Best UK Horse Race Bookies
For decades, horse racing has been the bread-and-butter of British bookies, with thousands of punters betting on race cards from courses up and down the country. Football may have stolen racing’s limelight, but the Sport of Kings still holds a special place in our hearts. Read on for the PlayRight guide to horse race betting online, with everything you need to know, from the top races to how to place a bet. And, if you’re ready to start wagering, check out the table below with our up-to-the-minute ranking of the very best horse race betting sites .
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PlayRight Star Ratings
Only the very best sites get our gold rating. That means no major flaws and very few minor ones.
Our silver star goes to sites with very few flaws but that lack that “special something” to really wow us.
Bronze-rated sites are safe and enjoyable to use, but suffer from one or two slightly bigger flaws.
There’s a lot to like about Betway. The question is, whether it offers enough to tempt UK punters. There’s no question that it offers a strong range of markets, and a particularly nice in-play betting terminal, but it doesn’t quite match the best online betting destinations for British punters.Read Review
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Mr Green Sports
Mr Green has entered a crowded marketplace, and unfortunately the site offers nothing exceptional. Branding and design remain strong suits for this operator, and overall it’s a pleasant place to have a flutter. But the lack of live streaming and cash out leaves it in the middle of the pack, rather than among the frontrunners.Read Review
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Take the football expertise of Alan Brazil and blend it with the software expertise of SportNation and you get one of the best mobile sports betting experience in the UK.Read Review
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Betfair is one of the most versatile online bookmakers around for range of markets, and often the most generous, with great odds for many events, especially on horse racing. In combination with their Exchange and other products, Betfair is one of the finest bookmakers in the industry.Read Review
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BetBright may still be new to the market, but it's already building a solid reputation for good odds and decent service. There isn’t the same range and depth of betting markets as you’ll find with some bigger bookies, but what it lacks in range, it makes up for with its odds.Read Review
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When you’re the nation’s number one sports broadcaster and you enter the online betting market there isn’t any room for half measures. Luckily for British punters, over the past 15 years, Sky Bet has grown into a premium online sportsbook with very few weaknesses.Read Review
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BetStars is one of the youngest sports betting platforms out there, but when it’s backed by a giant like PokerStars it’s worth paying attention. There's a good bonus, and overall, it has no major weaknesses, especially in trust and security. There’s a lot more to come from BetStars, but for now it’s a great choice for less experienced punters.Read Review
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Famous for their in-play betting and over 400 distinct markets, NetBet has plenty to sink your teeth into. Since it came on the scene in 2001, NetBet has grown to become a serious player, particularly for mobile players, thanks to its convenient app and smooth in-browser platforms.Read Review
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If you’re looking for somewhere reputable to play with a nice website, a good selection of markets and some seriously competitive odds, you could do a lot worse than open an account at Grosvenor Sports. It could do with better promotions, though.Read Review
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PlayRight's Guide to Betting on Horse Racing
Best Betting Site For Horse Race Betting Odds
So where should you be placing your bets to get the best value on the horses? As one of the UK’s top betting sports, horse racing is high on the list of priorities for most internet bookies - so there’s plenty of price competition. But how can you be certain you’re getting a fair price, for the best returns on every bet?
Let’s look at some live odds available on selected race events from across our top recommended betting sites, and find out where the best odds are hiding.
Example 1: Single - National Hunt Flat: 1m 7f 169y Class 4, Ludlow 15:40, 6/12/2017
Sea Story is looking like a decent favorite here for this event, where the going is Good to Soft, and has seen shortening odds in the run-up to the race. Some support for second favorite Spirit of Mendip, with both horses relative newcomers to the racing world.
For the purposes of this bet comparison, we’re looking at Sea Story and Spirit of Mendip on the nose respectively, to see how the odds stack up against our recommended bookies.
|Bookmaker||Sea Story To Win||Spirit Of Mendip To Win|
The odds are pretty tight here, and there’s not much between the leading names. In terms of squeezing for that extra value, your best bet here would be the 11/4s on Sea Story, of punting for any of the 9/2s on Spirit of Mendip. So the likes of 888 sport, Sky, Betway Sport, Grosvenor, and Mr. Green are all offering very competitive odds here for the favorite, while 888 sport, Betfair sport, Grosvenor sport, Paddy Power and Mr Green hold the best odds for Spirit of Mendip as second favorite.
