Everything You Need To Know About Betting On Horse Racing

Welcome to our Betting.org horse racing beginners guide. As one of the most popular markets for bettors, this is a sport that rewards research on your part. If you want to make a success of betting on horses, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of the sport, and its relationship with betting. You’ll also need to be handy with the jargon of the sport; this can be vital when deciding how to bet. Thankfully, in this horse betting guide, we will give you a thorough grounding in all the details you’ll need to know.

We’ll be sure to give you some hints as to where you should focus your attention when looking for tips. Of course, given its relationship to the betting world, horse racing as a sport is not short of tipsters. However, it makes sense for you to know as much about the sport as you can rather than just relying on tips alone to influence your betting strategy. After all, as with anything else, there are good and bad tipsters — and even the good ones aren’t right 100% of the time. Above all else, though, we will look to shine light on a sport that for many people can be confusing and impenetrable… but that you’ll soon have a decent understanding of, thanks to our comprehensive guide.



The History Of Horse Racing

Describing the history of horse racing is akin to describing the history of humanity— because the two are inherently interlinked. It seems that for as long as humans have been taming horses to be ridden (around 5,000 years by most estimates), they have been racing them.

There are tales of horse racing dating back to Antiquity, with Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilisations all partaking in horse racing. Perhaps, given the later, we should have nicknamed horse racing the “sport of kings and pharaohs”, but admittedly, that’s not quite as pithy.

Types of Modern Horse Racing

Although horse racing has been around for millennia, it has inevitably changed with the times. In the last century or so, it has come to look like the sport we would recognise from our TV screens. With that said, there are still different types of racing. As no horse betting guide would be complete without an overview of these different types, let’s jump right in…

Flat racing

The most popular form of the sport worldwide, in bets and in viewership. Flat racing involves the horses and their riders (or “jockeys”) and little else. The key to flat racing is speed, and this form of racing appeals to bettors due to its (relatively) predictable nature. Famous flat races include the Derby, run at Epsom every June, and its US counterpart the Kentucky Derby. The best-known French horse race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, is run on the flat course at Longchamp. Races are run over approximately a mile.

Jump racing

More complex, and often more difficult to predict, than flat racing. You’ll also find that the races are longer, often clocking in at four or more miles. Races run over jumps introduce an aspect of timing and demand stronger, “rangier” horses than flat races. There are differing levels of difficulty to a jump race; one of the hardest, and most famous, is the Grand National. Mistiming a jump can see the rider unseated, ending their involvement in the race, and causing bettors to sigh with frustration.

Endurance racing

Unlike the previous two forms of the sport, Endurance racing is not generally confined to a track. Certainly a version of racing that is more for connoisseurs, this type of racing can be run over ten or even a hundred (or more) miles. Perhaps the most famous endurance race is the Tevis Cup, run over 100 miles and tough terrain every year in California.

Harness racing

In Harness racing, rather than carrying the jockey the horse pulls a small buggy with the rider on it. This type of racing is notable for being restricted to certain racing gaits. Some races must be run at a trot, for example. This is a popular form of racing across Scandinavia — particularly in Sweden and Finland.

Most of the races on which you’re likely to find widespread odds are in the first two categories. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for options in the other two if they intrigue you — but you will find more useful information on Flat and Jump races, and that’s what we’re predominantly going to focus on for the rest of this guide.

Different Types Of Horse Racing Bets

Horse racing has been indivisible from betting for centuries. It’s no surprise then that there are numerous different types of bet that you can make on the sport. Early on, it is best to keep your betting simple, as the rules behind different types of bet can become complex. As you learn more about the sport, and types of bet, though, that complexity may be a lot less off-putting.


The most basic type of bet in horse racing, this merely involves betting on one outcome in one race. Typically, you’ll pick a horse to win and then bet on the best odds you find. If your horse wins, then so do you! Single bets are particularly popular with occasional bettors, who may only bet once a year or less.

They may also work out well for a bettor who has received a great tip for a race and wants to make a quick, simple bet. The advantage of making a single bet is that you need only wait for one result to come through. This can mean the time between placing a bet to cashing out can be as little as a few minutes.

