Horse racing betting is so popular because of the thrill of watching a horse race with your money on it. The outcome of the horse racing bet can only be a ‘win’, ‘place’, or ‘lose’, and its climax is reached within minutes after placing the wager - and the best racing betting sites take advantage of this simplicity.
Horse racing is one of the world’s oldest sports, evolving from chariot racing in ancient Greece, to the mounted Thoroughbred racing seen around the world today. It is inextricably linked with gambling, one of the most popular sports on all online betting sites and is now one of the top markets live streamed.
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Horse racing betting has many different markets to play, and 100s of different bets. Listed below are the most popular horse racing betting markets, but there are plenty more, including the weekend punter's favourite, the Placepot.
The standard horse racing bet is a Win Bet; to place a win bet, you pick a horse you think will win, and place a stake on it to win. If it wins, you win a multiple of your stake, based on the odds you were given by the bookmaker - your stake is the second number in the odds, so if they were 2/1, your stake is 1 and your winnings are 2 x 1.
An each-way bet is actually two bets: When you place an each-way bet on a horse in a horse race, you place half your stake on the horse to win, and the other half on the horse to be placed. What a ‘place’ is depends on the size of the field and the category of the race, but generally a ‘place’ is considered either the first three to finish, or 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Often in large handicaps, like the Grand National Steeplechase, the best online betting sites offer each-way betting down to 5th place, and even 6th.
When a horse race has a short-priced favourite, bookmakers often offer a ‘Betting Without’ market. This market takes the favourite out of the betting, pricing up the rest of the field as if that horse was not running. This betting market often gives punters a better return on ‘Win Bets’.
A Forecast Bet is a wager placed on two horses you believe will be placed first and second in a race. If they finish in the order you predict, then you win. A variation of the Forecast Bet is the Reverse Forecast, which is like an each-way bet; Choose two horses and as long as they both finish in the first two, in any order, you win.
A Tricast Bet goes one step further than a Forecast Bet, bringing in the third placing. Pick three horses you think will finish in the first three in the race, predict the order they will come home, and if that comes true, you win - quite substantially. The variation is a Combination Tricast, which allows you to win as long as your three horses finish in the first three, in any order.
To get more value out of multiple fancies, you can back them all in one bet called an accumulator. The simplest is the Double; where you back two horses to win. If the first horse to run wins, the winnings become the stake that is placed on the second horse. If that horse wins, the bet wins, otherwise nothing is returned. You can apply that principle to any number of multiples - a treble, a four-timer, whatever - and you can also bet each-way. That bet means you are on a Win Accumulator, and Place Accumulator, so as long as all horses are placed, you will get a return.
Punters wanting big returns from small betting stakes love the Lucky 15 and cousins the Patent, Lucky 31, and Lucky 63. These are full cover bets, offering horse racing punters a series of accumulator bets to win on up to six horses, with only one horse needing to win for the player to collect a return. For the most popular, the Lucky 15, this means one wager consists of 15 separate bets: 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and one four-fold accumulator on the same four horses. You can also make your Lucky 15 each-way to cover the placings
The Trixie Bet is just like the Lucky 15, except it is harder to win with as you need a minimum of two winning selections to gain a return on your stake. The bet is four separate bets on three horses, consisting of 3 doubles and 1 treble. You can place a similar bet on more than three horses, each option given a different name, but applying the same principles. A Yankee, is the bet for four horses, offering 11 separate bets, a Heinz is for six selections, consisting of 26 separate bets, and the biggest is a Goliath - a wager on 8 horses, giving you 247 separate bets.
Horse racing betting strategy is affected by a variety of factors. The most casual horse racing bettors choose bets based on a horse’s name they like, or the colours the jockey wears, or the number the horse is set to carry in the race. But for those that bet on horse racing based on knowledge, the following is taken into account:
Studying the form of a horse should be the first port of call for punters before betting on horse racing. A horse’s form is its previous racing results; it shows how many times the horse has run, where it has raced, where it has finished, and which jockey was riding, among many other details that should be factored into your horse racing betting decisions.
Horses generally have a preferred distance to race over, or a preferred range of distances. Younger horses tend to race over shorter distances, and then improve to go further as they mature. As horses age, trainers may test them out over longer or shorter distances, to see if physical changes have made them better suited to a different race trip. You can find out how a horse handles, or may handle, the distance of the race by looking at their form.
Horse races are run on turf, dirt, sand, and synthetic surfaces (like rubber and silicone). Weather can vary the consistency of all these surfaces, but none more so than turf. The going is most variable for turf races, with a range from firm (hard, dry) ground all the way through to heavy (deep, saturated) ground. Few horses run well on extremes, but many perform on a variety of surfaces. Others have distinct preferences that often gives them a big advantage on that favoured ground.
