Beginners Guide to Horse Racing

Horse racing is one of the most popular sports in the UK and Ireland. There are two basic kinds of races: flat racing and national hunt.

Flat racing is run “on a level”, meaning no obstacles are involved. National Hunt racing includes hurdles, steeplechases and bumpers. The difference is that steeplechases involve higher and more solid fences than hurdles, as well as open ditches and water jumps. Bumpers are not that common and they are flat races run under National Hunt racing rules.

In both flat and National Hunt, races are categorised by the quality of the horses, with Group/Grade 1 being top notch, then descending in importance through Grade/Group 2, 3 down to listed, handicap and finally bumpers (in National Hunt).

To successfully bet on a horse, first you need to understand the odds. If you are a beginner it’s best to start with straight bets: betting of one horse to win, place or show. The simplest bet you can make is betting on which horse will win. Odds express how much money you earn in return for your stake. For example, if you bet £10 at 7/1 and the horse wins you win 7×10 + your original bet, i.e. 80£ in total.

There are many other types of bets available in horse racing.

Each way bet costs more, but gives you two chances to win: if your horse wins the race and if it “places”. This means you’ll get some of your money back if your horse doesn’t win but finishes second or third (sometimes even fourth or fifth).

Exotic wagers are much harder to win than straight wagers, but your chances of turning profit are also significantly bigger. For example, in tricast, you’ll need to correctly predict the top three horses and the exact order in which they will finish. A double is when you are betting on two horses in two separate races, and a treble is the same with three horses. There are also many combinations of single bets, doubles and trebles. There is even a Goliath bet, which includes 247 separate bets in one single wager!

There are many factors you should consider when picking a potential winner: pedigree, trainer, jockey, etc. Some of the most important factors to look at are the horse’s recent finishing positions; the weight the horse is carrying as a handicap and how that compares to previous races; the class of the race; and past performances over similar distances in similar conditions.

Of course, the odds will usually reflect the most obvious indicators, but if you are willing to put some time in research you might discover a lesser known fact which can put you in a position to cash in.