Horse racing has always been one of the betting industry’s most popular outlets. In fact, it could be argued that without betting the sport would have little appeal to those not internally involved in its operation. Its coverage has become so vast these days that punters can bet on an incredibly wide range of markets, including meetings from around the world.
The sport is actually one of the more popular and readily available when it comes to live streaming. Whilst this feature is still relatively new to a lot of bookmakers, horse racing tends to be the sport they start with, and it’s rare to see other sports offered for streaming if Horse Racing is not.
The very fact that it is such a well established and popular sport means that over time there have been a few new innovations that have changed the way we bet on it. These newer bets will be explored along with the popular old favourites.
Best Horse Racing Betting Sites
#1 – Coral
Coral are one of Ireland’s biggest exports in the gambling industry and it’s no secret that the Irish love their horse racing. So, if you put tougher a bookmaker from a nation crazy about horse racing, it’s going to be pretty much safe to say that Coral will have a good coverage of horse racing.
From the minute you walk through their virtual doors you will see that there are a plethora of markets to bet on from around the world. Coverage is great and they even include a few intentional markets that the two above don’t.
What has made Coral really stand out for us is the ease in which you can navigate between markets and features that the site has on offer. You can quickly flick between today’s cards, easy picks, tote, futures, specials, results, virtuals, US Tote and a search feature if you still can’t find what you are looking for. You can even build your own race card if you want so that races you re targeting are all in one place. Their affiliation with At The Races means that you can stream everything from both your desktop and mobile device, providing you have wagered on that race.
#2 – ToteSport
For those of you that are familiar with horse racing already, then it’s highly likely you will have heard of the Tote. Well, the Tote has expanded over the years and become a very successful bookmaker of their own, even though they are actually now owned outright by Betfred.
ToteSport have always offered something a little different than most bookmakers and they probably are at their strongest when it comes to betting on horse racing. The site allows you to bet on the Tote, which is essentially betting into a pool where a dividend will be repaid should you win.
The site itself offers aide range of markets to bet on and again, like Coral offer betting opportunities from all major race meeting in the UK and even some internationally. They make number 2 spot because of the fact that their international coverage isn’t quite as strong, but it’s better than the majority.
As a final point about ToteSport, we particularly liked the number of promotions the site runs for existing users who bet on horse racing. A pet peeve of ours in the industry is that bookmakers don’t do enough to retain customers after they have got them through the door, but ToteSport seem to have bucked that trend somewhat. They provide best odds guaranteed for all races, along with betting enhancements, free Racing Post subscriptions and even Totepool rollovers!
#3 – BetVictor
BetVictor are another site that provides a pretty solid horse racing section. In fact, to be honest they could be ranked anywhere in the top three such is the strength of their coverage. Like the three above, the UK and Ireland are definitely their main target areas, but they do include a number of international races as well.
The race cards add another dimension to the section with information from Timeform included on site to make a more detailed decision. We particularly liked the little predictor section which gave each horse a star rating out of five. This is based on facts and stats from previous markets and then some sort algorithm, rating horses against each other. We aren’t sure how accurate this can be, but if you are the casual bettor then it should be relatively useful.
Like its rivals above, BetVictor also include a live streaming channel so you can watch racing both on your desktop and on your mobile device. You will need to place a bet on that race before you area bel to stream it though. It’s also worth finally noting about the fact that you can place Tote Bets directly from BetVictor as well, if this is something you are interested in.
#4 – Betfred
Betfred are probably the least recognised bookmaker for horse racing in our list. They are much more focussed on that of football betting; or at least, that’s how a lot of people perceive them. They actually boast a more than substantial horse racing section and you will find that should you ever sue them, they will be as competent as any of the previously mentioned bookmakers for the most part.
In typical Betfred fashion, they have introduced a number of fairly obscure betting markets for the sport. Things such as their price boost, racing specials, Beaten by a head or less and other festival related markets really do keep the betting experience feeling rather fresh. Their market coverage allows them to make these sorts of promotions all that bit more common.
What we will say about Betfred is that they offer a wide range of races from a number of meetings around the world. Like most of the bigger bookmakers in the industry, Betfred include pretty much all the meetings in the UK and Ireland, but on top of that they include a wide range of international races, as well.
How to Bet on Horse Racing
As with any sport, betting on horse racing can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. If you have a quick look at pretty much any sports book it won’t take long to see how much coverage racing gets as a category, meaning that there are a huge number of individual races to choose from.
