The Ultimate Guide to Horse Racing Betting

Horse Racing Betting Guide

Horse Racing is an incredibly popular sport within the betting world thanks to the many events and the high potential of certain races. With the number of tips and betting suggestions flying around the web, it can become overwhelming trying to work out which horses to cheer for and which bets to place. That is where we gallop in to help, and with this guide to horse racing, we will introduce you to the sport, the odds, the terminology, and the strategies you can implement to get yourself into the action. OddsMonkey can help guide you through the Horse Racing and jockey jargon and clue you in on some phrases and terms that might not be part of your everyday knowledge.

Horse Racing Terminology

If you are reading this article, we assume you are a novice in Horse Racing punting. Hence, we understand that there may be confusion surrounding some of the specialist terms used by bettors in this sport. Some of this terminology might be unknown even to some of the more experienced bettors who have yet to explore further than simple bets. The following are some key phrases to look out for that you should understand before betting on Horse Racing.


One good thing to do when looking at which horse to back for a race is to check their recent form. In other sports, such as football, a team’s form shows their performance in the past few games. This is the same with Horse Racing, although the form is slightly different. The position in which a Horse finished in their previous few races is noted in their form, with 1st place getting a 1, 2nd place gets a 2, and so on. 10th place and under get a 0. There are also some letters that you may see in a Horse’s form, which can tell you if and why they did not complete a race. F is for a Horse that fell over while running, U is for an unseated jockey, P means pulled up and did not finish the race, C is for carried out, R means the horse refused to jump when it reached an obstacle, RR means the horse refused to run entirely, B means the horse was brought down by another Horse falling. V means the race was voided, typically due to weather conditions or other events.


In Horse Racing, a handicap race is one where a Horse carries extra weight to even out the playing field. This is because, theoretically, the horses should finish in a straight line for the race to be even, but as this is unrealistic, a horse rated at 70 pounds would have to carry 2 pounds extra than a horse rated at 68 pounds.

Handicap Horse Races are contested at every level; although there are more at the lower level than at the top, some of the best Horses to have raced have done it with handicaps placed. All of the large meetings throughout the year, such as Cheltenham and the Royal Ascot, have many handicaps amongst them.


A Horse Racing card is announced, and all involved Horses are named. If one of these Horses suddenly falls ill, becomes injured, or has not eaten enough food that day to be considered able to participate, they will be withdrawn from the race and labelled as a Non-Runner. Most bookies will return any stakes placed on a Horse who becomes a Non-Runner.


Odds in Horse Racing represented the implied chance of a certain Horse winning a race. These odds are typically expressed in every decimal, i.e. 2.0 or as fractional, i.e. 1/1. Decimal odds are probably the easiest to understand, as you just multiply your stake by the decimal value. For example, if you placed £10 on a bet marked at 3.5 odds, your total return would be £35. Fractional odds are still somewhat simple to understand; for every number after the slash (/) that you place on the bet, you will receive the number before the slash (/) in return. For example, if a bet is shown as 7/2, this means for every £2 you place, you would receive £7 in profit.

Inexperienced punters will typically look at placing small stakes on bigger odds. While this can occasionally provide profit thanks to underdog stories, it is unlikely you will consistently win while betting on these Horses. An example of where this paid off on day 3 of the Royal Ascot, a Horse by the name of Acklam Express was priced at 200/1 and ended up finishing 3rd. If this horse were backed as an Each Way bet, based on Bet365 offering quartered odds for a Top 5 finish, the horse would have paid out for a 50/1 winner. Any punters who backed this horse would’ve been happy to receive a 50/1 payout, especially considering that 1st and 2nd were priced at only 9/4 and 11/1. Here at OddsMonkey, we have a very useful Each Way Calculator to help you work out your each way payout.

Photo Finish

Some races can be incredibly tight between 2 or more Horses. At the finish line, a camera is installed that can be used to measure all the way down to the hairs on a horse’s nose. This camera takes a photo as every horse crosses the line, with a reflection on the other side, which allows the Judge to decide which horse was over the line first. Some bookmakers will even offer odds for a race to finish with a photo finish.

Race Cards

If you visit a physical racecourse, you will be given a race card upon your entry. This race card is a booklet that contains all the upcoming races for that day, along with each horse’s form and recent performance data. These race cards are also found in whichever newspaper covers the event, typically a local newspaper for the track’s area. This data can be crucial for anyone who understands how to read form, although, as we learned from Acklam Express, sometimes sheer willpower and determination overtake form. Typically, this race card will aid you in landing some winning bets.

Rule 4

Rule 4 is when a Horse is removed from a race after the market has already been created. The market cannot be reformed with any bets already placed, so Rule 4 adjusts Horse prices for their new odds of winning. This only changes the few favourites in the race, and any Horse priced 14/1 (15.00) or above will not see a price change.

