Horse racing, known in the UK as The Sport of Kings, is the racing of equestrians for sport. It is popular the world over and comes in many varieties. As well as testing the skills and abilities of jockeys, trainers and horses, it can be considered a betting sport, perhaps even THE betting sport, as it comes complete with the horse racing form guide and more!
In this guide we will explain all you need to know about horse racing betting including a history of the sport, the different types of races, a list of racecourses, common terms and phrases at the races, the various types of bets available, how to place a horse racing bet, how to read a horse racing form guide and further exciting things.
Table of Contents
- Best Betting Sites We Recommend for Horse Racing Betting in 2020
- At the Races: Betting Tips on Popular Horse Races Meetings
- A Beginner's Guide To Horse Racing – Bet Types, Horse Racing Cards and More
- Best Horse Racing Betting Offers
- Classifications Of Races
- What Is A Handicap Race?
- Horse Handicap Ratings Explained
- Race Courses
- Horse Racing Betting Terms
- Horse Racing Bet Types
- Horse Racing Betting Odds
- How To Read Racing Forms
- Other Factors To Consider
- How To Place A Horse Racing Bet
- Major Horse Races to Bet On UK
- Champion Hurdle (National Hunt)
- Queen Mother Champion Chase (National Hunt)
- Cheltenham Gold Cup (National Hunt)
- Grand National (National Hunt)
- King George VI Chase (National Hunt)
- 2,000 Guineas Stakes (Flat)
- 1,000 Guineas Stakes (Flat)
- Epsom Oaks (Flat)
- Epsom Derby (Flat)
- St Leger (Flat)
- The Major Horse Races, Meets and Festivals Each Year
- Major Horse Races to Bet On Internationally
- Horse Racing Betting FAQs
- ThePuntersPage Final Say
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At the Races: Betting Tips on Popular Horse Races Meetings
Hereunder you can find an extensive list of tips and predictions of the major horse racing events in the UK and rest of the world.
- Cheltenham Festival
- Grand National
- Virtual Grand National
- Newmarket Guineas Festival
- Kentucky Derby
- Preakness Stakes
- Belmont Stakes
- The Epsom Oaks
- The Epsom Derby
- Glorious Goodwood Festival
- St Leger Stakes
- Sha Tin
- Ascot Gold Cup
- Virtual Kentucky Derby
- Glorious Goodwood Festival
- St Leger Stakes
- British Champions Day at Ascot
A Beginner's Guide To Horse Racing – Bet Types, Horse Racing Cards and More
Horse racing is one of the most popular sports to bet on. In fact, it is the second-largest spectator sport in the UK and the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup are two of the most watched and attended sporting events in the entire British sporting calendar year.
At first, learning how to bet on horses can be quite overwhelming. However, once you know the basics, you'll have no problem navigating through this potential minefield and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert.
Before we look at form / horse racing cards, we're going to run through all the basics of horse racing.
So, where did it all begin?
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In one form or another, horse racing has existed for as long as humans and horses have been in contact with early records showing that horse racing took place in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. UK horse racing is believed to date back to the 17th century during the reign of King James I. Consequently, many of today’s courses are sited on or close to old royal hunting grounds. The sport really gained influence in the 18th century during the reign of King Charles II who established Newmarket which today is the home of British National Stud Bloodstock, the showcase for British Thoroughbred breeding, at Rowley Mile.
It was for Newmarket that The Jockey Club was established in 1750. The newly formed organisation, which is still in existence today and runs 14 British racecourses, set the rules of the sport, prevented dishonesty and set about creating a level playing field for those involved. Thirty years later in 1780 the Epsom Derby was run for the first time, four years after the first running of the St Leger Stakes in 1776. Today, along with the 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas and The Oaks, these make up Britain’s five classic races. Through the centuries, horse racing became more and more popular and thanks to TV and the internet, it is now one of the most watched and bet on sports in the UK.
Types Of Horse Races
There are two main types of races in the UK.
Flat Racing: Flat races traditionally take place during the summer and are run over distances between 5 furlongs and 2 and a bit miles on courses without obstacles. They are a test of speed, stamina and skill.
National Hunt Racing: National Hunt can also be referred to as jump racing and traditionally takes place during the Autumn, Winter and Spring months, culminating in or around The Grand National which is usually held on the first Saturday in April. National Hunt races can sometimes be referred to as steeplechases and are run over distances between 2 miles and 4 1/2 miles with obstacles such as hurdles to fences.