Part of this could be down to the savvy punters, with horses arguably more competitive than other sports thanks to track side betting and fans who seriously study form and do their homework.
On that basis, the winners in this example are 888sport, Grosvenor, and Mr Green, though there’s obviously not a great deal in it for the single.
Example 2: Trixie - Focaccia, Market Ransen 15:30; Kingofthecotswolds, Wincanton 15:50; Draconien, Clonmel 15:45
For the purposes of our second example, we’ll look at odds on trixie bets. For those who don’t know what a trixie bet is, it’s essentially a bundle of 4 bets on 3 runners, where you get paid if two or more of your selections come up - so that’s three doubles and a treble, with two or more to get a return. The bet costs 4x your initial stake, because there are four separate bets on the same line.
|Bookmaker||Return For £10 Bets|
As you can see, trixie bets have the potential to deliver substantial wins when your runners come up. It’s also good to remember that you don’t need to land all the results to win on your line - two or more will do.
In the first example, there wasn’t much to choose between the bookies, with all coalescing around similar prices, give or take a fraction here and there. But in this example, the divergence between different operators is exposed at its most significant - and that could be the difference between a substantial percentage of your win.
For the same £10/£40 total bet, the range runs from SkyBet sport at the lowest, paying just £377.42, up to Paddy Power, which is racing ahead in front at a £474.69 return for the same bet. That’s a difference of almost £100 for the same bet. Who says it doesn’t pay to shop around?
Honourable mentions here also to Betfair sport and Mr. Green sport, who also both managed to offer returns over £400.00 for this bet.
Best Site for Horse Racing Markets
So it’s clear that depending on the type of bet you’re looking for, there’s major divergence between the bookies we recommend. But it’s not all about odds - what if you’re looking for a bookmaker with the widest selection of markets, for obscure specials, for example? Which is a good pick for placing your wagers here?
Paddy Power sport again is another strong contender, and it’s clear they go big, in terms of the selection of markets on offer. Race events across the UK and Ireland are there, along with races in Europe, the USA and Australia, for one of the most comprehensive selections of horse racing markets. Forecast and Reverse Forecast bets are available, alongside Tricast, where you can bet on the first three finishers ordered by starting price. These aren’t always available, so that’s a nice bonus in Paddy Power’s favor.
Betfair performs well here too, with a wide selection of race events from around the world. The ‘Activate Multiples’ function means you can pick your selections then build specific multiple lines and bet types, across different race betting markets.
BetBright is another bookmaker specialising in horse racing in particular, which makes sense, given their origins in betting shops in the UK and Ireland. BetBright also offers international racing markets, including in the USA.
At the opposite end of the extreme are the likes of SkyBet, 21Bet and 888/Grosvenor - while most of the main race markets are there, you won’t find anywhere near the same level of specialism and dedication to horse racing as you’d find with Paddy Power.
For the selection of markets, and the sheer depth of different types of bets available, Paddy Power comes out the winner by a length. Betfair and BetBright sport also compete strongly here, and can legitimately claim a specialism in horse racing betting markets.
Best Site For In-Play Race Betting
In-play betting is arguably a little less effective in horse racing compared to say, football or tennis. Horse races are usually fast moving by their nature, blink-and-you-miss-it type events. While it’s not quite like a Usain Bolt 100m, some of these races are over short distances, which leaves limited time to react.
That said, there are still some strategies that can be deployed for leveraging opportunities in-play, though you would be advised to live stream the race while you’re betting on any in-play event. Paddy Power and Betfair are ahead of the pack here with their range of in-play options, which are handily accessible so you make quick decisions after the race has got underway.
Betfair and Paddy Power are jointly out in front here, with the best in-play features for race betting. The cash-out function at Betfair is one of the easiest to use of its kind, ideal for making quick decisions during the heat of the action. Similarly, Paddy Power have strong in-play betting for racing punters.
Best Site for Live Streaming and Results
Live streaming is a major boon for horse racing fans, who might previously have had to check the results after the event, or make a trip to their local betting shop to watch the action unfold. It’s common to have to actually bet on an event before you can live stream - for example, SkyBet sets a limit on your bet slip, and only those betting above this amount on their chosen outcomes are eligible to watch the event live, where available.
