Betting online has grown rapidly in recent years and there are a large number of sports betting sites competing for your account. The advantage of this is that you can avail yourself of some excellent new customer deals, including free bets and enhanced odds on big race favourites.
If you are new to horse racing betting, our featured sites in this article will give you a safe and secure introduction to online betting. You can visit each of them and browse the site to see if you find it easy to use and that it meets your requirements.
Most bookmakers bet at fixed odds while the exchange markets can be a little harder to understand. Take time to browse the top exchange betting sites like Betfair to make sure that you understand the process of placing a bet online. All leading bookmaker sites have their own help buttons and FAQ sections.
If you are considering expanding your number of accounts then do so in the run up to the big Festivals. Bookmakers offer the biggest and best deals around Cheltenham, the Grand National and Royal Ascot. If you have three or four accounts set up you will have access to a range of prices so are well placed to get the best value.
New to horse racing betting? Check our Horse racing betting jargon
Bookmakers may provide proof of licence on their website but you should always make sure you are completely happy before signing up. Don’t be tempted by enticing offers for new customers if they seem overly generous and you are not familiar with the bookmaker. Check our reviews section for further information.
The most popular form of betting on racing is a simple win or each-way bet on one horse. Winnings are calculated by simply multiplying the odds with your stake to calculate your returns. An each-way bet is placing half of your total stake on the horse to win and half on the horse to be placed (i.e. finish in the first three unless in handicap race of 16 or more runners where bookmakers pay out on the first four). The place part of the bet is calculated at a fraction of the win odds, typically 1/4 in handicaps and 1/5 in non-handicaps.
Bookmakers offer enhanced place terms in some of the most competitive handicaps, paying out each-way down to fifth or even sixth place at the Grand National or the Cheltenham Festival. It is very important to seek out the best odds before placing your bet. Most major bookmakers now offer a “Best odds guarantee” which means that, if you take an early price and the SP return is better, you will be paid out at the longer odds.
More ambitious wagers include the Forecast or Tricast bet. The Forecast (or Exacta) bet means naming the first and second in the correct order whilst a tricast (or Trifecta) means picking the first, second and third. If you are not confident of the right order, there is the Reverse Forecast or Reverse Tricast bet. The stake for these bets is higher to cover all possible permutations.
More speculative horse racing bets involve linking multiple selections in Doubles, Trebles or Accumulators. The winning odds are then multiplied with the potential for huge returns for a small outlay. Bets involving all possible combinations include a Trixie (3 horses), Yankee (4 horses), Canadian (5 horses) or Heinz (6 horses). In these bets, you back every conceivable single, double and upwards to a set stake.
With the betting exchanges becoming increasingly mainstream, the Lay bet is now more popular than ever. If you are convinced a particular horse cannot win, you can take bets on the horse on the betting exchanges. However, you do risk losing more than just your original stake so you must be able to cover your liabilities should the horse prove you wrong.
All-weather racing continues all year round with the biggest events being the All-Weather Championship and Winter Derby. There are six all-weather tracks in England; Kempton, Chelmsford, Lingfield Park, Newcastle, Wolverhampton and Southwell.
Prize money has improved significantly in recent seasons and the leading trainers are not averse to running their horses on the all-weather, particularly in maiden races to gain experience. Where a horse performs significantly better on the all-weather than on the turf, the handicapper may allocate a separate handicap rating for each surface.
The Flat turf season begins in March with the Lincoln Handicap meeting at Doncaster and continues until November. The early part of the season features the trials for the first Classic races. Newmarket’s Craven meeting in April provides some important Classic clues with further key trials at the Newbury spring meeting.
The Guineas Festival at Newmarket in May leads on to the Epsom Derby meeting in June with major trials at York, Chester, Lingfield and Newbury. The British-trained horses always face a strong challenge from Ireland, notably from the Aidan O’Brien stable.
Royal Ascot is the biggest flat racing festival of the summer, attracting some of the best racehorses from around the world. The best British and Irish horses clash with International runners from France, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States. Other summer highlights include the Newmarket July meeting, Glorious Goodwood and the York Ebor Festival.
The season’s final Classic is the St Leger at Doncaster in September with Ascot’s British Champions Day in October. The top international prizes are the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France and the Breeders’ Cup meeting in the United States.
Horses race from the age of two on the flat, starting in maiden races. There are some precocious juveniles who race in the spring and target Royal Ascot in the summer. The most promising two-year-olds tend to appear later in the season. The form of maiden races at Grade 1 tracks like Newmarket and Newbury is usually worth following.
With every horse theoretically holding an equal chance of winning, handicap races offer very competitive racing and more attractive odds than maiden races. The big handicap races on the flat attract more betting turnover than some of the Group 1 races.