We offer free horse racing tips for both flat and national hunt races throughout the year including all the big festival meetings from the Cheltenham Festival to the Grand National to Royal Ascot, all five classics, plus a range of other horse racing events and festivals at all of the racecourses.
Classifications Of Races
In both Flat and National Hunt racing, there are a series of classifications that are designed to help indicate the prestige, prize money and quality of the race. Both are split into classes from 1-7.
Class 1 Flat races are divided into the following:
- Group 1 – Races of major international importance.
- Group 2 – Major international races but of slightly less importance than Group 1 races.
- Group 3 – Important domestic races.
- Listed Races – Just below group races.
Class 1 National Hunt races are divided into the following:
- Grade 1 – The best championship races where the weight a horse carries is determined by age and sex.
Grade 2 – The weight a horse carries is determined by age and sex but they are also made to carry more for any races they may have previously run.
- Grade 3 – The weight a horse carries is determined by the horse’s handicap rating.
- Listed Races – Just below graded races.
After Class 1 races, we then have Class 2 through to 7 which apply to both Flat and National Hunt Racing and are based on a horses handicap rating as follows:
- Class 2 – Heritage Handicaps, Handicap rating of 86-100, 91-105 and 96-110.
- Class 3 – Handicap rating of 76-90 and 81-95.
- Class 4 – Handicap rating of 66-80 and 71-85.
- Class 5 – Handicap rating of 56-70 and 61-75.
- Class 6 – Handicap rating of 46-60 and 51-65.
- Class 7 – Handicap rating of 46-50.
So, how do handicaps work in horse racing?
What Is A Handicap Race?
A handicap race is where each horse is allocated a weight (based on their perceived ability) by a ‘Handicapper' in order to level the playing field and give every horse an equal chance of winning. Famous handicap races include the Grand National (UK) and the Melbourne Cup (Australia).
The speed at which a horse can gallop is affected by the amount of weight it carries. Handicap weights are calculated based on the official ratings published by the British Horse Racing Authority and are expressed in imperial pounds.
So, what are horse handicap ratings?
Horse Handicap Ratings Explained
Horse ratings represent a horse's level of ability in relation to the weight carried and are expressed in pounds (lb). The bigger the number assigned to a horse, the more capable it is considered to be.
For example, a horse with a rating of 140 would carry a total weight (including jockey, saddle and irons) of 140 pounds (10stn).
The Official Ratings (abbreviated as OR on a racecard) use the same criteria as the Racing Post Ratings (abbreviated as RPR on a racecard), but are compiled by the British Horseracing Board (BHB).
There are 60 licensed racecourses in Great Britain and a further two in Northern Ireland:
Horse Racing Betting Terms
Below we explain some of the most common phrases used in relation to betting on horses.
What Does Starting Price (SP) Mean?
Starting Price (SP as an abbreviation) refers to the odds of the horse at the start of the race. When you place a bet you'll usually be given the choice of the current odds on the selection and the Starting Price. However, most online bookmakers offer best odds guaranteed which means you will be paid out at the bigger price regardless.
What Does Non-Runner (NR) Mean?
Horse Racing Bet Types
There are a range of bets you can place when it comes to horse racing. Below we'll explain each in detail.
- To Win – This is the most simple and common bet. When placing a ‘To Win' bet, you are backing a horse to win the race (makes sense) and will only get paid if it finishes first.
- Each-Way (E/W) – Each Way betting is most common when wagering on horses with bigger odds. When placing an ‘Each-Way' bet, you are effectively placing two separate bets. The first bet will be on your horse ‘To Win' the race and the second bet will be on your horse to ‘Place'. The amount of places that each bookie pays out on can vary but generally most bookies pay out on the top 3 places at a quarter (1/4) of the odds.
- Double – A Double bet consists of 2 selections taking part in different events. Both must win for you to see a return.
- Forecast: When placing a ‘Forecast' bet, you are required to predict the top two horses in the exact order they finish.
- Reverse Forecast: When placing a ‘Reveres Forecast' bet, you are required to predict the top two horses in the either order they finish; however, you must stake both outcomes.
- Tricast – When placing a ‘Tricast' bet, you are required to predict the top three horses in the exact order they finish. As you can imagine, this can be extremely difficult, but the rewards can be huge.
- Trixie – A Trixie bet consists of 4 bets: 3 doubles and 1 treble. When placing a ‘Trixie' bet, you need at least 2 of the 3 horses you have chosen to be successful. The advantage of a Trixie bet is that should 1 selection fail, you will still get a return.
