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Beginner horse racing guide

Welcome to the beginner horse racing guide, which explains all about horse racing for beginner matched bettors.

This guide looks at the different types of race, horse racing odds, each-way betting, non-runners and rule 4 deductions, plus a brief look at horse racing offers.

UK horse racing

Horse racing meetings take place most days of the year at courses like Doncaster, York, and Chepstow.

These regular races are great for matched bettors with daily offers, ITV racing, and racing festivals offering free bets and price boosts.

The major festivals include Cheltenham in March, Aintree Grand National in April, 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 the finish, while the Aintree Grand National is a jump race where the horses clear hurdles or fences.

Horse racing odds

A horse race will typically have 5 to 20 horses. Here is the win odds market on Bet365 for a 7 runner race at Southwell. The most important information for us is the horse’s name and its betting odds. So, for example the favourite Diomede des Mottes is available at odds of 1/1 (Evens) or 2.00 in 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.

The SP is unpredictable, as the odds constantly change. Therefore, do not matched bet on SP odds at a bookie, as you cannot accurately lay SP bets.

When matched betting you will be “taking a price” – backing at specific odds such as Ballyoptic at 4/1 (5.00).

Each way betting

An Each-way bet consists of one bet split in to 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 (5.00) 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 (2.00).

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). 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 is used in 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.

Now imagine you back a different horse that’s still running. The NR horse will mean an odds reduction is applied to your bet. This is known as rule 4 at the bookmaker side.

A reduction factor is also applied to lay bets on the exchange. The reductions are similar on both 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 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.