How to Bet on Horses – Racing Guide

Have you ever fancied a bet on the horses but you have no ideas where to start? In this article we have put together a handing horse race betting beginners guide so you can learn everything you need to know to get started.

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Types of Horse Races

So you switch on the tv and there is a big horse racing event on and you realise you have no clue what is going on or what anything is talking about. Bumpers, hurdles and steeplechases? It’s all a foreign language but you want to learn and find out more Let’s take a look at the different types of horse races and what they are.

Flat Racing

As the name implies, horses run on a flat track and does not involve jumping over obstacles. Considered by some as the purest form of the sport, where the true test lies in the speed and stamina of the horse plus the skill of the jockey, without the thrills and uncertainties that come with hurdles racing.

National Hunt Racing: Hurdles & Steeplechase

National Hunt racing, which encompasses jumping over obstacles, introduces an additional layer of complexity. However, it’s important to note that within National Hunt racing, there are also races over the flat known as “bumpers,” where no obstacles are present.

You can split hurdle racing into two areas. Hurdles and steeplechases. With hurdle racing, horses run the race and as the name suggests, jump over several hurdles, which are barriers on the track that have a minimum height of three feet, six inches.

Steeplechases, on the other hand, use fences instead of barriers and these fences are a lot more solid and a lot of the time incorporate natural bushes.

The National Hunt season in the UK and Ireland primarily spans from autumn to spring, taking place on softer ground to minimise the risk of injuries in case of falls.

Types of Horse racing Bets

When it comes to betting on horses, there are many different betting types for you to choose from and if you are new to this, understanding them can take some time. So let’s take a look at some of the more popular types and give an overview of what they are and how they work.

Type of BetExplanationChance of Winning
DoubleBoth horses must winHard
Each-wayHorse must finish in the placesGood
ForecastHorses must finish 1st and 2nd in that orderHard
PlaceHorse must placeGood
PlacepotPick six horses to finish placedExtremely hard
Reverse ForecastHorses must finish 1st and 2nd in any orderAverage
TricastHorses must finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rdVery Hard
TrebleAll three horses must winVery Hard
WinHorse must winAverage

Win Bet

The most straightforward bet is the win bet, where you back a horse to win the race outright.

Each Way

Alternatively, you can opt for an each way bet, which combines a win bet and a place bet into a single wager. This means you will receive a return if your selection finishes in the top three, four, or sometimes five positions, depending on the specific place terms set by the bookmakers. The place portion of the bet is usually paid out at 1/5 of the win odds.


A double involves selecting two separate events, such as two different races. The odds of the two selections are multiplied together, and both selections must win for the bet to succeed.


These are accumulators that consist of more than two selections. With these bets, all the chosen selections must win for the bet to be successful. Each-way accumulators can also be placed, increasing the chances of a return.


A Trixie bet consists of four bets: three doubles and a treble. This bet offers increased coverage and can lead to a return even if one of the selected horses wins.


There are four selections in a Yankee bet, made up of eleven separate bets. These bets are six doubles, four trebles and a fourfold accumulator. This bet provides extensive coverage and offers the potential for significant returns if multiple selections are successful.

Forecast and Tricast

To be successful with Forecast and Tricast betting, you need to correctly predict the correct finishing order of multiple horses in a race. The odds are usually quite favourable with these types of bets as they are difficult to get right but when you win, the return on your money can be worth it.

Understanding the Odds

With horse racing, there are two ways in which betting sites will display the odds. The are either displayed using fractions or with decimals.

Fractional OddsDecimal OddsPotential Return (€1 Stake)Total Return (€10 Stake)
Evens (1/1)2.0€2€20

Fractional odds

These are the most common way odds are shown at racecourses and on betting sites, A typical way you would see them presented is a format like 4/1. To understand fractional odds, consider each number as a unit. For example, with odds of 4/1, if you stake 1 unit, you would receive 4 units in return if your bet wins.


With ‘Odds-On’ the fractional bet is displayed the other way around. So instead of 4/1, it is shown as ¼. This type of bet odds indicates that the horse is a strong favourite to win the race and in this instance every 4 units you stake, you would receive only 1 unit in return, along with your initial stake.


An example of an evens bet represented as a fraction would be 1/1. This means the horse is a favourite to win the race and if you place a bet, you would only get back what you put down.

Decimal Odds

When you see decimal odds on betting sites they are presented as numbers, An example of this would be 5.00 and unlike fractional odds, decimal odds already include your original bet amount. To calculate your potential total returns when placing a winning bet all you have to do is multiply the odds by your original bet.