Again, Betfair and Paddy Power have the largest availability of live streaming events, closely followed by SkyBet. At the time of writing, Paddy Power had an impressive 15 live streaming races - nearly double the 8 to be found on 888sport. Betfair allows you to stream their selection of live races from a minimum £0.50 bet.
The quality of the streams available is strong at the top end, although as always, it would be nice if more races were available on live stream - even though the likes of Betfair pledge to stream all UK and Irish races through their platform.
Still, there are plenty of race meets available at the big-name bookmakers for those intent on live streaming their bets.
Paddy Power is the winner in terms of live streaming, with Betfair a close second, for both the range and quality of their live streams.
Best Site for Race Betting Promotions
Paddy Power has a commitment to offering the best odds on any UK and Irish racing event, and this is supported by a range of promos and other specials. Price boosts, enhanced odds and other promotions run throughout the year, and particularly around major events like Cheltenham, Royal Ascot and the Grand National. They also offer a Money Back Special on selected race events each day for horses that finish second to the SP favorite.
Betfair has a similar price commitment to Paddy Power in terms of odds, and they also put their money where their mouth is in terms of bonuses and other promos for racing fans.
When it comes to promotions for big race events, it’s always worth shopping around. These vary between different providers and often change from year to year, so it’s usually a good idea to do some homework on the available promotions and bonus terms ahead of the bigger racing events.
Again, Paddy Power comes out ahead of the field here. Their promotional offers for horse racing are more than decent, frequent throughout the year, and all the more interesting around big race meets.
The Different Types of Horse Race Bets
When it comes to racing, the sheer choice on the betting front is enormous, and, frankly, a little difficult to comprehend for a beginner. So, it certainly pays to understand what’s out there. Let’s dive right into some of the horse racing bet types that might take your fancy.
|Single||A single bet on a single horse to win.|
|Double||A bet on two horses to win in separate races. Both horses have to win.|
|Treble||A bet on three horses to win their races. All three have to win.|
|Trixie||A bet on three horses, a Trixie takes the form of three doubles and one treble for a total of four bets.|
|Patent||A Patent adds to the fun of the Trixie with an additional three singles, bringing the bet total to seven.|
|Yankee||With a Yankee, there are 11 bets in total, broken down into a fourfold accumulator, four trebles, and six doubles. For a return, you’ll need at least two selections to come home.|
|Heinz||It gets its name from that 57 bet total. The ingredients? 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 fourfolds, six fivefolds and one accumulator.|
Horse Race Betting Tips
It’s probably fair to say that horse racing punters take their betting very seriously indeed. There are those who study the Racing Post on a daily basis, or who dig deep into the history of the jockeys, trainers and owners to shape their decisions. There are also numerous tipsters offering their insight into the different runners and riders, including some supported by the bookies themselves - for example, at Paddy Power, there’s a blurb from the Racing Post ahead of each event, and a similar setup exists across a number of the bookies we recommend.
You’ll also find tipsters all over social media, particularly Twitter, and there are plenty of services available online for those looking to get the inside scoop. In terms of the paid tipster services, there are a few in particular that catch the eye.
Master Racing Tipster: This Malta-based service has been around since 2014, and boasts some impressive stats from that time. Claiming to net an average of over £149 per month return on £10 bets, with a strike rate hovering around the 30% mark, the service is certainly well used. There is a cost involved in receiving the tips, but if you’re interested in getting serious about your horse racing betting, it could be a good addition to your betting toolkit.
BetAlchemist: This is another tipster service with results that speak for themselves. Since going live in 2011, BetAlchemist has landed 750 points of profit, equivalent to a 15% ROI. This is unbelievably consistent, when you consider the years that have passed since launch, and the sheer number of bets these figures cover. Run by racing expert Nicky Doyle, BetAlchemist has become widely respected as one of the leading tipping services for consistent, steady returns.
Great Bets: Where the other two focus more intensely on horse racing, Great Bets provides betting tips across a wide range of different sports, covering football, tennis and more besides racing. There are up to 4 tips available per day, and Great Bets is completely transparent about their results, so you can see historical performance at a glance.
