Horse Racing Betting Guide

Guide to horse racing betting including terminology, types of bets in racecourses, best bookmakers, and the most effective horse racing strategies.

Horse racing betting is a ginormous industry in its own right within the betting world. With 100’s of races every day throughout the world, you will never have a problem finding an event to bet on. Due to its popularity, there are several wagers that can be placed on horse racing as well as jargon you might not be familiar with.

Throughout this guide, we will give you a brief intro to everything you will need to know about betting on horse racing.

Horse Racing Betting Explained

Horse racing betting is simply defined as the act of gambling on horse races. Typically punters will be betting on a horse to win the race or finish in the top few positions but due to the evolution of betting markets, there are now several bets that can be placed on horse races. All of these different types of bets will be explained later in the article.

Odds

The odds on horse races have the potential to fluctuate a lot. Maybe more so than the majority of other sporting events. This is because there are several factors that can influence the chances of a horse winning a race. As an experiment, you should watch the market 10 minutes before a race begins up to the point where the race gets underway to get an understanding of how crazy the markets can be.

betting odd formats
Common betting odd formats.

Odds are formatted in the same way as they would be with almost any other sport. Usually represented as either fractions or decimals.

The most typical horse bet will be in the form of fixed odds. These odds are the easiest to understand because when you place a bet with fixed odds your bet will remain the same no matter how the market reacts at a later date.

Punters will also have an option to place an ante-post bet or to place a starting price bet. An ante-post bet can be placed before the horse racing market opens in the hope of backing a horse at a greater value than it will be closer to the start of the race. While with a starting price you will be betting with odds that the horse is set at the beginning of the race.

Starting Price

A starting price or SP refers to the price of the horse when the race gets underway. As touched upon before the odds for a horse race can fluctuate a lot in the lead up to a race and the potential for odds to drift is very high. you will benefit from this type of bet if the odds for the horse you have backed begin to drift.

Handicap

Handicap betting in horse racing is used to bring the whole field closer together. In races where there is a heavy favorite, they might decide to handicap that horse slightly by carrying extra weight allocated by the handicapper. The secret to successful handicap betting is predicting which horses will still be good enough to overcome their handicaps.

Race Cards

Race Cards will be provided for every race and will usually consist of the same information. The most important things being the names of the horses running and their odds. The card should also include the horse’s form and the ground conditions that will be in place during the race.

Form

It is possible to study the form of horses before you place a bet. The form effectively looks into how the horses have performed in previous races. We can use this information to decide what types of bets represent good value. We can also use it to understand which horses have the most experience.

Photo Finish

A photo finish will be needed in the event where the finish is too close to call with the naked eye. In the past, a lot more races were declared as dead heats but with the vast amount of technology available to sport these days, it’s usually very easy to declare a winner even if it’s by the finest of margins. Dead heats do still exist though even with the invention of photo finishes.

Rule 4

Rule 4 is used to shorten the odds of your runner when horses have been withdrawn from a race. This happens because the chances of your horse winning increase because there are fewer runners in the field. In other words, an amount of money is taken away from the balance to make up for the shortened field.

Non-Runner

If there is a non-runner in a horse race this can affect the odds of the horse you have bet on. If the horse you have backed is the non-runner, your bet will consequently be void and your stake will be returned to you.

concepts of horse racing betting
Horse Racing Betting Explained

Types of Horse Racing Bets

As the gambling industry has evolved all types of wagers have become available for the everyday punter. Almost all bets can be incorporated into one of the following categories:

  • Singles – A single bet is a type of wager where you can bet on a single outcome of a race. In this instance betting on a horse to win the race outright or to finish in the top few positions.
  • Multiples – A multiple bet is a type of wager that consists of at least two selections. For example, you can bet on Horse A to win one race and Horse B to win the other.
  • Accumulators (Acca)Accumulator bets are exactly like multiple bets but generally contain more bets than multiples. It is possible to back the winners of 7 races in a row for example. Accumulators are one of the most profitable types of bets if successful
  • Full Cover – A full cover bet is any bet which consists of all available multiple bets over a given number of selections.
  • Handicaphandicap betting is designed to level out the playing field. In this instance, the bookmaker will give a virtual advantage to the strongest horses and a virtual disadvantage to the weakest horses. In horse racing, this can also apply to the handicapping of strong horses to make it more of a level playing field.

As far as horse racing betting is concerned, we tend to find the same typical types of pari-mutuel wagers widely available with most betting operators, online and land-based.

