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Beginner horse racing guide

Welcome to the beginner horse racing guide.

Learn all about horse racing matched betting.

This guide explains types of race, horse racing odds, each way betting, and non runners. Plus a brief look at horse racing offers.

UK horse racing

Horse racing takes place most days of the year at courses such as Doncaster, York, and Chepstow.

Regular races are great for matched bettors. Daily offers, ITV racing, and festivals offer free bets and price boosts.

Major festivals include Cheltenham in March and Aintree Grand National in April. Also, Royal Ascot in June, Glorious Goodwood and York Ebor in August.

Types of race

There are two types of racing in the UK and Ireland – flat racing and jump racing.

The Epsom Derby is a flat race where the horses sprint to finish.

While the Aintree Grand National is a jump race where horses clear hurdles or fences.

Horse racing odds

A typical horse race has 5 to 20 horses.

The screenshot below shows the win odds for a 7-runner race.

Key information is the horse’s name and its betting odds. For example, ‘Diomede des Mottes’ at odds of 1/1 (Evens) or 2.0 decimal odds.

3.10 Southwell betting odds at Bet365

The screenshot below shows the Betfair exchange market for the same race.

The blue section is the back odds and the pink section shows the lay odds.

Screenshot of 3.10 Southwell race on Betfair Exchange

A matched bettor will place a back bet at a bookie like Bet365, then place a lay bet at an exchange such as Betfair.

See the lay betting guide for further details of how to hedge bets on a betting exchange.

Starting Price

The Starting Price (SP) is the odds of a horse when the race starts.

Ever-changing odds makes the SP unpredictable. So, avoid matched betting at SP odds, as it’s tricky to accurately lay SP bets.

When matched betting you’ll be “taking a price” – backing at specific odds such as Ballyoptic at 4/1 (5.0).

Each way betting

An Each way bet consists of one bet split into two parts:

  1. The win part. Backing a horse to win the race.
  2. The place part. Backing a horse to place – finish in the top 2, 3 or 4 depending on the number of runners.

[This Kempton race is 1/4 the odds each way to finish in the top 2]

£10 each way on Ballyoptic at 4/1 (5.0) is a total stake of £20: £10 to win and £10 to place.

To calculate the place odds, divide the fractional back odds by 4 which gives 1/1 or Evens (2.0).

Possible outcomes:

  • If Ballyoptic wins, you win the £10 win part of the bet (at 5.00 for £40 profit) and the £10 place part (at 2.00 for £10 profit). The total net profit is £50.00.
  • Ballyoptic finishes second, you lose the £10 win part but win the £10 place part (at 2.00 for £0.00 profit or break-even).
  • Ballyoptic comes third or lower, you lose the whole £20 stake.

Each-way betting applies to matched betting for each way arbing and extra place races.

Non-runners and rule 4

A non runner (NR) is a horse that withdraws before the race starts. If your bet is on a non-runner, both the bookie and the exchange will void your bets.

Imagine you back a different horse that’s still running. The NR horse will mean an odds reduction gets applied to your bet. This is rule 4 on the bookmaker side.

A reduction factor is also applied to lay bets on the exchange. Reductions are similar for back and lay bets, so this has minimal impact on matched betting. See what is Rule 4? for more information.

Horse racing offers

You will see a multitude of horse racing offers all year round such as:

  • Free bet on a winner – qualify for a free bet if your horse wins at certain odds like 4/1.
  • 2nd to SP favourite – free bet refund if your horse finishes second to the pre race favourite.
  • Faller insurance – free bet refund if your horse falls.
  • Beaten by a head/neck/length – free bet refund if your horse comes second by a certain distance.