While their service is pretty good, with 3,400 points of profit in the first year alone, it’s pricey with it. Monthly subscriptions at last check were running at £99 for 30 days, so it’s really only for those who are serious about making money on the horses. Nevertheless, you’re benefiting from expert insight and analysis in each and every tip, and if you’re more seriously into betting on the horses, this is effectively an investment in (hopefully) better results.
These tipsters can provide a good way to identify opportunities, and to catch wind of likely strong performers before everyone else does. Of course, you need to be quick off the mark when you get your tips through, because the longer you wait, the worse your odds will get as more punters flock to back the tip. However, with the benefit of expert insight, or even just a second pair of eyes, you can more readily identify the best betting options.
It’s possible to track the success of tips over time, and to compare different services if you’re serious about finding the tipster with the best success rate. Whether to use a tipster service, either paid or free, is an individual decision, but it can certainly provide a helping hand towards finding winning opportunities more frequently when you’re betting on horse racing.
How to Bet on Horse Racing
So you’ve done the legwork, found the perfect horse racing bookmaker, but now what? Well, it’s time to lay down a bet, and it really couldn’t be easier.
- Step 1 – Load up your chosen bookmaker
- Step 2 – Select “Horse Racing” from the list of available sports. It should be located on either the left, or at the top of the screen.
- Step 3 – Select your horse (or horses) and select the bets you wish to place, and the amount you want to wager.
- Step 4 – With your money on the table, just sit back, open the live stream of the race, and watch your chosen horse (hopefully) romp home for the win.
When you’re placing your bets, you’ll come across jargon specific to horse racing and betting. While you’ll mostly find it straightforward to pick your winners and place your bets across our recommended bookies, it’s nevertheless important you understand what the most common terms mean and how they might affect your bets.
Starting Price: Often noted as ‘SP’, this is the odds on any runner at the start of a race. When you’re placing your bets, you can take the odds now, or the starting price, depending on how you think the odds will move as the race approaches.
Runners and Riders: All participants in a horse race.
Non-Runners: Runners that are listed, but don’t in fact start a race. All bets are void and stakes are paid in return for non-runners.
Favorites: The runner with the shortest odds heading into a race; the bookies’ favorite.
Race Card: A schedule of forthcoming racing events, with a list of runners and riders scheduled to take part in each event.
Totepool: Totepool is an alternative form of betting on horses, where players share in a prize fund, rather than competing against set odds. The return depends on how many punters and how much money backed the winning horse.
Disqualification: Horses that are disqualified during or subsequent to a race event, for reasons including fraud, error, registration issues, etc.
Ante Post Betting: Bets placed over at least a day before the event takes place, often in exchange for better odds. However, non-runner ante post bets are not void, they lose.
Horse Race Betting Systems
It is a term that is largely derided within the world of sports betting, but when it comes to horse racing it does hold some degree of weight. Betting systems are touted far and wide these days, with some actually having the stats to show that they’re effective.
Now, no betting system is perfect, and some may prove to be more hype than substance, but there are three that are worth taking an in-depth look at specifically. While we aren’t going to head into too much detail here, The Statistical Lay, Back the Beaten Favourite, and The Dutching System all have armies of followers.
The Statistical Lay: Laying strategies look to find losers, rather than winners. Only one out of every three race favorites actually win, and with this type of strategy, picking the two in three that won’t win is where you’ll make your money. Lay bets are matched on a betting exchange by a punter backing the same horse, so it’s up to you to identify horses that are overpriced, or horses in races where at least 2 other runners have a credible chance of coming out on top.
Back The Beaten Favorite: Favorites lose all the time, and this has a bearing on their odds next time out. This type of strategy looks to former favorites who didn’t win last time out. The system identifies horses that ran recently, and are running again in conditions they are familiar with. This is a good way of backing a solid horse that might be underpriced due to a previously bad performance.
The Dutching System: This is a betting system that seeks to cover multiple different outcomes, so you’re in the money, regardless of how the race pans out. It’s like hedging your bets against several different outcomes, spreading the risk across each of your bets to ideally give a guaranteed profit from your bet selection.
So do horse race betting systems work? Just ask those that swear by each of the above, and the countless many other race betting systems out there. At the end of the day, this is a results business, and if a system isn’t driving results, punters won’t stick with it for long. While some will sneer at systems and programmatic strategies, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating.
