Sports Information: Horseracing



  • Horse racing is the most popular form of betting worldwide

  • The sport is widely televised by the major networks and racing channels

  • There are many opportunities to bet on-course, in a live environment

  • There's a great deal of research and analysis available to all




In 2011 a UK novice racegoer staked just £2 on the Scoop 6 (a type of jackpot bet) and won over £2million.




Horse racing has a long history, with origins traced back to Egypt, Syria, Babylon and Ancient Greece. Chariot and mounted horse racing both featured in the Olympics of 648 BC and in the Roman Empire, chariot and mounted horse racing were major industries. Horse racing continued through the ages in an unstructured manner but, in the 17th century, began to develop as the global sport we know today. This was helped by the emergence of breeding studs and racetracks in England, America and Ireland. In England, thoroughbred racing forged strong links with the top echelons of British society, earning the title 'Sport of Kings'.

There are three main types of horse racing:

  • Flat Racing

  • Steeplechase Racing, known colloquially as Jump Racing

  • Harness Racing or Trotting




Horse racing is a phenomenal global industry with over $120 billion staked worldwide each year. It's a thriving business in America, Australia, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Historically, there has been little international racing but this has developed in the 21st century, with major racing festivals in Dubai, and world championships in America. Overall, owners are increasingly willing to cross the world to establish their horses as true champions. With only two racecourses - Happy Valley and Sha Tin, Hong Kong has the highest betting turnover and racing attendances in the world.




Horse racing has the highest betting turnover of any sport worldwide. Lawful betting turnover exceeds $120 billion annually but there is a lot of unlawful wagering in the USA and parts of Asia, where internet betting is forbidden. Punters have the choice of betting on or off-course in most countries where betting is legal. Bettors can collaborate with friends or family and stake perms in the big dividend bets.




Racegoers may choose to bet via an on-course bookmaker, getting a fixed price or betting as part of a pool, also known as the Tote.

Tote or Pool Betting

Tote betting (also known as pool betting and Pari-Mutuel betting) differs from fixed odds betting in that the odds on your bet are not confirmed until betting has closed, usually just before the event starts. In the Tote, all stakes are aggregated and a house percentage is then deducted. The remaining sum is then split between the winning tickets in the pool. It follows that the dividend is lower on the most popular horses because, although they attract the most money, there are more punters to pay if the favourite wins. If an outsider wins, the dividend will be larger because fewer people backed that selection and therefore share a higher percentage of the pool.

Tote betting is often run by a government owned sportsbook, sometimes called The Tote. In France, tote betting is known as the Pari-Mutuel. The Hong Kong Jockey Club administers the largest tote pool in the world, frequently exceeding £100 million dollars. This covers races at Happy Valley and Sha Tin and, often including high stakes from the prosperous Malaysian betting fraternity. The term Pool Betting is extremely descriptive and explains the process in a nutshell. All bets are pooled and then the winning tickets or bets are paid the sum of the pool of bets.


Types of Pool Betting

There are a variety of pool bets in addition to simple wins. These include place pool bets (in America they have win, place and show bets) and many more exotic terms such as: Exacta, Quinella, Trifecta, Superfecta, Box Bets, Doubles, Trebles (sometimes called Triples and Pick Threes), Quadrella (also known as Quaddie or Four-Leg Accumulator), Sweep (Pick Four or Pick Six etc). Although terms vary by country, the bet types are generally the same.




Tote Single
One selection which can be win-only or each-way

Tote Place 
One selection which can be backed to place only

Generally two selections which must finish first and second in the correct order or in reverse order ie two bets in either order. A combination Exacta covers three selections = six bets, four selections = twelve bets, five selections = twenty bets, or more.

A place accumulator where you select one horse in each of the first six races selected by the Tote. All six must be placed to get a return. You can choose multiple selections in each of the races and this becomes a perm bet ie two selections in each race (2x2x2x2x2x2) = 64 bets.

A win accumulator where you select one horse in each of the first six races selected by the Tote. All six must win to get a return. You can do multiple selections in each of the races and this then becomes a perm bet ie two selections in four races and one selection in two races (2x2x2x2x1x1) = 16 bets.