- Patent – A Patent bet includes 3 selections consisting of 7 bets: 3 singles, 3 doubles and a treble. The main advantage of a Patent bet is that you only need 1 successful horse to generate a return.
- Yankee – A Yankee bet includes 4 selections consisting of 11 bets: 6 doubles, 4 trebles and a 4-fold accumulator. With a Yankee, you need at least 2 selections to be successful to generate a return.
- Lucky 15 – A Lucky 15 bet includes 4 selections consisting of 15 bets: 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles and a 4-fold accumulator. With a Lucky 15, you only need one selection to be successful to generate a return.
- Super Yankee – A Super Yankee bet includes 5 selections consisting of 26 bets: 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 four-fold's and a 5-fold accumulator. With a Super Yankee, you need at least 2 selections to be successful to generate a return.
- Lucky 31 – A Lucky 31 bet includes 5 selections consisting of 31 bets: 5 singles, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 4-folds and a 5-fold accumulator. With a Lucky 31, you only need at 1 selection to be successful to generate a return.
- Canadian – A Canadian bet includes 5 selections consisting of 26 bets: 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 4-folds and a 5-fold accumulator. You need 2 selections to be successful to generate a return.
- Heinz – A Heinz bet includes 6 selections consisting of 57 bets: 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 4-folds, 6 5-folds and a 1 6-fold accumulator. With a Heinz, you need at least 2 selections to be successful to generate a return.
- Lucky 63 – A Lucky 63 bet includes 6 selections consisting of 63 bets: 6 singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 4-folds, 6 5-folds and a 6-fold accumulator. With a Lucky63, you need at least 2 selections to be successful to generate a return.
- Super Heinz – A Super Heinz bet includes 7 selections consisting of 120 bets: 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 4-folds, 21 5-folds, 7 6-folds and a 7-fold accumulator. With a Super Heinz, you need at least 2 selections to be successful to generate a return.
- Goliath – A Goliath bet includes 8 selections consisting of 247 bets: 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 4-folds, 56 5-folds, 28 6-folds, 8 7-folds and an 8-fold accumulator. With a Goliath, you need at least 2 selections to be successful to generate a return.
Horse Racing Betting Odds
Before placing your horse racing bets, you need to familiarise yourself with odds. We'll explain the basics below but for a comprehensive explanation you can read our ultimate guide to understanding how betting odds work.
- Fractions – Traditionally used by bookmakers in the UK and Ireland. Fractional odds quote the amount that will be paid out (on the left) should the bet win relative to the stake (on the right). For example, for odds of 5/1, for every £1 you place, you will make a profit of £5 (should the bet win) meaning the total return would be £6.
- Decimal – Traditionally used by bookmakers in continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Decimal odds quote the exact amount that will be paid out should the bet win. For example, for odds of 10.0, for every £1 you place, you will receive a total return of £10 (10.0 x £1).
- American – Traditionally used by American bookmakers. American Odds can be either (-) or (+) and are based on a 100 take. A (-) number shows how much you have to stake in order to achieve a profit of $100. A (+) number shows how much profit you will make if you stake $100.
How To Read Racing Forms
Once you know how to bet on horse racing, the next natural step is to learn is how to read racing form cards. Racingpost cards, for instance, are a good place to start. A horse racing form card, or race card, has a deliberate structure and gives you information about each race. Being able to read a horse racing form card is, understandably, very important if you want to be successful.
Below we explain the different aspects of the card along with other factors you should consider before placing your bets. You can use the image below of a fairly standard online UK racecard as reference.
The first larger number (far left) is the number of the horse in the race (which you will also see on the horse’s saddle throughout the race) assigned by the track officials. These numbers are always displayed on a racecard in order of the amount of weight the horse is carrying.
The smaller number (to the right of the horses number) represents the draw that the horse has got in the stalls. The lower the number, the closer the horse will be to the rails which can be an advantage on certain tracks and distances.
Below the horses NO. is a line of numbers which represent the horses form. Form runs from left to right, with the oldest races on the left and the most recent on the right.
- The numbers 1-9 indicate the position the horse finished in the race.
- The number 0 indicates that the horse finished outside the first 9.
- The symbol – separates racing seasons. Numbers before the – are for last season.
- The symbol / indicates a longer gap – for example if the horse missed an entire racing season.
