How to Bet on Horse Racing

Tips on how to bet on horse racing, including an introduction to common racing terminology and the different types of horse racing bets....

Horse racing betting tips from Marathonbet

An introduction to horse racing

Where did horse racing originate from?

With roots dating all the way back to the 12th century on UK shores, perhaps it’s little surprise that horse racing has always been one of the UK’s most popular sports.

Records suggests Thoroughbred horses first arrived in the UK in the 1300s. Today, the family line of all Thoroughbreds can still be traced back to three stallions – the ‘Foundation sires’ – Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian.

Chester Racecourse boasts the honour of being the oldest racecourse in the UK. Racing fans have been heading to the Roodee since 1539 – the year widely accepted as when horse racing as we know it today originated.

The British horse racing calendar boasts some of the most prestigious events in world sport, including the five ‘Classics’: the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket , the Epsom Oaks and Epsom Derby, and the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster. These are amongst the oldest races in the world, with the St Leger first held in 1776.

How many people watch horse racing worldwide?

Horse racing continues to attract a huge following around the world with major race meetings often attracting thousands of spectators on raceday as well as millions of viewers worldwide.

In the UK, the Grand National alone attracts over 500m viewers worldwide in around 140 countries and is often billed as the world’s greatest steeplechase. Looking to Australia, the Melbourne Cup has become known as the ‘race that stops a nation’ with over 100,000 racegoers flocking to Flemington Racecourse every year.

In the USA, you might assume the Superbowl always takes top billing in a nation passionate about its NFL. On viewing figures the near six-hour extravaganza certainly wins out. However, the frantic two-minute sprint that is the Kentucky Derby still attracts a formidable 15m viewers every year and remains a much-loved event on the American sporting calendar.

How much is the horse racing industry worth?

Horse racing is big business – particularly in the UK. Research from the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (TBA) suggests the horse racing industry contributes over £3.5 billion to the UK economy, with over six million people attending race meetings each year.

Great Britain also hosts 24 of the world’s top 100 races – making it home to one of the world’s biggest horse racing industries.

Horse Racing Betting Odds Explained

Decimal vs Fractional Odds

With Marathonbet, horse racing fans can bet on the latest horse racing events using either decimal odds or fractional odds.

Decimal odds are becoming increasingly popular with UK bettors, as they incorporate your stake in the winnings. Here’s a working example:

Speed Merchant is priced up at 4.00 to win the 15:30 at Newmarket.

The bettor places £10 on Speed Merchant to win the race – and he does.

£10 on a win at odds of 4.00 means the better would receive a £40 payout, giving a profit of £30.

Or more simply: £10 x 4.00 = £40.

Fractional odds are perhaps more commonly known amongst UK bettors.

These odds display the winnings you will receive depending on the stake placed.

That means, as an example, for odds of 3/1, for every £1 stake you place, you’ll win £3 in return plus your £1 stake back.

What does SP mean in horse racing?

The ‘SP’ is the starting price of a particular horse based on the on-course market at the time a race begins. With Marathonbet, bettors have the option to place a bet at the starting price, or at the odds offered at the time the bet was made (the ‘early price’).

What does ‘early price’ mean?

Early price simply means the odds offered by the bookmaker at the time a bettor places a bet.

Example: Jim places £10 on Red Rooster to win the Grand National at 33/1 on the morning of the race. The horse is known for finding its best form on softer ground.

Weather conditions change rapidly during the course of the day with heavy rainfall on the track. This in turn means the bookmaker shortens the odds on Red Rooster winning the Grand National to 22/1.

As Jim opted to take the early price, the bet would be settled at the 33/1 price he originally struck with the bookmaker.

On raceday, racegoers can also take the ‘board price’. This is the price shown on trackside boards close to the off of a race and, once available, replaces the ‘early price’.

When can my winning bet be paid?

On horse racing, once the jockeys have ‘weighed-in’ then the result becomes official, and bets are paid on that result. All jockeys must weigh-in with all their kit after the end of a race to confirm the horse carried the correct weight in the race.

If there has been some doubt about a race being run fairly a stewards’ enquiry may be called at the end of that particular race. This is most commonly used when a horse had interfered with one of their rivals, by crossing into their path for example, and thus the final result may have been affected.

At the end of their enquiry, the stewards may decide that the interference did not affect the result and the result will stand, or they may demote the winner or one of the placed horses. In such cases, this can mean a horse being demoted to a lower finishing position or disqualified and placed last.