It’s worth noting that you can also place a single on a horse to “place” in an event. Any horse betting guide will tell you that the returns will naturally be lower than for a win should you choose this option. Nonetheless, at the right odds it may be a bet worth making

Each Way

An Each Way bet is one that will give a return on a horse finishing in one of a range of positions in a race. Bookmakers will usually pay out as far down as fourth. The key with this kind of bet is that the payout will be larger the higher the horse finishes. If you bet Each Way on a horse, then your winnings will be more if it wins, but you’ll still get something if it places.

How much you may win depends on the bookmaker; different bookies will have different policies on how many places they’ll pay out on. They may also have different approaches to how they assign Each Way odds. So if you frequently switch between bookies, remember to read through their terms and conditions before placing a bet. There’s very little consistency between bookies on Each Way options, so the extra research will stand you in good stead.  


As you get more used to horse racing, you may find that you are getting better at picking winners. In such cases, you may prefer to start combining your bets into multiples. The advantage these bets have is that they pay out at a higher level than would be the case if you bet on two or more races separately.

Naturally, there is a higher level of risk involved in a multiple bet. If just one part of it does not come off, then the whole bet falls apart. That higher level of risk, though, is reflected in the longer odds and bigger payout if it wins. The increased return might be quite modest with a double or even a treble. However, the bigger an accumulator you put together, the greater your potential winnings for the same stake. A well-conceived accumulator can bring three-figure returns (or more) for a single-figure stake.

Full Cover Options

There is a dizzying range of potential options for a bettor who wants to bet on a number of outcomes at once, but also wants to ensure some return. The list is too long to go through in detail in a horse betting how to like this one. However, the idea behind a “Full Cover” bet is that you pick outcomes across a number of races. Your stake is then split to cover all of the ways that could return you a payout.

For example, in a “Lucky 15” bet, you bet on four races and have 15 potential outcomes. All four horses could win (a fourfold) and give you the biggest payout. There are also four ways that three of the horses could win, each of those “trebles” having its own odds. There are six possibilities for “doubles”, and four potential “singles”. Your stake will be split equally fifteen ways.

To make this as simple as possible, if you place £15 on a Lucky 15, you will be paid as you would be for a stake of £1 on a conventional bet. This can still mean big returns if the fourfold comes in, while a single is still better than nothing.


Best Bookmaker For Horse Racing Betting

Given the popularity of horse racing as a betting sport, it is no surprise that there are a lot of bookmakers offering very extensive odds for it. If there is a race in the UK that you want to put money on, there will be scores of options available to you.

The list of potential “honourable mentions” in this category is so long that to go through all of them would take forever. Let’s assume that if you can think of a big-name UK bookmaker, they’re on it. However, at the head of the pack we found Ireland’s Paddy Power, time and again, to be the best.

Part of this is down to the sheer breadth of markets they cover. If there’s nothing that interests you across the UK’s racecourses, then you can find odds on races across Europe, in South Africa, and even further afield. Additionally, Paddy Power offer excellent live streaming which makes it easy to follow your choices and get a sense for the way the track is running. These aspects, along with their Best Odds Guaranteed offers, make them our top choice when it comes to horse racing betting.


Popular Horse Racing Betting Terms

If you’re a horse racing novice, then it can very quickly become impossible to understand what those “in the know” are talking about. It is, at times, as though they are speaking another language. Horse racing jargon can get rather dense at times, but commit these terms to memory and you’ll be off to a flying start.