- P or PU indicates that the horse was pulled up by the jockey and did not complete the race.
The following abbreviations normally apply to jump racing:
- F indicates the horse fell.
- R indicates a horse refused.
- BD indicates the horse was brought down by another runner.
- U or UR indicates that the horse unseated its jockey.
The second column displays the name of the horse along with the shirt (known as silks) that the jockey will wear. You will also see a number (which shows how many days it was since the horse last ran) and some abbreviations.
- C indicates a horse has won on that course before.
- D indicates a horse has won over that distance before.
- CD indicates a horse has won over that course and distance before.
- BF stands for beaten favourite and indicates a horse was favourite for a race, but did not win.
This shows the age of the horse (fairly self explanatory).
This is the amount of weight the horse will carry (including the jockey and the saddle) as decreed by the conditions of the race. You may also see some more abbreviations depending on whether the horse is wearing or using any equipment.
- b indicates the horse is wearing blinkers.
- v indicates the horse is wearing a visor.
- e/s indicates the horse is wearing an eyeshield.
- c/c indicates the horse is wearing a eyecover.
- h indicates the horse is wearing a hood.
- t indicates the horse is wearing a tongue strap.
- p indicates the horse is wearing a cheek pieces.
Underneath the weight is the official rating of the horse.
Jockey & Trainer
This shows both the name of the jockey and the trainer of the horse. If a jockey has a number in brackets to the side of his name then it means he is an apprentice jockey and is claiming a weight allowance.
The final column shows the odds bookmakers are offering for the horse to win.
Other Factors To Consider
There are a number of other factors you should consider before placing your bets.
- Race Details – It is important to account for the type of race be it a flat race, a chase, hurdles or bumper plus also whether or not the race is a handicap. You should also look at the distance of the race as well as the size of the field.
- Conditions – Different horses perform better on different surfaces so the turf condition, which is known as the ‘going', of the track can have a key bearing on the outcome of a race. You can find up to date going reports on Twitter or by with leading online bookmakers.
The table below features basic going descriptions along with their abbreviations that you may come across.
|Good To Firm||GD-FM|
|Good To Soft||GD-SFT|
|Good To Yielding||GD-YLD|
|Soft To Heavy||SFT-HVY|
|Standard To Fast||STD-FST|
|Standard To Slow||STD-SLW|
|Yielding To Soft||YLD-SFT|
How To Place A Horse Racing Bet
Placing a horse racing bet follows the exact same process as any other market or sport.
- Login to your account.
- Select the event you want to bet on.
- Select your market.
- Add your selection to your bet slip.
- Enter your stake.
- Confirm your bet.
For a more detailed explanation you can read our guide on how to place a bet online.
Major Horse Races to Bet On UK
What are the biggest races in the UK?
Champion Hurdle (National Hunt)
The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race, open to horses aged four years or older, that runs on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival. It is run over a distance of around 2 miles and ½ furlong and features eight hurdles to be jumped.
Queen Mother Champion Chase (National Hunt)
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt steeplechase that runs as part of The Cheltenham Festival. The race is open to horses aged five years or older. It is run over a distance of about 2 miles during which there are thirteen fences to be jumped.
Cheltenham Gold Cup (National Hunt)
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt horse race run on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival. It is one of the most prestigious races in British racing and is chased over a distance of about 3 miles 2½ furlongs during which there are 22 fences to be jumped.
Grand National (National Hunt)
Held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, the Grand National is an annual National Hunt horse race that runs on the first Saturday in April. It is a handicap steeplechase with a huge field of 40 horses that takes place over a distance of 4 miles and 2½ furlongs that includes 30 fences and two laps and was first run in 1839. Despite being among the most anticipated UK racing cards, this is NOT one of Britain’s five classics, no National Hunt races are.
King George VI Chase (National Hunt)
Dating back to 1937, the King George VI Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt steeplechase, open to horses aged four years or older. It is run on the 26th of December, known in the UK as Boxing Day, and is part of Kempton Park’s Christmas Festival. The race goes off over around 3 miles and includes eighteen hurdles to jump.
2,000 Guineas Stakes (Flat)
The 2000 Guineas Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in the UK that is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is one of Britain's five Classic races and the first to run each year. The race goes off on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket over a distance of 1 mile and it is scheduled to take place each year in late April or early May.
1,000 Guineas Stakes (Flat)
The 1000 Guineas Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race that is the second of Britain’s five classic races to go each year in late April or early May on the Sunday following the 2000 Guineas. The race is run on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket over a distance of 1 mile and is open to three-year-old fillies.
