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Horse Race Betting: What to Know Before You Start

There is a lot you need to know before you start horse racing betting. Everything from information about the horses themselves to the trainers getting them ready and jockeys riding them. The course, distance, terms and types of the race they run in, and how they are rated are all factors. We will look at all of these elements and highlight how you can use what you discover from researching to make money from bookies. 

Best horse race betting sportsbooks

Without further ado we present you the three best horse racing betting sites. We chose them by checking if they have ante post options, what kinds of promotions they offer for horse racing and whether or not they have et insurance. 

22bet
7.8/10
7.8/10

Players Rating: (11 Rates) 7.3

888sport
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Players Rating: (12 Rates) 8.6

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7.8/10
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How to choose a horse to bet on

Betting on politicsIt’s how horses perform in races that determine whether you win, lose or break even. There are factors about equine athletes you have to assess first and foremost. Some are basic and others a little bit more advanced. Let's have a look:

The Age of the Horse

The older a horse gets, the harder it is in theory to maintain its form. There comes the point where all racehorses become vulnerable to younger, improving horses. Those with fewer miles on the clock and greater scope to get better may be worth siding with over an old favourite. It’s always worthwhile conducting an age profile for races as these may reveal trends on brackets to follow or avoid – e.g. seven-year-olds have a poor record in the Grand National.

Horse Racing Class

Does a racehorse have proven form in the grade? Have they struggled in this class of race before? Are they up-and-coming horses that have the potential to step up in class and grade. An explanation of black-type races: the system of Listed up to Grade/Group 1 may be useful here. Remember, a horse dropping in grade or class may have to carry penalties (more weight) than others.

Check Your Horse Racing Pedigree

All thoroughbred racehorses have a pedigree. If you know who sired a horse, then you can also see who they are related to. What have related horses done? This is particularly important in instances when a horse is stepping up in trip for the first time? If other progeny of its sire improved for going further, then that could be an indicator that a horse is worth backing. A list of prominent National Hunt (Yeats, Flemensfirth, Getaway, Oscar, etc.) and Flat (Galileo, Frankel, Sea The Stars) sires may help illustrate this.

Horse Running Style

Certain styles of running suit different tracks and races. A course with a long home straight may make front-running, pacesetting types vulnerable to closers, i.e. those horses who come from behind under hold-up tactics. This is closely related to factors external to a horse like the racetrack and going conditions. In this scenario, it would be wise to look out for horses that cover lost ground fast at the end.

Horses for Courses

The old saying horses for courses does apply. Racecards should highlight previous course winners to you. Course and distance winners should be respected because they have proven themselves at the venue and over the trip before. Some horses prefer tighter or flatter tracks such as Kempton, where there is a greater emphasis on horse speed. Others need galloping, undulating courses like Cheltenham, where it is all about stamina, so the speed of the horse is less important. You may need to stay further than the race distance to get the trip if there are hills to climb up.

Horse Racing Track

Knowing the course is as important as the horse. Some courses have a climb to the finish, whereas others have dips and undulations, so the experience of the horses can play a significant factor as younger horses may become unbalanced by these challenging parts of the track. Going and the surface underfoot can render past form useless due to it altering the racecourse characteristics. If a horse only acts on good-to-soft and has won at a racecourse before in those conditions, then they can be worth opposing on heavy, deep winter ground. It is always worth looking out for horses that are versatile as regards going.

Luck of the Draw

Horse racing draw bias is a potential factor as Flat races use starting stalls or gates. There may be a draw bias revealed throughout the meeting. Stalls/gates can be placed on either side or in the middle of a track. Better ground may result in low, middle of high numbers being favourable. The number on a horse’s saddlecloth does not equate to the stall/gate they race out of.

Highest odds horse racing sites

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When the Horse Race Going Gets Tough

Different ground conditions suit horses. Most Flat horses prefer sounder surfaces to race on during the summer months. Jumps horses usually appreciate cut in the ground. However some prefer good going and are better suited to racing in the summer than during the traditional National Hunt season (October to April). The softer the horse race going, the more stamina a horse needs to win.

