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Horse racing in the UK

Dating back centuries, horseracing has been one of the iconic landmarks of UK culture. And together with the races of course comes the horserace betting which has forever been one of the ways for the horseracing crowds and enthusiast to place bets on their favourite horse or jockey and become part of the great spectacle.

Many of the traditions we still observe in modern horse racing are centuries-old, dating all the way back to the Roman era. Records of “running horses” exist from the 9th and 10th centuries. Some of Britain’s first recorded race meetings were held during the reign of Henry II. William Fitzstephen, a cleric writing in the 12th century, recorded descriptions of St Bartholomew’s horse fair in London.

Racing and horse betting really picked up in Tudor times. Henry VIII invested heavily in horse breeding and kept his own training grounds. In addition to this, formal race meetings were arranged. This includes the Kiplingcotes Derby – the oldest horse race that we can still enjoy today – which was first run in 1519.

Over the next few centuries, interest in horse racing continued to grow. Queen Anne helped to establish the Royal Ascot, one of the biggest races still in the British racing calendar. By the end of the 1830s, another of Britain’s great races – the Grand National – had been established at Aintree. This is one of the oldest sports in the UK by far, and interest in it has stayed steady throughout the years.

A horse race and their jockies

Image Source: Unsplash

Although the way people bet on horseracing changed dramatically with the creation of the internet and technology that saw the introductions of horse racing betting sites and online and mobile wagering opportunities, some of the iconic races are held for hundreds of years and carry traditions of centuries.

There are hundreds of races taking place throughout the year, but there are several big races that all punters should keep an eye on, whether they favour flat racing or National Hunt racing over obstacles. Whether you attend these races in person or just monitor them on the best horse racing sites, there is plenty of action to keep up with. These races include:

Cheltenham Race Betting
Cheltenham Festival
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 - Race Betting
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.
Grand National Race Betting
Grand National
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.
Belmont Stakes Race Betting
Belmont Stakes
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.
Kentucky Derby Race Betting
Kentucky Derby
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 purse of $1.86 million in 2020. The event takes place in May each year.
Preakness Race Betting Sites
Preakness Stakes
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.
Royal Ascot Race Betting
Royal Ascot
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 2020 stood at £8 million.
the Derby - Race Betting
Epsom Derby
Known as ‘The Derby’ in the UK, it pulls huge crowds, both trackside and from TV audiences across the world. Held on the first Saturday in June each year, Epsom has a rich prize fund, with over £1.5 million on the line, and over £850,000 for the winner.
Melburne Cup Race Betting
Melbourne Cup
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.
Goodwood Race Betting
Glorious Goodwood
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.
Qatar Horse Racing
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 Jockey Club Race Betting
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.

 

Two horses and jockeys racing

Image Source: Unsplash

Horse racing terms

Those who are new to the world of horse racing might find that there is a lot of terminology that gets thrown about here. So you can know exactly what people are talking about, you should make sure to learn some of the following lingo.

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.

Favourites: The runner with the shortest odds heading into a race; the bookies’ favourite.

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 assess 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.

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.

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.

Race Card: A schedule of forthcoming racing events, with a list of runners and riders scheduled to take part in each event.

Runners and Riders: All participants in a horse race.

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

Types of horse race bets

As with other types of sports betting, there are a variety of different wagers you could make each day. Some of these are straight bets on individual horses, while some are more complicated combinations. Let’s take a look at some of the horse racing bet types you might want to try out

Bookmaker Sea Story To Win Spirit Of Mendip To Win
888sport Review888sport11/49/2
Betfair SportsBetfair5/29/2
Sky Bet ReviewSkyBet11/47/2
Betway Sports ReviewBetway11/44/1
Grosvenor ReviewGrosvenor11/49/2
Paddy Power ReviewPaddy Power5/29/2
Betstars ReviewBetstars5/24/1
BOOKMAKER
BETS
Sea story to win: 11/4
Spirit of mendip to win: 9/2
Sea story to win: 5/2
Spirit of mendip to win: 9/2
Sea story to win: 11/4
Spirit of mendip to win: 7/2
Sea story to win: 11/4
Spirit of mendip to win: 4/1
Sea story to win: 11/4
Spirit of mendip to win: 9/2
Sea story to win: 5/2
Spirit of mendip to win: 9/2
Sea story to win: 5/2
Spirit of mendip to win: 4/1

 

  • 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 four-folds, six five-folds and one accumulator.

New horse racing betting sites

So, where should you be going to place your bets on horse racing? There are so many different sites out there that can offer great odds, you just need to track them down. If you have interests in other areas of sports betting, you should definitely consider finding a site that is able to offer several types of betting. Where you find football bets, you also frequently find horse racing wagers, as the two are the most popular sports in the UK.

As a user on a new site, you might be able to take advantage of some promotions they could have put together to celebrate their launch. For example, you might be able to claim free bets up to a certain amount across specific races as a new user at the site. Many new sites that launch will want to do so with a bang, and will offer deals that they might not be in the position to offer when they are more well-established.

Ranked #1 For Markets Offered
Bookmaker
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Bet £10 Get £40 In Free Bets
Min Deposit:
£10
New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is €/£30. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply

Always keep an eye on any new sites that might be launching, as they can truly offer you some great betting experiences. However, you also need to make sure that you are getting good odds alongside that. Cross-referencing with some of the more well-established bookies will help to confirm that you are indeed getting a good deal for your money’s worth. Never opt for poor odds simply because you have a deal to use – there is always going to be something better out there.

Horse racing tips

How do we know which bets are the right ones to make? There are so many places online that we can turn to when we want to place a bet, whether we choose to head to Ladbrokes horse racing or to any of the other sites that offer this type of wagering.

