Horse Racing

Horse Racing betting


The Sport of horse racing

You’ve no doubt heard of it, and whether you agree with It or not, it is one of the most popular betting sports – not only in the UK but in the world. With races such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Aintree Grand National and the Epsom Derby all being watched by millions of people. With one of the main reasons people are watching being that the audience usually have a bet on the race.

The sport itself draws in huge crowds to every meet with race goers hoping to be the lucky few to cheer their horse on first past the post. It’s very easy and very simple to place a wager on horse racing and you can do so without really having any knowledge of the horse. This is one of the main reasons it so easy to get into.

The sport itself has made it’s name from betting, most would assume that without being able to bet on the sport then it would simply be non-existent. The love comes more from the thrill of cheering on the horse with the possibility of making money at the end rather than it does the love of the sport (with exception to a few).


What types of horse racing is there?

Being a global and popular sport it’s worth pointing out that there are meetings almost every day of the calendar year, making betting on the sport a common occurrence.

By sticking to the UK and Ireland the 2 main types of racing you’ll come across in Flat Racing and National hunt racing (Jumps racing). With the main Flat season occurring during the spring and summer months and the National Hunt season Autumn and winter months.

They are very easy to distinguish, with Flat racing being on a flat surface and usually up to the distance of 2 miles. National Hunt racing is a race which involves obstacles that the horses having to jump over to win, they are often races from 2 miles upwards. It is a good idea to understand these differences before starting to bet.

Flat Racing

Only thoroughbred horses can take part in flat racing and they usually begin their careers as two year olds. Flat racing is generally described as the more prestigious racing and the prize pots are certainly a lot more than national hunt.

Flat racing has 2 main categories in both the UK and Ireland, these are handicap races and Conditions races – condition races are the higher quality races with the bigger prize pots.

Condition races have groups, with the highest group being Group 1, followed by Group 2 and then Group 3, you then have listed races. Condition races mean that any weight that the horse must carry comes down to the specification of that certain race. These conditions usually come down to the age, sex and potential ability of the horse racing.

The most common races you’ll see on a race card at a flat meeting is a handicap, these aren’t so prestigious as conditions races, but still offer big opportunity not only to gamblers, but also to the horses and trainers looking to step the horse up in class and prove it’s ability.

Weights in handicaps are determined by the official handicapper – this is done in an attempt to make all the horses competing on an equal level, as a horse carrying more weight is at a disadvantage to a horse in the race with a lower weight.

Handicaps have certain races in the category, these are:

  • Nursery (for two year olds only)
  • Maiden (for horses that have not won)
  • Novice (for two year olds that have not won more than twice)
  • Claimer (races where the horses can subsequently be bought for a fixed price)
  • Apprentice (for apprentice jockeys only)
  • Amateur (for amateur jockeys only)
  • Lady (for female amateurs and apprentices)
  • Gentlemen (for male amateurs only)


All weather racing

Most flat racing in the UK and Ireland is done on the turf but there are also a few courses with synthetic surfaces. These are known as all-weather tracks and they are a relatively new development to racing in the region, however they are slowly growing and beginning to draw in bigger crowds and bigger prize pots. Making it more appealing to trainers and jockeys and give gamblers a more exciting experience.

All-weather racing now plays an integral role in the flat scene, although it does tend to involve lower quality races. There are four all-weather tracks in the UK – Lingfield Park, Kempton Park, Southwell and Wolverhampton – and one in Ireland – Dundalk


Racecourse’s to note


Below we have listed some of the most important racecourses for flat racing in the UK and Ireland. Please note that some of these tracks host National Hunt racing too.

United Kingdom

  • Ascot
  • Ayr
  • Chester
  • Doncaster
  • Epsom
  • Ffos Las
  • Goodwood
  • Newmarket
  • Windsor
  • York


  • Curragh
  • Dundalk
  • Laytown
  • Leopardstown
  • Galway
  • Limerick


National Hunt Racing

Where flat racing is all about speed over a short distance, National hunt racing, horses have to jump over obstacles whilst having stamina to last a longer distance, races are often determined by experience and trainer tactics. For a lot of people this is the more exciting of the two.

Below you’ll see details on the diverse types of races, how they are classified and the main racecourse for Jumps.