Types of Horse Racing Bets

Some of the most popular betting types include:
Accumulator (Acca) – Multiple selections combined into one bet, where all picks must win to return value. Use our free Horse Accumulator Calculator to work out your odds.
Full Cover – Similar to an Accumulator, but covers various combinations, so one selection does not ruin an entire bet.
Handicap – Handicap bets are few in Horse Racing, but distance bets are a similar market. You may bet on a Horse to win a race by X amount of distance.
Multiple – As long as a bet has more than 2 selections, it is classed as a Multiple. This includes anything from a Treble (3 selections) upwards but typically describes a Lucky 15, a Goliath, or any other large full-cover bet.
Single – This individual selection only covers one race/horse market.

The following table will give you a rundown of Horse Racing betting terms you should be aware of. Some in this list are not used as much in modern betting, but it is still good to know about them all.


Type of Bet How it Works
Accumulator (Acca) A group of selections in one bet, typically across multiple races throughout the day. These can be straight wins or each-way selections, but if one selection loses, the whole bet loses.
Alphabet An Alphabet compiles 6 selections into a 26-line bet. This includes 2 Patents, a Yankee and a 6-fold Acca. The patents are made of selections 1 to 3 and 4 to 6, the Yankee is selections 2 to 5, and the 6-fold includes all 6. The two weakest selections are picked 1st and 6th so that they are not included in the Yankee, but all selections would be intent on winning.
Any To Come Any to Come bets, also known as Roller bets, are an interesting way of reusing your stake. A selection is chosen with one of these bets, and if it wins, the winnings are rolled onto the next bet. These are formed like an Acca, but the rolling only happens if the previous bet is a winner.
Each-Way Horse Racing each way bets consist of two parts: a Win bet and a Place bet. Place betting is only available if there are 5 or more Horses in the race; 5-7 Horses will pay for 1st or 2nd, 8 to 15 Horses will pay for 1st, 2nd or 3rd, and a race with 16+ Horses will pay up to 4th place. Each way bets will be the most valuable if your horse wins but will also pay if the horse places within the specified borders. 
Exacta These bets are Totepools of 2+ selections, and the aim is to choose which horses will come 1st and 2nd in a race. This is almost identical to a Forecast bet.
Flag A flag bet comprises 23 lines, including 6 doubles, 4 trebles, a 4-fold acca and 6 pairs of single stakes about pairs. These ‘single stakes about pairs’ work in the same way as an Any to Come bet, with the 1st selection winnings rolling on to the 2nd selection.
Forecast As mentioned, Forecast betting is the same as Exacta betting, in which you choose the Horses you think will finish in a certain position between 1st and 2nd. Another option is the Reverse Forecast which will be detailed in this table.
Goliath A Goliath is an absolute monster of a bet, made up of 8 selections across 247 different lines! This includes an 8-fold acca, 8 7-folds, 28 6-folds, 56 5-folds, 70 4-folds, 56 trebles, and 28 doubles.
Goliath Flag This is 8 selections made up of 303 lines, including 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 4-folds, 56 5-folds, 28 6-folds, 8 7-folds, and 8-fold acca and 28 stakes about pairs singles.
Heinz This compiles 57 lines across 6 selections, with 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 4-folds, 6 5-folds and a 6-selection accumulator bet.
Jackpot This is a Tote bet in which you choose the winner of the first 6 races on any card, allowing for a large profit if your selections are all correct.
Lucky 15 A Lucky 15 is 4 selections, spread across 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and a 4-fold acca. One correct selection out of any of the selections is needed for any sort of profit, as the Single would return a winner. The stake of the bet is multiplied by 15, so placing £1 on a Lucky 15 would cost £15, and placing £1 on an Each Way Lucky 15 would cost £30 but covers both the Win and E/W side.
Lucky 31 A Lucky 31 is similar to the previous bet but includes 5 selections across 5 singles, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 4-folds and a 5-fold acca. The staking works the same, with stakes multiplied by 31 for the regular bet or by 31 and then by 2 for an E/W bet.
Lucky 63 The final option for Lucky bets is the Lucky 63, which spreads 6 selections across 6 singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 4-folds, 6 5-folds, and a 6-fold accumulator. The staking is the same, with a £1 bet costing £63 and a £1 E/W costing £126.
Patent A patent bet compiles 3 selections across 3 singles, 3 doubles and a treble.
Place Place betting is where the bettor looks at a Horse who they are confident will run well but need to be sure enough to back them for a win. The places on offer depend on how many Horses are involved in the race, as specified in the Each Way section of this table. The winner is also counted as a placer, so you will not miss out on winnings if your horse comes 1st in the race.
Placepot These are similar to Jackpot bets in that you choose the winner from 6 races, although you can also choose 2 horses from each race to finish 1st or 2nd, or 3 from each race to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and so on. Your stake is multiplied if you pick multiple horses from each race.
Reverse Forecast This is a lighter version of the Forecast bet, in which you choose the Horses you think will finish 1st and 2nd, but you do not have to specify which way around you think they will place.
Round Robin A round-robin consists of 10 lines and 3 selections. These include 3 pairs of single stakes about bets, a treble, and 3 doubles.
Show A show bet is predominantly used on the American Parimutuel. This is a bet for a Horse to finish in the top three and pays out for 3rd place.
Superfecta Superfecta bets require choosing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th horse in a race. These are mainly American bets and are not used much in the UK.
Super Flag Five selections across 46 lines make up a Super Flag. This includes 10 single stakes about pairs, a 5-fold acca, 5 4-folds, 10 trebles, and 10 doubles.
Super Heinz Seven selections spread out across 162 lines make up a Super Heinz Flag. This includes a 7-fold acca, 7 6-folds, 21 5-folds, 35 4-folds, 35 trebles, 21 doubles and 21 single stakes about pairs.
Super Yankee A Super Yankee, also known as a Canadian, is a 26-line bet with 5 selections. It contains 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 4-folds, and a 5-fold acca.
Trifecta Trifecta bets are where you choose the first 3 Horses to finish in a race in the correct order from 1st to 3rd.
Trixie A Trixie bet comprises 3 selections across 3 doubles and a treble.
Union Jack Union Jack bets are made up of 9 selections, split into three rows or 8 trebles. The strongest selection goes in the middle, selection 5, as this one is included in all 8 trebles. At least 1 treble must win to return any bets. 
Win A win bet is the most straightforward option for Horse Racing. This is just choosing a Horse to win any given race.
Yankee A Yankee is made up of 4 selections. These are split between 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and a 4-fold acca.

