How to bet on horses

Every year millions of new fans are attracted to the ancient sport of horseracing. The growth of global media and online betting means that it is now possible to bet on races around the globe with just the click of a mouse, and to watch selections compete via online racing feeds or dedicated racing channels on satellite.

Although the transition to online betting has revolutionised horseracing, making it easier, safer and more convenient than ever, the process of betting on racehorses can still be intimidating for sports fans who would like to become involved in the sport, but don’t know how to bet on a horse.

The following guide will lead novice punters through the process of making smart selections in any horseracing format.

1. Reading the Card

The card is an indispensable tool for betting on racehorses. The word card has two different meanings in the sport, as the term ‘card’ is sometimes used to describe the race schedule for a single day at any particular meeting.

However, for the purpose of betting, a card refers to the form summary provided for all the runners in a particular race. The card will tell you who the trainer and jockey are for each racehorse, the weight carried (where relevant), and the results achieved by the horses in their last several races.

A racehorse’s most results on a card will be presented as a series of numbers which should be read from right to left for most recent to least recent results. Any finish in double digits is scored as ‘0′, whilst a race that was not completed is identified with a ‘P’ or ‘PU’.

The card will also feature the latest odds on each horse, and sometimes a history of previous odds too. Depending on the region where the bet is being made, the odds will appear in different formats. Decimal and fractional odds are the two most frequently encountered odds formats.

2. Choosing a bet

Bookmakers can make several different betting markets available for any particular race. The most basic bet on a horse involves simply selecting the horse which could win the race based on form.

Betting on a winner: Clicking on the name of a particular horse on the racecard of an online bookmaker, results in the horse being entered on to a betting slip. Once the selection has been added to the betting slip the punter will have the option to bet each way. Clicking this option will automatically double the stake.

Each way betting: Each way bets place half the total stake on the selection winning the race, and the remainder of the stake on the selection finishing placed in the race. It is important to note that the stake placed on the selection placing in the race typically pays out only ¼ of the selected odds if the horse does place.

Each way betting is therefore most popular in handicap races, where prices on offer for the runners tend to pay out an overall profit on the bet, even if the selected horse does not win and only manages a place.

Place betting: Many bookmakers offer place betting markets during the period just before a race. These markets allow punters to back a horse to finish a race in the top three to five positions (number of places paid depends on the size of the field).

Whilst place betting significantly improves the chances of generating a return on a bet, it does penalise the punter by offering significantly lower odds than bets on the same selection winning the race.

Forecasts and Tricasts: Forecast and tricast betting involves betting on two to three racehorses finishing a race in a specific order. Predicting the outcome of a race in terms of the finishing positions for the first two or three racehorses is much more challenging than simply picking a winner, however, successful forecast and tricast bets can generate impressive odds and even more impressive payouts.

3. Choosing a Race

Novice punters generally benefit from targeting high profile races for their first bets. There are a number of good reasons to pursue this strategy. Firstly, races like the Grand National, Ascot Gold Cup, Breeders Cup Classic and Melbourne Cup are broadcast live by a number of satellite, cable and digital providers, which provide punters with the exciting spectacle of their selections racing on live TV.

Secondly, betting on big races will allow novice punters to rapidly access a wealth of information on the race and its history, as well as the race entries and the history of the race via the Internet and other media. This provides the opportunity to evaluate the abilities of the various competitors and draw from the insights of various online and television horseracing pundits.

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