On top of all that, you can also choose from a wide range of markets for each race, although the most popular will always be the outright winner and each way betting markets. Both have their merits in terms of value, but you need to compile your research before betting on any market.
Whilst on the topic of research, we think that this should be the most important aspect of horse racing betting. There are folk who spend hours, if not days searching for that elusive perfect value bet. Even after all these hours of searching they may only come up with one or two bets over the course of a week, but if you love racing then this makes the reward when you win all the sweeter.
This is taking it to the extreme somewhat and whilst we don’t expect that many of you will have the time or motivation to do this, it’s worth knowing just how seriously some punters take their research so that you can use it as a barometer.
There are, however, a few basic terms you will need to understand that we will cover next.
Starting Price (SP)
The starting price is the price that any particular horse is at with the bookmaker at the moment the race starts. As a punter you can choose to take the starting price at any point (i.e 20 minutes before the start) or you can take the odds as they are at the time you place the bet. As prices for horses can fluctuate massively in the minutes before each race, this is a choice that deserves thought.
Taking the starting price can sometimes work in the punter’s favour if the price drifts before the starting gun, but if rumours circulate and the price shortens then you could end up with poor odds. The starting price likely won’t be released until after the race has completed, so is it a case of better the devil you know?
In a way, this choice is a bet before you bet, and can have a dramatic effect on your winnings if your horse comes in.
Day of Race Market
The day of race market is simply a bet placed on the day the race will occur, whereas any bets placed up to 24 hours before a race starts fall into the ante-post betting market. The ante-post market will not incorporate rules such as Rule 4 and non-runners, which essentially means that the bet you make is the one you stick with and if your horse doesn’t run then you don’t receive a refund.
Conversely, if you place a bet on a day of race market it protects you from things such as Rule 4 and also non-runners, so if your horse doesn’t run at late notice you will have your stake refunded. However, most often odds won’t be as lucrative as if you had wagered in the ante-post market.
Another popular market is betting without the favourite. This makes races where the favourite is a huge odds on or miles shorter than the field much more competitive from a betting perspective. The enhanced win and cover bet follows a similar theme in that it allows you to cover your bet if the horse finishes in a certain position. The more positions you include the shorter the odds will be.
The winning distances market is another targeted at races where there is already a likely favourite. This means that you can bet on the horse to win by a certain distance, rather than just win the race. Each race will determine a winning distance in terms of lengths (of the horse) and you often get to choose between brackets of margins such as a nose to three lengths, three lengths to 5 lengths and so on. It will likely depend on how good the horse is to the odds you get for each spread.
Quick List of Popular Horse Racing Bets
- Win Only – The most common market where you place a bet on a horse to win. If they are successful then you can collect your winnings, if they fail to win then you lose your stake.
- Each Way – Each way betting means you place two bets. The first bet is on the horse to win and accounts for half of the stake. The second bet goes into a place pool which then pays out should your horse fail to win but manage to finish within a top number of places. This number will depend on how many runners there are but is usually between 3 and 5 places with bigger fields providing more places. If a horse is placed then bookmakers usually pay out ¼ or 1/5 of the starting price for that horse.
- Place Only – Some bookmakers (but more commonly betting exchanges) will provide a place only market. These will be fixed odds and it won’t matter if your horse wins or finishes within the stated amount of placed horses, your pay-out will be the same.
- Lay Betting – Via a betting exchange you can lay a horse, meaning you offer a price for it to lose. If the horse does lose then you win, but if the horse wins you have to pay out at the odds you set prior to the bet being placed.
- Tote Betting – The Tote works like a big pool and isn’t too dissimilar the national lottery in format. You pick your horse to win, your stake goes into a pool with lots of others, and if your horse wins you get a dividend of the winning pool along with all the other successful bettors. So if there are 10 people in the pool betting £10 each and 2 of them back the winning horse, they both get £50 each. It’s not uncommon to find inflated prices when betting with the Tote depending on how much money is in the betting pool.
A Few More With Detail
Each Way & Place Betting
These can be tricky to get your head around at first, so we will cover them in a bit more detail.
The first thing to understand with these two bet types is that they are very different, although they include similar features. An each way bet is essentially a bet that is broken into two halves, with one half of your bet going on the win market and the second part of your bet going on the place bet.