Changing Surface

Some horses switch racing surfaces altogether, never mind just the ground. A horse changing surface horse racing is an important factor to consider as artificial all-weather surfaces like tapeta, polytrack and fibresand are used in Europe for Flat races during the winter months. Horses don’t necessarily adapt to these or dirt tracks like those in America if they are used to racing on turf (grass). If a horse has switched surface is also something to look out for as they may be unfamiliar with it or have plenty of experience from earlier on in their career.

Weather Conditions

The ground can change during a race meeting. If a course is hit with torrential rain, and the ground opened up by horses racing on it, soft going can quickly become heavy – especially in winter. Weather conditions in the days leading up and during a meeting can reduce or enhance the chances of any ante post horse racing bets you might have had on a big race as a result.

Race Conditions

Most horse races will have conditions, including the distance, and terms under which it is conducted. An understanding and careful study of these is essential to see which horses are favoured and which look to be at a disadvantage. If you manage to master the racing conditions you will have an advantage when betting on horses. 

Stay the Distance

All races must publish the distance and what any rail movement does in terms of adding yardage or taking it away. A horse who has raced over a certain trip many times may be said to be overexposed at it. Is there something else, who may not have proved its stamina, that has enough in its pedigree, run style or previous performances to suggest that it may get the new trip it is trying?

Paying the Penalty

Horses that drop in grade or class after winning at a higher level within a certain timeframe before a race are going to be carrying penalties. You have to assess whether you feel a horse is capable of giving that weight away and whether there are unexposed dangers that aren’t penalised lining up against it.  Races that aren’t handicaps which are open to both male and female horses will always give the fillies and mares a sex allowance. It may be just 3lb or 5lb on the Flat, or 7lb in a jumps race. This is done in the interests of fairness, but often gives female horses a distinct advantage over their male counterparts.

Weight for Age Horse Racing

Even handicaps can include weight-for-age allowances, for instance, four-year-olds often still receive this regardless of their rating in open handicap hurdles. This further reduces the weight a horse has to carry, and is always in younger horses’ favour. What you have to decide is whether the trade off between lower weight and inexperience makes a younger horse worth backing over an in-form older horse who may be higher in the weights.

How to Read a Horse Racing Form Guide

Understanding form in horse racing is another major pillar of betting. We’ve touched on course and distance winners are a racetrack above, but how do they have performed in the past is only a possible indicator of how they will do in the future. You have to consider these things that tie in closely with racehorse form.

Catching a Break

Is it best to catch a horse first time out or after a break, or does it need a run under its belt to strip fitter? Taking a break can go one of two ways. The horse goes well fresh, or this run may be a pipe opener for a race being targeted somewhere down the line. It’s not worth backing a horse that you can see from past evidence needs a run first time out. Look for horses that go well fresh early in the season.

Handicap Ratings

If horses win races, then official handicappers naturally increase their rating. You have to look carefully about how a horse has been treated by these people in respect of its rise. If it won by a long distance, then the handicapper is obliged to give it a hefty increase. It can be worth looking at horses who ran well and placed in-behind. They may have had their ratings left alone.

Jockey and Trainer Form

Trainer form horse racing is just as important as the form of racehorses. How well the stable as a whole is doing is also something to consider. Trainers go in and out of form all the time. Stats should be available on their recent exploits and the same for jockeys (last 14 days). In-form riders can go on to have multiple winners on the same day, e.g. Frankie Dettori at Ascot.

Horse Racing Form Explained

Sometimes, the past form should not be taken literally. A horse may have been a beaten favourite last time out, but ran perfectly well or been unlucky. Perhaps they were trapped on the inside, and the gaps appeared too late. Or maybe the jockey forced to race wide because they couldn’t get the position they wanted. It is also worth looking at what form is worth by checking out what horses who finished in-behind the winner have done. Certain races in the past stack up better than others.

Full list of horse racing betting sites

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