Aug 15, 2022
Aug 15, 2022

How to place a bet on horse racing: The basics of horse racing betting

How to bet on Horse Racing

The difference between win and each-way betting

What are exotic bets?

How to read a form guide

How to place a bet on horse racing: The basics of horse racing betting

How do you bet on a horse to place or win? Do you know how to place a Forecast bet? Our horse racing betting guide explains everything you need to know to place anything from the most exotic bets to the absolute basics.

Horse racing is one of the most popular sports that people like to bet on. The thrill of the race to the winning post is enhanced by the idea of picking the winner and returning a profit.

Whether you're looking to back a winner in the Belmont Stakes or think you can predict the first three past the post in the Ascot Gold Cup, our quick guide will teach you everything you need to know to bet on horse racing at Pinnacle. 

Check the odds

Betting odds are used to determine the likelihood of a given outcome in a sporting event. The odds quoted determine the probability of a particular outcome occurring in any sporting event. Betting odds also allow bettors to determine the expected return on their stake should the predicted outcome become a reality.

Here are some of the key terms to note before starting to bet.

  • Stake – this is the amount you decide to place on your bet. 

  • Odds – this is the 'price' you agree to stake your bet at.

  • Payout – this shows the expected return on your bet, if you are successful.

Probability reflects the likelihood of any given event happening. Betting odds are designed to do the same thing. 

The odds reflect the probability or chance of each event they refer to happening. An outcome at short odds is deemed very likely to happen, while those at longer odds are less likely to become true. 

Of course, it is important to point out that while probability in mathematics can be worked out scientifically, horse racing is something entirely different. 

The reason we love to bet on sport is that the outcomes are not decided on any formulae and the unpredictable nature of sport means that when you back something at long odds, it can still happen even if the odds are implying it is improbable. 

Equally, backing something at short odds with a potentially high probability does not guarantee it will become true. This is the beauty, mystery, and attraction of sports betting.

Types of horse racing bets

There are many ways of betting on horse racing, from a straightforward bet to win, through each-way and more exotic bets. Here's a sample of the options available.

Wins bets: Backing to win means your bet only succeeds if the horse wins the race. For example, if you place a £10 bet on a horse to win at 4.000 and it wins, you get $50 back – that is your $10 stake and $40 winnings. 

Each-way bet: Backing each-way is essentially two bets combined into one, one on the horse to win and one on the horse to be 'placed'. Being placed can mean the horse finishing second, third or fourth – depending on the number of runners in the race. Sometimes, for races like the Grand National, there are six places in a race.

When you are placing a bet, you will see the each-way terms on the racecard, this will show the number of places and also the percentage of the odds paid on a place, for example, a quarter of the odds on the first four placed horses. 

If you back a horse each-way at 20.000, a $10 each-way bet costs $20. If the horse wins, you get $270 back – $200 on the win, plus $50 on the place (a quarter of the odds) and your initial $20 stake. 

If the horse finishes second, third or fourth (in this example) you would get $60 back – that is your $10 place bet and $50 on a quarter of the odds.

Place bets: You can also bet 'place only' in horse racing. In this scenario, you will be offered fixed odds on each selection to finish in the first three (or four or more depending on field size). If you back a horse to be placed in the first three, your bet wins if it finishes first, second or third and is settled at the odds you took, irrespective of the finishing place.  


Exotics are types of bets on horse races where multiple horses are involved. They include Forecasts and Tricasts – the most popular types of exotic bets.

Forecast: With a Forecast bet (sometimes called an Exacta), you'll be trying to pick the first two in the official order of finish in a race. As an example, if you bet on a 2-4 Forecast, you'll win if horse No.2 wins and No.4 finishes second. You can also place this bet as a Reverse Forecast, in which you win if your selections are first and second in any order – but note that a Reverse Forecast bet doubles your stake, so a $5 Reverse Forecast costs $10 as you are essentially backing both outcomes (in this example, the 2-4 result and the 4-2 result).

Tricast: With the Tricast (sometimes called a Trifecta), you are predicting the one-two-three in a race, that is the horses that will finish first, second, and third in the correct order. 

At Pinnacle, all bets on horse racing are offered with Fixed Odds – that means the price you make your bet at is the price you are paid out at if it wins.

Ante-post betting

Ante-post betting refers to bets placed on horse races set to take place on future dates (ante-post usually refers to anything more than 48 hours before the raceday). 

The 'form' is a guide to past performance... usually detailing recent/best performances.

Generally, ante-post bettors are hoping to strike bets at bigger prices than they might be able to on raceday.

Ante-post betting is generally available on major races throughout the year, such as those at the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National in jumps racing, and the Classics such as the 1000  Guineas, the 2000 Guineas, the Derby, and the Oaks in flat racing.

Ante-post betting will also be available periodically in the run-up to major festivals like Royal Ascot or Glorious Goodwood.

While there is the possibility of obtaining more rewarding odds in an ante-post bet, bettors also have to assess the greater risk at play as ante-post bets are non-refundable, even if the selection does not end up running in the selected race.

