What types of bet are there in horse racing?

Horse racing offers a plethora of different types of bet, ranging from the simple to the fiercely complex. The simplest bet is a straight win single, where you place a bet on a horse to finish first in a race; if it does, you win and, if not, you lose. Slightly more complex is a win and place, or each-way, bet, where you place a bet on a horse either to win or to finish placed, according to the ‘place terms’ of the race in question. An each-way bet is effectively two bets in one, so requires double the stake of a straight win single. The place portion of the bet is paid out at a fraction of the win odds, typically 1/5 or 1/4, if your selection finishes in the first two, three or four places, depending on the type of race and the number of runners.

Of course, it is also possible to combine your selections in ‘multiple’ bets, such as doubles, trebles and accumulators, which require two, three or four or more to win or, at least, be placed, in the case of each-way multiple bets, to guarantee. Bookmakers offer a selection of multiple bets, which are known by names such as ‘Yankee’, ‘Canadian’, ‘Heinz’ and so on, depending on the number of selections and the total number of bets required to cover those selections. Other, slightly more exotic, horse racing bets include forecast and tricast betting, in which you attempt to predict the first two, or three, horses home in any race, in the correct order or any order.

In horse racing, how do I pick a winner?

Obviously, the many imponderables dictating the outcome of any horse race mean that picking a winner is not altogether straightforward. Indeed, even successful punters cannot expect to correctly predict the result of every horse race on which they place a bet and losing runs are inevitable.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the importance of luck in running, picking a winner essentially boils down to a handful of factors, most, if not all, of which can be determined by analysing the form book. You can often make an educated guess about ability or, in the case of unraced, promising or progressive horses, potential ability by reference to the pedigree of the horse in question and its recent recent performances on the racecourse. Furthermore, certain organisations, including Racing Post and Timeform, publish ratings that express, in Imperial pounds, the ability of each horse in the eyes of their private handicappers, which can be extremely useful for comparison purposes. Recent form, say, within the last six weeks or so, indicates that a horse is likely to fit and ready to do itself justice.

Beyond that, the fact remains that most horse races are won by horses that are attempting little, or nothing, more than they have achieved in the past. Beware of any marked disparity in class, distance, going, value and weight; winning horses inevitably rise in the weights, according to official ratings allocated by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), but the weight a horse carries ultimately affects the speed at which it can gallop.

What is the Tote?

Established by an Act of Parliament in 1928, the Tote was, until sold to Betfred in 2011, a state-owned bookmaker. Formerly known as the ‘Horserace Totalisator Board’, the Tote differs from other bookmakers insofar as it offers pari-mutuel, or pool, betting on a variety of horse racing markets.

Straightforward win, place and each-way markets are available, along with more ‘exotic’ markets, but all stakes for each market are added to a kitty, or pool, from which the operator takes a percentage, before calculating the winning dividend. The dividend amount is determined simply by dividing the remainder of the pool by the number of winning bets.

Since 1992, other bookmakers have been able to take Tote bets, which are added to the appropriate pools, via a spin-off, known as Tote Direct. The seven-year monopoly on pool betting held by Betfred expired in July, 2018, but market rivals the Alizeti consortium, which already owns 25% of the Tote, and Britbet, which has the backing of 55 British racecourses, have agreed that the Tote will remain ‘as-is’ until at least 2025.