The win section of the bet is straightforward and the same as we mentioned above – if your horse wins then you win the bet. The place bet will be reduced odds, usually ¼ of the price that you took, and these will apply if the horse finishes within the paid places, ranging from 2nd to 6th usually, depending on how many horses are in that race. Let’s run through a quick example of an each way bet:
You place a £10 each way bet on a horse at odds of 10.00 (9/1) with the bookmaker paying three places (1st, 2nd or 3rd) at ¼ of the odds. In this instance, £5 of the bet would go on the horse to win at odds of 10.00 (9/1), while the other £5 will go on the horse to finish within the top three places at ¼ the odds, so 2.50 (3/2).
If the horse wins then the bookmaker will pay out both bets so the total payout is £66.25. If it finishes in the top three (without winning) then the bookmaker will pay out ¼ of the odds so the total return is £16.25. If it finishes outside the top three then your whole bet loses and you lose your stake.
Note: The bookmaker will state the number of places paid and the division of odds before the race has started; generally the more horses in the race the more places the bookmaker will pay out.
A Place bet will pay out at fixed odds if your horse ‘places’. It’s a bit of a vague bet in that you are saying you think the horse will do well but you aren’t confident enough to bet on an outright win.
The number of places that count can vary but will be made clear before you confirm your bet, let’s say it’s between 1st and 4th. If your horse comes 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th you win at the same odds regardless of whether the horse came 1st or 4th. If it comes in after that you lose.
Forecasts & Tricasts
The forecast and tricast bets are very popular because they allow you to win a large sum of money from a relatively small outlay. Obviously, these bets are also more difficult to predict.
A forecast bet is essentially where you select 2 horses from that race to finish 1st and to finish 2nd. With these types of bets you will need to your horses to finish in right order to be successful.
You can, of course, place a reverse forecast bet, which is essentially where you select 2 horses to finish in either first or second, without any order being stipulated.
The tricast bet works in much the same way as the forecast bet, but with this one you need to select who will finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd to be successful.
Again, you can do a reverse tricast bet with these where you need to choose three horses to finish in the top 3 places in any order.
Full Cover Betting
Full cover bets are those where you include multiple selections and also multiple bet types such as singles, doubles, trebles, and accumulators.
These types of bets cover a wide range of bet types and finishing scenarios and can land big returns for a small outlay.
The Yankee is probably the most popular of these bet types, and this is where you need to choose 4 horses from the one race. The bet types are made up of 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and a fourfold accumulator bet.
To cover this bet, your stake is broken down into equal amounts for each bet type, so if you staked £1 on all 11 bet types, the total stake would be £11.
The amount you can win from a Yankee depends on how many of your selections win and what the odds were on each of them. Remember, there are no singles in a Yankee so you will need at least two selections to win to see even the smallest return.
Next are Lucky’s.
The Lucky 15 is one up from the Yankee and includes 15 bets. The only difference is that of an additional 4 stakes on single wins for your horses. Often bookmakers will offer up double the odds of the winning single bets if only 1 single is won, hence the name of ‘Lucky’ 15.
The Lucky 31 bet adds another horse to the rota, making a total of 5 horses added to this bet. It includes 5 singles, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 fourfolds, and a fivefold accumulator bet. Again you actually stake on each individual bet, so making a £1 stake on each totals a £31 bet overall.
The Lucky 63 is, you guessed it, the next step up with yet another horse selected; so 6 in total. The bet includes 6 singes, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 fourfolds, 6 fivefolds, and a sixfold accumulator bet. You would probably need at least 3 or 4 winning selections to turn a profit, but this obviouly depends on the odds for each.
Totepool betting, or simply ‘The Tote’ as it’s more commonly known, is one of the oldest forms of betting. The concept is that instead of betting against a set number of odds processed by a bookmaker, you actually bet into a pool and then dividends are awarded to each bettor that contributed who has a winning selection. A bit like a lottery.
One of main things to know about this type of betting is that you won’t know what odds you are getting on a winning return until the race has been completed and all bets have been counted. This is because it all depends on how many people put in. Most often the return will be higher than you could have got from a bookmaker, but on the flipside, it can also be lower if only a handful of people were involved. Let’s run through a quick example of how the Tote works for horse racing:
Let’s say there are 6 horses running in a race, Horse 1 through to Horse 6, and the amount that has been wagered on each horse is highlighted below.
- £700 *Favourite
From these numbers we can see that the favourite for the race is horse number 3 because that horse has the most money wagered on it. This is a great example of how the favourite is decided differently in the Tote; it is the horse with the most money wagered on it rather than taking into account form or other factors which could affect the bet.