The ‘weighed-in’ will not be announced during a stewards’ enquiry and will only be declared once the stewards have concluded their checks and any amendments in final placings have been announced.

Popular Horse Racing Bets

What are Win Bets?

The clue’s in the name –  and it’s the simplest bet you can place on any horse race.

Place a bet on the horse you think is going to win the race. If it wins, you’ll win.

What is each way in horse racing?

Each-Way Bets Explained

An each-way bet is a little more complex than a win bet. However, it can be a shrewd option if you want to maximise your chances of a return.

Each-way betting (usually abbreviated as EW or E/W) effectively comprises two separate bets – one on the horse to win the race, and one on it to place.

This means you’ll receive winnings if your horse fails to win the race but places. On most races with Marathonbet, you’ll get a return from an each-way bet if a horse places in the first three.

The number of paid places, as well as the place odds on a specific race, depend on the number of runners and whether the race is a handicap or not.

It’s important to note as an each-way bet comprises two elements, this means you will stake an amount on both the win and the place.

This means a £2 each-way bet will amount to a total stake of £4 (£2 on the win, £2 on the place).

Each-way betting often provides the best value in races with a larger field of runners (e.g. the Grand National) where events on the track, such as a favourite being brought down by another runner, can override form.

Each-Way Multiple Bets Explained

You can also place each-way multiple bets. For example, if you pick three horses you can place an each-way treble bet.

As explained above, this comprises two bets so will cost twice the unit stake. Thus, a £2 each-way treble will cost £4 and you will have two bets. A £2 win treble on all three horses to win and a £2 place treble on all three horses to be placed.

If all three horses win, then both bets are successful. If two horses win and the third horse finishes in one of the paid place positions, your win treble will have lost, but your place treble will be successful.

What is ante-post betting?

Ante-post betting is often attractive to bettors with a strong working knowledge of horse racing, as it allows bets to be placed days, weeks or months in advance of a specific racing event.

Ante-post betting markets are common for the biggest events on the annual racing calendar, including the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Epsom Derby. These markets can often provide the best value, given form cannot be factored into a horse’s price.

However, you must also consider than in an ante-post bet, if your horse does not actually run in the race you will lose your money (unless it is balloted out, where it becomes a non-runner)

Forecast Betting

Forecast betting allows bettors to predict the outcome of a race down to the finishing positions of the first two horses. Returns tend to be higher with forecast bets due to the complex nature of the bets.

What is a straight forecast?

A straight forecast is the most straightforward forecast bet available. The bettor places a bet on which horses will finish first and second in a race. The horses must finish in that order to guarantee a return.

What is a reverse forecast?

A reverse forecast mirrors a straight forecast, with one crucial difference. The bettor places a bet on which horses will finish first and second, but the finishing order is irrelevant. Provided both horses finish in the top two, you’ll win your bet. This will cost twice the amount of a straight forecast as you are effectively placing two bets.

What is a combination forecast?

As the name might suggest, a combination forecast offers an extra degree of flexibility to bettors placing a forecast.

A combination forecast guarantees a return provided two from at least three selections on a race finish in the top two, in any order. Remember, with a combination forecast, the more selections you add to your bet slip, the higher your total stake will amount to.

What is a tricast bet?

A tricast bet is a type of bet where the bettor must predict the finishing order of the top three runners in a particular race, in the correct order. Tricast bets are common in horse racing. As there are so many potential permutations involved for a Tricast bet to be successful, payouts tend to be higher than standard bets, although odds can vary depending on the amount of runners in a particular race and the prices of the selected horses.

Tricasts are only available on handicap races with eight or more runners.

How does a tricast bet work?

Liam bets on horse 3 to finish in 1st, horse 8 to finish in 2nd, and horse 6 to finish in 3rd in the 14:40 at Uttoxeter.

Horse 3 finishes in first, while horse 8 beats horse 6 by a nose to seal second place.

As all three horses finished in the correct order on Liam’s tricast bet slip, he therefore wins his bet.

Multiple Bets – Horse Racing

How does a double bet work?

Double bets are common across most sports including horse racing. A double bet is comprised of two separate selections – both of which must be successful to receive a payout.

How does a treble bet work?

Treble bets are made up of three separate selections. All sections must be successful to receive a payout.

How does a Trixie bet work?

A Trixie bet involves four bets on three selections that are combined into one wager.

