Beginners guide to horse race betting

Welcome to BetFC. The site that teaches you the basics of betting, all in one place. If you’re a beginner to horse racing betting then we can guide you through the ins and outs and get you up to speed in no time at all. BetFC is for people who are just that – beginners or novice punters. The main focus of this section of the site is horse racing, however the principles can be applied to pretty much any sport you want to bet on.

Horse race betting guides

Read through our guides and go from novice to expert in no time at all! We walk you through how to bet on horses whether its online, in a bookies or at the race course.

Step 1 – Get a free bet to get started – with Coral our recommended bookie

There’s loads of free bets around from every major bookie but we’ve searched around and found the easiest to claim for the novice punters – Coral. It works on the simple premise – You register and bet £5 and you’ll get a £20 free bet, nice and easy. This is great if you’re new to betting as you don’t have to part with much cash to get started.

Click here for £20 free with Coral

Simple terms – Your first bet must be at odds of at least 1/2 or 1.5 and you must place it with in 14 days of registering. You’ll also need to place your free bet or bets within 7 days of receiving it. Full terms can be found using the link at the bottom of the registration page when your signing up.

Step 2 – Look at the race cards and form

If you’re going to the races for the day then get a copy of the race card to look at for the runners and riders. If you’re betting on line go to the horse racing home on Coral and select todays races. Then scroll down to this part of the screen where you’ll see all the days races.

Horse race betting for beginners - todays card

For an example of what to look for we’re going for the 1.05 at Taunton, when you click into it you get this race view which is full of information but can be a little over whelming at first.

Card for a specific race

What the columns mean  (left to right) –

Draw – Stall number if racing from them and the number that will be on the side of the horse.

Horse/ Jockey/ Trainer – The name of the horse, who’s riding it and who the owner is – Under neath is a prediction from a virtual run of the race using a computer system to rank the horses.

Form/ Age/ weight  – We’ll cover how to read the form next, the age and weight of the horses will vary depending in what type of race it is. On some grounds people like to back the lighter horses.

RP rating – This is the rating of the horse from a system developed by the racing post news paper and give an indication of the horses potential.

Previous odds – The odds on racing move quite frequently and this shows you which way they are going. Horses where the odds are moving down quicker are know as “steamers” and horses who’s odds keep getting higher are know as “drifters”.

Current odds – This is the live price if you bet now, to place your bet click on the green button, this will send the selection to the bet slip on your right.

Better win only odds – On some horses you can get better odds by not taking an each way bet on the horse, this means you’re backing the horse to win. If your a beginner at horse race betting make sure you don’t back anything under 4/1 each way as if they don’t and place then you’ll get less than your original stake back.

Step 3 – Read the form to pick your horse to back

Here’s the second favourite in the race, stay out of court, and we’ll use this as an example of how to look at its recent form.

How to read racing form

From is read from right to left so in this example Stay Out Of Court has finished 2nd in his last race, 3rd before that and second before that. This is a good example of a horse who’s ready for a win or a good bet in the “to place market”

Beginners guide to reading horse racing form

This now gives us the full details of the last 5 races including the date, ground, weight, position, who won, jockey, official rating and the Racing post rating. As horses form improves the ratings increase.

As a guide you an look for horses that have dropped weight, jockeys who’ve been successful on a particular horse and what length the wins were over. We can see in this example its last 2 wins have been over 3 kilo meters (3k under race conditions) and in good (Gd) and good to firm (GF) ground. The going in this races is good and its also over 3K which makes this horse very back able in this race.

To find more each way bets you can look for horses that have “placed” in previous races. This means they have finished in the top 4 in larger fields, top 3 in mid size races and top 2 in races with not many horses.

To read more the menus above this page will guide you through the following information –

A general overview of betting – A very beginners guide
Different types of betting – Learn about the different multiple options available
The concept of laying (acting as a bookmaker through a betting exchange)
How to make use of betting exchanges – Strategies to improve your betting
General guidelines on betting, how to run your betting accounts, maximise your profits etc.
How to make use of odds comparison sites
Free bets- who we recommend and why!

Its all in one place, laid out in simple terms, and will give you the information you need, to start navigating the sometimes complex world of sports betting.

Day at the races guide

Little if anything in sport can match the anticipation and excitement of horse racing betting, and if you can experience the action in the flesh at on race day then the experience is magnified ten-fold. A day at the races will have many experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions – the joy of victory and the despair of defeat – but hopefully you will have fun along the way and have some pennies to show for your efforts with some winning bets.

So what do you need to know about your first day at the races?

Early Doors

It’s tempting to arrive at the course a few moments before the race begins, but if you do this you will miss out on the building atmosphere around the paddock and betting circle. The whispers that accompany any race meeting – the so-called ‘insider knowledge’, the hot tips – help to build the excitement.

First thing to do when you have entered the course is pick up a race card and map. This outlines all of the races, their start times, and the horses/jockeys/trainers involved; and will act as the starting point for your bets. The map (an example of Cheltenham’s is below) will show you where your stand is, where the nearest toilet is and most importantly you closest bar!

Cheltenham festival stands layout

Around half an hour before each race there will be a parade of the runners, and this will give you an opportunity to take a look at the horses involved. Then after this pre-parade the horses will be saddled and led around the ring for punters to see them in their racing wares.

This is a good time to take a look at the runners and riders: any horses that are sweating and acting in an unusual fashion here are ones to avoid! But those with a shiny coat in good condition, ears pricked and being led in a relaxed manner are usually in control of their emotions and set to run well. Like the Ladbrokes advert, here’s the time to see if the horse “gives you a wink”.