Although flat racing is the more prestigious type of racing and offers much bigger prize money, the jumping and longer races make it much more enjoyable for fans. In National Hunt horses aren’t required to be thoroughbreds, they need to have the right characteristics to make them suitable for jumping and you often see a multiple of breeds racing.

Where horses in flat racing usually retire around 3 or 4 years old, horses in National Hunt often reach their peak between 7-10 years old.

National Hunt racing includes 2 main types, these are hurdles and steeplechases.

Hurdles tend to be quicker races where the horse is jumping a hurdle (hence the name) the distances tend to be between 2-3.5 miles – the minimum number of hurdles for a race is 8. Hurdles tend to be quite flexible and get knocked down when horses jump them.

Steeplechases are ran over a further distance usually between 2 and 5 miles and the obstacles they face are a lot bigger than hurdles they also vary in different types of obstacles such as water jumps, plain fences and an open ditch. These races are often shortened to be called Chases.

On the odd occasion you’ll come across a national hunt flat race, usually known as a bumper – this is a flat race over national hunt distances.


Races in National hunt are classified in Grades, Grade 1 the most prestigious followed by Grade 2 and Grade 3 – Listed races are worth noting as races below Grade 3. Graded races are ran with horses at the same weight and ability.

Handicap races are the most common races, the essence of handicapping is a well-tried proposition that the weight a horse carries ultimately affects the speed at which it can gallop. A handicap is a race where each horse is set to carry a weight, allocated according to the horse’s ability to give each horse a level race. The Aintree Grand National is the biggest and most expensive handicap race in the world.

Festivals and Meetings

The pinnacle of the National Hunt Calendar are the Festivals and Meetings – these include the most important races of the season and draw in the biggest crowds, these are often the time when the most people will bet.

These meetings are

  • The Grand National
  • Cheltenham Festival
  • Newbury Winter Festival
  • King George Chase on Boxing Day
  • Punchestown Festival


Below we have listed some of the most important racecourses for National Hunt racing in the UK and Ireland. Please note that some of these tracks host Flat Hunt racing too.

United Kingdom

  • Aintree
  • Ayr
  • Cheltenham
  • Haydock Park
  • Kempton Park
  • Newbury
  • Sandown


  • Cork
  • Fairyhouse
  • Leopardstown
  • Punchestown


How to bet?

It’s not just betting on a horse you think will win that is possible in Horse Racing, although it Is probably the easiest way. The basics are relatively straight forward but should you choose to make it more complex than you can.

The most common ways are:

  • Fixed odds betting
  • Tote betting
  • Betting on the exchange


Fixed odds betting it very straight forward and the way most people like to bet. This is where you place a bet with your bookmaker at the odds available. If your bet wins you’ll be paid. If it doesn’t the book maker keeps your stake simple as that.

Tote betting is quite different and you usually only place these types of bets at a racecourse. Here the odds are unknown, your potential payout is determined by how much was wagered on a race or races and how many other people picked out the winners.

Exchange betting is quite new, it gives you the opportunity to wager against other people rather than the bookmaker.

Different ways of betting

Horse racing for most is about having fun and the thrill of a near win, a photo finish or even the roar as the horse jump the last.

However, understanding some of the ways to bet can help give you the advantage when it comes to picking a horse. It helps stop thinking betting is difficult and actually makes it quite simple for you.

Below we further expand of the 3 common methods.

Fixed odds betting

Fixed odds is the most common way of betting with all bookmakers, you place a wager at the agreed odds – in short, you choose a horse, the bookmaker gives you odds and you wager what you like. There is no pressure to bet big, you can bet as little as you like.

Once you’ve chosen your selection and you have paid your stake the bookmaker will then keep the stake until the selection is over. If you have made a winning selection then the bookmaker will pay back to you your stake and the payout of for the odds you took. So if you backed a horse at 2/1 (two to one) then you are making £2 for every £1 staked, meaning a £5 stake would return £15. £10 in winnings and you £5 stake back.

In the UK odds are shown in fractions, however they can be changed to decimals which is commonly used in Europe. The above 2/1 example is a very easy way to explain fractions. However what if the odds are 1/5 or “Odds on” as you’ll hear. These odds work the same where should you bet £5 you win £1 for every £5 you bet. So a £5 winner here would pay £6, your £5 stake and £1 winnings.

One other term you may hear is “evens” this when the odds are the same, 1/1, So a £10 bet here would pay £20.