It’s the value of the whole pot that matters the most though. We need to know the total amount wagered, which in this case is £2170. The Tote makes money by taking a percentage of the overall pot, so let’s say that this amount is 10% (it can vary). So, the final pot in our example is £1953.
Let’s say that horse number 4 won the race, so each bettor who backed it is entitled to a dividend. We work this out by dividing the amount staked on that horse (£400) by the total dividend amount (£1953), giving us £4.88. So, for every £1 that was wagered on horse 4, the punter would take home £4.88. This amount includes their stake as well, so the odds would simply be 4.88 if you were using the decimal betting format.
To make things more interesting, or more complicated depending on how you look at it, there are quite a few different types of Tote bets which we have highlighted below.
The most common form of Tote betting is the Tote Win, where you simply place your bet on which horse you think will win the race. It works in exactly the same way as the example we have just gone through above.
The places market is where you bet on a horse to finish within a certain number of positions in the race. The number of places that this bet pays out will be based on the number of runners from the race.
With these types of bets you need to the horse to finish in any qualifying position and you don’t get a bonus if that horse wins the race.
The Tote exacta is actually a carbon copy of betting on the forecast and reverse forecast betting markets. So, the single exacta is where you need to select two horses that will finish in 1st and 2d, stating which horse will finish where (forecast).
The combination exacta is where you choose two horses to finish in either 1st or 2nd place, you do not need to state the order (reverse forecast).
The trifecta bet is similar to the exacta but you will need to choose the finishing positions for the first 3 horses in a race.
Again, you can place a combination trifecta if you like which is choosing 3 horses to finish in the top 3 places in any combination. This market is the same as the traditional tricast bet.
The placepot is where you will need to choose a horse to finish within the place positions of all 6 races from the same meeting. The place positions will likely change for each race depending on how many runners there are.
For this bet to be successful you will need to get all 6 right.
The Tote jackpot is the most lucrative bet in this sector, with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds on offer.
A winning bet will include all 6 winners from a single race meeting.
The Scoop6 works in a very similar way to the jackpot, but instead of picking 6 winners from one race meeting, you will be able to choose 6 winners from 6 races that are shown on terrestrial TV for that days racing.
These bets are often popular with the higher profile racing days, such as Boxing Day and over major festivals.
Horse Racing Betting Rules
The betting rules for horse racing can get quite long and complicated. The majority you will never really encounter but there are a couple that you should be aware of that are applied frequently.
Rule 4 Deductions
The main one that gets used a lot is ‘Rule 4’. The top and bottom of this is that it protects bookmaker and allows them to alter the odds of the horse should there be a significant omission from that race.
As an example, let’s say you backed the second favourite in a race at odds of 5.00 with the favourite going off as a ‘dead cert’ at odds of 2.00. At the last minute, this dead cert horse pulls out for whatever reason and now all of a sudden you have the favourite in a race at odds of 5.00. This isn’t exactly fair on the bookmaker who sets their prices based on all horses in the race. The true value for that horse to now win would be around 2.00.
Rule 4 allows bookmakers to make these adjustments and basically protect themselves when laying odds. The adjustments are set in stone and you can find these in our main Rule 4 article.
If a dead heat occurs in a horse race, then you will have a certain amount of your original stake removed from the bet to allow a successful payout. Your stake will be divided by the number of horses involved in the dead heat to determine your new stake.
It’s worth noting that the odds that you took remain the same, only the stake is altered.
So, if you placed a £10 bet on a horse at 10/1 and it finished in a dead heat with 1 other horse (2 total), then your stake would be divided by 2 to make £5. This £5 bet would then pay out at your original odds of 10/1, returning a £50 profit in total.
Race Types & Grades
Flat racing is a type of race that is run over a flat track, without any hurdles or jumps involved. The distance for each race can vary between 2 furlongs and 3 miles, with the main test being the horse’s stamina and ability. Whilst the horse won’t have to jump over any hurdles, the skill for this type of racing is often down to timing, in terms of knowing when to hold back to keep some gas in the tank and when to sprint for the finish in an attempt to win the race.
The types of horses on offer for these races will vary, but generally, you will find that thoroughbreds are the most successful. Types of surfaces will also vary for flat races, ranging from turf to dirt surfaces depending on where they are in the world. For example, most flat races in the UK will be on turf, whereas in Dubai and the US the majority will be on dirt.