The trainer is the person who trains the horse. They make daily exercise plans and plot racing schedules. Some trainers are particularly good at handling a particular type of horse - like an age group e.g two-year-olds, or a distance specialist e.g sprinters - and some are good at targeting particular races, or types of races. Many trainers have specialities, and if you can work out what that is, then it can be an advantage.
Like trainers, jockeys can have specialities. They might be able to ride a type of horse very well, maybe one that likes to race from the front, or from the back. They could be particularly good at one racecourse, or have a notable partnership with an owner or a trainer that always seems to produce winners. Many horse racing betting sites show you a jockey’s form, so you can find out what their strike rates are at courses, in types of races, and for different trainers.
In Flat horse racing (racing without obstacles to jump), races are started from starting stalls, or gates. Each horse has its own stall to allow all horses to start from a level line at the exact same time. The draw becomes more important the shorter the race is, the tighter the circuit is, and consequently the more bends there are to negotiate in the race.
The weight listed beside a horse in a race card is the accumulative weight of the jockey, saddle, and weight cloth. What weight a horse carries is determined in different ways:In handicap races, horses who have achieved the best form carry the most weight. Each horse has a handicap rating, listed in pounds, and that is used to calculate how much weight they should carry in relation to another. For example: a horse rated 110 would carry 2lbs more than a horse rated 108.
In most non-handicap races, horses either carry the same weight, with allowances for younger horses, or females, or they carry weight based on their recent wins. For example: race conditions may dictate that a horse who has won a race this year will carry a 7lb penalty, over horses that haven’t. To factor this into your horse racing betting strategy you need to decide whether the horse can overcome, or capitalise on, whatever weight it has been allotted.
Horse racing is a global sport, with betting opportunities all year round in countries from the UK, to the US, to India, Ireland, and Australia. Here are some of the best horse races to bet on:
Held at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool in England, the Grand National is the most valuable jumps race in Europe with recent prize funds surpassing £1 million. Known as the ‘ultimate test of horse and rider', the race has higher fences than other chase races, and is run over the marathon distance of more than four miles. The Grand National is the most popular horse race to bet on in British and Irish horse racing betting culture, distinctly so with those who do not often bet, alongside the masses of regular fans. An estimated 500 million people watch the Grand National each year in over 140 countries.
The Kentucky Derby is often referred to as the ‘Run for the Roses’ due to the winner of the race being covered in a blanket of 554 red roses, upon victory. It is the feature race of the Kentucky Derby Festival and the first leg of the US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. Run over a mile and a quarter, the Kentucky Derby has amassed a massive following in the US and further afield. Attendance at the event is the highest for any horse race in America and usually beats the attendance of other stake races, including the final two legs of the Triple Crown - the Preakness and Belmont Stakes - and the highly international Breeders’ Cup.
The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s biggest horse race. At two miles long, the race takes place at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria as a part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. Known locally as ‘the race that stops a nation’, the event begins at 3pm on the first Tuesday of every November and is a hit with bookies down under. It has the same affect in Australia as the Grand National does in Britain and Ireland, with millions of people placing their one horse racing bet of the year.
Taking place at Cheltenham racecourse in Gloucestershire, England, this event is renowned for its distinctive atmosphere. The ‘Cheltenham roar’ refers to the incredible noise generated by The Festival’s racegoers as the first race of the four-day meeting begins on the second Tuesday in March. It is considered the Olympics of National Hunt, or jumps, racing, with more than 200,000 people visiting each year. Millions of pounds are placed in bets throughout the months leading up to Cheltenham, and even more throughout the week of racing, with race prize money second only to the Grand National in UK jumps racing.
Royal Ascot is Britain's most valuable race meeting, taking place over five days at Ascot Racecourse, near London, England, every June. Many of the world's finest racehorses compete for more than £7.1million in prize money, some travelling from as far as Australia, Japan, and the US to try to win one of the Royal meetings 18 Group 1 races. It's unique heritage requires strict dress codes, and offers pomp and ceremony each day as Britain's Royal Family and entourage arrive in horse-drawn carriages through the gates at the end of the racecourse's home straight.
Named after the mythical flying horse, the Pegasus World Cup is the richest horse race in the world, with a purse of $12 million for its first running, which took place on January 28th 2017 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. The event has garnered a massive amount of interest in the betting world due to its extremely high stakes, with a position at the gate costing a whopping $1 million.
Held on the last Saturday in March, this event is the feature race of Dubai World Cup Night and the entire Dubai World Cup Carnival. It has carried a prize purse of $10 million USD since 2010 and was the world’s richest horse race, until it was surpassed by the Pegasus World Cup in 2017. Run over a mile and a quarter at Meydan Racecourse, the race attracts an international field and has remained incredibly popular with punters since its inauguration in 1996.
"Diarmuid is a published horse racing journalist and creator of the #racehour twitter community which produces a weekly podcast and a home for all things horse racing throughout the flat and jumps season across the UK and Ireland."