Decimals in a way are easier to work out your winnings as they are simpler. 2.0 is “evens” in decimal talk and anything under 2.0 would be “odds on”. An example of decimal better is £10 on 4.50, this would return £45 as you are multiplying 4.50 by your stake of £10.

Tote Betting

Tote betting is very different to fixed odds as there simply are no odds. Theoretically you could work out your winnings down to odds – but during the bet it is ever changing. Tote betting you are not betting against a bookmaker more adding your stake into a pool along with other gamblers. If your selection wins, you take an equal amount of the pool in accordance to your stake – as do other gamblers with the same selection.

Therefore your winnings are determined by how much you staked, how much was staked overall on the race by other gamblers, how many others also placed a winning selection.

It’s worth noting the company itself will take a small percentage for profits and tax purposes.

Exchange betting

Being new to the industry exchange betting can be hard to understand at first. Betfair is a company that has seen it’s exchanges grow rapidly. The basic premise is that you choose your selection, set the odds and the stake you want and then your wager will get matched with someone who wishes to take the opposite position

Types of wagers in Horse Racing

Trying to pick a winner in Horse Racing seems like the most obvious choice when it comes to betting on the sport. However there are other ways of betting on horse racing, and ways that can make the sport more fun for you, increasing your chances of winning too.

The most common types of bets are:

  • Win
  • Place
  • Each-way

A win is very straight forward, you are betting on a horse to win a certain race at those odds. A place better very similar, but instead of winning you are betting on the horse to finish usually in the top 3 depending on the race at reduced odds. Each-way involves 2 bets, one on the horse to win and the other on the horse to place.

Win betting – how does it work

The simplest of betting types, and very simple to understand. You are picking the horse you think will win the race. If that selection wins you win the bet and receive the payout, if it doesn’t you lose your stake.

Depending on whether you choose to do fixed odds or tote betting determines your payout – however this is also the same for place betting and each-way. Most bookmakers will offer Best odds guaranteed, meaning if the odds on your horse were to go up (odds drift) after you placed the bet then you would get the odds the horse goes off at. Please note that should the odds shorten your odds will stay the same.

Place Betting

This bet requires your selection to finish in the places, this is most commonly the top 3 – but some races are different. See below:



Type of Race Runners Places
All 1-4 Win Only
All 5-7 2
Not Handicap 8 + 3
Handicap 12-15 3
Handicap 16 + 4


So how do you work out your winnings? Generally speaking the odds on a horse to place are usually a quarter or a fifth of the odds on a horse to win. So a 8/1 would be a 2/1 to place (In fixed odds terms)

Each-Way betting

An each-way bet is a combination of two however you are essentially doing both. A £5 each way bet will cost you £10. You’re betting £5 on the win and £5 on the place. So if the horses wins, you get paid for both bets, if it doesn’t but it places then you’ll only get paid the place. The whole stake is lost should the selection not place at all.

Multiple betting

Accumulators as they are commonly called is a bet that involves a multiple of selections, and a multiple of results needed for a pay out. This can be 2 horses in 2 races (A double), 3 horses in 3 races (a treble) 4 horses in 4 races (a four fold) anything more is usually classed as just a accumulator.

These are a lot harder to win as you are relying on all your horses to win and not just one, the reward is far greater. The odds are calculated by multiplying odds from each selection together. There are plenty of stories out there of some of the biggest accumulators ever landed.

There are other possible multiples such as Trixies, Lucky 15’s and Yankee’s however these are probably too complicated for basic betting.

Now you know all the various wagers available make sure you are picking the right one and also the one you feel has the best bet. Putting lots of different bets on may seem like its giving you a better chance of winning, however it’s actually giving you more chance to lose more.


How to pick a horse

Now you know how to bet, it’s time to make your selection – if you don’t fancy taking it seriously then really you don’t need to know anything else. For the few that want to make a more educated guess on your selection then it’s time to look deep into the race card. Things to take into account, the form, course and distance results, type of horse and a lot more.

Don’t worry we’ve got you covered right here!

So you want to make the best possible selection on the horses? Now we can’t guarantee you’ll pick a winner but we can give you the basics when it comes to picking a horse and what to look out for. Please remember that in racing anything can happen, and it is very unpredictable.

Infact horse racing is one of the most unpredictable sports there is, especially if there are obstacles involved – it wouldn’t be the sport loved by so many if it was predictable.

