This is how to bet on horses in a few easy steps:
That’s how to place a bet on horse racing in a handful of straightforward steps. It sounds simple, but the process of finding winners is more difficult. We’re going to show you how to bet on horses in the UK and do well. There is so much to consider. Knowing how to place a bet on the horses is one thing, but what type and which runner to back are different matters entirely.
A key aspect of learning how to bet on horse racing is to understand the various different wagers available. These are the most popular types of bet punters place on the action:
A horse racing accumulator sees you pick a horse in different races and put them together on the same slip. We’ve more on what is acca betting elsewhere on site too if you want to know more about how they work. Here are the three main types of accumulator:
You can also take your accumulators and turn them into full cover bets, or combination and system wagers. This means as well as an acca with however many selections in it, there are also other permutations based on separate events like all possible Trebles, Doubles and even Singles:
If you want to know how to bet on horses in the UK, then there are three ways of going about it. Most punters take fixed odds prices offered by the bookies, while pool betting on the Tote is an alternative service. You can also bet on the exchanges, but more on those later. Each of these approaches to gambling on horse racing serves a slightly different section of the betting public.
Pari-mutuel betting pools like those provided by the Tote work well if you aren’t concerned about prices. You won’t know the returned dividends, i.e. the payouts, in advance. These things are only calculated with Tote betting after the race has been run. This is because of how the pari-mutuel wagering system works.
A fixed odds bet, meanwhile, sees you receive a return relative to the stake you bet based on the prices offered by traders on online bookmakers’ sites. You can thus know, or at least work out, in advance what you stand to gain from such a wager. That’s the main different between fixed odds prices and pool betting in a nutshell.
The format determines how betting odds work, whatever sport you’re wagering on. As it’s no different with horse racing, this is how you calculate what you could win. With fractional odds, which after all are the traditional way of expressing prices here, you look at the ratio of denominator to numerator to see potential profits.
Let’s say you back a horse at odds of 9/4 and put £20 on the bet. For every £4 wagered, you receive £9 in winnings. A £20 stake here means £45 in profit. Calculating total returns from a fraction also requires you to add the stake on, so the you get £65 back from the bookies if the horse wins.
With decimal odds, it’s even simpler. You just multiply the number by the stake and get total returns that way. A £20 bet multiplied by the decimal form price of 3.25 equals £65. For working out the profit, you just have to subtract the stake from the final total. For working out the profit, you just have to subtract the stake from the final total. If you want to take all the hard work out of number crunching, we have a horse bet calculator on the site that does all the sums automatically.
It’s not all about finding the winner, if there’s value in backing horses to finish placed. This is where you need an understanding of what does each way mean in betting in order to appreciate it something many gambling experts agree on. This is the best way to bet on horse racing as you can still make money without an outright win.
To briefly explain, the each way bet is one where you wager on the horse both finishing first and placed in the race. Your unit stake doubles to cover both aspects. A £5 each way bet has a £10 total outlay, for example. There are place terms that the bookies must adhere to, as laid out in the Tattersalls Committee Rules on Betting under Rule 3.
If less than five runners turn up, ten each way betting isn’t on the table at all. When there’s five, six or seven horses lining up, you get two places. Third place pays out if there are eight or more runners. Larger fields of 16 and above pay four places. There are also precise fractions, either a quarter or a fifth of outright betting odds depending on how many runners and if it’s a handicap or not, for the places.
That means for those wondering how to bet on horses each way properly, you need to consider the prices on offer. If the fraction of outright betting paid is a quarter, you must have odds of 4/1 (5.00) as the minimum to break even on the place. Should the fraction only be a fifth, meanwhile, then the threshold for doing so rises to 5/1 (6.00). Understanding that can change your whole approach to a wager on horse racing.
You have the option of betting on horses not to win their races. This is available to you through a gambling service that is quite different to the fixed odds bookmakers discussed above. Thanks to the creation of betting exchanges like Betfair, you can lay a horse to lose. The great thing about such wagers are you don’t have to name an alternative winner of the race, so you’ve got the entire rest of the field running for you.
Whether you back or lay horses on the exchanges, all wagers are peer-to-peer rather than fixed odds prices. This means you can set the odds and it’s up to another punter out there to match your stake or take the price you lay when you don’t fancy a particular runner. The exchange charges a small percentage in commission for facilitating the service.
Using the Betfair interface above as an example, this is how to bet on horses when you want to lay them. Hit the lay side of the market and then choose the backer’s odds and stake you want to match with your lay bet. Both the liability incurred by the bet and potential payout if you’re right about the horse should be available for toggling between.
The key thing with betting on the exchanges is understanding how it’s different from taking regular fixed odds prices from the bookies. You can lose more than your stake if you’re wrong about a horse and their performance, hence the fact that there are additional liabilities on top of the amount you bet. Exchange betting is for professional gamblers first and foremost, but it’s good to know how it works.
As in any sport, some horse racing events are bigger than others. Certain cards and Festivals that celebrate and showcase the best equine athletes and their riders have developed in the UK over generations. According to the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), the 10 biggest betting races in 2022 by turnover happened at one of three meetings.
These are the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National at Aintree and The Derby on Epsom Downs. While the former pair are National Hunt events where the horses jump hurdles or fences, Royal Ascot accounted for six of the top 10 Flat races British punters wagered on. It’s worth examining how to bet on horse racing meetings of this magnitude in more detail.