Horse racing is a sport that can be tracked and monitored. By looking at the performance of the horses and their jockeys, we can try to guess how they might perform when the gates open. There are many sites dedicated to horse racing news features. Following these will give you some indication as to what you can expect in the run-up to a big event. Some major bookies even have their own news sections where they combine the latest news from the races with their predictions and outcomes.

You should also think about investigating some of the many free horse racing tips that float around online. 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.

Placing the bet itself is simple and straightforward. Let’s say that we wish to place a bet on the Cheltenham Gold Cup through William Hill horse racing. First, you need to sign up and make an account if you have not already. Then, you head to the horse racing section and find the race that you want to bet on.

There, you will be able to see a list of all the runners and various stats about them such as their weights, ages, and jockeys. You can also see the odds currently on offer and some of the ones that have been offered previously.

You also have the option of selecting the starting price, also listed as “SP”. This is the odds of the runner at the start of the race, and it will not always be the same as the odds that you see when you look at the site. If you think that the odds might shift and change before the start of the race, you could consider opting for the starting price.

After selecting your horse and odds, you simply have to nominate the amount you wish to wager. Then all that is left to do is wait for the outcome of the race. Don’t forget to catch it on a livestream so you can see if your horse is first across the finishing line!

Horse racing in the UK is hotly watched by numerous parties, and since events happen all year round it is definitely worth looking into if you want to place a few bets. There are horse racing tips all over the internet to help you find a good deal and get to grips with some of the many unusual phrases that you will find here. With livestreams, plenty of odds, and fast horse racing results, bookies work hard to ensure that bettors have everything they need to master this type of wagering. Take a look at some of the races and odds available at the best online horse racing betting sites now.

Best Site For In-Play 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.

The Verdict

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 has strong in-play betting for racing punters.

Ranked #1 For In-Play Betting
Bookmaker
Bonus
Min Deposit
Bet Now
Bonus
Bet £10 Get £30
Min Deposit:
£10
New customers only, place a min €10 bet on any Sportsbook market at odds of at least 1.2 (1/5) and we’ll give you €30 in free bets. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. See below for full T&C’s.

Best for Live Streaming

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.

The Verdict

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.

Ranked #1 For Live Streaming
Bookmaker
Bonus
Min Deposit
Bet Now
Bonus
Bet £10 Get £40 In Free Bets
Min Deposit:
£10
New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is €/£30. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply

Best Sites for 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. Another thing to consider is that new sports betting sites are more likely to offer generous offers to new punters (read our Mansion Bet review our BlackType review or the Karamba sports review for more details).

The Verdict

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.

Ranked #1 For Racing Promos
Bookmaker
Bonus
Min Deposit
Bet Now
Bonus
Bet £10 Get £40 In Free Bets
Min Deposit:
£10
New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is €/£30. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply

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.

Bet Type Description
SingleA single bet on a single horse to win
DoubleA bet on two horses to win in separate races. Both horses have to win
TrebleA bet on three horses to win their races. All three have to win.
TrixieA bet on three horses, a Trixie takes the form of three doubles and one treble for a total of four bets.
PatentA Patent adds to the fun of the Trixie with an additional three singles, bringing the bet total to seven.
YankeeWith 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.
HeinzIt gets its name from that 57 bet total. The ingredients? 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 fourfolds, six fivefolds and one accumulator.

How To Bet

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.

  1. Load up your chosen bookmaker
  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.
  3. Select your horse (or horses) and select the bets you wish to place, and the amount you want to wager.
  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.

TotepoolTotepool 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.

See our academy guide to horse race bet types for more detailed info on this

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 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?

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.

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.

FAQs

Betting on horses is now more accessible than ever. All you need is a mobile or desktop device, a bookie and a way to deposit/withdraw from your account and you’re ready to go.

Check out our list of recommended horse racing betting sites, and claim your free bet to get started. Then, deposit into your account, choose the horse you want to back and your bet type, and confirm. If you’re a winner, you’ll be paid directly into your online account, which you can withdraw and spend from there.
Horse race betting is entirely legal. If you’re in the UK, online gambling comes with a minimum age tariff of 18 (apart from the National Lottery, which you can play from 16). Assuming you’re old enough, you’re free to bet on horse racing or any legal sport without impediment or obstruction.

Just make sure you’re betting with a Gambling Commission-licensed operator, so you know your bookmaker is fully licensed too.
This is a common promotion you’ll see around horse racing betting - most of our recommended bookmakers offer this. The odds in any race naturally move and change, and increasingly so as race time nears.

Best Odds Guaranteed means that where the Starting Price (SP) is greater, you’ll get the benefit of the best odds. This can be worth a few points on your bet odds, so it always means you’re getting the best deal on your bet.
In-running betting in horse racing is the equivalent of ‘in-play’ in other sports, where you’re betting once the action has got underway. In horse racing, this is arguably higher risk because you have less time to make your decision than, say, a football match.

There are a number of strategies around in-running betting, including laying during the race, which can allow you to hedge your bets and limit risk. In-running can also give you a feel for how a particular horse is riding that day, helpful when betting on consistent performers
An each-way bet is a bet that a horse wins or places, essentially two separate bets on the same runner. The horse needs to win or place in any of the predetermined positions, usually finishing first or second to return on this bet.

Each-way place bets are paid at a fraction of the regular odds, e.g. ½, ⅓ or more. Because you’re placing two bets (win and place), each-way bets cost double the stake, but naturally come with a greater chance of a payout.
Ante-poste betting is a longer term bet on a horse race far in advance of the race. Ante-poste markets offer better odds that you'd find on a plain outright closer to the start of the event because of the variables which can ruin your bet e.g. an injury to the horse. The downside is that if your pick doesn't run its classed as losing and you lose your bet