Bet TypeDefinition
WinA win bet is a type of wager where you are backing a horse to win a race
PlaceA place bet is a type of wager where you are backing a horse to finish in the top few positions. Usually the top 2 or 3 dependent on how many runners there are in a race.
Each-WayAn each-way bet is a type of wager that consists of two bets. A win bet and a place bet. To see a return the horse backed must win the race or finish in one of the predetermined positions.
ShowA show bet is a type of wager where you are backing a horse to finish in the top three positions in a race. If the horse backed finishes in either of these positions it is a successful bet.
ExactaAn exacta bet is a type of wager where you have to back which horses will finish first and second in exact order.
TrifectaA trifecta bet is a type of wager where you have to back which horses will finish in the top 3 positions in exact order.
SuperfectaA superfecta bet is a type of wager where you have to back which horses will finish in the top 4 positions in exact order.
Accumulator (Acca)An accumulator bet is a type of wager that consists of multiple selections. On horse racing, you can bet on the outcome of several horse races for example.
TrixieTrixie bet is a type of wager that consists of four separate bets, 3 doubles, and a treble. In order to return any money from this bet, at least two selections will have to win.
Patentpatent is a type of bet that must be made on three selections that consist of 7 separate bets. 3 singles, 3 doubles, and 1 treble.
YankeeYankee bet is a type of wager that consists of 11 separate bets, 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and a fourfold accumulator. In order to return any money from this bet, at least two selections will have to win.
Super YankeeSuper Yankee bet is a type of wager that consists of 26 separate bets, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 fourfolds, and a fivefold accumulator. In order to return any money from this bet, at least two selections will have to win.
Lucky 15lucky 15 is a type of bet that must be made on four selections and consists of 15 separate bets. 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and 1 fourfold accumulator.
Lucky 31lucky 31 wager is a type of bet that must be made on 5 selections and consists of 31 separate bets. 5 singles, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 fourfolds, and 1 fivefold accumulator.
Lucky 63lucky 63 bet is a type of wager that must be placed on 6 selections and consists of 63 separate bets. 6 singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 fourfolds, 6 five-folds, 1 six-fold accumulator.
HeinzHeinz bet is a type of wager that consists of 57 separate bets, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-folds, 6 five-folds, and 1 six-fold accumulator.
Super HeinzSuper Heinz bet is a type of wager that consists of 120 separate bets. 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 fourfolds, 21 five-folds, 7 six-folds, and 1 seven-fold accumulator.
GoliathGoliath bet is a type of wager that consists of 247 separate bets. 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 four-folds, 56 five-folds, 28 six-folds, 8 seven-folds, and 1 eightfold accumulator.
AlphabetAn alphabet bet is a type of wager that consists of 6 different selections and consists of 26 different bets. Selections 1, 2, and 3 forms a patent bet, Selections 4, 5, and 6 form a different patent bet, Selections 2-5 form a Yankee bet. All of the selections form a sixfold accumulator bet.
Any To ComeAny to come bets are a type of wagers that have conditions in place. If parts of your bet return a sufficient amount of money this money can be added to another selection.
Round Robinround-robin bet is a type of wager that consists of 10 separate bets. 3 doubles, 1 treble, and 3 up and down bets.
Flagflag bet is a type of wager that is made up of four selections and consists of 23 separate bets. 6 doubles, 4 trebles, 1 fourfold, and 6 up and down bets.
Super Flagsuper flag bet is a wager that is made up of five selections and consists of 46 separate bets. 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 fourfolds, 1 fivefold, and 10 up and down bets.
Super Heinz FlagSuper Heinz bet is a type of wager that consists of 120 separate bets. 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 fourfolds, 21 five-folds, 7 six-folds, and 1 seven-fold accumulator.
Goliath FlagGoliath bet is a type of wager that consists of 247 separate bets. 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 fourfolds, 56 five-folds, 28 six-folds, 8 seven-folds, and 1 eight-fold accumulator.
Union JackUnion Jack round robin bet is a type of wager that consists of 80 bets. 24 doubles, 8 trebles, and 24 up and down bets.
Forecaststraight forecast bet is a type of wager where you will need to predict which horse will finish in first and which horse will finish in second.
Reverse Forecastreverse forecast bet is a type of wager where you have to predict which horses will finish in the top few positions but these horses can finish in any order.
Placepottote placepot bet is a type of bet where you are backing a horse to finish in the first few positions. These are typically the first two positions in a race.
Jackpottote jackpot bet is a type of wager where you have to pick the first 6 winners at a meeting nominated by The Tote. The payouts are typically very high as predicting the winners of 6 races is extremely difficult.
The different types of bets in horses racing.
Betting on horse racing
Betting on horse racing.

Timing of Horse Racing Betting

Knowing the right time to place a bet on a horse race will be crucial to your success. The idea with all betting should be to bet with the best odds possible and with horse racing, this couldn’t apply more as the odds can go up and down quite drastically throughout the day.

Ante-Post Betting

In horse racing, an Ante-post bet is a bet placed before the betting market has opened. The major advantage of this is that we can attempt to bet with high odds and watch them shrink as the race gets closer and closer. Unfortunately though unless extremely skillful the cons outweigh the pros. If your horse is a non-runner your bet will not be void.

Starting Price Betting

A starting price or an SP refers to the starting price of a horse when the race gets underway. The biggest disadvantage to this is that you are unlikely to retract any real value as if you place one of these bets you are going to receive the bookmakers’ evaluation of odds at the time its most important.

The biggest advantage of placing an SP bet is when you back a favorite in a race and those odds drift because of events that have occurred in the build-up. This way you will be receiving odds that reflect this. If the odds are shorter you will be missing out on value.

