Betting on horse racing is an extremely popular pastime and it’s hard to beat the thrill of skilfully selecting the winner of a big-field handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, or perhaps correctly predicting the winner of the Breeder’s Cup Classic.
Although many professional punters are able to make a profit wagering on the sport, picking winners is far from straightforward, and whittling down the field can often be a time-consuming process. With many of the best horse racing sites now offering punters the chance to bet on UK, Irish, South African, French, and US racing amongst others, knowing where to start can often be one of the trickiest challenges.
We’ve looked at some of the key aspects to consider when betting on horse racing and picked out some of the most important facets which simply must be factored in before placing a bet.
Know Your Race Types
In the UK, there are a number of different types of races, many of which are staged on the same day. It is important to know which type of race you are betting on, as this can have a significant effect on both the pre-race market and the race outcome. Although this information can be found in all form guides, it is also listed on betting sites such as Bet365 Ireland, alongside the distance and going.
The majority of races in the UK are handicaps in which each competitor carries a different weight. This is decided by the handicapper and is based on their recent form. It is designed to create an even playing field and prevent predictable outcomes. Many professional punters stick to handicaps as they are often able to calculate how a horse might perform in relation to the weight it has been asked to carry.
Maiden races are restricted to horses who are yet to secure their first victory, whereas Novice events are open to those who have only won two or three races during their short careers. Sellers feature horses which are set to go to a post-race auction, whereas apprentice or conditional races feature jockeys who are yet to fully qualify for their license.
Pay Close Attention to the Going and Weather Forecast
Although the best-handicapped horses will generally prevail, the ground conditions are also vitally important. Some horses prefer to race on softer ground, whereas others may only hit top form when the turf is firm.
There have been a number of high-profile cases of a horse defying pre-race expectations including Frankel’s 2012 victory in the QIPCO Champion Stakes on unfavourable soft ground, however, generally speaking, it is always best to back horses who are proven on the surface.
Soft or ‘sticky’ ground is likely to slow the pace of a race, although some horses simply relish a three-mile slog in the mud.
If a horse is unproven on the current ground conditions, a quick look at the breeding can often give punters a clue as to how they might perform on soft or firm ground.
Course clerks will often announce a change in the going, however, this isn’t always officially confirmed until many punters have already placed their bets. As a result, it is vitally important for bettors to keep their eyes on the local weather forecast in the event of a torrential downpour or a significant change in conditions.
Pay Attention to the Market
The market can often give punters a few clues and there will be always several horses who are well-backed throughout the course of the day. The market is shaped by the amount of money being put down, and although some major gambles have been foiled in recent years, it is worth paying attention to any significant changes in the pre-race odds.
Each market mover must be taken on an individual basis and trying to find a reason for the support is crucial. Horses who are making a return from a long layoff, or who are entering handicaps for the first time may be worth consideration whereas well-backed runners who drop in grade may also be worth backing. National Hunt runners who are switching between hurdles and steeplechases can also attract significant investment, whereas those who are returning to the scene of their last victory could be worth backing if they’ve been well-supported in the market.