Effectively, a Trixie is a treble onto which three doubles have been added, with a return ensured even if one selection fails to win – which differentiates this type of bet from a standard accumulator. Remember, as you are placing four bets on three selections, this means a £1 win-only Trixie bet would actually cost £4.

How does a Patent bet work?

A Patent bet comprises seven bets on three different selections. It’s a bet made up of three singles, three doubles and a treble. A return is guaranteed even if only one selection wins.

How does a Yankee bet work?

A Yankee is comprised of 11 bets – six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold accumulator. Two or more selections must win to guarantee a return.

How does a Canadian bet work?

Also known as a Super Yankee, the Canadian bet is a five-selection wager that comprises 26 different bets – 10 doubles, 10 trebles, five four-folds and a five-fold accumulator. A return is guaranteed from the bet provided two selections win.

How does a Lucky 15 work?

As the name indicates, a Lucky 15 comprises 15 bets across four different selections. It consists of four singles, six doubles, four trebles and a fourfold accumulator. As it consists of 15 separate bets, this means a £1 win-only Lucky 15 would involve a total stake of £15. For a return to be guaranteed, only one win from the four selections is required.

How does a Lucky 31 work?

Unsurprisingly, the Lucky 31 stays true to its name as a five-selection bet consisting of 31 individual bets – five singles, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, five four-folds and a five-fold accumulator. A return will be guaranteed if at least one selection is a winner.

How does a Lucky 63 work?

The Lucky 63 bet comprises of six selections consisting of 63 bets: six singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-folds, six five-folds and a six-fold accumulator. At least one winner will guarantee a return.

With Marathonbet, we pay double the odds for one winner on any ‘Lucky’ horse racing bet. Find more information on all our bonus offers for ‘Lucky’ bets here.

How does a Heinz bet work?

Taking its name from the famous Heinz ’57 varieties’ slogan, a Heinz bet is six-selection wager that comprises 57 separate bets: 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-folds and a six-fold accumulator. For a return to be guaranteed, at least two selections must win.

How does a Super Heinz bet work?

A Super Heinz consists of seven selections and 120 separate bets – 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 four-folds, 21 five-folds, seven six-folds and a seven-fold accumulator. Due to the complexity and total stake of the bet, these bets tend to be the preserve of more experienced bettors with detailed knowledge or horse or greyhound racing. For some form of return to be guaranteed, at least two selections must win.

How does a Goliath bet work?

The name’s a bit of a giveaway. The Goliath bet is one of the most wide-ranging bets available on the market as an eight-selection wager consisting of 247 individual bets: 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 four-folds, 56 five-folds, 28 six-folds, eight seven-folds and an eight-fold accumulator. Due to the complexity of the bet and the high initial stake outlay, returns can generate huge winnings should all selections come in. At least two selections must win to guarantee a return.

What is Rule 4 in horse racing?

Rule 4 applies when a horse is withdrawn from a race. If a runner is withdrawn, that means less competition for the other runners, which automatically improves the odds of every other horse in the race. The Rule 4 deduction is a calculation based on the withdrawn horse’s odds – therefore if that horse was a heavy favourite at 1/4 on, the deduction will be higher than if the horse was priced at 12/1. No deductions will be made should any horses priced above 14/1 withdraw from a race.

What offers are available with Marathonbet on Horse Racing?

On certain races Marathonbet will offer ‘best odds guaranteed. This means that if you take an early price in your bet and the SP is greater, then your bets will be paid out at SP. This applies to both win and place single and multiple bets.

A race on which best odds guaranteed is offered will be denoted with a yellow rosette next to the race time and meeting name on the racecard.

Marathonbet also offer ‘double result’, commonly known also as ‘first past the post’.

You will be paid out on both results if a winner is disqualified. This applies to the Win part of bets only, i.e. where we pay both on the official result and a disqualified winner.

The full terms can be found here.

General Horse Racing Betting Tips

Horse Racing Glossary of Terms

General Horse Racing Terms

What does BF mean?

BF means the horse was a beaten favourite in a particular race.

What does Btn mean?

The horse was beaten in this particular race.

What does N/R mean?

This means the horse is a non-runner.

What does OR mean?

This is the official rating of the horse, as designated by the British Horseracing Authority.

What does nap mean?

A ‘nap’ is a tipster’s primary pick on raceday – the horse they think has the best chance of winning across that day’s racing.