Horse racing betting strategy

As with betting on any sport, the successful bettor will have a strategy in mind for how best to invest their money/time. Everyone from the casual fan to professional bettors should have an idea of what information they want to digest before striking a bet. 

In the current digital age, more information than ever before is available at the click of a button when it comes to making those calls. Here's an overview of some topics that may help inform your decisions before betting on horse racing. 

Can historical data inform your betting?

It can and, where possible, it almost certainly should. Analysing historical data can, of course, mean looking at the past performance of the horse you want to back but it can also include looking at information for young horses that have not had much racing. This will include breeding and pedigree information that can detail what sort of ground conditions or length of race that a horse is likely excel at. 

Of course, the most important historical data will ultimately be the past performances of every horse once we can judge them on their own merits. In today's racing world, lots of information and statistics in regards to past performance are readily available and this should be utilised to help make an informed betting decision.

Does it matter what the ground is?

Every race run has a ground condition description to go with it. Conditions range from heavy/soft to firm/fast on turf, while it's also important to note the different types of artificial surfaces (e.g. Tapeta, Polytrack) that horses can run on, as some excel better on one over another.

Some horses are specialists at running on heavy/soft ground and the same is true of firm/fast ground. If a horse has never run on an extreme ground type (e.g. heavy) before, this can introduce an unknown factor.

Some horses are versatile and will give their best on any ground, but a good portion will do their best work when they get their preferred ground conditions.

How do you read the form in horse racing?

The 'form' is a guide to past performance and is generally represented by a sequence of numbers next to each horse showing previous finishing positions (4, 3, 1, 2 etc. or a 0 for an unplaced run).

If they failed to complete the race there will be a letter (U-unseated, F-fell, P-Pulled-up), while a (-) indicates a move from one season into another. A short comment is also part of the form guide, usually detailing recent/best performances and assessing their chance in the upcoming race. 

Do you need to know who are the best trainers/stables to be successful?

The more information you have the better. Clearly, the most successful trainers are those that win most frequently. Trainers can also excel at a particular course(s) and that information is worth investigating.

Recent form is also key, as many punters like to have the confidence of knowing a stable is 'in-form' – that is that they have had recent winners. Sometimes they go through lean spells and this can be off-putting.

How important is the jockey to the horse’s chances of winning? 

Once more, the best jockeys generally have the most success. Punters often take confidence when a jockey they like is riding a horse. Having an elite jockey on board is often a positive in terms of the horse’s chances of winning.

However, sometimes the hopes of a horse are boosted by an inexperienced rider as they are allowed to 'claim' weight from the horse during their apprenticeships. This can also be invaluable and is indicated on the racecard.

How important is bankroll management in horse racing betting?

Discipline in sports betting is key to success and it's certainly true when betting on horse racing. Maintain a staking level at which you are comfortable.

Don't increase your stakes to chase losses and don't increase your stake simply on the basis that your selection is the favourite to win. Being able to keep your discipline is key to successful betting.

Is there any value in backing longshots/high-odds horses?

Races are actually won by longshots quite often. The favourite, on average, will only win once in three races at most over time. 100/1 chances don't win very often but, clearly, when they do, they are very rewarding.

If you read the form and figure a horse has a chance in a race, don't allow your opinion to be swayed by the odds – stick to your convictions and if you are a good judge, they should be rewarded in the long term.

What are the common terms and phrases in horse racing?

Allowance: The deduction in the weight a horse must carry. This can be a result of the age or the gender of the horse or the type of jockey (amateur).

Blinkers: A type of headgear fitted to a horse that limits its field of vision, mainly from each side. Blinkers are designed to help horses concentrate in races.

Bridle: A piece of tack that fits over a horse’s head and to which the bit and reins are attached.

Cheekpieces: A form of headgear which consists of pieces of sheepskin placed on either side of the bridle and performs a similar job as blinkers in helping the horse to concentrate.

Claimer: A jockey who takes weight off a horse to compensate for their relative inexperience as a rider. Their claim is reduced the more winners they have.

Connections: A term often used to describe a horse’s owners and trainer.

Dead heat: When the raceday judge cannot split two or more horses at the finishing line, the prize is split between the horses and a dead heat is called.

Furlong: An imperial unit of distance measurement in horse racing. A furlong is an eighth of a mile or a little more than 201 metres.

Going: The underfoot conditions at the racecourse.

Hood: Another type of headgear fitted over the horse’s head to cover its ears and muffle the noise of the crowd on a raceday.

Length: The length of a horse from its nose to the start of its tail, and a measurement used to describe the distances between horses at the finish line.

NAP: A bet considered to be the most likely winner of all bets during the day.

Off the bridle: A term to describe a horse not travelling well in a race.

On the bridle: A term to describe a horse travelling well in a race. 

Pulling: A horse who is keen during a race and wants to go faster than its jockey is allowing.

Staying on: A phrase frequently used by race commentators or in post-race comments referring to a horse who finished strongly during the closing stages.

Whip: An instrument used by jockeys to help keep horses under control and to encourage them.

Have you got your eyes on a winner? Get stuck into that form guide and place your best bets by signing up to Pinnacle and betting with our incredible horse racing odds.

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