Horse Racing Betting: How To Pick a Winning Horse

Horse Racing Betting: How To Pick a Winning Horse
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Every time a horse race takes place, punters ask themselves one question: how can I pick the winning horse?

There are lots of different angles of attack when you look through a racecard to view the runners and riders. Our aim is to provide you with some useful racing tips so that you can visit horse racing betting sites and place your bets with confidence.

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Horse Racing Selection Methods

When it comes to placing Cheltenham free bets, or betting on the Aintree Grand National or any other race meeting, every bettor takes a different approach. There is certainly no one answer when it comes to how a punter selects a horse for a particular race, although there are lots of popular methods, some of which we investigate below.

Some newcomers to horse racing might simply go through the racecard and go with their gut instinct when it comes to a selection. Perhaps they might like the name of the horse or the colours of the jockey’s silks, although there are better ways of narrowing down the field and coming up with a sporting chance of winning.

We have 10 different horse racing selection methods below. You can combine some or all of these to the best effect depending on the type of race, the number of runners, the type of bet you’re looking to place and the amounts that you are willing to stake.

Study the Form

This is a useful starting point when it comes to any race. Naturally, you will want to bet on a horse that has been performing well in the current and previous seasons. Ideally, you would see plenty of '1s' as part of the form to indicate that they have been in the winner's enclosure on several occasions.

It might be that there are lots of horses in the race with strong form, but you might want to check when they last raced. You can also drill down and find out the grade of the race in which they ran. It might be that a particular horse finishing fifth was more impressive depending on the pedigree of his or her opponents. If you want more details on how to read form, follow our guide at Gambling.com to increase your chances of backing the winning horse.

Have Any Horses Raced Each Other?

UItimately, every race should be considered a jigsaw puzzle that punters are trying their level best to solve. Sometimes the missing pieces come when we consider how the leading contenders have previously performed against each other. It might be that the favourite has previously beaten other horses in the race, although you should pay attention to the winning distance on this front.

Sometimes, it’s particularly hard to marry the form of UK runners and Irish runners for Cheltenham Festival races, although you should at least be able to judge relative performance. When you're reading through Gold Cup tips, or coming up with a strategy for any of the other big Cheltenham races, keep in mind that sometimes a horse’s third-placed finish behind a superstar is actually an impressive performance.

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Course and Distance

Remaining on the form theme, we would recommend another horse racing betting strategy in the form of course and distance. If you see the letters “CD” next to a horse’s name on the racecourse, it means that the runner has previously won at that exact course and over the same distance. It’s certainly a telling factor in terms of making sure they’re likely to get the trip at that course.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “horses for courses” and that certainly applies when it comes to many big meetings. There is a world of difference between a track like Cheltenham with its undulations and the likes of Haydock and Kempton Park. Therefore, it’s always good to see a horse having course and distance.

Who is the Trainer?

When betting on horse racing, you should be keenly aware of the leading trainers, and you might notice that one of the top trainers has a number of horses entered in a race. It’s often the case at big meetings that you see the likes of Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson or Gordon Elliott training multiple winners.

On the flip side, sometimes a Mullins horse might be artificially short in the betting, especially when there’s little form to go on. We don’t recommend blindly backing runners associated with a leading trainer as it can sometimes be difficult to pick the right one and make a profit.

BrandDaily Racing SpecialsLive Streaming RacingAnte Post RacingTote/Other MarketsVisit Site
Established 1997
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Min deposit £/€/$10 • A qualifying bet is a ‘real money’ stake of at least £/€/$10 • Min odds 1/2 (1.50) • Free Bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days • Free Bet stakes not included in returns • Casino Bonus must be claimed within 7 days • To withdraw bonus/related wins, wager the bonus amount 40 times within 14 days • Casino Bonus expires after 60 days • Withdrawal restrictions, payment methods, country & Full T&C’s apply.
Established 2001
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Terms and Conditions - Min deposit €5. Bet Credits available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. 18+. New players only. Gamble responsibly. http://www.gamblingcare.ie/.
Established 2003
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Who is the Jockey?

It naturally follows that the best jockeys get to ride the best horses. The top trainers generally have a primary rider and they often get to choose from the various horses entered in a race. It can be quite telling when a leading jockey selects a particular horse for a race as they ultimately regard it as having a better chance than its stablemates.

It doesn’t always mean the best jockeys win every race. Every rider in the field is a professional jockey who will look to deploy the tactics to suit the horse but it’s always worth making a note of who is riding what animal.

Look at Weights for Handicap Races

There are many races known as handicaps and this means that the horses in the field are carrying different weights according to their official rating. Therefore, the best horse on previous performance will be known as top weight and conversely the worst horse will be bottom weight.

