The Basics of Betting on Horses

You will always know which the best horse is

Betting isn't the be all and end all of horse racing

Betting isn't the be all and end all of horse racing, but it's pretty damn close. Many novice punters shudder at the thought of placing a bet and looking at the form card but it's actually quite easy.

Here are three key aspects to betting on horses:

Analysing the race card

Looking at the betting market

Placing a bet

Analysing the Race Card

Wherever you look, you'll find data that will help you to choose the horse that you want to back. Race cards can seem complicated things but they essentially tell us all of the important factors that we could need.

At the top of the race card will be certain data that describes what the race is and this includes:

  • The sponsors name and race name

  • The amount of prize money

  • The time and place of the race

  • Number of runners

  • Length of the race

The next stage of the race card is the actual horses themselves, this is the part of the card that often looks confusing. Each horse may have a host of digits beside its name, such as "2333-413". These digits refer to the race results in terms of finishing positions. The hyphen represents the break in the season and are results taken from the previous season.

By the horse name there may be further data like Gd-Fm, this means that the horse has performed well on surfaces that have been declared "Good to Firm". Many horses are at their best when they recreate the same conditions in which they do well. This is why the term "course and distance" winner came into parlance. This basically means a horse that has won over today's course and also over the same distance.

The name of the jockey and the trainer are also featured here, giving us the chance to look at the form of both. Sometimes poor form on behalf of the jockey and the trainer can be because of deeper underlying problems. The type of races that you should be focusing on are races where there are two or three clear favourites. This means that the race is essentially non-competitive. Then you can really focus on these three horses and look at reasons to oppose one or two of the horses leaving you with a standout candidate.

Looking at the Betting Market

When you look at the odds for any horse race, you will see one horse at the top which is the favourite. This horse will always have the shorter odds. So even if you have never placed a bet in your life, you will always know which the best horse in the race is!

What happens when you see odds fluctuate and what is happening behind the scenes? There are only two reasons why odds fluctuate in the betting market. This is either because a horse is being supported by the betting public or the betting firms are slightly moving their prices to try and get support.

For example, a horse may drift from say 7-4 to 2-1 in the hope that the higher price may attract is probably a horse that finding winners isn’t your main focal point but finding winners at good prices. The biggest winners in horse race betting are the players that get on at the best prices.

Remember that betting firms are pricing up their markets around what their customers are likely to do.

If the favourite drifted to 5/2 and the second favourite fell heavily to 11/4 then the value bet now appears to be on the favourite. If 2/1 was an accurate price before the pre-race betting started then 5/2 must be a decent price. It's situations like these that you need to keep a careful eye out for as they represent some of your best opportunities in betting.

Short in the betting

So if you feel that a particular horse is being hyped and is too short in the betting, then a bet on the second or third favourite may suffice. It pays to watch the ebbs and flows in the market. If you see the pre-race betting odds show the favourite at 2-1, the second favourite at 4-1 and the third favourite at 9-2 then these are odds based on large volumes of data analysed by professional odds compilers.

Placing a Bet

Placing a bet with an online horse racing site couldn't be easier. Once you have funds in place then the next step is to go to the betting section. Here you'll find everything that you need to know about the race and the horses. Our recommended sites will have graphs, facts, and figures on every horse.

This is brilliant as you'll need to have access to as much data as possible before you place a bet. Simply open up the betting slip and you'll see the odds available. Enter your stake and click "accept" or "bet". You'll be asked to verify your bet before you actually place it, then it's actually in the system and your bet is live.

Many of our recommended betting sites have live feeds so that you can watch the action unfold after you have placed your bet.

Some sites have live feeds before the race even starts as well as in-play markets too. If you're the type of bettor that likes to watch the horses in the parade ring and watch how they move down to the starting post then this is a great feature that we highly recommend experiencing.