The official racing season for the flat starts in early April and will run through to November, but flat racing actually takes place all year round and includes a winter flat racing season that starts in November and runs through until the end of March. However, the calibre of races in this period is much lower than that of the summer months.
Some of the most iconic flat races included the 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby and the St Leger Stakes.
Jump racing, or National Hunt Racing as it’s officially known, is horse racing that includes hurdles or obstacles that horses must navigate. These hurdles can range from fences to water jumps and are generally designed to be a tough test for the horses. The key to a successful jump horse is the ability to clear fences confidently and then have the stamina to stay in the race during the straights.
Jump racing actually takes place throughout the year in the UK and Ireland, but the season’s official start is at the Sandown Park Gold Cup Meeting, which is usually held at the back end of April. The national hunt meetings are also some of the biggest in the world, with the likes of the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and Grand National Meeting being some of the most prestigious horse racing events anywhere.
Some of the standout jump races include the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup, King George VI Chase, Hennessey Gold Cup, and the Royal Ascot Gold Cup.
Each race that is run across any racecourse will be graded and this will signify the standard of that race and the calibre of horse that is involved. Classes are broken down between both jump and flat races. The jump classes are based on grades ranging from 1-3 and then a listed class below that. Flat racing will include 3 groups of classes, including Classics, Class 1 and Classes 2-7.
The umbers represent the standard in each category, with 1 being the best of the best and then working its way down accordingly. As you work your way down in class the horses on offer will be much more affected by any handicapping rules that have been put in place from previous races. The higher the class the more the races are based on the horses age and weight, and then basically just left to battle it out to become the best.
The form guide and how to read it is probably one of the most misinterpreted aspects of horse racing. We ware going to run through a quick example of what all the numbers mean so you can quickly breakdown all the information that is on offer. A typical outline might look like this:
7-03P21 Big Storm Coming 3 8-12
This is typically what an overview of a form guide will look like for each horse; they may contain more information or they may contain less, but on average, it will be along these lines.
The first part of this section ‘7-03P21‘ – is how the horse has finished in its last 6 races. All number left of the hyphen represent finishes from last season and all numbers to the right represent finishes from the current season. The numbers represent the place in which the horse finished and the letters, such as ‘P’ in this case represent that the horse pulled up in that particular race. The numbers work from left to right, the furthest right being that of its most recent race. Other letters that you might see in this section are 0 – finished outside of top 9; F – Fell; S – Slipped Up; R – Refusal; B – Brought down rider; and U – Unseated rider.
The next par is the number, which in this case is ‘3’. This represents the age of the horse and the ‘8-12’ section represents the weight the horse is due to carry in the race. Finally, the name ‘Big Storm Coming’ is simply the name of the horse.
Reading the form is an essential part of making a successful horse racing selection. Once you understand this form you need to work out if you then think the horse has a chance. The form must be used to determine how the horse has run on certain ground, how it sits up to the weight it’s carrying, if conditions suit that horse, if the track suits the course, if the jockey is successful with that horse/if he is successful on track, how good has the horse been against other horses in the same field, how well suited it is to the distance of the race, how it’s performed in these classes of races before, and so many more variables.
Handicapping is a vital part of horse racing and is brought in to even out the majority of races. The handicap that a horse will incur will essentially be a weight added to the horse in order to slow it down somewhat. This has been decided by the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) as the fairest way to conduct handicapping and has been in place for decades.
Every time a horse runs in a race the BHA will analyse its performance, taking into account the finishing position, the field it was racing against, the ground, draw, weight in relation to its opponents, pace, finishing position in relation to opponents, and incidents in that race that could have affected the outcome. Once all this data has been gathered, horses will then get their handicap rating which will reflect how the race has gone and, if necessary, be adjusted accordingly.
The rating is the most important factor in a handicapped race and the higher the number, the better the horse. The number actually reflects the weight the horse needs to carry in order to race against an opponent. So, if one horse was rated at 100 and another at 90, then the 100 rated horse would need to carry 10 pounds (difference of two numbers) to make it a fair race. For each race, the lowest rated horse will determine the weight that the other horses will need to carry before the start of that race.
It’s reported that around 60% of all races are handicapped, ranging from a mixture of jump and flat races. However, it’s more common for the higher profile races in jump racing to be handicapped than in flat racing, mainly because of the length of the race, meaning that the difference between each horse can be much larger.
A lot of Group 1 flat races are not handicapped, showing off the horse’s pure ability against the best of the best.