Just because a horse is the favourite it doesn’t mean it will win, stats show that favourites only win around 30% of all races, which give outsiders a huge 70% whilst winning at usually good odds for punters. So keep your options open and study well. Just because the favourite is touted as the best in the race, there is a lot of factors explained below to take into account that can and will effect the course of the race.

How to read a form guide

Form guides are available to anyone and they are great at giving you information on the horses racing. The information provided on a form guide can help you make more educated selections – however it will not guarantee you’ll pick a winner.

Reading a form guide isn’t something you usually pick up straight away it can take a few go’s and a bit of studying, but eventually you’ll begin to understand the basic’s. A lot of people once they have learnt how to read a form guide begin to make strategies and make their own trends. So there is no right or wrong way to pick a selection from a form guide. We’ll explain the basic’s and you can work out how you want to look at it.

Below is a Form guide for a race in the United Kingdom.

horse racing form guide
horse racing form guide

Now there’s a lot to look at this card already, the first to note is the location and the time. This states what time the race is and at racecourse. Under this you can see 2m4f and the name of the race – the name of the race is very important, especially in National hunt racing as you’ll see whether the race is a hurdles race or a steeplechase. 2m4f is the distance the race will be ran at, this one in particular is 2 miles and 4 furlongs. You can also see the classification of the race explained in the name as well as added information on age groups and rating requirements.

Under this is the information on the horses, this is where it can become difficult and where we are going to try explain as best as possible.

The first column shows the number which the horse will be wearing during the race. The smaller numbers you see under this are that horses previous results or it’s form as it’s commonly called. The numbers should be easy to work out, they are the horses finishing positions in previous races, however there are other characters to look out for and here’s what they mean:

  • Numbers 1-9 show the finishing position.
  • The number 0 tells us that the horse finished outside the first nine.
  • A hyphen (-) separates seasons. So anything to the left of a hyphen is for the previous season.
  • A forward slash (/) indicates an extended break from racing. It’s used if a horse has gone an entire season, or longer, without racing for some reason.
  • The letter “P” indicates that the horse was pulled up and didn’t finish. “PU” is sometimes used as an alternative.
  • “F” indicates that the horse fell.
  • “U” or “UR” indicates that the horse unseated its jockey.
  • “R” indicates that the horse refused a jump.
  • “B” or “BD” indicates that the horse was brought down by another horse.
  • “L” indicates that the horse was left at the start.
  • “D” indicates that the hose was disqualified.
  • “V” indicates a void race.

The second columns you’ll a top with different colours this indicates what silks the jockey will be wearing during the race. The owner of the horses have different silks between, some races you may see the same silks, this is because the owner has more than one horse in the race. This isn’t hugely important when it comes to making your selection however it is good to know which horse is yours whilst watching the race.

The third column is the horses name, and here you’ll see some extra information that is important when making the selection. The small number to right of the horses name, this is telling us how long it’s been since the horse’s last race. Things to note here, if the number is low the horse has raced recently and may not be as fresh as the others (however fitness could be higher). If the number is larger then the horse hasn’t raced for a while, this can mean the horse is fresher, but it could also bring up questions to why the horse hasn’t ran in a while.

The little letters by the horse’s name in lower case is all in regard to the equipment the horse will be wearing for the race. These letters are:

  • “b” is for blinkers.
  • “v” is for visor.
  • “e/s” is for eye-shield.
  • “h” is for hood.
  • “t” is for tongue strap.
  • “p” is for cheek pieces.

When a one follows any of these letters, it means the horse is wearing the specified equipment for the first time.

The bolder upper-case letters by the horses name tell you whether the horse has won a race at this distance or course before.

“CD” indicates that the horse has won this course and distance before.
“C” indicates that the horse has won at this course before.
“D” indicates that the horse has won at this distance before.
“BF” indicates that the horse was a beaten favourite in its last race.


Columns 3 and 4 on this form guide shows the horses age and weight that they will carry for the race, the weight is shown in stones and pounds. Just under this is the OR, this is rating for the horse as given by the handicapper. This is how handicap weights are handed out, a higher rated horse must carry more weight.

The last column shows the horses Jockey for the race and also who the trainer of that horse is. Any number next to the jockey’s name indicates a weight claimer this jockey has. So the horse he is riding will have to carry this much less weight.

In horse racing this is about all you need to know on a form guide, now it’s a lot to take in and not all of it will really affect your decision when making a selection, however I’m sure you’ll be able to consider everything now when it comes to weighing out your options.