Bookmakers are available on all racecourses in the UK, Ireland and on most racecourses in Australia. Bettors can choose between taking the price quoted at the time of placing the bet, or taking the starting price ie that quoted at the start of the race.

The bookmaker prices up each horse based on his estimate of their chances of winning. He will build his profit margin into the prices he quotes, normally 2% per runner ie in a 10 runner race, the bookmaker will include his 20% margin.


  • Steve fancied Super Duty in the first race at Ascot

  • Prices ranged from 6 to1 to 7 to 1 with the twenty on-course bookmakers

  • The Tote price at that time was only 5 to 1

  • Steve went to one of the bookmakers offering 6 to 1 and bet £10 to win

  • Super Duty won and he collected £70 including his £10 stake

  • The final Tote odds were 5.5 to 1, returning only £55.

  • However, ignoring the bookmakers' odds, a starting price bet at 7 to 1 would have returned the best profit - £80 including the£10 stake




As well as betting to win most course bookmakers offer each-way betting as below:

  • 16 or more runner handicaps - 1/4 of the odds paid out on first, second, third or fourth places

  • Non-handicaps and handicaps of 8 runners or more pay out on first, second and third places

  • 5-7 runner races pay out on first and second places

  • Races with 5 or less runners pay out on wins only.




Andrew was at Newbury races - a tremendous afternoon's racing with top national hunt horses taking part. 
The feature race was the Betfair Handicap Hurdle, the richest handicap hurdle race in Europe 
Andrew fancies Get Me Out of Here, a previous winner of the race who had lost form for a while but had run much better in his last race


The horse was priced at 20 to 1 and Andrew decided that as there were 18 runners in the race the best strategy was to back it each-way so that if it finished second, third or fourth he would make a profit and if it won he would enjoy a profit bonanza!


  • He bet £10 each-way and took the bookmakers price of 20 to 1

  • Get Me Out of Here ran a fantastic race and finished a close second

  • Andrew collected £60 for his £20 bet i.e ¼ of 20/1 x £10 plus stake returned

  • 20 to 1 was a good price because the starting price ended up at 14 to 1 which would have returned only £45



A popular form of betting on racecourses, particularly when a couple of horses dominate the market, is for bookmakers to price up a race excluding the favourite. The punter can back any of the remaining horses, and if they win or come second to the favourite, the he collect. In Ireland, bookmakers often price up races to exclude first, second or third favourite.




Andrew was having a good afternoon at Newbury and looking forward to watching the Gold Long Run (the Gold Cup Favourite) have his pre-Cheltenham outing 
He went to look at the horses in the paddock and was struck by the fitness of Long Run's stablemate, Burton Port 
The horse had not run for over a year due to injury, but looked in great shape 
Bookmakers' prices were Burton Port 8 to 1 (win), but two bookmakers offered bets without Long Run and offering 3 to 1 Burton Port -this was better than the place-only price on the Tote 
Andrew staked £20 on Burton Port at 3 to 1, without the favourite
Burton Port ran a great race and finished a clear second to Long Run
Andrew collected £80 without winning the race!




There are plenty of options if you want to bet from home or on the move:

  • Internet betting

  • Telephone Betting

  • Retail Betting in Betting Shops

  • Betting Exchanges.

  • Spread Betting


All major bookmakers offer internet betting by debit or credit card. Typically, clients are given an account number and password for online access. They will be allowed to bet to the limit of their funds or, if sanctioned, on credit to a pre-set limit. Any winnings are returned to the card used to place the bet, usually within one hour. Online betting is the fastest growing area of the business and now accounts for over 40% of betting turnover. The growth of smart phone and tablet penetration has had a big influence on that figure.


All major bookmakers provide a telephone betting service. As with online betting, clients will be given an account number and will be allowed to bet to the limit of their funds or, if sanctioned, on credit to a pre-set limit. Telephone betting was the most popular form of betting before the internet boom. The development of mobile apps is restoring its popularity. Winnings from telephone betting are slow to be credited, typically three working days after the event.


