse’s chances, with this assessment working in conjunction with the odds to decide if your horse is good value or one to avoid.

There are many, many things to consider in truth and a serious pro will look at them all. Quite how seriously you take your horse racing betting will determine how much time and effort you are prepared to put into this process. Of course, for your average recreational punter, simply following a trusted tipster, or even choosing based on the horse’s name are options but for many racing fans trying to study the form and crack the puzzle of a race is all part of the fun.

Here are just some of the elements to think about which we’ll take a look at in more detail in the next section:

  1. The recent form of all horses, jockeys and trainers in the race
  2. The weather and going
  3. The course and track characteristics and draw for the race
  4. How the horse looks and acts in the paddock and stalls
  5. The betting market

1. Horse, Jockey and Trainer Form

We have deliberately left the factors in our list very general and in truth, form alone could cover almost all you need to look at. By form we mean the past performances of the relevant parties and for a real pro that means all the horses running, all the jockeys and, yes, all the relevant trainers.

Sample Racecard With Form

Example Racecard + Form (via Racing Post)

We say that “form” is almost everything because if you’re taking things very seriously, form is not simply the bare results of a race but does, in fact, cover many of the other things on our list. So you must look not just at the recent races of each horse, jockey and trainer, but also consider how those were affected by the going and weather, as well as what course they were at, what distance they were run over and so on.

There are yet more factors beyond what position a horse finished in a races to consider too, the biggest of which is probably the level at which the other races were run? A horse that has won three in a row may seem a great bet at long odds but if those were all very low class contests and the horse is now making a major step up, that could be an obvious explanation for the big price.

Another thing that numbers alone can’t always tell you is how the horse performed. A horse may have finished second but if it was heavily hampered all through the race by a stray animal that second may actually be better than it looks at first glance.

Watching as many races as possible and making a mental or physical note of such things could well give you a real edge. What’s more, it’s now possible to watch many races back, with some sites offering superb archives of past races.

Moving away from the horses, it should be noted that horse racing is very much a team operation and the other key players in that team (aside from the ones with four legs!) are the jockey and the trainer.

Confidence can play a huge part in riding a horse and if a jockey has landed a few winners their chances of success may be a little higher. Just like in other sports and areas of life, on the other hand, when one is short on confidence nothing seems to go right and a jockey may feel they simply can’t buy a win.

When it comes to trainers it may seem that form is less of an issue and one may question whether “form” can really apply to a yard. However, confidence is a strange thing and we certainly feel it is a factor for handlers too. Moreover, if a trainer is going through something of a purple patch it could be indicative that their methods are working. On the other hand, if a particular yard is struggling, it could be there is an underlying issue, such as illness.

2. The Going

Horse Race on Mud

Credit: alexeys / bigstock

The going, by which we mean the state of the ground, can be a huge factor in determining which horse wins a race. As said, in many ways this is all part of form but it is worthy of considering on its own given how much of an influence it can be.

Quite simply, some horses are much better on harder, drier ground, whilst others prefer it to be soft, wet and muddy. Whilst some animals don’t have a huge preference and are ground-versatile, looking at the weather forecast and the prevailing conditions at the track can be vital when it comes to assessing the chances of other horses.

To give a really simple example, a horse with six wins from eight races may look like great value at 10/1. However, if a closer inspection shows all the wins came on soft ground or worse and the two losses were both on good to firm, you may want to think again if the ground is on the dry side.

3. Course and Draw

Once again, elements of this also fall under the study of the form, with extra weighting given to course form as opposed to runs in general. Some tracks are fairly generic, meaning course form is less important but others have characteristics which make them uniquely challenging and this could really favour particular horses.

It’s also worth noting that different courses sometimes benefit or disadvantage certain horses in a similar way. So, whilst a horse may not have a course win, if they have done well at tracks with similar characteristics, they may be worth paying particular attention to, especially if this has been missed by the market.

Goodwood Racecourse

Goodwood Racecourse [Photo © Peter Trimming (cc-by-sa/2.0)]

Factors such as which way the course runs (left- or right-handed), how sharp the turns are, the undulations, the drainage, the nature of the obstacles and even the crowd and closeness of the stands are all factors that may affect a horse’s performance.

The Draw

Factoring in the draw in races is less about a specific horse’s performance and more about trends at the track for horses in the past with similar draws. Obviously this is only relevant to certain types of races but heeding the draw can be crucial in some contests where a strong bias is in evidence.

4. Performance in the Paddock

This will usually only be of relevance if you’re actually in attendance, although you can often gain some pointers on televised races, especially for the bigger ones where there is more coverage of the build-up to the race, including at the start line.

Horses in the Paddock at Exeter Racecourse

Horses in the Paddock at Exeter Racecourse [Photo © Rod Allday (cc-by-sa/2.0)]

Assessing how a horse looks and behaves in the moments before the off might just give you a small edge, although of course many punters place their bets well in advance of this. Unless there is something obviously amiss with a horse, this is very much more an art than a science but sometimes logic can play a role too.

