Horse racing distance betting: How to distance bet on the horses

You may have heard the phrase won by a distance in horse racing before. Did you know you can bet on this? Engaging in horse distance betting might not be the most popular bet, but it is widespread during the most significant events, like the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National. What is horse racing distance betting, and what are the types and rules governing these wagers are some of the things you should know. Learn how to make money betting on distance, where to place your bets and whether or not there is value in this form of gambling.

Best horse racing distance betting bookies

Right away we provide you the best distance betting sportsbooks. These are the three best ones because they have the best odds for horse racing, a wide variety of races to choose from as well as all the different types of distance betting.  

What is horse racing distance betting

Distance betting in its purest form is where you wager on by how far one horse will win a race, or beat another horse. Your bet wins if your chosen horse wins by at least the distance specified. This type of wager exists so that you could get better odds on hot favourites. We are talking about horses for which it is not a question of whether they will win. It is by how much in terms of lengths. As a potential betting option, this should not be ignored.

The types of distance betting

There are three main types of this form of wager that you need to be aware of. Firstly, there is betting on winning the race. For example, Kauto Star to win the King George VI Chase by five lengths or more at 5/1 (6.00). Here, you need the horse that you backed to win the race and for it to do so by at least the margin of victory specified. 

Another popular form of horse racing distance betting is where you wager on one horse to beat another. For instance, Kauto Star to beat Denman by three lengths or more at 11/4 (3.75). With this bet, you need your horse to finish in front of the other specified with at least the distance mentioned in the wager between them. Kauto Star could be second, so long as Denman isn’t first but is three lengths behind him.

There are also aggregate and average distance betting markets available in horse racing. Here, you are betting on the winning margins of multiple outcomes of races at the same track and the same day. For example, all race winners to win by an aggregate of 24 lengths on Grand National day at Aintree at 20/1 (21.00). As it is almost like an accumulator bet for distances, you are far more likely to get bigger odds for such a wager.

Distance betting rules I need to know

When settling distance bets, bookmakers will use the official distances announced on the racecourse when the result is made official. This will come over the public address system at the track and be noted. For aggregate distance bets, where races are won by less than a length specific values are attributed to the margin of victory as follows:

⏩ Three-quarters of a length – 0.75

⏩ Half-a-length – 0.5

⏩ Neck – 0.3

⏩ Quarter of a length (short-neck) – 0.25

⏩ Head – 0.2

⏩ Short-head – 0.1

⏩ Nose – 0.05

Spread betting with horse racing distances

Besides traditional distance betting, there are also spread markets available with some bookmakers. For instance, Altior to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase by two to four lengths at 5/2 (3.50). So long as your horse wins the race and the margin of victory is within the specified bracket, and thus covered the spread, then the bet pays out. Be aware that, depending on the bookmaker, the width and size of the bands may vary. The advantage over regular horse racing distance betting here is that the spread allows you to cover different distances and still win the wager.

Where to spread bet distances

Advice when engaging in horse racing distance betting

If you are going to bet on distance, then there are certain elements that you should consider before doing it. Top tips to follow include establishing where the winning post and line are, taking a relative approach to the races and evaluating each on what the market tells you, and assessing factors such as previous runs and what the going is.

Determine the line

Knowing precisely where the finishing line is can make or break distance bets. If you are betting on aggregate winning margins, then close finishes are not what you want. Instead, you need the victorious horses to win going away at the line to boost your chances of the bet coming off. That's why you should look for longer races rather than short and fast ones. 

Judge each race on its merits

Ask yourself how competitive a race is by looking at the standard betting market before wading into distance bets. If there are two or more favourites, then that suggests a close contest will unfold. Distance betting works best where there is a strong market leader, i.e. a horse that is odds-on because it has a higher than 50 per cent implied probability.

Look at previous runs and distance stats

bookmaker ratingsDoes the horse you fancy to win by a certain distance have any history of emphatic victories? Or are they ones that do just enough to be on top at the finish? Knowing how their previous runs have panned out is a crucial consideration before doing any distance betting as it helps you decide what precise margin or spread to use. Horses that usually win coming from behind are not ideal for distance bets. 

Use the going to your advantage

What the ground is like is another critical factor, because not all racehorses will act in certain conditions. If rain has hit the racecourse you are betting on events at, and the going turns soft or even heavy, then it could pay to bet on horses to win by distances who thrive in the mud. Any change in the ground during a day of racing can scupper any distance bets you had in advance.

Know the competition between horses

Betting on a horse racing distance race match between two horses when they have never met before is not advised. If there are no previous encounters to go on, then you cannot gamble with any certainty. Official ratings given to the horses can only tell you so much. It is wiser and safer to bet around distance when there is some past race between the horses in the match bet. You can use this as a reference.

Horse racing distance betting on the flat

If you’re wondering what is a Classic distance in horse racing, then it depends on the race. These feature Flat horse races for three-year-olds are contested over a mile (such as the 2000 Guineas), mile-and-a-quarter (like the Kentucky Derby), mile-and-a-half (such as the Epsom Oaks), and mile-and-three-quarters (like the St Leger). As a general rule, events on the level without jumps are over shorter distances.

That means horse races do not take as long to run as their National Hunt counterparts. If you are thinking of betting, then you need to find the best horse for short-distance racing. Aggregate distances are far more likely to be smaller than over jumps. Especially if there are races that fall into the sprint category on the card. You must bear these in mind with your distance betting on the Flat because the margins of victories are smaller.

Betting on distance over jumps

With National Hunt horses, there is a greater emphasis on long-distance racing with events ranging in trip from two miles up to four miles plus. This contrasts sharply with the Flat. As any horse racing distance chart will tell you, events range from five furlongs up to just a handful at two miles or further. Almost all hurdle races are between two and three miles, with more steeplechases of even greater length.

A jumps event may be contested around more than one circuit of the race track distance. For example, the Grand National sees horses run around two complete circuits of the course. They cross all but two fences twice. You are more likely to have a horse win by greater distances than on the Flat. Consider that when betting on margins of victory. Looking at aggregate distance betting is better in National Hunt as a result.

Where should I bet on horse racing distances

Some leading online bookmakers provide forms of distance betting for horse racing on their sportsbook, especially around major events in the calendar. You are only likely to get this on the day of the meeting. You shouldn't expect to find it in advance like ante-post markets or at quieter times. There may in limited cases be special bets that involve a particular racehorse winning a big future race by a certain distance. Though, this is the exception rather than the rule.

Book Spy: Is horse racing distance betting worth your while

While there is value in betting on the distance between two horses, or the winning margin and even aggregate or average distance horse racing markets, it’s challenging to find the right events to place such wagers. It would be best if you were looking for races where there is a clear favourite that receives strong support and no joint market leaders. Any such horse that has past course and distance form and a history of beating rivals in the field is a clear indicator that you should bet on distance.

It is better to do this in National Hunt races over jumps rather than on the Flat. Horses go over longer trips, and this invariably creates more significant winning margins. They are what you need to make tidy profits from your horse racing betting. Don’t try and translate form from one track to another. Remember to judge each horse race relative to its market merits. Horse racing distance betting is not something you should try if you are only a novice. You should wait until you have built up more experience.

Full list distance betting sites

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