Compared to a lot of sports, horse racing doesn’t actually have all that many markets that you can bet on. Some would argue that this is the beauty of the sport and that it keeps it simple, which we would say was fair comment.
If you’re new to the sport, then they might not be all that straightforward to grasp. This article is not only going to look at what you can bet on, but also how the bets what and what you need to do as a punter to access them.
Also, whilst this is not a strategy article for horse racing, we’ve included a couple of pointers for each that should help you make more informed picks for these markets.
The Win Market
The most common market that you’re going to be able to bet is that of the win market. It’s pretty simple in that all you need to do is pick the horse that will win that race. If the horse wins, then you get to collect your money. If it fails to win, then you lose.
Whilst this is the most common market, it can be one that is hard to pick. Before you place your bet, you need to know how it works.
For pretty much all bookmakers you first need to check the time of the race and where that race is taking place. In the UK race meetings generally start from around 1:30pm onwards and will end around 5:00pm. You will also be able to bet on evening meetings as well, starting from around 7:00pm onwards.
Once you’ve chosen your race you will then be greeted with a race card. The race card can be quite complex, and we’ve covered how they work in depth in other articles, so for now all you need to note here are the odds.
Above we have a typical race card and to place the bet you can see the odds down the right-hand side. This is the price that the bookmaker is offering you for that horse to win the race. To the left of that are the previous odds and this highlights what the price for that horse was at one point, compared to where it is now.
We’ve selected the odds for this race in decimals, but you can of course us fractions or US-style odds if you prefer. If we were to bet on say, Lord Riddiford, who is the 3.50 favourite for this race, then a £10 bet would return £35 if this horse won, leaving with £25 profit once we remove our initial £10 stake.
Betting on the winner of any race is not easy. Like all bet types, you need to absorb as much information about each horse as you can. Online there are dozens of places that you can look and even if it’s just to find some pointers.
There are a number of information services on the web who are reputable businesses within the horse racing sector. They will allow you to get free stats and figures to guide you in the right direction.
Even though there is no substitute for doing your own research if you’re new or just short of time, it’s a much better option that just picking randomly or even picking the one with the name that you like the sounds of!
Each Way Bets
Betting each way is another massively popular way to bet for horse racing. Whilst this bet type is used in a huge range of sports, there’s probably few that use it as often as horse racing and it’s for good reason as well.
Each way betting is actually broken down into two separate bets:
- Bet on the horse to win
- Bet on the horse to place
When we talk about the horse to place what we mean by this is that the horse needs to finish within a certain number of places to get a set fraction of the winnings. For example, if a horse finished 2nd then you would get some returns from your bet.
The place bet will work on a base of the number of horses that are in the race. The more horses that run, the higher the number of places. A race with 7 runners will pay top 2 places whereas a race with 14 runners will pay top 3 places.
The bookies then give you a fraction of the odds that you’ve taken for your win bet. This is usually either 1/4 or 1/5 of the price. So, a 10/1 bet at 1/4 odds would be 5/2 or in decimal an 11.00 place at 1/4 odds would be 3.5.
The easiest way to explain each way bets is to go through a quick example.
Let’s stick with our market from above at Leicester and assume that we want to bet on Lord Riddiford again.
We can see that he is priced at 3.50. We then need to select the bet to then shift our selection to out betslip. Most bookies will have a button or selection that you can choose to state that you want to bet each way.
Above the odds we can also see the each way terms as well. In this case they are paying out 3 places (1,2,3) and they are paying 1/5 odds.
We’re using BetVictor for our example, but this will work the same with most online bookies.
There are a couple of key things to point out with the betslip. The first is that we have had to select the EW button in the top right to indicate that this is the bet that we want to make.
The next is that we have entered our stake as £10, but our total stake at the bottom is actually £20. This is because the bet is split into those 2 parts as we mentioned earlier. It then classes each single stake as 1 line, so you would need to double it as the bet is essentially two lines.
The total amount that we would return if both the place and the win bet won, would be £50, made up of £35 for the win, and £15 for the place.
For each way betting we do not need both results to come in to get a return. So, if the horse finishes second, then we would lose our win bet, but we would still return our place bet. Also, if your horse wins, then the bet pays out on both the win and place bet.
The only way that the bet would lose if the horse finished outside of the place positions for that race.
Finally, the place terms are fixed for each race dependant on race type and number of runners. Here’s what you need to know:
|No. of Runners (at the start)||Race Type||Place Terms|
|2 – 4||All Races||Win Only|
|5 – 7||All Races||1/4 1, 2|
|8 – 11||All Races||1/5 1, 2, 3|
|12 – 15||Handicap||1/4 1, 2, 3|
|12+||Non Handicap||1/5 1, 2, 3|
|16+||Handicap||1/4 1, 2, 3, 4|
For big meetings the terms that bookies set out for each way bets can change quite a lot. They might include more places to be paid or even a higher cut of money. They can play a huge role on the returns for your bet, so make sure that you shop around for the best each way terms, especially at bigger meetings such as the Grand National, Royal Ascot, Cheltenham Festival, York Ebor and many more.
