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How To Bet On Horse Racing

How do you bet on horse racing? How can you enhance your chances of long-term success betting on horse racing? We discuss ten ways to improve your returns when have a bet on horse racing.

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The internet revolution has produced a golden age for punters, with a large number of bookmakers competing for the betting pound/euro/dollar. This has produced fantastic opportunities for those disciplined enough to exploit it, with margins virtually non existent if you shop around to get the best prices. Essentially if your opinion is any good you really ought to be winning and winning regularly. Here’s how.

#1 – Specialise

There is so much horse racing today, especially in the summer, that it’s virtually impossible to be on top of all of it, and attempting to do so is liable to dilute ones views and lead to errors in judgement.

Try and find an area that you can get to grips with the form in. For example, novice hurdles or 2Y0’S on the flat. Bet only in these races and watch every one of these races.

#2 – Maintain A Database

Specialising in one area means you can easily use a database to log all your views and notes on every race. Several companies offer ready made versions such as TimeformI (excellent) and Raceform, which allow you to insert your own views alongside their own expert analysis.

#3 – Set Your Own Odds For Every Race

This is essential to anyone who wishes to bet on horses racing. There have been thousands of excellent judges of horse racing form who fail at gambling simply because they “bet what they fancy and a winner is a winner”.

The only way to form an accurate view of when it is time to bet is to “price up” the races to 100 per cent. If for instance you price up a three horse race at Evens (2.0), 3-1 (4.0) and 3-1 (4.0), but the actual prices available are 6-4, (2.50), 2-1, (3.0) and 5-2 (3.50), then the “value” lies in betting the 6-4 chance. You’re getting odds of 6/4 for a horse you feel should be at the shorter odds of even money.

Clearly this is a simplistic example and racing is not black and white but it is still an excellent habit to get into and stops ill discipline and having too many bets.

#4 – When The Weather Changes, Be Patient And Wait

The summer months of racing are traditionally the hardest for the bookmakers. Put simply, the weather is usually dry and the ground stays the same, on the fast side of good.

However when the weather changes so do racing results. Be careful analysing horse racing form on fast ground when the actual race may be on soft. This is why there are bookmakers!

#5 – The Shape Of The Race

This is the least considered but arguably the most important factor in analysing a race you intend to price up and wager in.

Try to understand the run styles of the protagonists and what suits them best. For example if there are two headstrong frontrunners in the race, both are liable to ruin each other up front and tee the race up for a hold up horse.

Similarly if something is sure to get a soft unpressed lead it is much more probable it will give its best running. A lot of this is a “feel” thing that will come from experience of watching thousands of races and keeping accurate notes.

#6 – Follow An In Form Small Yard Over A Big Name Stable

Generally the horses from the bigger, well established yards tend to be overbet in relation to the form they have actually achieved. Try and steer clear of hype and “info” and focus on what you have seen with your own eyes.

Younger trainers just starting out tend to be more up for the game than those that have already enjoyed success in the past.

#7 – Record Every Bet You Make And Review Them Each Month

Discipline is paramount and essential for weeding out bad value bets. Do not bet when there is no value. Keep your staking to a set plan. And do not bet out of frustration when things go against you. Be patient, ride out the tough times and stick to your plan. To do otherwise is to make failure a certainty.

#8 – Never Bet Odds-On And Try To Find Each-Way Value

Try and avoid betting odds-on and focus mainly on each-way opportunities. The hit rate needed when betting odds-on regularly is very high and with Betfair dictating prices these days, it is very hard to find any price advantage at this end of the market. Much better to play in 8, 9 or 10 runner races each-way where the terms are very much in the punters favour. This is no better illustrated in the Betfair place-only prices which are often significantly less than what is available using a traditional bookmaker.

#9 – The Effect Of The Draw

This is becoming more and more relevant to finding winners and is a constant source of frustration to punters on the flat. More and more, for whatever reason, certain parts of racecourses have faster strips of turf that see those horses drawn high or low enjoy a huge advantage.

It is important to record this bias and remember it for future betting.

