Cheltenham Festival 2020

Where to start with horse racing betting

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Horse racing is an age-old tradition with a storied history.

And it can seem like a really complicated system when you’re first coming into it. Knowing where to start with betting on horses is the first key step, and after that, you’ll find you can quickly get to grips with the whole system. Today, we’re going to look at the best tips for getting started with betting on horse racing. 

Choosing a horse

When you’re trying to decide which horse to bet on, there are a couple of basic things you’ll need to look at first. The first thing you want to look at is the odds. The odds are meant to be an approximation of the horse’s chances of winning, based on evaluations by horse racing authorities on the strength of past performance. When it comes to odds, the shorter the odds, the more likely the horse is to win. While these odds are genuine attempts to determine the probability a horse has of winning the race, they are nonetheless fixed by the bookmakers, and naturally favour them.

The returns you get are also determined by the odds. For example, if a horse’s odds to win are 5/1, that means that every single unit you bet will return another 5 plus your original bet back. If you bet £10 on a 5/1 odds and the horse won, your return would be £60. 

Choosing your odds carefully is important, then. If you pick odds that are too short, you won’t get a big return. If you pick much longer odds, you run a high risk of losing the money. Trying to strike a balance is key here. 

You’ll also want to be aware of the details of the horse you’re betting on. Bookies will generally list the age and weight of each horse, including the weight that horse is carrying as a handicap. Knowing this is important, as age and weight can have a huge impact on a horse’s performance. 

You can also examine the recent form of the riders. You’ll see a series of numbers and letters, indicating each horse’s finishing position in each race, if it finished in the top 9. The last number on the right is its most recent result, whether it finished the race or not. Look for horses that have been performing well recently. 


Going to a racetrack or visiting a bookmaker is a great way to bet, but it’s easier and more convenient to bet online today through one of the many horse racing websites. There are more ways to bet than simply choosing a horse to win, although that is one of the most common bets. 

You can also place an each-way bet. This means that if your horse wins or places in the top 3, you will receive a pay-out. You receive a much lower pay-out if the horse only places and does not win, but it still protects your winnings much better than an ordinary bet does. 

You can also lay a horse to lose. This means that instead of betting on a specific horse to win the race, you predict that it will not win, and will come in any place other than 1st. Again, the pay-outs are obviously much lower, but making many of these bets can be a great way to play the system. 


Whenever you place a bet on a race, you have two choices. You can take the odds as they stand, or use the starting price. Odds will shorten and lengthen as a race approaches, as horses perform better or worse in the other races of the day. This can put you in a more or less advantageous position, depending on the odds. There are many factors that can influence how odds fluctuate, and odds are likely to be even more volatile in big races like the Grand National. 

Weather can also affect the odds, and so this is why it is not always best to place bets a long time in advance. A horse that is known to run particularly well in wet, muddy conditions will have their odds hugely shortened if there is rain before the race. So, just be careful of how the odds can fluctuate and change.

Betting on horse racing is a lot simpler than you might imagine, then, but it’s always really important to be responsible with it. The bookies make the odds, so these events are pretty much always in their favour. Have fun with it while learning the system! 

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