Epsom Oaks (Flat)
The Oaks Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain open to three-year-old fillies. It is run at Epsom Downs over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs and it is scheduled to take place each year in late May or early June. It is the second oldest of the five Classic races and the third of Britain's five Classic races to be held during the season.
Epsom Derby (Flat)
Often called Blue Riband of the turf, the Derby Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in England open to three-year-old colts and fillies. It is run at Epsom Downs Racecourse over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and 6 yards on the first Saturday of June each year. It is Britain's richest horse race, and the most prestigious of the five Classics.
St Leger (Flat)
Established in 1776, the St Leger Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race that is run at Doncaster and open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run over a distance of 1 mile; 6 furlongs and 115 yards takes place each year in September. The St Leger is the oldest of Britain's five Classics and the last of the five to be run each year.
The Major Horse Races, Meets and Festivals Each Year
|The Cheltenham Festival||Cheltenham||March|
|Scottish Grand National||Ayr||April|
|Sandown Gold Cup Celebration||Sandown Park||April|
|Chester's May Festival||Chester||May|
|Epsom Derby Meeting (Derby & Oaks)||Epsom Downs||June|
|John Smith's Northumberland Plate||Newcastle||June|
|Eclipse Meeting||Sandown Park||July|
|Newmarket's July Meeting||Newmarket||July|
|King George Day||Ascot||July|
|Sprint Cup||Haydock Park||September|
|St. Leger Meeting (St Leger)||Doncaster||September|
|Ascot's September Festival||Ascot||September|
|Newmarket's October Meeting||Newmarket||October|
|North West Masters||Haydock & Aintree||November|
|Tingle Creek Meeting||Sandown Park||December|
|Christmas Festival (King George VI Chase)||Kempton Park||December|
|Welsh Grand National||Chepstow||December|
Major Horse Races to Bet On Internationally
Horse racing is hugely popular the world over and UK bookies will offer prices for you to make a bet on some of the world famous races going off around the globe. These include, but are in no way limited to, the following:
The Melbourne Cup, known as “the race that stops the nation”, was first run in 1861 and is Australia's most famous annual horse race. It is a 3200-metre race for three-year-olds and over and is held each year at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria as part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. It is the richest “two-mile” handicap in the world.
Dubbed the Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby is an annual horse race held in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. The race normally runs on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is an American Grade I stakes for three-year-old thoroughbreds and goes off over a distance of one and a quarter miles at Churchill Downs.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
The Breeders' Cup Classic is a Grade I Weight for Age thoroughbred horse race for 3-year-olds and older run at a distance of 1 1⁄4 miles. The event, which runs on dirt, is held annually at a different racetrack in the USA as part of the Breeders' Cup World Championships in late October or early November.
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
France’s Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is a Group 1 flat horse race open to thoroughbreds aged three years or older. It is run at Longchamp in Paris over a distance of 2,400 metres and takes place each year on the first Sunday in October. After the Epsom Derby, the race is generally considered to be Europe's second most prestigious horse race.
Dubai World Cup
Carrying a purse of $12 million, the Dubai World Cup is the world's richest horse race and has been running since 1996. The race is run at Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse each year in March as the final race Dubai World Cup night.
Horse Racing Betting FAQs
👉What Are Fixed Odds in Horse Race Betting?
Fixed odds simply mean that the odds you have accepted, or possibly requested, are locked down for you no matter which way the market moves.
✔ What Does SP Mean in Horse Racing?
SP simply means starting price, as in the odds when the race went off. If you need help calculating your predicted final payout, check out our free betting calculators that will help give you a sum total of your estimated final winnings for a variety of different betting systems.
💡 What Does NR in Horse Racing Mean?
NR means non-runner, as in a horse that was scheduled to run in a race but then, for whatever reason, didn’t.
🚀 What is Each Way Betting in Horse Racing?
Each way betting in horse racing is the same as it is in all other sports. It just means your bet includes two stakes, one for the win and another for a place.
ThePuntersPage Final Say
As you can see, there is a lot to get your head around when it comes to horse racing. From the various types of races available to bet on, to the numerous types of bets you can place. There are also many aspects of a horse racing form card and it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information presented. However, it is crucial that you understand all of the above and familiarise yourself with the common terminologies, as well as the different factors you need to be considering when placing your bets, in order to increase your chances of being a successful bettor.