#10 – Latch Onto A Young Claiming Pilot Over A ‘Star’

So often horses ridden by star “name” pilots are underpriced simply because punters believe they have been booked because connections expect them to win. Also they have a huge betting shop following who simply bet anything they ride.

As is so often the case with successful horse racing betting, staying away from the mainstream view is often the best option. Try and spot young riders who are strong and decent judges of pace. With their claim (a reduction in weight the horse has to carry because they have yet to ride a certain number of winners), they can represent more value if you notice them before everyone else.

In Conclusion

Hopefully these “rules” will be of help to younger players interested in betting on horse racing. As with most things, the more hard graft you put in, the more you get out. That coupled with discipline is the “secret” to betting on horse racing and winning long term.

It’s also worth identifying an expert racing tipster and follow their tips daily or ITV racing tips for televised live racing on the weekend.

Horse Racing Bet Types

There a many ways to bet on horse racing. From traditional bets such as race winner and place bets, so a range of specials and exotics. In this section we will take you through the most popular ways to bet on horse racing.

Win only

The most simple bet. A straight win bet for the horse to finish first. Many bookmakers now pay on the “double result” so even if your “winner” is subsequently disqualified in a stewards enquiry, you will still get paid. It is also worth seeking out a bookmaker offering “best odds guaranteed”, whereby if the starting price (final returned price at the off of the race) is greater than the price you took at the time the bet was placed, you get paid at the bigger price. This is a very fair offer and one well worth seeking out as you get started.

Place only

Originally available only on the betting exchanges, this has become far more commonplace as a separate market with many bigger online bookmakers.

Each-way betting

Two separate bets: One to win and one to place. Very popular when there are 8 or more runners, as the place part is settled on the first three home, and in competitive handicaps where the market is often wide open. Bookmakers offer the same each-way terms that vary depending on the number of runners and type of race:

Non-Handicap Races

  • 2 – 4 Runners Win Only No place betting
  • 5 – 7 Runners 1/4 the Odds 1, 2
  • 8 or more Runners 1/5 the Odds 1, 2, 3

Handicap Races

  • 2 – 4 Runners Win Only
  • 5 – 7 Runners 1/4 the Odds 1,2
  • 8 – 11 Runners 1/4 the Odds 1, 2, 3
  • 12 – 15 Runners 1/4 the Odds 1, 2, 3
  • 16 + Runners 1/4 the Odds 1, 2, 3, 4


Predict the first or second in the correct order. Dividends are calculated by a complex algorithm that uses the prices of the first and second home. Can offer good value if the punter does not fancy a short priced favourite to finish first or second.


Similar to the forecast in its calculation, but the punter has to find the 1st 2nd and 3rd in the correct order. Can offer value when there seems to be a draw bias i.e where those drawn low have a huge advantage, and the astute player can combine all those drawn low in a Tricast.

Accumulators (Multi-Bets, Combo-Bets)

Very popular in betting shops where more optimistic punters try to find several winners combined in one bet, multiplying up their winnings in doubles/trebles etc. The most popular is the Yankee which consists of four selections and eleven bets in total.

Tote betting

Pool betting is very popular in countries where bookmakers are outlawed and their is no price competition. Generally these are a high margin product with a big profit assured for the pool operator. The usual range of win/place/forecast betting is offered, with a dividend calculated by weight of money (less a cut for the operator usually of 30%).

Placepot/Jackpot betting

These is a tote bet that can offer value! When there is a carry over from a previous meeting (when the bet is not “won” by anyone) the final dividend can be substantial and much greater than the actual chance.

The jackpot means a punter has to find the winner of 6 races on one card, while the placepot requires him to find one horse to be placed in each of these races. At bigger festivals such as Cheltenham there can often be several hundred thousand in these pools and the value can be unusually on the astute punters side.


Since the advent of betting exchanges it is possible to bet against a certain horse winning or finishing placed. Very popular but also very dangerous for the inexperienced player.

Antepost betting

Betting on the big races in the coming months is offered by all major bookmakers. Big prices can be obtained if the punter is willing to take the risk, but clearly there is no certainty that their selection will turn up fit and well on the day of the race!

Click here to learn more about betting on horse racing with our detailed racing guides

Thanks to our racing expert Stephen Harris