However, handicapping horses is clearly not an exact science and it can often pay to select a runner who is carrying less weight around, especially over long distances. Sometimes a horse is regarded as being favourably handicapped and is often among the favourites at betting sites as a result.

Which Horses Will Be Suited to the Going?

When it comes to a race meeting, there are lots of different types of going. This means the condition of the ground, with lots of rainfall leading to soft and even heavy going. Sometimes we might find the going is good to soft, while good ground tends to suit particular horses who relish the chance to travel at faster speeds.

Horse Racing Ground Staff at Ascot

Therefore, it’s worth bearing in mind the preferred going for each of the horses in the race and what the ground conditions are likely to be. Sometimes a horse is regarded as a mudlark for its love of heavy conditions.

Will Age Be a Factor?

Experience can be a good thing when it comes to a horse race. A younger horse might be a more progressive sort and still on an upward trajectory. Many National Hunt races feature horses with differing ages and it’s a question of working out whether this is a factor or not.

There are certain high-profile races at the Cheltenham Festival where there are age trends. For example, five-year-olds have traditionally not fared well in the Champion Hurdle, so tipsters and punters will take that into account when deciding on their Champion Hurdle tips.

Where is the Smart Money Going?

There are many betting tips when it comes to picking a winning horse and they include watching the betting market leading up to the race. It might be that there’s a major gamble on one of the runners which suggests that the horse is rumoured to stand a better chance than the odds imply.

This sort of thing happens in the hours leading up to a horse race and it’s worth keeping tabs on the horses who are shortening and drifting on the market. It doesn’t always follow that a heavily-backed horse will end up winning, although there’s a gamble for a reason.

What Are the Each-Way Terms?

When it comes to betting on Cheltenham Festival races, many customers like to take the each-way betting option as it’s a sensible betting strategy for horse races where there are big fields. Betting each-way means that you can enjoy a profitable return if your selection(s) finish second, third, fourth or even fifth in their respective race.

Indeed, all of the best betting apps and sites will have each-way terms on display for each race. Sometimes, the each-way number of places can be different and it’s worth shopping around to make sure you stand the best possible chance of a return. Look out for enhanced each-way races on a daily basis.

Example of How to Pick a Winner – Flooring Porter in the Cheltenham Stayers' Hurdle

Flooring Porter was the winner of the 2021 Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, with the horse having a Starting Price of 12/1. The horse was a popular Stayers' Hurdle tip on the day of the race and shrewd punters will have noticed money for the runner in the morning, with the bookies shortening their prices when it came to the Gavin Cromwell-trained runner.

Cromwell isn’t quite a household name when it comes to training and this worked in favour of punters - who were able to get a bigger price. The six-year-old was one of the youngest horses in the race, and this worked in his favour as he was nice and fresh for this gruelling three-mile encounter.

Flooring Porter wins the Stayers' Hurdle

Flooring Porter had already enjoyed strong form that season. There was an 11/1 victory in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle which had been over the same distance of three miles and on soft ground. The horse had also beaten Sire Du Berlais in that race, yet the latter was 5/1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle before finishing second.

The other big positive was that Paisley Park was the uncertain betting favourite to win the 2021 Stayers’ Hurdle. The 2019 winner of this race had only finished in seventh in 2020, although the bookies still weren’t taking any chances with a horse that had won the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. However, the English form didn’t stand up to the Irish form on this occasion.

How to Pick a Winning Horse – Top Three Strategy Tips

Here are three of our favourite methods when it comes to choosing which strategy to use when deciding which horse to back.

Previous Form: This has to be the starting point when considering any horse race. How has each runner performed in its career so far, particularly during the current season? Have there been long absences from the track due to injury? Is each horse enjoying an upward trajectory or are his best days behind him?

Course and Distance: We love when horses have run at a particular racecourse before. Even better if they have travelled over precisely the same distance. Look out for a “CD” next to a horse’s name and figure out what their previous victory at this track looked like.

The Betting Market: It’s important to have your own views when it comes to picking the winning horses, although it could be that a selection is friendless in the market.

While it doesn’t mean the horse definitely won’t win, it’s always better to have some market confidence. There is also always the option place a pool bet if you don’t want to put your eggs in one basket. This could give you the chance to win huge payouts from small stakes.

The most popular pool bet is arguably the Tote Placepot, where punters select horses to place in each of the first six races of a meeting.

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Key Takeaway

It should be noted that there are pros and cons when it comes to each of the various betting methods that are outlined. Sometimes a horse race would yield different winners if it was run a certain number of times, so you often need some fortune in order to land a profit on a race.

Be sure to enjoy your horse racing betting at one of our recommended sites. Always remember to gamble responsibly and we advise having some kind of staking plan so that you can structure your betting on a race-by-race basis.

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