What does NB mean?

This is a common tipster term meaning ‘next best’ – the tipster’s second best pick of the day after the ‘nap’.

What does TS mean?

TS stands for ‘topspeed’.


Horse Racing Distances Explained

One marker of a horse’s racing potential is the distance by which it wins a race.

These are the most commonly used terms for distances in horse racing:

Dist = distance
f =
= head
= short head
= half a length
= mile
= neck
= short neck
= nose
= yards


Horse Racing Going Explained

The going can markedly affect the chances of a particular horse winning a race, with some having strong preferences for certain types of ground conditions. These are the commonly used official going descriptions and their abbreviations

fm – firm
gd – good
gd-fm – good to firm
gd-sft – good to soft
gd-yld – good to yielding
hd – hard
hvy – heavy
sft – soft
sft-hvy – soft to heavy
slw – slow
std – standard (All weather races)
std-fst – standard to fast
std-slw – standard to slow
yld – yielding
yld-sft – yielding to soft


Reading Horse Racing Form Figures

The previous finishing positions of a horse are denoted by the numbers 1-9, with a 0 if the horse finished outside the top 9 places.

‘–‘ between the numbers indicates form from a previous year

‘/’ between the numbers indicates form from a previous season

Other letters contained within the form figures for a horse refer to the following:

What does B mean in horse racing form?

B means the horse was brought down by another runner in the specified race.

What does C mean in horse racing form?

C means the horse was carried out – i.e. the horse was forced to race wide as a result of another horse moving into its path and did not complete the race.

What does D mean in horse racing form?

D means the horse was disqualified in the specified race.

What does F mean in horse racing form?

F means the horse fell in the specified race.

What does HR mean in horse racing form?

HR means the horse hit the rails during the race. A horse can hit the rail for a number of reasons, including misjudging a situation, rider error, or being forced wide.

What does L mean in horse racing form?

L means ‘left at start’ – this means the horse did not start the race properly and never featured as a meaningful contender in the race.

What does O mean in horse racing form?

O mans the horse ran out – leaving the designated course or breaching the barriers, resulting in disqualification.

What does P mean in horse racing form?

P means the horse pulled up before completing the specified race.

What does R mean in horse racing form?

R means the horse refused to jump a fence in the specified race.

What does S mean in horse racing form?

S means the horse slipped up.

What does U mean in horse racing form?

U stands for ‘unseated rider’.

What does V mean in horse racing form?

V means a horse was in a race where the result was declared void.


Horse Racing Headgear Explained

A horse may wear specific headgear to improve its chances in a race or for medical reasons. For example, wearing blinkers may help a horse who is easily distracted whilst eyeshields can be beneficial on all weather surfaces where grains of the polytrack can fly up during a race.

The abbreviations used for the various types of headgear are:

h – hood
b – blinkers
p – (sheepskin) cheekpieces
t – tongue-tie / tongue strap
v – visor
e/c – eyecover
e/s – eyeshield

Types of Races Explained

There are two main types of racing, Flat and National Hunt.

Flat racing, as it implies, has no obstacles. The shortest Flat race is over 5 furlongs, whilst the longest is the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Ascot over 2 miles and 5 furlongs. Flat racehorses can start their racing career at two years old.

Within the flat racing genre, you will also find all-weather racing. The first all-weather meeting took place at Lingfield in 1989 to counter the loss of races during winter when turf tracks are not always raceable. There are now six all-weather tracks operating; Lingfield, Southwell, Kempton Park, Wolverhampton, Chelmsford City and Newcastle.

National Hunt racing has three types of races; chases, hurdles and bumpers.

Chases, an abbreviated word for steeplechases, are run over bigger obstacles with a ‘fence’ needing to be at least 4.5ft tall. During a chase there can be different types of obstacles, plain fences, open ditches and water jumps.

Hurdle races have smaller, less rigid fences. A hurdle needs to be a minimum of 3.5 ft tall and is typically made of panels of brush.

Hurdle races tend to be run at a faster pace than chases as the height of the fence is much lower

The final type of National Hunt race, a bumper, is a slight anomaly as it is a flat race run under National Hunt rules.

Bumpers are for horses who have not previously run on the flat to enable them to get experience of racing, before commonly moving onto hurdle races. Horses who have previously raced in flat races are not eligible to run in bumpers.

View all Horse Racing Tips here.

See more Betting Guides here.

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