Each-way betting is different because the terms of the bet depend upon how many horses are running in the race. So if the race only has a few runners then the only option may be to place a ‘win’ bet. If there are a lot of runners in the race, you may be able to place an ‘each-way’ bet where you get a return if your horse wins or finishes second and sometimes, third.

Strategies To Win At Horse Racing

Betting on horse racing might feel overwhelming at first, especially when you are completely new to it. But there are certain strategies you can use to help you along the way and make betting on horses, both fun and potentially rewarding.

Study the Form

Some crucial factors to consider include the horse’s recent performances:

  • The weight the horse is carrying as a handicap
  • How it compares to previous races and results
  • The class of the race
  • The trainer’s form
  • Past performances over similar distances and conditions
  • Past performance at the specific course

Watch The Odds

Following the market is an important strategy and good way of helping you make better informed betting decisions. Follow the odds movements, or as you might see it called, backing steamers or drifters, refers to watching the odds movements and backing a horse when the odds become more favourable.

Tipster/Subscription Services

Numerous websites offer betting tips for a monthly fee, claiming to have a proven track record. However, it’s worth questioning the credibility of such services. If someone truly had winning betting tips, they would likely keep them to themselves rather than share them with others.

Research Your Horses

Find comprehensive information about runners and riders on websites such as Racecards provide detailed statistics on a horse’s previous form, the trainer and jockey’s form, and important details like whether the horse has previously won at the same course over the same distance. These factors, among others, will help you refine your horse racing betting system.

Don’t Focus Solely on the Favourite

As it suggests, the favourite is considered the horse most likely to win the race. But races don’t always play out this way and the favourite to win will have lower odds meaning, if you consistently back the favourite in each race, you will get a smaller return on your money. And that’s if the horse wins! Always read the form guide and consider all horses in the race before placing a bet.

Consider Breeding

It’s a good idea to consider the pedigree of each horse in the race. If the sire or dam ( father or mother) had successful racing careers, it may indicate that this horse will too.

Horse Racing Tips

Considering the opinions of experts can also help inform your decision. Experts spend their days studying the form and often have some of the best horse racing strategies. You can find free racing tips from well-qualified experts on various websites and sportsbooks.

FAQs on Horse Racing Betting

Q: What are the different types of horse races?

A: There are several different types of horse races that you will find. The two most common types are flat racing and National Hunts racing, which is also referred to as Steeplechase racing. Flat racing is exactly as it reads, it involves horses racing across a flat surface without having to jump over obstacles. Nation Hunt racing, however, involves horses having to jump over fences and hurdles.

Q: How are flat race distances measured?

A: Flat races are measured by their distance, known as furlongs. These furlongs are measured in metres and 1 furlong is 1,006 metres,

Q: What are the different surfaces for flat races?

A: Races can be run on several different surfaces including grass or turf and even synthetic surfaces with are great for all weather racing.

Q: What is National Hunt racing?

A: National Hunt racing, also known as Steeplechasing, is a popular type of racing that involves horses running on a flat surface with added hurdles for them to jump over.

Q: What is the National Hunt season?

A: The National Hunt season in the UK and Ireland runs from autumn to spring and it refers to the time frame these types of races are run. The races take place on softer ground to reduce the risk of injuries in case of falls.

Q: What are the different types of horse racing bets?

A: There are many different types of bets for people to wager on. You can back a horse to win the race, to place, make an each-way bet and then there are other types, which include, extra place betting, doubles, trebles, accumulators, forecasts, tricasts and more.

Q: What are multiple bets in horse racing?

A: If you’re looking for a greater return for your money, then placing multiple bets could be for you. They work by combining bets together into one single bet. They can be risky and very difficult to predict but because of this they attract favourable odds and should you win, they can be worth your while.

Q: How do odds work in horse racing?

A: The odds of a horse in a race tell you how that horse is predicted to do. So a horse with lower odds would be seen as being likely to do better than a horse with lower odds. Odds are usually presented as fractions such as 2/1 or 10/1 but they can also be shown in decimal form.

Q: What strategies can I use to win at horse racing?

A: To consistently be successful at horse racing is difficult and very challenging. But there are strategies that you can adopt that can help you along the way, possibly increase your chances of winning and definitely aid you in making better betting decisions. These strategies include reading up on tips from dedicated tipster websites, studying the form guide of each horse and monitoring the movement of odds in the lead-up to a race.