How to Bet on Horse Racing? a Beginner’s Guide

Betting on horse racing can be brilliant fun. Most people that follow horse racing enjoy placing bets on the action, with the wagers providing added excitement to this wonderful sport.

Here at, we have produced a helpful guide so that you understand how betting on horse racing works. If you’re new to horse racing betting, it can often seem complicated although our guide explains everything that you need to know.

We wish you the best of luck with your horse racing bets! Please remember to always gamble responsibly and when the fun stops, you should always stop betting. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to bet in order to enjoy racing and that it should add to your overall enjoyment of this sport.

Horse Racing Betting Explained

Let’s say the Grand National is taking place, an extremely popular race in the UK for betting. There are lots of ways to approach this Aintree spectacular and the bookmakers will offer you different bet types and stake sizes according to your preference.

Win Only

This is a straightforward horse racing bet. You’re effectively backing a horse to win the race in question. You simply click on the horse and then nominate the stake that you want to bet with. As long as your stake is between the minimum and maximum amount, then it will be accepted.

For example, your horse might be 5/1 and you bet £10 on it to win. If the horse wins the race, your stake of £10 is multiplied by the odds (5/1) and you therefore land a profit of £50. You also get your stake back (£10), which means an overall return of £60.

Betting “win only” means that you don’t get any returns if your horse doesn’t win the race. Some punters will place a “win only” bet when it comes to horses trading at short odds as they’re perceived to have a greater chance of winning and they want to maximise any potential profit from the bet.


If you want to place a horse racing bet that will land you a return if your horse doesn’t win the race but ends up finishing second, third or even fourth, then each-way is something to definitely consider.

An each-way bet effectively means that half your stake is “win only” and half your stake is on a horse to place. By place we mean finish second, third or fourth depending on how many runners are in the race. So if you placed a £10 each-way bet, you would stake £10 on the horse to win and £10 on the horse to place. Naturally, if the horse wins the race, you win both parts of your bet.

In terms of whether you get paid for a place if your horse doesn’t win, here is the general rule of thumb:

  • If there are seven runners or less, then an each-way bet would need your horse to finish in the top two.
  • If there are between eight and fifteen runners, then you would need a top three finish.
  • If there are sixteen or more runners, you can expect to get paid out on a top four finish.

Punters will often go for an each-way bet as it provides insurance if their horse doesn’t win but still performs well. If you fancy a horse at 20/1 and it places, then you can still enjoy a handsome return.

Each-way terms can differ from race to race. You might typically get terms of ¼ odds for the first three places. That means that if your horse placed at 20/1, then you would get paid out at a quarter of those odds, ie 5/1.

Multiple Betting or Accumulator

Many customers like placing a horse racing multiple. This can also be known as an accumulator if they include more than four selections. So for example, you might pick out horses in the 2.10, 2.40, 3.20 and 4.10 at Cheltenham.

You can choose to back them as single bets, eg place £10 on each of them, or alternatively you could put them in a multiple bet which would mean their respective odds would multiply although you would then need them all to win.

Sometimes punters pick out two horses and have them in a double. There’s even the option to do an each-way double which is two bets. A win-only double and a place double.

There are also alternative multiple bets such as a Yankee, Lucky 15 and a Goliath. These are all variations of the same theme and allow customers to combine various selections in the hope of landing a big return on their original stake.

Tote Betting

Many online bookmakers offer customers the chance to place Tote bets and this is often an attractive alternative to fixed-odds betting. The Tote is something that you find at a racecourse and involves betting in a normal way but not knowing exactly what odds you are getting about a particular horse.

That is because the horse racing prices are determined by the weight of money for each runner. Effectively this is pool betting and you can often get a bigger price about an outsider winning with the Tote than you might find on the fixed-odds side of things.

Another advantage to Tote betting is that you can bet “Place Only” which means avoiding the each-way route if you merely want to back a horse to be in the frame. Sometimes you might think a horse has a strong chance of placing but a far reduced chance of actually winning.