Retail Betting
There are some 10,000 retail betting outlets in the UK and Ireland, with a small number of units in Europe and on the East Coast of America. Retail betting turnover in the UK and Ireland exceeds £10 billion per annum. Betting shops, as they're commonly known, have continuous televised betting screens covering live and virtual sports events such as horse racing, greyhound racing and football. Punters can bet singles and multiples on a wide range of sports although horseracing and football are the most popular. You can bet with cash, debit or credit card and winnings are paid out in the same ways. In these shops, punters in the UK (but not elsewhere) can bet at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals - a development that has introduced casino betting to the high street. This facility has considerably increased retail betting profits for bookmakers. Most betting shops offer a comfortable environment with free tea and coffee.



The advent of betting exchanges in 2001 revolutionised the sports and horseracing betting environment. Betting exchanges work in the same way as the stock exchange by matching buyers (backers) with sellers (layers). Betting exchange clients do not pay tax on winnings but do pay commission charges.

For the first time in betting history, betting exchanges offered punters the opportunity to act as a bookmakers ie
They could back a horse or football team not to win ie in a ten horse race, by backing one of the horses not to win they had the other nine running for them

They controlled the price they wished to bet or lay at, not the bookmaker

They could back or lay during the course of an event.

Betting exchange turnover has rocketed since, and by 2010 Betfair, the principal exchange, had a turnover in excess of £12 billion per annum.


Betting Exchange Example

Ben is a keen Manchester United fan. They are due to play Manchester City at home and the bookmakers make them favourites at 2.5 to 1. Ben tries to get a better price by putting up odds of 2.6 to 1 on the betting exchange. This is matched by Pete, a Manchester City fan who would rather back United not to win than City to win.



Spread betting is a term used to describe a number of different ways to bet on the outcome of an event, where the amount you win or lose is based on how accurate your bet is as distinct from a basic win-or-lose bet. In simple terms, the more right you are the more you win, but the more wrong you are the more you lose. This betting system can be high risk and as such is monitored in the UK by the FSA and the Gambling Commission. Spread betting markets on horse racing usually focus on the performance of favourites and jockeys, or on winning distances.


Spread Betting Example

  • There are 6 races on the opening day of the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.

  • The spread firms will form a betting spread based on aggregate points scored ie
    25 points if the favourite wins

  • 10 points if the favourite finishes second,

  • 5 points if the favourite finishes third

  • The spread could be 75-80 points.

If the favourite had a poor day and only scored 40 points, buyers of the spread at 80 would lose 40 x their stake and sellers would win 30 x their stake.



The term ante-post betting, sometimes referred to as futures betting, applies when a fixed odds betting market exists well in advance of an event ie when that event does not take place today, but sometime after that.

Examples would include betting on the winner of The World Cup, The Super Bowl, The Tour de France or The Grand National, even when those events may be weeks or months away.

In horse or greyhound racing, ante-post betting is offered when a fixed odds market exists prior to the final declaration stage of a race, usually 24 hours in advance of the start.

Selections backed ante-post in horse or greyhound races will classify as losing bets if they become non-runners. It follows that there are no Rule 4 deductions in ante-post betting. The advantage of ante-post betting is that you can often secure much better odds, but you do run the risk of losing your stake if your selection does not make the event.

Ante Post Betting Example

You fancy Bobby's Boy to win the Grand National and you decide to back him in November, just before he runs in a trial race over the Grand National fences.

  • The bookmaker offers odds of 50/1 so you bet £10 each way.

  • BB wins a trial race over the fences and the bookmaker cuts the odds to 20/1

  • He then wins a prep race in February and the odds reduce further to 10/1

  • You've secured a price of 50/1 on a horse who will probably start the day at 8/1

  • You're feeling confident & excited

  • Two days before the race BB treads on a stone and the trainer withdraws him

  • You now have a losing ticket and the bookmaker is laughing all the way to the bank

This illustrates the fact that ante-post betting does carry a big risk. In the above example, betting exchanges offer the opportunity to hedge your bet and either recoup your initial stake or even make a small profit ie

  • When BB's price reduces to 10/1, back him £100 to lose at 1/10

  • This increases your total stake to £110

  • If BB wins, you get £645 back on your bet at 50/1

  • If he loses, you get your stake back following your betting exchange lay

  • If you increased your lay to £200, net profit would be £425 if BB won

  • If he lost, you would win £10



Sometimes when a horse is withdrawn, the bookmaker is allowed to make a deduction from the price you have taken, depending on the price of the withdrawn horse. This is known as a Rule 4© deduction. This is an industry standard deduction made on a horse whenever there is a non-runner in the race and after the final declarations for that race have been made, and you have taken a fixed price.