In-Running Betting

In running betting on horses is extremely risky. The odds during a race fluctuate hugely and if your horse appears out of contention your bet will be worth nothing in seconds.

On the plus side, you get to see the action unfold and you can make decisions based on what you are seeing.

differences between ante-post, starting price, and in-running betting
Differences between ante-post, starting price, and in-running betting.

Types of Bookmakers When Betting on Horse Racing

There are bookmakers that offer different types of wagers for their customers. These include bookmakers that specialize in Parimutuel betting, fixed-odds betting, and exchange sites.

Parimutuel

Parimutuel betting is very popular in many countries and in some, it is the only type of bet available to the public at racecourses. Parimutuel betting also has a large online presence with The Tote being the most famous site in the Uk and PMU being the biggest parimutuel organization in Europe.

how does parimutuel betting work
Pool Betting Explained

Fixed-Odds

With fixed odds, our bet will remain the same even if the odds change at a later date. Meaning that if you backed a horse at odds of 5/1 and before the race that same horse was 3/1 your odds of 5/1 still stands.

Exchanges

Exchange sites are where you can decide to either back a horse in a similar way you would with a bookmaker or lay a horse meaning that you will be betting against a horse to win the race.

Strategies & Systems

Horse racing betting strategies and systems are the holy grail for serious punters. Everybody is in search of some magic formula but we would rather focus on some systems that can help you become a consistent winner.

Remember to only gamble what you can afford to lose. No system is foolproof and the goal of any horse racing betting strategy is to improve your odds by making informed decisions rather than blind gambles.

Hedging

Hedging your bets requires a lot of study and experience. The idea of this type of bet is to attempt to cover yourself from relying on one outcome of a race. The simplest example would be that you back a favorite in a race and you see there is an opportunity to place a bet on another horse which will reduce your losses if your originally backed horse didn’t win the race.

Dutching

Dutching is a type of betting system where you place multiple bets on different bookmakers to lock up a guaranteed profit. The odds need to be as such that you can bet on all outcomes and make a profit regardless of the outcome. In horse racing, this is not so common due to the number of runners involved within a race.

Matched Betting

Matched betting is a system in which you can make a guaranteed profit by taking advantage of the promotion offers typically offered by bookmakers.

There are also certain promotions where you can receive a free bet if the horse backed finishes in 2nd or doesn’t finish the race. It is worth noting the bonus promotions of the bookmaker you are using so you don’t miss out on any of these.

How Does Matched Betting Work (Infographic)
How Does Matched Betting Work – Infographic

Free Bets

Bookmakers offer free bets and this can be used on horse racing. Free bets are hugely entwined with matched betting as they can be received most profitably if you imply successful matched betting strategies.

Horse Racing Betting – FAQ

Our answers to the most common questions about betting on horse racing.

What does SP mean in horse racing?

SP refers to the starting price of a horse when the race is underway. If you place an SP bet you will be betting with these odds.

What is handicap betting in horse racing?

Handicap betting refers to when the strongest horses or horse in a field is handicapped in an attempt to make it more of a level playing field. This will be achieved by placing extra weight on a superior horse.

What is spread betting horse racing?

Spread betting on horse racing is a risky type of wager. With spread betting, you will be placing a bet on a horse and a position in which they can finish. After this, you will win money for every place it finishes above the declared position and lose money for every place it finishes below the declared position.

Are horse races rigged?

Every sport in the world has the potential to be targeted by criminals who are looking to rig the outcome of sporting events. However, it is fair to say that this subject is taking very seriously and the amount horse races that are subject to corruption are minimal.

How to write a horse racing betting slip?

At a racecourse, you might have to write your own bet slip. This is a very easy process. All you need to do is select or write the race and horse you want to place a bet on along with the selected odds and add how much you are staking on the race.

Are odds betting online or at the racecourse?

Odds betting can be done both online and at the racecourse.

Is parimutuel horse racing better than fixed-odds bookmakers?

This is dependent on the nature of the pool and your type of wager. The size of the pool will determine the payout as well as the popularity of your bet. It is reasonable to say that if you bet on an outsider you are more likely to get a bigger payout with parimutuel betting.

How to read horse racing betting odds?

Odds will be formatted in the same as any other sporting event. the most common display of odds are either as fractions or decimals.

How does betting in horse racing work?

Betting on horse racing is very simple. Just select a horse race and click on the horse you want to bet on. The horse and its odd should then appear on your bet slip. You can then place the amount you wish to stake and confirm your bet.

What are the best horse racing betting strategies?

Some of the best horse racing betting strategies include hedging, ducthing, and matched betting. There are also other systems out there that vary considerably in levels of risk.

Does Rule 4 apply with ante-post betting?

Ante-post bets are an exception to Rule 4 deductions. Bets placed on an ante-post market will not be subject to Rule 4 deductions regardless of any non-runners.

Horse racing betting is extremely popular throughout the world and because of this, all sorts of fun can be had when betting on this sport. Before you place a bet make sure you are aware of all the permutations of your bets and we wish you good luck in choosing a winner.