Forecast / Tricast

In addition to win, each-way and place betting, there is also the option to place a Forecast or a Tricast bet. This is where you aim to predict not only the winner in a race but also the horse that finishes second (forecast) and / or third (tricast).

A straight forecast involves predicting the first and second home in that order. Alternatively you can place a reverse forecast which is two bets and covers two horses finishing in any particular order. A tricast and combination tricast work in the same way, although the latter is six bets rather than two.

Placepot / Quadpot / Jackpot

There are even more Tote bets that can be placed and that includes a Placepot, a Quadpot and a Jackpot. The Placepot is the most popular out of these and requires a customer to pick at least one horse for the first six races of a meeting. If they get a selection placed in each race, they will win a share of the prize pool. Customers can select any number of runners for each race although the stake is multiplied for more selections.

A Quadpot works in a similar fashion where the Tote will select a race meeting for a particular day and punters predict which horses will place in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth races on the card.

A Jackpot bet involves trying to pick the winner of the first six races on a particular card. Naturally, this is harder to win than a Placepot or a Quadpot, although the rewards can be far greater.

Different Horse Races Explained

There are many different types of horse race, with countries all over the world hosting race meetings on different surfaces and over different distances.

However, for the purposes of this guide, we’re going to break horse racing down into two distinct categories:

  • National Hunt racing
  • Flat racing

National Hunt racing

National Hunt racing nearly always involves horses going over obstacles as part of a race. They might go over hurdles (usually termed a hurdle race) or alternatively they might go over fences (a Chase race).

Hurdles are the smaller obstacles and often applies to races for younger horses who might gradually go over fences as their career goes on. You tend to get less horses falling or unseating their riders over hurdles compared to the fences that are regarded as more challenging, especially for races such as the Grand National where the obstacles are very high.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, you tend to have National Hunt racing taking place during the autumn, winter and spring months, while Flat racing is generally a summer sport and is more synonymous with Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood.

Typical National Hunt meetings are the Cheltenham Festival, the Aintree Grand National Festival and the Haydock Betfair Chase Meeting. You’ll generally get a mixture of hurdle and chase races for a particular meeting.

Flat racing

Flat racing is a different sport to National Hunt racing and involves horses competing without having to encounter any obstacles. The races are generally a shorter distance and it’s not uncommon for a race to be six furlongs which is effectively the length of a racecourse straight.

Flat racehorses differ from their National Hunt counterparts in that they are bred for speed rather than for competing over obstacles. A lot of emphasis is put on the particular bloodline of a horse and you tend to get two-year-old and three-year-old horses being at the peak of their powers in this sport.

There are five Classic races in England, with the Derby, Oaks, 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas and St Leger taking place between May and September. However, there are several other high-profile meetings and none more so than Royal Ascot that is massively popular and you get a host of Grade 1 races.

How to Read the Horse Racing Form?

When you look at an online racecard, the information for each race can often seem overwhelming although the data is actually there to prove helpful when it comes to picking out horses that you think might win.

You’ll see the name of each horse along with the corresponding trainer and jockey. You can also see the colour of the jockey silks and that proves helpful if you are planning on watching the race.

Each horse has a race number. For Flat racing, they will also have a stall number and that corresponds to their starting position when the horses are loaded into the stalls.

Then we have the racing form. A horse might typically have form of 223-41. This means that a horse won its last race (indicated by the 1). Previously to this, the horse finished fourth, while in the previous season the horse managed two second places and a third.

Sometimes it’s worth digging deeper on the form and finding out what type of race a particular horse ran in. A horse might have excellent form on the surface but might be stepping up in class.

You can also find information relating to each horse’s weight and age. Sometimes a particular horse race will only feature horses of a particular age such as the Derby which is a race for three-year-olds.

The weight is relevant to any race that is a handicap and that means that horses carry different weight according to their rating. The higher the rating means the more weight that is in the saddle.