The Group races are for the higher class horses to compete at level weights. They range from Listed class through to Group 3, Group 2 and Group 1. These races are to establish the best horse in each category from sprinting through to long distance stayers.
The five classics are restricted to three-year-olds. Fillies compete over a mile in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and a mile and a half in the Oaks at Epsom. The best colts are aimed at the 2000 Guineas (1 mile) and the Derby (mile and a half). The final Classic is the mile and three-quarter St Leger at Doncaster.
National Hunt Racing increasingly revolves around the Cheltenham Festival meeting in March. Almost every impressive winner from October onwards receives a quote for a race at Cheltenham. Irish trained horses have been dominant at the festival in recent years with the best staying steeplechasers competing for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the top hurdlers aimed at the Champion Hurdle. There are championship races at Cheltenham for every division of Jump racing from the Triumph Hurdle for four-year-olds to the Foxhunters for Hunter Chasers.
The Grand National takes place at Aintree around three weeks after Cheltenham. It is the best known steeplechase in the world, a handicap with forty runners competing over four and a half miles over the famous fences.
There are other big prizes throughout the winter, notably the Coral Gold Cup, Welsh National, King George VI Chase and Scottish Grand National. National Hunt racing continues throughout the summer but fast ground normally prevails with smaller fields and lower prize money.
National Hunt Flat races (or Bumpers) were originally introduced to give late developing horses some experience on the track. Their popularity has grown over the years and there are now championship bumper races at both Cheltenham and Liverpool.
Novice events are the equivalent of maidens in flat racing. Horses can start over hurdles from the age of three, including horses that have previously raced on the flat. Novice chases, as the name suggests, are for horses that have not previously won over fences. They remain a novice for the entire season with championship races at the big festival meetings.
The handicap system works exactly the same for National Hunt racing as it does on the flat. Weights are calculated in the same way but with a slightly different weight-distance ratio. Many of the top national hunt races are handicaps including the Grand National.
The best National Hunt horses compete at level-weights races for Grade 1 races such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle. There are a variety of Grade 1 events throughout the season over different distances including the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The Cheltenham Festival in March is the highlight of the year for National Hunt racing. The annual clash between the best jumpers in Great Britain and Ireland accounts for the vast majority of the races with the highest betting turnover each year.
Highlights include the Cheltenham Gold Cup over three and a quarter miles, the two-mile Champion Hurdle and the three-mile Stayers Hurdle. The fastest jump horses compete over two miles for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with the Ryanair Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
The only National Hunt meeting in Great Britain that rivals Cheltenham is the Grand National meeting at Aintree. The Grand National remains as popular as ever and is still the race most likely to attract once-a-year punters. The National is the climax of a three-day Festival meeting which also features many of the best horses that ran at Cheltenham the previous month.
Royal Ascot in June is not only one of the best race meetings in the world, it is also high on the social calendar. There are thirty races across five days, including an incredible nineteen Group races. There is over £7 million of prize money on offer with feature races including The Ascot Gold Cup, The Prince of Wales’s Stakes, The Queen Anne Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
The Derby is the premier English Classic and the race after which all other “Derby” races around the world are named. It is over a mile and a half and takes place in early June. It is the second leg of the English Triple Crown between the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St Leger at Doncaster. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Nijinsky in 1970. The Epsom Derby meeting also features the Oaks, the second fillies’ Classic of the season, and the Coronation Cup.
The Newmarket Guineas Festival in late April or early May features the first two Classic races of the season; The 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas. The 2000 Guineas is open to three-year-old colts and fillies, although it is rare for a filly to take part. The 1000 Guineas Stakes is restricted to three-year-old fillies. The races were named to reflect the original prize purse with a guinea being equal to one pound and five pence. As with the Derby, “Guineas” has been adopted around the world for Classic races over a mile.
The King George VI Chase is the second most prized level weights chase behind only the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It is the traditional Boxing Day highlight at Kempton Park, famously won four times by Desert Orchid and a record five times by Kauto Star. It is over three miles and is a natural target for Gold Cup contenders.
The St Leger is the oldest Classic race in the world and was first run in 1776. It is the feature race of the Doncaster St Leger Festival in September and is the final leg of the British Triple Crown. The St Leger Stakes is the longest of the five Classic races with the emphasis on stamina.
The Ascot Gold Cup is the most prestigious staying flat race in the world and the longest surviving race at Royal Ascot, dating back to 1807. Yeats famously won the race for four consecutive seasons with popular three-time winner Stradivarius recently narrowly failing to equal his achievement.