With more popular betting races than any other gala of horse racing in the UK, the Cheltenham Festival in March is massive for punters and bookmakers alike. Many top jumpers have their entire season focused on peaking when they come to race at Prestbury Park in Gloucestershire Cotswolds. There are plenty of official and recognised trials for Cheltenham held throughout the National Hunt season starting in October.
It isn’t just UK horse racing you must pay attention to either. In recent times, Irish-trained horses have dominated the Festival. If you want to know how to successfully bet on horses at Cheltenham, then following form in the Emerald Isle is a key takeaway. Each division and discipline has trials throughout the core jumps season with 28 races in all at the Festival. The tables below show which races you should pay attention to if you want to back winners in the Grade 1 and 2 events:
They call the Grand National the world's most famous steeplechase. If you've ever sat down and watched it, then you will soon understand why. A maximum field of 40 horses run over the famous spruce-covered fences including Becher's Brook, the Canal Turn and The Chair at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool every April. The Grand National is a real slog, not just for horses and their jockeys, but anyone who wants to know how to bet on horses the right way and win money on this Premier Handicap.
Given the huge field size and unique test of the course, anything can happen. There are tons of trials listed below that you should look at as pointers for the Grand National, but with so many runners only one approach is recommended. You really must bet each way on this race, because that mitigates the high potential for losing your stake.
When asked how to bet on horses in the Grand National by your friends and family, it's OK to hedge your bets on this particular race. Come up with a shortlist of contenders from among the many possible runners and back them so you have more than one iron in the fire. You may also want to wait until Extra Places become available with the bookies, so your each way bets pay out on fifth or sixth place, or even further down the field.
Just like with the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National, there are recognised trials for The Derby at Epsom both the season before and in the spring leading up to it. They call this race the premier Classic in that it's the most prestigious and valuable Flat event for three-year-old colts (and fillies who can also run) in the UK. If you want to know how to bet on horses and win The Derby, these are the trials to follow:
When it comes to Royal Ascot, punters have even more races to choose from than at the Cheltenham Festival. Whereas that jumps meeting is seven races per day for four days, this gala on the Flat goes on for five. That's 35 races in total with a full range of Listed and Group races, plus handicaps for thoroughbred racehorses of different genders.
There is almost too much going on at the Royal meeting, so the best advice we can give punters for how to bet on horses effectively during it is to narrow down what you wager on. You may just want to sit and observe the events only open to two-year-olds, for example, as very little known is about these youngsters form wise.
If betting on Royal Ascot handicaps, consider carefully if there's a draw bias that can make or break chances in a big field. Each of the Group races asks something different of horses too. As a three-year-old, colts and fillies run on the Round Mile in the St James's Palace Stakes and Coronation Stakes respectively. If returning to the Royal meeting the following year, then they will race on the Straight Mile in the Queen Anne Stakes and/or Duke Of Cambridge Stakes, which provide stiffer stamina tests.
Past course and distance form, plus previous Royal Ascot performances, should all be taken into account. It's worth knowing, for example, that Ascot Gold Cup contenders may have contested the Queen's Vase at this meeting earlier in their careers. For sprinters, meanwhile, there are opportunities to keep coming back to Royal Ascot with the Commonwealth Cup as three-year-olds, then the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes as an older horse.
You've hopefully picked up quite a few tips along the way of how to bet on horses and enjoy success. We've got some more general advice on doing it the right way below. Follow these hints and it should enable you to make better decisions when betting more often:
There are lots of contenders among horse racing betting sites in the running for our recommendation. This is due to the enduring popularity of taking a punt on this sport. Each bookie offers something slightly different, so it depends on what you're looking for when you bet on horses. As noted above, more Extra Place Races are what each way punters desire.
Those concerned about reducing the potential for loss, meanwhile, will welcome Money Back as a Free Bet deals. One of the best overall rounded experiences for betting on horse racing comes through Spreadex, as they let you put fixed odds wagers and spread bets on the races all in the same space. Other bookies we recommend include Betgoodwin, Betfred and 888sport.
There are many different ways to pick a winner. The most common way how to bet on horses and win is to study previous form, consider potential improvement, look at current trainer form and the conditions of the race and track before betting, as well as the horse's place in the market.
You can either bet on conditions races or handicaps in the UK. Whereas race terms determine what weights are carried in the former type of race, a handicap is based on official ratings corresponding to weight carried based on the top-rated runner involved.
Odds work in much the same way with betting on horses as they do in other sports. They are a reflection of implied probability, so the shorter the price, the great the theoretical chance of winning.
A furlong is the basic unit of measurement for horse races in the UK and Ireland. Equivalent to an eighth of a mile, or 220 yards in imperial measurement. There are two furlongs for every quarter-mile raced and four for half-a-mile.
Log in or sign up to a betting site, then check you have funds in your account and make a deposit if necessary. Find the race you want to bet on, then click on the odds of the horse you wish to back to add it to your betslip. Now enter your desired stake and view potential returns before confirming the wager.
NR is the abbreviated form of non-runner. This means that a horse has been withdrawn from a race after being declared to run in it.
This is how to bet on horses for beginners: stick to major conditions races and look up whether the horses involved have won over the course and distance before. If they have, then you know that they handle the track.
Lengths are the standard unit of measurement between horses as they pass the winning the post. The length of a horse's neck is roughly equivalent to a quarter of a length. If a result goes to a photo finish, then even smaller margins such as a short-neck, head, short-head and nose are used, depending on how close those involved are to each other crossing the finish line.