Keep Track of the Horse Racing Odds

While it’s great to read the form of each horse before placing a bet, it’s also important to keep track of the odds movement for each runner. For example, a horse might open up at odds of 5/1 before drifting to 6/1, 7/1 or even 8/1.

This price movement would suggest that the horse hasn’t been popular among punters. Conversely, a horse’s price might go from 8/1 to 5/1 and that would suggest an increased chance of winning.

This is not always the case. There are numerous examples of a horse winning after having low market confidence. There are also big “gambles” that don’t always pay off and sometimes a horse’s price is pushed artificially short because everyone wants to back it.

However, it’s clear that the odds for each horse give some insight into the respective chances of a runner in a race. If a horse is priced at 100/1, then it’s heavily unlikely to win the race, while an odds-on shot would clearly appear to represent a strong chance of winning but at diminished returns.

How to Watch Live Streaming of Horse Racing?

Online betting customers have a great situation where they can often bet on horse races and then access live streaming of the action through their betting account.

A bookmaker such as bet365 will provide live streaming access to their customers who place a small bet on a particular horse race, with the race being available simply by clicking on the live streaming link on the race page.

It’s fantastic to be able to bet on horse racing and see how your bet gets on. The live streaming is high quality and is available through a range of platforms, including desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile and app. The only requirement is that you bet on the race in question although the minimum stake is usually very low.

How to Win From Horse Racing?

We all like betting on horse racing although how can we win from this brilliant sport? The first step is to do your own research before placing any bets and decide where you think the value lies.

Horse racing punters have never had access to so much information and there’s often the opportunity to log into your bookmaker account and watch a horse’s previous race to understand how they performed last time they were seen at a racecourse.

You should also consider some form of staking plan for your racing bets. For example, you might fancy a horse running at odds of 2/1 and another at odds of 50/1 in another race. Do you bet £10 win only on each selection? Or do you go for £50 on the 2/1 shot and £5 each-way on the 50/1 shot?

Ultimately, very few people are able to make a long-term profit from their horse racing betting, although it sometimes pays to be selective when it comes to the races that you’re betting on.

It’s also important to choose the right bookmaker when it comes to betting on horse racing. You can often get Best Odds Guaranteed on UK and Irish horse racing which means that you will get paid out at either the price you take about a selection or the SP depending on which is bigger.

How to Get the Value

A lot of horse racing punters talk about value but what does it actually mean? A value bet is a wager that is considered to have a better chance of winning than the actual odds imply.

For example, a horse might be 10/1 although you might think that the runner has more of a one in five chance of landing victory. On this basis, you would back the 10/1 and potentially not be too disappointed should your bet lose.

In theory, the odds exactly reflect the chance a horse has of winning a race and whatever that is, the odds are slightly shorter than they “should” be in order to create the bookmaker’s profit margin.

That means that it is not simply enough to consider the form and pick the horse you think will win. Betting on any sport is unpredictable and the horse, player or team that is the favourite doesn’t always win. If your studying of past races leads you to the horse most likely to win, the chances are the bookies are also aware of this and the horse is priced accordingly, at short odds.

In order to profit you need to try and find the horse that offers good value betting odds. This means that the odds are higher than they should be given the chance the horse has of winning.

How Do Betting Odds Work?

Of course, before you can even start doing that, you need to know how odds work and understand what you will get back if your horse wins. Odds may be stated as fractions or as decimals. In decimals, the odds of a horse show what a £1 bet would return, including your £1 stake.

As such, a horse with racing odds of 1.1 is very well fancied, as a bet of £1 will return a profit of just 10p. On the other hand, a horse with betting odds of 101 will yield a profit of £100 from the same bet and is, one would assume, far less likely to win.

In fractional odds those two prices would be shown as 1/10 and 100/1. Fractional odds discount the stake and simply show the profit. The number on the left is the profit you make from a bet stake of the value on the right.