Horse Racing Betting Timing

Betting on Horse Racing requires very good timing and time management. If you place a bet on a Horse to win a race months before the race takes place, unforeseen circumstances could cause you some issues, whereas betting on a Horse at the start of a race could see it under or overpriced. The following are some Horse Race Timing phrases you should understand.


Horse Racing Ante-Post bets are placed before a race begins. For example, markets for Cheltenham could be created up to a year before the event, and punters can place bets as early as this.

Starting Price (SP)

Upon a specific race starting, the price of each horse is recorded. A comment question asked by punters is ‘what does SP mean in horse racing?’, this is known as the starting price.


This is Horse Racing’s answer to an In-play bet. If a race has already begun, and a horse is falling behind, but you are confident they will make a comeback late on in the race, you can bet on this outcome happening.

Horse Racing – Bookmakers

There are three different types of bookmakers for Horse Racing, and a wide variety of betting types on each of these. You can bet against a bookmaker, with a fellow punter in a betting pool, or against the other punters.


An exchange is essentially like trading rather than betting. In an Exchange, you can bet on both the Back and the Lay side, predominantly the Lay side. This means you are betting on an event NOT happening rather than a bet happening.

Fixed Odds

Fixed odds are the typical bookmaker odds displayed on an online sportsbook or physical bookie shop. The returns are clearly set for each bettor, making it easier even for a new punter.


A Tote bet in the UK is known as a Pari-Mutuel bet in the US. These are pool-based bets which allow multiple people to place the same bet, and the bookmaker takes a cut from the total pool. Payouts can vary, and the prize is split between all the involved punters.

Horse Racing – Betting Strategy

You can find many different betting strategies that work for other people, and while certain strategies might not suit your style, you will find one that matches your betting style. The following are some very popular strategies in the punting world, although some take more time and skill to get correct.


Dutching is when you back different results with different bookmakers, which is common with team sports such as rugby and football. These can only have three true outcomes between Team 1 winning, a Draw, or Team 2 winning. In Horse Racing, the bettor may only believe that two Horses can win the race and can dutch both to cover both markets.


Hedging involves backing multiple markets to narrow the playing field with your bets. These are like Dutching in their simplest form, but these are typically done in Horse Racing to minimise a loss rather than trying to create a major profit.

Matched Betting

Matched betting has risen in popularity in recent years, with many bettors taking advantage of the various bonus offers and sign-up deals that online bookmakers present to them. There are many different ways to get involved in matched betting, although the basic plan is to cover both the Back and Lay side of the bet to either maximise profit or eradicate the chance of a loss while getting free bets returned.

To compare horse racing odds, we have our own Racing Matcher software which can help when finding the best odds.

Horse Racing Betting Summary

Horse Racing is one of the most complex sports, whether you are betting on it or just watching it. Considering the sport is just some horses running around a track, there is so much to consider. Experts have taken years to perfect their Horse Racing bets and strategies, and even still, nobody is perfect.

If you have found this horse racing betting guide useful then you may want to check out our football betting guide to learn all you need to know about when placing a bet on your favourite matches.

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About the author:

James OddsMonkey

James OddsMonkey

James' background in IT support and matched betting knowledge is how he's ended up at OddsMonkey updating offer, answering tickets and generally being super helpful.

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