Horse Racing Terminology
We’ve already seen some of the betting terms and jargon that you will come across when betting on the horses. For the uninitiated, there’s unfortunately a lot more jargon to get your head around, namely the terms derived from the actual sporting elements of the racing action.
Check out our brief glossary of the main terms below so you can get to grips with what it all means.
Across the board: A type of 3-way bet on the same selection, where you bet for a win, a place and a show. If the horse wins, all 3 bets are paid.
Baby Race: A race open to younger horses, from two years old.
Break Maiden: The first win for any horse or rider.
Classes and Grades: Classifications of races and horses designed to ensure fair competition from similarly matched runners.
Flat: A race with no jumps, run across level ground from 2 furlongs.
Form: Previous race results by horse and/or jockey, used by punters to asses the respective chances of different runners.
Furlong: A distance equal to an eighth of a mile.
Going: A descriptor of the condition of the racing surface, which is relevant to assessing how different runners might perform.
Handicap: Additional weight prescribed for certain runners to level the field, and to give runners a more equal basis on which to race.
Inquiry: An investigation into an event in a race to determine whether a foul has been committed.
Juvenile: Any two year old horse.
Maiden: A horse that is yet to win a race, or a race dedicated to horses of this type.
Marathon: Any race longer than 1.25 miles.
Overlay: A horse priced more generously than its assumed chances of winning; overlays are good bets, vs. underlays which are bad bets.
Parimutuels: A specific type of betting where winners pick up a share of the total bets of losing bettors, less a share for the operator.
Steeplechase: A type of race over a course containing jumps, ditches and other obstacles; contrasted with a flat race.
Stewards: The adjudicating panel responsible for upholding the rules and determining whether an infraction has been committed in any given race.
Horse Racing in the UK
Horse racing has long been one of the most popular sports in the UK, drawing audiences in the millions for some race events. Regular TV coverage ensures those with a passion for racing can tune into the action on a frequent basis, while flagship events like the Grand National pull massive audiences each year - not to mention the over £250 million bet on that single event each year.
Popularly known as the Sport of Kings, horse racing has a long tradition in the UK, and it’s a story that is intrinsically linked with Royalty. But when did horse racing take off as a sport in the UK, and how has modern technology and in particular, online betting, come to influence the sport?
The Origins of Horse Racing
Horse racing in the UK traces its origins back to the 12th century, when returning crusaders would bring with them Arab horse breeds from overseas. These horses were bred with British horses to create Thoroughbreds, which are the horses that still race in events today.
Throughout its history, horse racing has been strongly linked to royalty, starting with King Charles II in the late 17th century. This saw the introduction of the first organized race events, with prizes being awarded to winners for the first time. By the early 18th century, Queen Anne began opening more racecourses, including Ascot in 1711, which would go on to be regarded as one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.
The 1800s saw horse racing develop into the sport we recognize today, with more race events added to an expanding calendar. The Five Classics were established in 1815, including the Epsom Derby, which remains one of the most high-profile racing events today.
By the time horse racing reached the 20th century, it had already proven to be a well-established spectator sport. Gambling activity increased with the introduction of TV coverage, and the hugely important step of legalizing betting shops external to the racecourses themselves. It was at this stage that the link between horse racing and gambling truly took hold, and this remains undoubtedly a hugely important part of funding the sport today.
Evolution and Online Betting
Since the early days, horse racing has grown from royal entertainment into big business. For most bookies, it remains their bread and butter, alongside football and tennis as the most popularly wagered sports.
To some extent, the development of online betting has driven unprecedented growth in horse race betting - even if the status of racing has been diminished somewhat, thanks to the explosion of football betting and tennis betting.
Today, horse racing betting is a £4.6 billion per year industry. Since 2009, the total wagered on horses has been falling, as online and mobile bookies have led the charge with other sports. This coincides with the rise of mobile betting, and underlying trends in sports betting that have seen football and tennis gain more ground.
With the more recent addition of betting apps, it has become easier than ever before for punters to back a horse. Just a few taps on a smartphone can replace trudging down to the high street betting shop, or even placing a wager with a bookmaker trackside. As a result, horse racing continues to attract big money, thanks to growing sponsorship values, steady betting revenues, and a worldwide audience of horse racing fans. While online betting may have shaken the sports betting industry, it’s clear horse racing remains, as it has for decades, at the forefront of it.