On one occasion some of our shrewdest racing crew here at BestBettingSites happened to notice something unusual in and around the paddock. A famous trainer had two horses running, one a big favourite and one a marked outsider. All the connections seemed to be far more interested in the outsider, which seemed a little strange. Following a closer, albeit rushed, look at the outsider’s chances, our very own canny punter, chanced a £20 each way bet. The rest is history – 33/1 winner history!

Such opportunities and events occur very infrequently but in the battle to beat the bookies, even the most insignificant or innocuous of things may yield a vital clue in the puzzle of a given race.

5. The Market

Cartoon Man Looking at DataOne of the reasons that consistently winning on the horses is so difficult is that your average punter is very much towards the back of the queue when it comes to information on the horses.

Jockeys, trainers, owners, handlers and other connections all have far greater access to information about the horse and this can sometimes give them a real edge. Whilst jockeys are not allowed to bet, owners most certainly are and big bets from them or other connections can see prompt movements in the market.

Following such movements can sometimes pay off, although by definition you’ll be backing the horse at shorter odds than the people in the know. The reduction in the odds also reduces the value and odds can sometimes move as much on rumour and whispers as anything else, but this is still something to be aware of.

Who to Bet With

Now you have decided what to bet on, you need to decide who to bet with. In our main betting strategy feature we talk about the many benefits of having multiple bookies from which to choose. There are now so many great online betting sites that it makes sense to have various options.

However, when it comes to betting on horse racing there are a couple of specific points we would like to make. First of all, for those that like backing outsiders, especially to win, there is a high chance that an exchange will offer the longest odds.

As a general rule, the odds at exchanges tend to be better but this is especially the case with outsiders. As an example, the first race we looked at to compare, showed four outsiders one priced at 66/1 and three at 100/1. At the exchange this quartet of underdogs was priced at 129/1, 139/1, 239/1 and 399/1.

Exchange v Fixed Odds Comparison on Long Shots at Betfair

Comparison of odd on outsiders between Exchange (top) and fixed odds (bottom)

Note: Odds shown are decimal to allow for easier comparison with the exchange.

Even allowing for commission this means that the exchanges would yield a significantly larger win. Of course, backing such long odds horses on the nose doesn’t appeal to most punters and our second tip concerns those that prefer to back horses each way.

Whether you are backing each way picks at 8/1 or 100/1, it’s well worth checking how many places the various betting sites are paying out on. For most races you will find that all major bookmakers are following standard each way terms. However, more and more often, especially on the biggest races, some bookies offer enhanced terms, for example paying out down to fourth instead of third, with some having been known to pay out to eight or even 10 places on the Grand National.

Ante Post Racing Strategy

Ante post betting is a major part of horse racing wagering – indeed the term originates from the sport (it literally means ‘before the post’). For many of racing’s biggest events, from the Derby to the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the St Leger to the Grand National, you can bet on who will win many weeks, months or even a whole year in advance.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Ante Post Betting

Ante post betting can be a brilliant way to get unbeatable value from your bets, value in two senses of the word. Not only might you get huge odds that make the SP look like a bad joke, but you also, potentially, get to enjoy the bet over a long period. If you back a horse months in advance you essentially have an interest in every race that horse runs all season, not to mention races contested by its rivals.

That said, ante post punting can be fraught with danger. Injury, poor form and even sometimes death can beset a horse after you have backed it ante post and before the race runs. No matter how big the odds seem to be and what a great horse it is, all that goes out of the window if your horse doesn’t even make it to the start line.

Should your pick fail to race you simply lose your stake, unless, that is, you have taken advantage of a great offer that many betting sites sometimes have. Non-Runner No Bet (NRNB) is regularly featured by many of the best racing betting sites, usually ahead of the Cheltenham Festival but also certain other big races such as the Grand National.

Back a horse with a bookie offering NRNB and if your horse doesn’t go to post you get your stake back in cash. Non-Runner Free Bet is not quite as good but also worth looking out for and offers your stake back as a free bet, rather than cash.

Ultimately when it comes to ante post betting strategy you will always be at least a little dependent on good luck. Paying attention to all the key trials and races that are good indicators of future success, as well as various trends and trainer stats in crucial races but ante post betting should almost always be viewed more as a fun side bet.

Multiples and Acca Betting

Multiples such as Lucky 15s and Yankees, and accas on any number of races are hugely popular within racing. Yet again, we have more information on general strategy for this type of bet in our main betting guide. However, when it comes to racing, it is well worth being aware of some specific bonuses that relate to these types of bets.

Many of the top racing bookmakers offer two promotions, usually targeting Lucky 15s, Lucky 31s and Lucky 63s, but also some other multiples and accas. The first of these gives you a bonus if you just land one winner, with the common bonus structure as below:

  • Lucky 15 – one winner paid at three times the normal odds
  • Lucky 31 – get four times normal odds
  • Lucky 63 – five times normal odds

This means if your bet is almost a total disaster, you’ll actually get a tidy bonus and, depending on the odds of your winner, you might not do too badly. The exact terms and conditions and bet and bonus limits vary from site to site so always read the full terms and conditions before you place your bets.

