Horse racing is a hugely popular sport that has stood the test of time. However, it’s also a sport that requires much knowledge and strategic thinking if a bettor wants to make a long-term profit. As such, it’s crucial to have a strategy for betting. There are a lot of strategies and systems in horse racing – we guide you through this minefield to help you find the best way to maximise your enjoyment of the sport.
Understanding Horse Racing Betting
To get a grip on horse racing betting, first, you must know what bets are available. For a beginner, win, place, and each-way bets are the most common. Win and place do precisely as you would expect, while each-way combines the two.
From there, you can move on to multiple bets. Doubles, trebles, and accumulators put selections together with all needing to be successful. At the same time, Lucky 15, 31, 62’s (include singles) and Yankee’s, Super Yankee’s (don’t include singles), and Goliaths cover multiple combinations. Lines in these can start from pence rather than pounds, but they are much harder to win.
With bookmaker bets, you will generally know the payout when placing your wager. However, if you bet on the parimutuel (Tote) you won’t know until the pool has been broken down and the returns calculated after the race.
The Basics of Horse Racing Betting Strategies
There are several key factors when it comes to betting on horse racing. One word you will often hear is value, but what does it mean? Value is any horse with a higher price than you believe it should be.
Being able to price up a horse race yourself will allow you to spot where that value lies. Too often, value is misattributed to only horses at big prices, but this is untrue. For example, a 1/3 favourite can offer value if you believe the horse should be 1/5, though betting at those prices isn’t for most punters.
To understand the value, you need the knowledge to assess every horse in the race. Look at the competition, see which horse you think will win and what price they are. If you feel Horse A should be 2/1, then they are a bet at 9/4+, but perhaps it’s better to avoid the race if they are 6/4.
One of the most important things to understand in horse racing is when to bet and when not to. Just because there’s a race on doesn’t mean you have to have a bet. If there’s no strong bet in the race, move on and look for another.
It’s hugely important to understand how to manage your bankroll. Don’t put more than a couple of percent on any one bet – always gamble responsibly.
Types of Horse Racing Betting Strategies
The general public are fickle. Look at how football fans react to a loss on social media, even after a string of wins. Horse racing is similar and can be seen through a simple horse betting strategy on beaten favourites. A horse who was favourite on their most recent run will often be ignored next time and be a higher price than it should be. That can be the time for a wager when a recent favourite becomes an underdog.
Backing longshots is a horse racing strategy that looks to gain more bang for your buck. A key component of this is to find significant changes for a horse, a much longer distance to run, completely contrasting ground to what they have run on etc. While they have been poor over 6f on soft, the step up to 10f on good to firm might be the making of them. A lot of it comes from knowledge accrued, so this is a horse racing betting strategy for those with some knowledge already.
The 80/20 strategy looks to capitalise on horses in the place market. With more horses placed in each race than winning, instead of an each-way bet which goes 50/50 on win and place markets, it tailors your bet to 80% in the place market and 20% on the win.
Exactas are also a popular bet with horse racing punters, seeing you aim to pick the first two horses home in a race. Many Exacta bet fans like to ‘box’ their bets – meaning the two horses selected can finish first and second in any order. It increases the chance of winning but comes at a higher cost as it’s essentially two bets. Picking three horses and boxing them is also popular, but again the cost is higher as it is six bets to cover all potential outcomes.
Most Popular Horse Racing Betting Systems
A quick internet search will show how many horse race betting systems are out there. One of the most popular is dutching, backing more than one horse in a race with the stakes determined by price to produce the same profit regardless of horse wins.
Arbing has become a popular system since the advent of exchanges. With arbing, you are searching for a horse who is a bigger price with the bookie than the exchange. The punter is locking in a profit no matter what happens by backing with bookie A at 5/1 and laying at 9/2 with a betting exchange. Beware, though, this is an easy way to lose your bookie accounts!
Many people out there will claim to have a system that they can sell you. While there are profitable systems, most of them will not make a profit, but some, like finding false favourites, can work. A horse who has finished 2nd a lot will continue being sent off at short prices. If you watch the race and feel the horse isn’t putting it all in, they are great to oppose.
Overall, trial and error is the only way to find a system that works for you. A system that only ever won would see the owner retired on a Caribbean beach rather than trying to sell their system to you. Therefore, a system should only be used to back up your knowledge and judgement.
Analyzing Horse Racing Form
The study of form, or handicapping, is the cornerstone of any horse racing betting strategy. It’s all about understanding how horses have run in the past and how that can be used to predict what they will do in the future.
There’s a myriad of statistics that can help you. Underfoot conditions are essential – some horses can only win on quick or slow ground. The distance of a race is crucial – all horses have a preferred trip over which they show their strongest form. A course itself also makes a big difference. Switchback tracks like Brighton, Epsom, and Goodwood demand well-balanced horses. The quirky nature of these tracks makes past course form key.
A handicap mark is given to a horse after three runs on the flat or two over jumps. They are an indicator of a horse’s ability. A horse with three career wins from handicap marks of 60, 60 and 61 will become of natural interest again once their handicap rating has dropped back to that level.
However, the quality of the race itself is even more crucial in that regard, especially in flat racing. That horse might be a 2/1 favourite in a Class 6 race off 60 but 20/1 in a Class 4 race off that same mark of 60. Quality of opposition is a huge factor in analysing horse racing form, so look out for class droppers.
There’s no right or wrong way to analyse form – find the factors you think are essential and use them. Then, trial and error will guide you to the right strategy.
Horse Betting Strategy Frequently Asked Questions:
You could, in theory, back every horse in a race, but it would be a quick way to lose money! Dutching is a common strategy where more than one horse is backed in a race.
The way a track runs has a massive effect on the result. Certain horses only show their best form on quick ground, some only when it is soft. In flat racing, the track can have quicker parts, producing a draw bias.
The parimutuel or Tote is a pool betting service. All bets are put into a pool with the payout to the winners pro rata, depending on how many winning tickets there are.
It might sound boring, but long term, a single is the smartest bet in horse racing. They are the easiest to win as you only rely on a single selection. This is why most professional punters avoid complicated multiples and bet singles.
A jockey is fundamentally there to ensure the horse runs in a relatively straight line. Most jockeys are of similar ability for all that some punters swear by a specific rider. They make the most significant impact when riding a horse whose running style suits them, i.e. Joe Fanning on a front runner or Jamie Spencer on a hold-up horse.