Horse Racing Betting Guide: How to Bet on Horse Racing

Horse Racing is one the world's most popular sports and we've put together a 'how to' guide for punters looking to understand the betting markets.

Horse Racing

Before placing a bet on horse racing, it’s vital to know what you are doing. Telling apart your odds-on shots from rank outsiders, novices from experienced performers, 5f sprinters and two-mile stayers – all of these factors are crucial before placing a bet.

Placing a bet can enhance our enjoyment of this great sport, whether it’s as part of a day at the races or watching in from afar. Below are some of the key pointers to keep in mind.

Types of Horse Racing Bets

The most popular bets on horse racing are win and each-way bets. If you back a horse to win, it must finish first for you to collect. A £5 win bet on a 5/1 chance will return £30, winnings (£25 profit and your £5 stake back).

An each-way bet is essentially two bets rolled into one. Firstly, you are backing a horse to win, and secondly, you are backing it to be placed (finish second, third or fourth – depending on the number of runners in the race). A £5 each-way bet on a horse will cost £10 – the stake being split on the win and each-way portions of the bet. If the horse wins, you get paid the win portion and the each-way. If it fails to win, but finishes in the places, you get paid reduced odds on that portion of the bet.

Understanding Racing Betting Odds

There are two ways of looking at betting odds – fraction and decimal. Fractional is the traditional method and the one routinely displayed on the television. With fractional odds – 2/1, 11/2, 33/1 etc. – you get the figure on the left back if your horse wins for every unit on the right. So, if you back a winner at 5/1 with £10 on, you get £60 back (£50 winnings plus your £10 stake).

Decimal odds (2.00, 5.50 etc.) include your stake, so for every £1 you bet, you will get the ‘odds’ figure back, which includes your original stake, on winning bets.

Other Types of Racing Bets

There are also some popular types of ‘multiple’ bets that work on racing. These can be used if you are playing multiple horses on one racecard or across different racecards on the same day or at a meeting etc.

Yankee – consists of eleven bets on four selections in different events i.e. 6 Doubles, 4 Trebles and 1 fourfold accumulator. Two or more selections must be successful to have a return. A £1 Yankee costs £11. A £1 each-way Yankee costs £22.

Lucky 15 – A Lucky 15 is similar to a Yankee but also has singles included. It consists of fifteen bets on four selections in different events i.e. 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles and 1 fourfold accumulator. One or more selections must be successful to have a return. A £1 Lucky 15 costs £15. A £1 each-way Lucky 15 costs £30.

Trixie – A Trixie consists of four bets on three selections in different races i.e. 3 doubles and 1 treble. Two or more selections must be successful to have a return. A £1 Trixie costs £4 (to cover all four bets). A £1 each-way Trixie costs £8.

These are just three of the more popular multiple bets that punters often use on horse racing. For a small outlay, they can return large winnings!

Reading the Racecard

Racecards contain lots of useful information worth considering before having a bet. Being able to digest this information is vital and you should familiarise yourself with it before betting on racing.

Beside each horse, you’ll see the age/weight carried, trainer and jockey, and the ‘form’ of the horse, which is how it has performed in recent runs. Symbols like C&D tell us if the horse has won over ‘course and distance’ in the past and these can be used individually as C (course winners) and D (distance winner).

In Flat racing, you’ll also see the stall number the horse is drawn in beside the racecard number in brackets. You will also see a horse rating in many cases, particularly useful in handicap races (where the runners are weighted to match their previous/recent ability levels). Reading the racecard is a vital source of information for punters.

Enda is a journalist who specialises in horse racing, especially the action in the UK and Ireland, and has shared his racing betting tips on a number of well-known publications and websites over the last 10 years.
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