Some gamblers like to dig into form guides further and analyse their horses in greater depth, now if you think you know all you need from a form guide then it’s time to have a go at looking at one! If you’d like to know more about analysing horses and a race then click below.


Analysing Horse racing

Making your selection in horse racing based on the horse winning the last race and having the lowest race is perfectly logical and is information that you can gather from the form guide. But if you want to dig deeper into this then it’s time to start analysing. That horse you’re looking at who won it’s last race, ever thought about who it actually beat? We’re they really competition compared to it’s next race?

Now you finally understand the form card it’s time to think about other factors to take into account when picking your horse.

Looking at one horse won’t help, you need to think about the whole field and starting to compare horses based on these factors. Others form may show them well suited to that race based on wins at the course, or beating it’s oppositions before.

Some of the main factors to look at are:

  • Current Form
  • Horse’s history
  • Record at the race distance
  • Record on the race type and class
  • Weight carried
  • Form of the trainer
  • Form of the jockey
  • Form of the horse they’ve previously beaten

It would be very easy to go into detail on all these point, but I think a lot of them are quite simple to work out. Certain people believe some trainers have preferred courses and will look out for any entries from that trainer at these race courses. A horse that has ran at a course multiple times without a win can form doubt in some punters minds when it runs there again.

There is no right or wrong when reading into this but some trends do become obvious. When reading into these factors you must take them all into account, making a decision based on one factor is not advised.

Form of a horse

This is the most popular factor to take into consideration and one of the most important. The results on the form are most logical stats to look at, but not just where the horse was placed. Looking back at those results you must take into consideration:

  • Quality of opposition
  • Course and distance
  • Conditions that day

The information we get from looking at this is far greater than just looking at the result. For example a horse may have finished 4th, but the 3 ahead of it may well of been proven graded racehorses, meaning a 4th here isn’t as bad as it looks as you wouldn’t of expected a good result. The race now being against weaker opposition to that faced before then the horse stands a much better chance and we’d expect it to do a lot better.

A horse could also have a record of running very well in certain conditions and distance, you should look out for when the horse is running this distance again and also the conditions on that day. Has the horse had good last race but a poor season, does this mean the his horse’s form is changing or was it a one off. Always look at the overall form and not just it’s current form.

Make sure you aren’t overlooking the trainer and jockeys form. Sometimes trainers or jockeys can go through bad patches wear finding a win just doesn’t seem to happen, even if your horse is in good form if the jockey or trainer isn’t at the time then it needs to be taken into account.

Course and Distance records

Some horses take awhile to find their desired distance or favourite track, and some just never make it at certain distances. Be sure to check out whether a horse has raced at the distance before, and if so how did it get on, the same can be said about the course. Take into consideration the trainer and jockey here too, how do they get on at this course and distance.

Distance for a horse can be hard to find, rewatching races is a good way to see how well the horse coped at the distance and although it didn’t win last time, look into why it didn’t. It may well of been too quick meaning the horse tired by the end, this would indicate that the horse wants a shorter distance. If the horse was too slow but finished well, then the horse has more stamina and would cope with a further distance race. This isn’t to forget that horse may of just been up against too good of an opposition. A change in distance for a horse is often a tactical one by then trainer and the trainers thoughts so bare this in mind if you see this.

Now we appreciate it’s a lot to take in (Horse racing is for a newbie), but these are just a few simple things to look out for when analysing a horse. We feel this is enough detail for you to begin to put together an educated selection on the horse racing. You’ll notice you can spot the strengths and weakness through a card now and you’ll probably start to cross some selections off yourself and influence yourself.

Please remember that horse racing is unpredictable. Even with taking into consideration all of these factors, picking a winner is still very hard and you won’t pick a winner every race as much as we’d all love you too. Every horse has it’s reasons to be picked but other variables means so does another horse. However don’t let this distract you, there is no reason why you can’t pick enough winners to make yourself a nice profit.


Bonus Library Horse Racing tips for newbies.

Now before you go straight in ready to pick your winners throughout a card, here’s some quick tips we’ve put together for newbies.

  • Give yourself a budget and DON’T bet if you can’t afford too
  • Backing outsiders can be OK
  • Watch the race
  • Bet small stakes
  • Bet online, the odds are better, and most bookmakers offer best odds guaranteed