To find out more on this, check out our guide on each way betting.
The Starting Price (SP)
You may have come across some races where you are able to bet on the Starting Price or simply the ‘SP’ for that horse.
There are two typical examples where this might happen. The first is for a race that is a little bit of time in the future, but not long enough that it would class as an ante post bet.
The second is where you voluntarily choose to take the SP for that horse. This could be for a number of reasons, but often it’s when the price of the horse you want to bank seems to be drifting and you aren’t all that sure if you’re going to be around later to take advantage of the longer price.
The starting price is basically the last price that is taken from the bookmaker for that horse as the race starts. It’s the last price before any markets turn in-play and you’re able to bet on them live.
Many bookies currently offer a promotion called ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’. This is where the bookmaker pledges that if the starting price is bigger than the price that you took for your horse and they go on to win, the bookmaker will pay out at the bigger starting price.
This offer is very common now and it should be one that you take advantage of. If this is the case, then there should never be a time where you choose an SP over the current price of the horse.
The reason behind this is that if the SP is bigger than they pay out at that price anyway. But, if you take the SP, then there is s chance that this price will be lower than the odds on offer at the time of placing your bet, meaning you aren’t getting as high as you would have if you’d taken the current price.
For more on the Starting Price check out our article on what it is and how it works in detail.
Place betting is often commonly confused with each way betting, but they are in fact two very different bets. A place bet is where you are just betting on that horse to finish within a certain number of places.
You will get one price for the horse to finish within those spots and the price that you get back will be the same, regardless if they win or finish in a place spot.
For example, we back our horse Mr Riddiford to place in that race at odds of 2.00. The bookmaker has stated that they are paying out on 2 places for the race. This means that we need Mr Riddiford to come 1st or 2nd. Providing that he does, the position is actually irrelevant, meaning that we don’t get more money just because he finished in 1st spot, like we would if we have backed the horse each way.
Just like each way betting, it’s imperative to make sure that you are getting as many places paid as possible. You will also see that the odds on offer will be quite low, especially for the favourites.
Place bets are a popular bet to include with accumulators for horse racing. The leeway that you get form each of your picks means that you don’t necessarily need to pick winner each time and even if you include say, 5 favourites all to place, it’s likely going to offer you pretty good odds when you combine them in an acca like this.
Ante Post Betting
Ante post betting is one of the bets that the purist race punters love to take on. The ante post is basically a bet that you place on a horse a significant amount of time before that race starts. You can bet on ante sports markets with a number of other sports, but it’s horse racing that it’s likely most common with.
The reason that people place these bets is that the odds can be much higher than when the race starts. The bookmakers have a lot of guess work with these types of bets, so they need to make them enticing for punters to get on early.
For example, on the day of a race, the bookmaker knows exactly which horses are running in the race, the condition of the course, the weather forecast, number of runners, form and loads of other variables that all come into play when creating odds for each horse.
Days, weeks or even months in advance of the race they are guessing. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to offer odds on horses for a race that doesn’t even end up entering the race.
The catch for the punter is that they have no security if the horse does not run in that race for whatever reason. When you place a bet on a market the day of the race and your horse fails to start for whatever reason, then the punter will get their money back.
With ante post bets, there is no refund. This means that if your horse isn’t running, and there are no guarantees, then your bet will count as a loss and you will lose your stake.
Ante post betting is not for the feint hearted, but if you’re familiar with betting exchanges then you can use the longer odds to your advantage here by laying the bet off before that race starts.
By doing this you are going to be able to lock in a profit for your bet regardless of result of the race. You can work the exchange price to allow for as much or as little exposure as you like, but this is the beauty of taking on the ante post markets.
Forecasts and Tricasts
The forecast and tricast bets are two more that are heavily linked with horse racing. The two are based on picking a combination of horses to finish within certain positions for each race.
The forecast is where you need to choose two horses that will finish in 1st and 2nd. The important thing to note for this is that you need to pick the horses in the correct order for a straight forecast. So, you might have Horse 1 in 1st and then Horse 2 in 2nd.
The straight tricast is just an extension of the forecast and for this you will need to choose 3 horses to finish in 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively. This is a tough bet, especially in larger fields and one that pays out huge odds more often than not.
Speaking of pricing, the formula for working out the odds for these bets is highly complicated. It’s a massive mathematical equation and it will vary for each race and the odds for each horse. The easiest way to see your returns is just to add your picks to your betslip and most will highlight that it there.
There’s a twist to both of these bets though and this comes in the form of the reverse forecasts and combined tricast. When the bet is reversed or combined, all you need to do is pick the horses to finish in any order within those places. For example, the forecast bet is one that you need to pick the first 2 horses and then the tricast where you need to pick the first three. The order is irrelevant, making this bet a lot simpler as a result, though there are two bets in a reversed forecast (RFC) with two horses, and six bets in a combination forecast or tricast (CFC and CTC) with three horses.
The forecast and tricast bets are best used in races where two or three horses are considerably better than the rest of the field. Choosing these bets from competitive races means that the odds will be higher than those with short priced favourites, but the chances of success are drastically reduced. The odds will still be good even when choosing two or more short priced bets, which is what we would suggest you target.