The other offer in this area of betting is at the other, more successful end of the spectrum. Again, this is a sliding bonus, but this time it gives your winnings a boost if you land all legs of the multiple or acca. You may get a boost of 25% or more on fully correct Heinz bets and Lucky 63s, with smaller bonuses on slips with fewer selections.

If you regularly place this type of bet then doing so with bookies that offer these promotions is essential. Using the right bookie will limit your losses when things go badly and increase your returns when they go well. Over a long period this will make a substantial difference to your overall returns and it’s incredibly easy to apply this “strategy” so don’t miss out!

The Psychology of Betting on Horses

Psychology of Betting

Psychology can play a major part in betting on any sport and in terms of coming up with a winning strategy, it may be easier to do so from a psychological perspective rather than a purely knowledge-based one.

What we mean by this is that traditionally punters seeking value look to capitalise on a piece of information the bookies have missed, ignored or incorrectly assessed. As we have said, this is an incredibly difficult task due to the huge financial and time resources the oddsmakers have, not to mention their skill, experience and better access to information.

But beating the bookies is not the only way to find value and beating the market may well be easier. Odds reflect the chances of a horse winning but they also reflect how the wider betting masses are behaving. A bookie can only hold their odds to a degree and at some stage, as the weight of money on one horse or another becomes too great, they are forced to alter their odds, irrespective of the actual chance a horse has.

In all sports and markets, psychology can be used to obtain value and there are certain widely accepted facts, tricks and strategies that can be used. To give a couple of examples from football might best illustrate the types of situations you can use in your favour.

One concerns laying England, or simply backing their opponents. The UK is one of the largest regulated betting markets in the world and partisanship means that a disproportionate amount of money is bet on the England national team. In both outright tournament markets and for individual games, this heart-over-head betting often inflates the odds on England’s rivals.

Another time that odds are generally artificially high is when you are backing against common sentiment as directed by human nature. More punters bet on over 2.5 goals than under, whilst more bet on both teams to score than “BTTS – no”. The psychology of the punter dictates that they would rather bet in the hope of goals than fearing them.

Moving back to racing, one widely accepted strategy is to lay the favourite in the last race. This may have been more relevant when most punting was done at the track and, in truth, in these days of global, 24/7 racing action, where only a small minority of the betting is done on course, it may no longer be a valid strategy.

The logic was that the favourite’s odds would almost always be bad value because people would seek to chase their losses. As most punters lose, the favourite in the last race was often heavily backed by those taking the most likely route to fiscal redemption.

Magnificent Seven and a Broken Bookie

One of the most famous stories in racing betting history broadly relates to this concept and concerns Frankie Dettori’s “Magnificent Seven” at Ascot. In 1996 the likeable Italian laughed in the face of odds of more than 25,000/1 to win all seven races on the Ascot card.

Frankie Dettori

Frankie Dettori, Credit: Paul Friel (flickr)

When it came to the final race, punters were desperate to back Frankie, who had won the first six, almost no matter what and the seventh horse, Fujiyama Crest, saw its odds plummet from 16/1 to just 2/1. Many bookies had been happy to lay the horse at 16/1 so the chance to lay it at 2/1 or even more was, to many, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Nothing much had changed and even allowing for the confidence of the jockey, bookies still probably thought it was around an 8/1 chance at best. Punters were rushing to back the horse based on herd mentality and psychological factors, whilst bookies were reducing the odds to try and offset accumulated liabilities that had built up on Dettori throughout the winning run. The odds were dropping but the horse’s chance of victory hadn’t really improved.

One independent bookie ended up losing £1m, so convinced was he that the odds were in his favour. This may not seem to be the best example of a wise strategy because he lost but, in truth, we think he called the situation correctly.

Another, albeit very specific, example from the world of racing, is how an appealing name can impact a horse’s odds in a really big race. In contests such as the Grand National, where much of the money is coming from very occasional punters, a catchy name that captures the public’s imagination can see odds plummet. Shakalakaboomboom was one recent example, whilst horses with common as muck names like “Dave” (everyone knows a Dave!) are also often popular in the market.

Avoiding such horses may prove wise, especially if you’re betting closer to the off after the odds have dropped. If you do intend to back a horse with such a name, based on your analysis of the form and so on, doing so well in advance may be prudent. Get in before all the nans and grandads, housewives and office pools have caused the odds to drop and you may still have a value bet on your hands.

Ultimately a racing strategy based on psychology is one where a horse’s odds are inflated or deflated not because of any real, physical factors that could affect its chances but simply because of the market’s incorrect beliefs. This creates value either on the horse in question, or on others, and learning to look out for such situations can prove very lucrative.

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