Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Horse Race Betting for Beginners

Horse racing is a sport loved by millions around the world, even the Queen and British aristocracy love it. In the United Kingdom, the Grand National is the biggest race of the year and is watched by millions more than any other race. In Australia, the Melbourne Cup enjoys this same status, with race day being a public holiday in most of the state of Victoria.

For many people, the Grand National or Melbourne Cup may be the only time they wager on a horse race. Many workplaces and friendship groups run a “sweepstakes”, where each person pays a nominal amount (around £1) for the right to select a horse at random. With around 40 horses entering the Grand National, this means the total prize money is around £40. This is usually shared by the top three horses, for example as £20 for first, £15 for second, and £5 for third. 

Although this is an easy way for millions of people to get involved in the event, selecting horses at random is not the best strategy for anyone who wants to take their betting on horses more seriously. For many people, the fun of horse racing is getting dressed up smartly and spending a day at the racecourse analysing the horses and track conditions to try to make winning picks. 


From the outside, this process of choosing horses can seem complicated and make you feel a little daunted. However, there are some simple things beginners can remember and do to make them look like a pro. 

Be disciplined 

First things first, you should make your betting decisions for the right reasons. If you lose on one race, you shouldn't let it influence your decisions for any future wagers that you place. In poker, this is a process called bankroll management, whereby a player accepts it is impossible to win every game and wagers accordingly. 

Don’t bet in anger or frustration after a loss, and don’t let a win make you overconfident. Take each race on its merits. 

Types of bet 

Horse racing has some of its own terminology when it comes to betting. These are the UK terms, they are slightly different in the US but the premise is the name. The types of bet you can place on horse races are: 
  • Outright win This is the simplest bet to make, you choose a horse you think might win and place at bet at the offered odds. If the odds are 4/1 and you bet £10, you’ll get back £50 (£40 + the initial £10 stake) if your chosen horse wins. 
  • Betting to Place Betting to place means that you are expecting the horse to place (finish) second or third. This can be a little more complicated as the number of positions change depending on the size of the field. Special races like the Grand National have slightly different rules, but typically, a race must have at least 5 horses to be able to make a place bet, then these rules kick in: 
  • 5-7 horses: will pay out on second place at ¼ odds 
  • 8-11 horses: will pay out on second and third place at ⅕ odds 
  • 12-15 horses: will pay out on second and third place at ¼ odds 
  • 16+ horses: will pay out on second, third and fourth place at ¼ odds 
  • Bet Each Way Betting each way combines a win and a place bet together, meaning the bet pays out on a win and up to fourth place (depending on how many runners are in the race). 

Compare prices 

You compare prices for many things in life: insurance, holidays, cars, mobile phones. Horse race betting is no different. You should compare the different odds made by the bookmakers at the track and online to see which one offers you the best options.  

Free bets 

Many online bookmakers offer free bets to attract new customers. Take advantage of these to make risk free bets while you find your feet. 

How to choose the right horse 

There is no exact science for choosing a winning horse. Any number of variables are in play during a race and while a horse may be an obvious favourite, a fall or some other bad luck could get in the way. 

Some people choose their horses based on their names, or by only choosing to bet the favourite. While this may sometimes pay off, in the long term it will always yield a negative result.  Instead, you should study the form of the runners. You should choose a horse that has recently performed well over a similar distance and on a track with similar ground conditions. You should keep up to date with horse racing so you head to track with as much information as possible.   

In Summary 

There are many things to remember when getting started with horse race betting. It is best to pace yourself, start by making small bets to get the hang of the terminology and the rules. Remember things can never go your way all the time, so keep your cool when they don’t. Choose your horses strategically, and refrain from picking the ones with “the funny names”. Most of all, remember to have fun, after all that’s why you’re doing it.

Photo credits: top, bottom