Placing a Bet

Once you’ve picked out your selection and had a good look at it in during the parade, the time will now come to place your bet. You will see kiosks placed around the course that are manned by professional bookmakers, and at some courses a sponsor may have a desk inside the stadium to cater for horse racing betting.

The betting circle can be a hive of activity with frantic punters looking to back their selections at the very best prices. Most of the bookies will be barking prices at you, which can be a little disorientating.

But all you need to know – at the most basic level – is the name of the horse you want to back, and how much you want to wager on it. You can back it to win outright or ‘each way’, which pays a return for a specified finish, e.g. top three. Then let the bookmaker do their work, and keep your bet slip somewhere nice and safe in order to collect those all-important winnings. If you think you can crack the 1-2 in the race have a look at our guide to forecast betting here.

Cheering Your Horse Home

A day at the races guide -finding a winnerDepending on the course you are enjoying your race day at, you will now head off to the stands or down to the rails to watch the race and cheer your pick home.

If you are lucky enough to bag a winner, then after you’ve stopped jumping up and down remember to collect your winnings from the bookies. You can also see the winning jockey and/or trainer being interviewed in the winner’s enclosure, where your horse will also be paraded to take the plaudits of its backers.

If you’ve not picked a winner then, hey, not to worry: this is horse racing betting, and there’s always tomorrow or even the next race!

Note: you may not be able to collect your winnings until you hear the cry of ‘weighed in’. This means that the jockey has been weight-checked and the official result confirmed.

So, to recap:

  • Make sure you arrive early to soak up the atmosphere
  • Pick up a racecard and identify your betting selections
  • Watch the horses paraded around the ring prior to their race
  • Place your bets with one of the on-course bookmakers
  • Cheer your selection home
  • Enjoy the winner’s presentation and collect your winnings (where necessary)
  • Repeat!

General betting terms for Horse racing

Ante Post – this is so-called when bets are placed on a future race. This generally happens in the run up to the Cheltenham Festival, when a strong run from a particular horse sets punters’ tongues a-wagging. The good news is that ante post odds are usually more generous than those available on race day. The bad news is that all stakes are lost when the selection fails to enter the race in question.

Back/Lay – the term ‘to back’ simply means to bet on a particular horse, e.g. ‘I backed Un De Sceaux.’ And the term has a similar connotation when discussing betting exchanges: Back means to bet on a particular runner, Lay is to bet against a particular horse winning.

Backed In – this refers to a horse that starts as an outsider but is ‘backed in’ by a number of punters and their odds have shortened.

Drift – this is the opposite of backed in, and usually occurs where on-course punters don’t like the look of a particular horse on the day. Their odds will then lengthen, or ‘drift’.

Used Horse racing betting terms

Bar – this has two meanings at a race course. The first is the place you go to celebrate/commiserate with a drink, the second is a term used to describe a group of horses of a similar price and above. So a commentator may point out the favourite’s odds, and then say something like ‘10/1 bar’. This means that the rest of the field are priced at 10/1 or longer.

Each Way – this is the process of backing a horse to finish within a certain number of places. There are two parts to your stake – the ‘win’ part and the ‘place’ part – and so you are essentially placing two bets in one here.

The Favourite – this is quite simply the horse that heads the bookmakers’ markets, and in layman’s terms is the one that most people think will win.

Hedging – have you ever heard of the phrase ‘hedging your bets’? This basically means covering your initial bet with another, e.g. backing the two favourites in a race is a way of hedging.

Nap – this is a horse that punters and pundits alike deem to be their best selection of the day.

Odds – these are the fractions that bookmakers use to calculate the probability of horse racing betting. The shorter the odds, the more likely the horse is to win (although we know this not to be true all the time!)

Odds On/Odds Against – these are two very distinct categories. An ‘odds on’ selection is one that is considered to have a great chance of winning, and so the amount you win is less than the amount you stake. Here the first number is smaller than the second number, e.g. odds of 3/10 mean you will return £13 from a £10 stake (£3 winnings and the £10 stake returned).
An ‘odds against’ selection is the opposite of an ‘odds on’. You will win more than you originally stake, and the first number will be larger than the second, e.g. odds of 10/3 mean you will return £43.33 from a £10 stake (£33 winnings and £10 stake returned).

‘On the Nose’ – betting on a horse to win the race with no each way placing.

‘Out of the Money’ – this means that a horse finishes outside the number of places that the bookmaker determines for an each way payout.

Outsider – a horse that is simply not expected to win; a fact reflected in their long price.

Place – depending on the number of horses in a race, the bookmaker will decide how many places it wants to pay out on as far as each way bets are concerned. Typically the larger the field, the more places paid.

Tic-Tac – This is the slightly unusual way – to the untrained eye anyway – that bookmakers describe their odds changes. It can be a number of different movements, gestures and sounds.

Horse racing jumpsTypes of Bet:

This glossary of horse racing betting terms wouldn’t be complete without an introduction to the various types of wager available:
Canadian – this involves picking out one horse in five races and betting on them in every conceivable combination: so there’s 26 bets in total, with ten doubles, ten trebles, five four-folds and a single five-fold.

Heinz – this works on the same principle as the Canadian, just with six selections instead of five.

Yankee – this is the same as a Canadian and a Heinz, just with eleven selections.

Trixie – this is a slightly different type of multiple bet, and requires four bets – three doubles and a treble – of three selections in different events.

Patent – this is the same as a Trixie but seven bets are placed on the three selections: three singles, three doubles and a treble.