Betting Without the Favourite or Another Selection
Betting without is quite simply where you can place bets on a horse to win with a horse from the field, often the favourite, removed from the betting. This is often one that offers good value if the race that you are betting on has a short-priced favourite that is likely going to win easily.
The betting works by the result of the hose that you are ‘betting without’ is then removed from the final result. For example, let’s say that you bet on Horse 1 to win whilst betting on the without Horse 2 in the race. Horse 2 goes on to win the race, but Horse 1 is second. Given that for the purpose of this race we are betting without Horse 2, our bet on Horse 1 would then win.
This market is one that is widely used on bets where there is a short-priced favourite. By removing this favourite, you then open up the rest of the field to offer a much greater range of value. Picking races that have a group of horses after the short-priced favourite that could potentially finish second will offer the best value from this betting market.
The cover bet is actually fairly new and there aren’t all that many online bookies that currently offer it, but we thought it was still worth including. With this bet the bookmaker is offering you some cover if the horse fails to win and then finishes within a number of places.
When the horse does this, the bookmaker will offer you your money should the finish in either the top 2 or top 3 places. For this cushion you are going to need to take slightly reduced odds as a result.
For example, a hose might be priced at 10.00 to win, but if you want to cover 2 places the bookies might offer you odds of 8.00 and 3 places might be 6.00. Remember, the horse only pays out on the odds that you take if they win and if they fail to win but still place, you get your money back. You lose if they finish outside of these places.
Cover bets are great when you’re trying to oppose short priced favourites and look for value from the rest of the field. It might that you’ve spotted a horse that can win, but you feel like there are others in the field that on their day will push it close. The cover bet would be an ideal bet here as it’s likely going to be priced fairly given it’s not the favourite and that the price still offers value even though it’s slightly reduced in price.
Selections to Win or to Place
These bets are simple yes/no bets and you can choose if you want a horse to win or to place. The win bet is one that is mainly used for the ‘no’ part given that you can just bet on the outright market for this if you wish. But when you choose ‘no’ you are essentially opposing that horse from winning the race.
It may seem a bit of an odd bet, but it’s actually just the same as laying a bet on the betting exchange. This bet will be mostly used to oppose the favourite(s) in a race.
The place bets work in very much the same format, except the odds are more favourable across the board from a punter’s perspective. Again, it’s a simple yes or no here and the place terms will be the same as that stated on the ‘to win’ market.
Each Way Extras
Each way extras are where the bookmaker is able to offer a greater (or reduced) number of places paid for that race. The placed will start from just two and will range depending on the number of runners, but usually maxes out at 6 for most races.
It’s not uncommon to have races that have just 10 runners paying 6 places for each way bets. Obviously, the more places that are paid, the low the odds for that bet. Also, this is a fixed each way bet, so it’s the only bet that you can place within this market.
What’s great about is that you can edit the market until you are happy with the number of places that are paid. You’ll find the drop off is not as big as you may think with the more places added in and all of a sudden it makes races that have medium size fields even more exciting if you’ve taken on long-priced horses to finish within the top 6 spots.
We think that this market works best with its extremes. For example, this would be removing a place paid for horses that would do well in big field events, offering even larger odds.
Alternatively, you could take on longer priced favourites with more places paid for longer priced bets instead. You can even look to take on those 50/1 bets that offer no value to win, but for 4,5 or 6 places at odds of 30/1, they start to make more sense.
Match bets are another relatively new betting market for horses and are starting to pop up in some of the biggest bookmakers. For this market you are betting on the head to head between two horses in any given race. The result of the race doesn’t matter as such and the winner will simply be the horse from the pair that you’ve picked to match up.
As you can see from the image above, the match ups have been designed to be pretty even. The odds have drifted slightly in this race, but they choose two horses that initially have fairly equal odds.
Match ups within each race can go right down the field and aren’t just reserved for those that are amongst the favourites. You could theoretically have two horses that are 100/1 each, priced around even money to beat each other.
These markets are great for people who are short on time or don’t have the desire to research the whole field. All you need to do is pick a match up and then research as to who’s got the best chance between the pair. These are also good bets to use to create accumulator or multiple bets given their price.
The Tote is one of the most iconic sets of bets for horse racing. We won’t go into too much depth here, but we will give you a brief overview of what you can expect.
- Tote Win – Pick a horse to win the race
- Tote Place – Pick a horse to place (finish within a certain number of positions)
- Tote Exacta – Same as straight forecast; choose two horses to finish 1st and 2nd in the correct order
- Tote Trifecta – Same as a tricast; choose three horses to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the correct order
- Tote Quadpot – Pick a horse to be placed in the 3rd to 6th race of each meeting
- Tote Placepot – Pick a horse to be placed in the 1st six races of any meeting. You can choose two or more horses per race here for an increase in your stake.
- Tote Jackpot – Pick the first 6 winners at a meeting nominated by the Tote.
- Tote Scoop6 – Saturday version of the jackpot; pick 6 winners from a selection of races that are live on terrestrial TV.
- Toteswinger – Pick two horses to finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a race.