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The popularity of the sport is at least partly due to its association with gambling. Horse racing and gambling have always been intrinsically linked, and betting on the outcome of races is traditionally an essential part of a day at the racetrack. You don’t have to be at the races to bet on them either. In more recent, less traditional times, bettors all over the world regularly bet on races with online bookmakers, something that has become a lot easier thanks to the internet and the accessibility of betting sites.
The modern day horse racing industry is effectively reliant on betting in fact, as it accounts for a significant percentage of the sport’s funding. Prize money and sponsorship money are vital for horse racing to continue, and the majority of this comes from the betting industry. Most racetracks simply wouldn’t be able to operate without the financial contribution made by bookmakers.
We’ve provided some important details about the sport itself, and information on how to bet on it. We explain all the different bets you can place, and offer some advice on how to pick winners. There is also information on the most famous horse races taking place around the world, and details of all the major racing venues.
Irish Race Courses
- Curragh Racecourse (Co. Kildare) – home of the Classics
- Leopardstown Racecourse (Co. Dublin) – for the best of the best
- Laytown Racecourse (Co. Meath) – for the coastal route
- Punchestown Racecourse (Co. Kildare) – the home of National Hunt racing
- Ballybrit Racecourse (Co. Galway) – for a festival of racing
Types of Horse Race
Horse racing in the UK and Ireland is split into two distinct branches. The first, flat racing, is simple: horses start, they run – either in a straight line or round a curved track – then they finish, the winner being the first past the post. The second, National Hunt racing, is slightly more complicated – not least for the horses and jockeys – in that obstacles must be negotiated on the way round the track.
National Hunt racing is split into two main categories: hurdles and steeplechases. (There are also National Hunt flat races called “bumpers”, but these are much less common.) The difference between the two is that horses running in steeplechases must jump fences that are higher and more solid than the hurdles in the hurdle races. Steeplechases often also include open ditches and water jumps, adding just a little more danger / excitement – depending whether you are watching or riding!
In both flat and National Hunt, races are also categorised by the age and experience of the horses, and the distance over which they run.
Different Types of Bet
Now you know how the odds work, let’s look at some different types of bet…
There are a number of different types of bets you can place and the simplest and probably most common is the win bet. This is one bet, on one outcome and you are backing the horse to win the race. Told you it was neither rocket science nor brain surgery!
Another hugely popular bet is to back a horse each way. This is effectively two bets, with one going on the horse to win and the other going on it to “place”. The place terms vary according to the type of race and number of horses in it, although it’s normally for your horse to finish in the top three. The place portion of your bet pays out at a fraction of the main odds and again this varies but is usually 1/4.
So, if you have a £10 each way bet on a horse at 4/1 that will cost you £20, with £10 on the win and £10 on the place part of the bet. If it wins both bets win, so you get £10 x 4 = £40, plus your £10 stake back for the win portion. You also get your each way bet too, so ¼ of 4/1 is 1/1, or evens, so you get £10 plus your stake of £10 so £20 in total. Overall you get £70 for a profit of £50. If the horse finished second, third or fourth you would lose your £10 win bet but make £10 profit from the each way win to leave you level overall.
Each way bets are usually only used on horses at relatively long odds as otherwise you can still end up losing overall if your pick doesn’t win but only places. They can be a great way to back an outsider and still profit if makes the places with a huge bonus should it really cause an upset and win.
This is where you are backing just one, single event. So if you back Big Banana in the 12.30 at Bangor that is a single bet. This could either be, as above, to win (a win single) or each way.
There are numerous different types of multiple bet. Starting from the most simple, a double, up to the complex, almost ridiculous Goliath, which actually includes 247 separate bets in one single wager.
A double involves backing two separate events, for example Big Banana to win the aforementioned 12.30 at Bangor (hypothetically at 2/1) and Synaptic Explosion to win the 15.00 at Wetherby (at evens). Both bets must win for you to succeed. A £1 double would cost you £1 and if both horses deliver you would get £6 back. After the first horse wins you effectively have £3 (£1 stake plus £2 profit) on the second horse at evens, resulting in a payout of £6 and profit of £5.
A treble is the same concept but with three selections. As well as being called multiple bets these are also known as accumulators, or accas for short. You may hear the terms fourfold, fivefold and so on, referring to accumulators with that number of selections.
In addition to these simple multiples you also have various combination bets such as the previously mentioned Goliath. With these you have multiple selections (for example a Yankee has four) and you cover the various doubles, trebles and, in this case, a fourfold. A Yankee is 11 bets in total: six doubles, four trebles and one fourfold. You need at least two picks to win to get anything back and as it is 11 bets, a £1 Yankee would cost £11.
This requires you to pick the top two horses in a race, in the correct finishing order. The odds will be set for that particular outcome, so the forecast of Lucky Jim (first) and Bad Luck Bob (second) might be 12/1 and to win you need that exact outcome. For this reason the bet is known in the US as an Exacta.
Similar to the above but the horses can finish in any order. This is effectively two bets, so a £10 reverse forecast would cost £20.
One for the brave – pick the top three horses in the correct order. Big rewards await the successful here.
Betting on horse racing can be a thrilling experience. Many online bookies will also stream the games live so that you can actually sit in on the action as well. Even if you don’t win every single time, horse racing is so exciting to watch that this can be worth it in itself. That being said, this is still gambling so please be responsible and keep an eye on your bankroll so that you don’t get too carried away!