Guide to Betting on Horse Racing

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Horse Racing in the United Kingdom offers a huge range of betting opportunities on a daily basis all year round. The Flat racing turf season runs from March to November when the focus switches to National Hunt racing. The expansion of all-weather racing and summer jumping means that there is a regular diet of racing action for followers of both codes.

It pays to follow the sport closely if you want to increase your chances of making a profit. This way you familiarize yourself with betting jargon, top trainers and jockeys, and the key factors involved in picking winners!

Types of Races — Flat Racing

Maiden Races

Horses come into training from the age of two on the flat and start in their careers in maiden races. These races are usually risky propositions for punters but they can be a good source of finding future winners.

Handicap Races

The basics of handicapping are relatively easy to understand. Each horse is given an official rating based on the form of its previous races. This figure dictates how much weight they will carry in relation to the other horses entered. The handicapper’s task is to give every horse an equal chance of winning. Although these races are difficult to predict, they are still extremely popular with punters for big prices and each-way betting.

Group Races

The top quality horses run in listed or group races. These races are to establish the best horse, usually racing at level weights. Many of the world’s most important races are Group races. Achieving a victory or a place at this level is important in determining stud values.

The Classics

There are five classic races confined to three-year-olds. Fillies compete over a mile in the 1000 Guineas and a mile and a half in the Oaks whilst the top colts run in the 2000 Guineas and the Derby. The St. Leger is the final Classic and is open to both sexes over a mile and three-quarters.

Types of Races — National Hunt Racing


National Hunt Flat races (or Bumpers) have become increasingly popular in recent years and there are now championship races at both Cheltenham and Liverpool. It is basically a flat race for national hunt bred horses over two miles, originally introduced to give experience to the slow maturing types.

Novice Races

Novice events are the equivalent of maidens in flat racing. Horses can race over hurdles from the age of three, many switching from flat racing to jump racing in the winter. Novice chases are possibly the most risky proposition for the punter with horses tackling the bigger obstacles, often for the first time in public.

Handicap Races

The handicap system works exactly the same for the jumps as it does on the flat only with a slightly different weight-distance ratio. Many of the top national hunt races are handicaps including the Welsh National, Ladbrokes Trophy and the Aintree Grand National.

Graded Races

Graded races are the equivalent of Group races on the flat. Top level-weights races in jumping include the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle, designed to establish the top chasers and hurdlers in training.

Key Factors Involved


The going can vary greatly from firm to heavy and can have a huge influence on the outcome of a race. You can determine a horse’s going preferences by checking their best performances against their worst.


The distance of the race is a critical factor in calculating your bets. This is more important on the flat than over jumps but it is a vital factor in every horse race. If you see a horse win easily over a mile there is no guarantee that it will be as effective over a mile and a half.

Take note of race reports and comments such as “stayed on strongly” or “never nearer”. If a horse is dropping back in distance, you can check on its previous races to see whether it has shown early speed only to fade towards the finish. Remember that soft or heavy ground also puts greater emphasis on stamina.

The minimum distance for jump racing is two miles but they frequently race up to three miles plus. The Grand National is over an extended four and a quarter miles.


The huge variety of Britain’s racecourses is yet another factor that has to be taken into account. The old saying “Horses for Courses” applies more in this country than anywhere else in the world.

For example, Chester is a flat, left-handed track of around a mile. Horses are continuously on the turn from the moment they leave the starting stalls. This track suits horses with early tactical speed. By contrast, the Rowley Mile at Newmarket is a right-hand track where horses race in wide open spaces with an uphill finish. A previous course and distance win is always a good thing to have on your side.


The draw is one of the most unpredictable elements when trying to assess big handicaps. The going can influence the effect of the draw and it is difficult to be confident until the day of the race. Any predicted draw advantage is usually indicated in the published daily form guides and online.


The study of the pedigree of a racehorse is a specialist area and rarely comes into consideration for the average punter. The exceptions are un-raced maidens or when trying to assess a horse’s stamina. For those that have the time and dedication, pedigree analysis can be very rewarding. Sires can often produce progeny that have specific traits in terms of stamina and going preference.


Occasionally you will see a new course record or a new record time for a certain race. Unfortunately this does not mean that the winner is necessarily the next Frankel. It almost certainly means that the going is unusually fast. There are punters who rely heavily on race times to determine the best bets but it rarely concerns the average punter.


There are statistics available for just about anything in sport these days and racing is no exception. A good racing site should provide you with all of the latest stats for every Trainer in the UK.

After you have been following the sport for a while, you will learn which Trainers tend to have their runners fit first time out while others usually need a race to reach their peak. Some Trainers are very adept at plotting to win a big handicap and the clues are sometimes to be found in the betting market.


The standard of jockeyship under both codes is higher than ever before. Statistics don’t lie, so if a jockey is near the top of his profession, it is a safe bet that they are good enough to ride your horse.

Types of Bet

Win or Each-Way

The most common wager in horse racing is the straight “win” bet. Betting Each-way means punters can get a return if their horse finishes second or third (or fourth in handicaps of 16 runners or more). Bookmakers generally pay out at 1/5 odds in maiden and stakes races and ¼ odds in handicap races of 12 runners or more.

Multiple bets

The multiple bet or accumulator is advertised as the way to achieve a big win for a small stake. This type of betting involves linking together several winners. Obviously the more horses you include, the greater the odds.

Lay betting

Laying horses is effectively acting as a bookmaker, taking bets on a horse that you do not believe will win. Picking a horse that won’t win is easier than finding one that will but, unless you are laying favorites, the profit margin is quite small.

Ante-Post betting

Ante-post betting involves placing a bet on a horse race in advance of the event. This is high risk as you will lose your money if the horse does not make it to the starting gate.

Special offers

Bookmakers make all sorts of attractive offers for new customers. Make sure you read the small print carefully as some bonus offers are only paid out if you stake a certain amount over a set period of time. Having several betting accounts will allow you to select the best prices which can make the difference between profit and loss at the end of the year. There are several excellent odds comparison sites to simplify this task.


Content Authored by Harvey Mayson