Today, horse racing stands as the second most attended sport in the UK, behind football - boasting crowds in excess of 6 million in 2017 alone. That’s before you factor in TV audiences, and of course, the additional draw of events like the Grand National and the Cheltenham Festival. The Grand National in its own right has become a cultural phenomenon, with casual punters putting their money on the line in record numbers each year.
With over £250 million bet in 2017, and seemingly rising every year, races like the Grand National are still in the ascendancy. With betting on horses now driving more revenues for bookies than ever before, it’s likely to remain one of the most gambled sports in the country for many years to come.
Biggest Global Horse Race Meetings
Whether you favour Flat Racing, or National Hunt Racing over obstacles, the calendar is packed with exciting events, both in the UK and around the world.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase are amongst the main attractions here, and hundreds of millions are bet annually across the full four-day event in mid-March. The Gold Cup, the highlight of the week, attracts a purse in excess of £575,000.
Dubai World Cup
The World Cup Carnival culminates each year in the World Cup race day, which the organizers claim is the richest race in the world. The Dubai World Cup runs January to March each year, and with the $10 million purse, the winning horse is often dubbed the richest in the sport.
The Grand National is a major betting and cultural attraction in the UK, pulling by far the biggest number of spectators of any race. Highly unpredictable, it’s notoriously tricky to pick the winner. But with a purse of over £561,000, there’s a lot at stake in this landmark racing event.
The Belmont Stakes runs in June each year, and is held at Belmont Park in New York. A race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds, the purse for the 2017 event stood at $800,000 - roughly £597,000 at today’s exchange. One of the most-watched events in the US racing calendar, it’s an important betting occasion for racing punters.
The Kentucky Derby is enjoyed worldwide, as one of the most historic and prestigious of the US racing events. Historically attracting the biggest number of spectators, the Derby saw a whopping purse of $2 million in 2017. The event takes place in May each year.
Run on a dirt track, the Preakness Stakes boasts a purse in excess of $1.5 million. The event takes place in Baltimore, Maryland each year, and is run across 9.5 furlongs. Predating the Kentucky Derby by just a couple of years, the Preakness Stakes remain one of the highlights in the US racing calendar.
Held in June, Royal Ascot is one of the highlights in the summer sporting calendar, attracting huge numbers of spectators each year. The Queen traditionally attends, adding a touch of regal glamour, but Royal Ascot is all about the Class 1 racing action. The purse for 2017 stood at £6.58 million.
Known as ‘The Derby’ in the UK, it pulls huge crowds, both trackside and from TV audiences across the world. 2017 saw 150,000+ people attending. Held on the first Saturday in June each year, Epsom has a rich prize fund, with over £1.6 million on the line in 2017, and over £921,000 for the winner.
November brings the Melbourne Cup, and a chance for horse racing fans to escape the wind and rain of the UK in exchange for the sunshine of the Australian downs. By far the most prestigious race event in the Australian calendar, the prize fund for 2017 stood at an impressive AU$6.2 million.
Late July into early August sees five days of racing action at Goodwood, known to racing audiences as ‘Glorious Goodwood’ - another UK racing highlight. One of the largest race meetings of its kind anywhere in the world, Goodwood presents a huge range of betting options for punters throughout the week.
Prix Arc De Triomphe
Over €5 million is on the line for runners and riders at the Prix Arc De Triomphe, the flagship French racing event of the year. Held in Paris at the Longchamp Racecourse, the event runs in the first Sunday of October each year, and stands as the world’s richest race on turf.
Hong Kong Cup
Thoroughbreds of at least three years old run over approximately 2000 meters in the Hong Kong Cup, the richest race over this distance anywhere in the world. The prize fund stands at at least $3.5 million, with the event run in December each year.
These events represent the crème de la crème of horse racing. That being said, there is plenty else out there in the form of smaller meets, which should help keep things interesting between the year’s biggest events.
Play the Ponies for Profit! Horse race gambling is the cornerstone of the sports betting world, and has been for the best part of a century. If you like to have a flutter, don’t put up with a mediocre bookie. Get great odds, more events to bet on from around the world, and the best enhanced odds and specials with PlayRight’s recommended horse racing betting websites.
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