  • Going As in “Going, good to firm”. This refers to the condition of the track the horses will be running on in a given race, and should influence your betting choice. For example, smaller, quicker horses do better over firm ground but can get bogged down if the going is “heavy”.
  • Form — Listed in horse racing papers as a series of numbers and (sometimes, if it’s bad news) letters. This is how the horse performed in previous outings. A “0” in the form guide means it did not place, while 1, 2, and 3 refer to those positions. “U” means it unseated its rider, and “P” means it pulled up.
  • Full CoverIn its simplest sense, a full cover bet is a type of multiple that pays out if two or more of your selections win. A Lucky 15 is an example of a Full Cover with singles, meaning that there’s a return if just one of them wins.
  • Starting Price — Commonly abbreviated to “SP”, this refers to the price on a horse when the race starts. Usually considered the truest reflection of their chances of winning.
  • Book closed — The book has closed when there are no more bets being taken on a horse — at this point, it has found its starting price. The 30 minutes before the book closing are when most professional bettors bet. If you see a horse’s odds shorten in that time, it may be wise to back it.
  • Goliath — Huge full cover bet that is set around an eight-fold, and contains 247 total bets.
  • Ante Post — Simply, this refers to a bet made before the racing meeting. As a bet made in this way is committed to before certain details are known, it is considered a high risk betting strategy..
  • Course specialist — A horse who does particularly well on a specific course. You might hear other bettors say these horses “know the going”.
  • Also-ran — A horse racing term that has made it into popular parlance. This means a horse that didn’t win, or place. Literally, they “also ran”, but didn’t do as well as better horses.
  • Drift — A horse may be said to be drifting if its price is getting longer the close a race gets. This means it’s not attracting many bets. There’s usually a reason for that, so if you see this happening, take note.

Top Tips For Betting On Horse Racing

To get you off to a good start, here’s five horse racing betting tips you’re going to want to keep in mind…

Research, Research, Research

When it comes to making the most of your horse racing betting experience, research is essential. If you just try to make bets based on your quick conclusions from scanning the runners and riders, then you’re almost certainly going to come unstuck. Horse racing betting requires in-depth, carefully accumulated information that allows you to make the best possible judgements and, frankly, the more you do, the better. Guesswork, hunches, and “feelings” are all well and good, but they’re not a sound betting strategy, so do your homework before you put any of your cash on the line.

Don’t Jump Right Into Real-Money Betting

If you really want to formulate the best horse racing betting strategy, you have to be cautious. That means you need a clear head as you formulate your early bets— and a clear head is notoriously hard to achieve when you’ve got real money on the line. To avoid getting caught up in the hype and losing control of your bankroll, opt to watch a few races without actually placing a bet. Note down who you would have bet on and how much you’d have spent, then consult this at the end of the race— having it in black and white can really help. If you’d’ve won, yes, that can be annoying, but it’s far better to be safe than sorry. If you lost, you’ll hopefully have learnt a lesson about what went wrong with your strategy. Repeat this process several times before getting your real-life cash involved.

Consider The Jockeys

When making your betting selections, it’s always worth keeping an eye on the current jockey standings. The statistics regarding these standings are incredibly impressive: 90% of the time, the winning horse will be ridden by a jockey who is currently in the top 10 of the standings. While this is a useful statistical fact, don’t rely on it too much— ultimately, your decision regarding the horse is always the most important consideration. However, it is worth returning to the jockeys standings if, for example, you’re torn between two choices for a particular race. Statistically, the one with the higher-ranked jockey could well be the better bet.

Understand That “Favourite” Doesn’t Mean “Sure Thing”

If you’re new to betting on horse racing, you may think that the best way of proceeding is to start slowly. For most new bettors, “start slowly” means “place bets on the favourites”— and it’s easy to see why this strategy is attractive. If you’re new to betting, you just want to get a feel of it, and opting for the favourites can seem like a safe strategy. Sadly, things aren’t that simple; in fact, the favourite only wins a race 35% of the time. Rather than opting for a favourites-only strategy to ease yourself into betting, it might be worth returning to your research and increasing your knowledge. After all, if you’re being tempted by the idea of a “safe” strategy, this is probably a sign you’ve not quite yet obtained the background knowledge to be making a bet at all.

Trust Your Instincts (Provided You’ve Done The Research)

If you’ve done the research, then it’s important to learn to trust your instincts. Bookies can’t get everything right every single time, so if you see surprisingly long odds on a horse you think will be successful, then there’s no reason to distrust this. The reason you have to research so much is so you can seize on moments like these; bookie oversights that can lead to surprise odds that you may be able to capitalise on. So as long as you have the knowledge, there’s no harm in ensuring you trust that knowledge when an opportunity presents itself.


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