The race is over two and a half miles and is open to four-year-olds and upwards. It is the first leg of the Stayers’ Triple Crown which is made up by the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup. Her Majesty The Queen fulfilled a lifelong ambition when her mare Estimate won the Gold Cup in 2013.
Dutching is the term for placing more than one bet in a race with the aim of showing a profit, whatever the outcome. Ideally it should be applied when there are very few possible outcomes. For example, you could back a horse with a bookmaker at 4-1 and then “lay” the same horse on the betting exchanges at a shorter price, guaranteeing a profit whether it wins or loses.
The 80/20 system is one of the more popular horse racing betting strategies. It requires you to place an each-way bet; 80% of your stake for a place and 20% for a win. It is designed to give consistent profits for those who regularly select placed horses.
The growing popularity of the betting exchanges means that the punter can now profit from losers. You are effectively acting as a bookmaker, laying horses that you do not believe will win. The Place Laying strategy is laying horses that you believe will not finish in the places. Typically this involves laying two horses in a field of no more than 7 runners, but it does involve a careful selection and calculation process.
The Yankee Strategy entails backing short-priced horses to win on all eleven bets (6 doubles, 4 trebles and one accumulator). Bookmakers are keen to promote the Lucky 15 as a popular alternative, the same as a Yankee bet plus four single bets. This encourages the bettor to select longer-priced horses, sometimes rewarded with double odds if only one of your selections wins.
The Reverse Forecast involves picking the first and second horse in a race, in either order. To cover both eventualities, the bet requires two stakes (effectively two straight forecasts).
Horse racing Betting Exchanges are more complex than traditional bookmaker sites and you must do your homework before dabbling in these markets. Unlike sports betting sites, you are betting against other bettors on the betting exchanges. The big difference is the “Lay” bet where you are effectively acting as the bookmaker. You must always remember that potential losses can be much higher.
Betfair sets the standard in horse racing betting exchanges but there is competition including Spread Ex and Matchbook. As with the sports betting sites, do your research, read reviews and browse the sites before making your choice.
The form book provides the key to unlocking horse performance and the Internet now provides instant free access to a wealth of information. The racing declarations are also published online, allowing time for detailed analysis.
There are a number of key factors involved in assessing a horse’s performance. In order to gain an advantage, you have to believe that the horse has been under-rated or has its perfect racing conditions to improve its performance.
With free video re-runs available on the best horse racing betting websites, many future winners can be spotted by reviewing races online. Look for horses making up late ground or perhaps hampered when making progress on the leaders. Other key factors include any marked going preferences, a change of distance or even the form of the stable.
Horses can sometimes lose the race before it begins. If you have supported a horse you don’t want to see it sweating up at the start or looking nervous and on edge. Such a horse is likely to race too keenly and will be a spent force in the closing stages. These kind of observations are reported online in the race commentaries beside each runner as well as general comments such as “looked well”.
The high street bookmaker still has a role to play but rapid advances in technology have made online betting increasingly popular. The advantages are obvious with a far greater choice of bets, more competitive odds and all in the comfort of your own home. With live streaming available of UK, Irish and International racing and improvements in mobile horse racing betting, it provides the complete package for racing fans.
The main differences from online and traditional horse racing betting are physical. You do not get the on-course experience of attending the race meeting or perhaps enjoy the banter of the high street betting shops. The advantages of online horse racing betting far outweigh these as you can now manage everything from your screen.
With such a huge range of racing available to view and bet on, safeguards have been brought in so that you keep your spending under control. Bookmaker sites now require you to set daily/monthly limits. With sensible management, you can enjoy your horse racing betting to the full and increase your chances of making a profit.
If you are relatively new to online horse racing betting you may not be familiar with all of the “jargon” that goes with the sport. We have compiled a selection of the most commonly used words and phrases.
Hopefully our article will provide you with everything you need to make your horse racing betting pay. Our recommended bookmaker sites are all easy to navigate and will enhance your online horse racing betting experience.
Of course the main focus should be on picking winners but it is also about finding value. If you consistently bet at value prices, you have a much better chance of winning in the long run. Our section on horse racing betting strategies barely scratches the surface and every bettor develops their own methods over time.
Horse racing betting can be very exciting but only if you bet within your means. Make you that you set your own limits and never chase your losses. All bookmaker sites carry home page links to help you bet responsibly with access to highly qualified support agencies.
We rate Bet365 as the pick of the best horse racing betting websites.
The most profitable bet on horse racing is the single win bet.
The most popular horse racing events in the UK are: Cheltenham, Aintree, Royal Ascot, Epsom Derby, 1000 and 2000 Guineas, King George VI Chase, St Leger and Ascot Gold Cup