If you have £10 to win on a horse and take 5/1 (6.0 in decimal odds) and the 2/1 (3.0) favourite is then withdrawn, your 5/1 (6.0) odds look very generous. On race day, anyone who backs a non-runner will get their stakes refunded. In this example, those people who backed the 2/1 runner will have their money refunded and Rule 4 exists to make a deduction from runner you backed at 5/1. If the 2/1 favourite had not been around when you placed your bet, your 5/1 shot may have been quoted at 3/1.

Rule 4 deductions only occur after final declarations are made. Usually, this will be 24 hours (sometimes 48 hours) before the race.


Rule 4 does not apply to any ante-post market. Ante-post or futures markets are betting on a horse race before the final declarations are known. If you back a non-runner in an ante-post market you do not get your money back.
The official Tattersalls Rule 4 deductions, as applied by all UK bookmakers, are as follows:


  • If the current odds of the non-runner are 1/9 or shorter at the time the non-runner withdraws from the race, then 90p in the pound is deducted (or 90% of winnings)

  • If over 2/11 up to and including 2/17, 85% of winnings deducted

  • If over ¼ up to and including 1/5, 80% of winnings deducted

  • If over 3/10 up to & including 2/5, 70% of winnings deducted

  • If over 2/5 up to and including 8/15, 65% of winnings deducted

  • If over 8/15 up to and including 8/13, 60% of winnings deducted

  • If over 8/13 up to and including 4/5, 55% of winnings deducted

  • If over 4/5 up to and including 20/21, 50% of winnings deducted

  • If over 20/21 up to and including 6/5, 45% of winnings deducted

  • If over 6/5 up to and including 6/4, 40% of winnings deducted

  • If over 6/4 up to and including 7/4, 35% of winnings deducted

  • If over 7/4 up to and including 9/4, 30% of winnings deducted

  • If over 9/4 up to and including 3/1, 25% of winnings deducted

  • If over 3/1 up to and including 4/1, 20% of winnings deducted

  • If over 4/1 up to and including 11/2, 15% of winnings deducted

  • If over 11/2 up to and including 9/1, 10% of winnings deducted

  • If over 9/1 up to and including 14/1, 5% of winnings deducted

  • If the non-runner is over 14/1 then there is no deduction

  • In the event of there being two or more withdrawals in one event, the total deduction shall not exceed 90p in £ (or 90% of the winnings). The Rule 4 deduction is not applied to the winning client's returned stake, only to their winnings.



Getting the best price available can make a significant difference to betting profits over a period of time. Nowadays with the advent of the Internet and technology speed of placing a bet has never been easier and it is therefore vital that you can compare prices quickly. As punters have different opinions on events, then so do bookmakers so whilst most prices will be similar, an individual Bookmaker may have a view on a certain horse, tennis player, football team and will therefore be either shorter or longer in price. There are a number of odds comparison sites, but the main ones are:


These sites offer a clear indication of current selection prices for each of the main bookmakers and exchanges. They also offer other information including tipping sections, form sections, race-cards and bookmakers offers. A number of them have betting tools such as hedging and dutching calculators.



Today, competition for the betting pound is fierce between individual bookmakers, spread betting firms and exchanges. For some time, bookmakers have offered introductory FREE BET offers ranging from £10 to £250 to try and poach or attract new customers.





  • When you bet on-course at the Tote, wait as long as possible to place your bets as the odds change significantly the closer you get to the off

  • Check out prices with on-course bookmakers, off-course bookmakers and the Tote, using an app or odds comparison site before betting

  • If betting off-course, check prices using an odds comparison site which will include betting exchange prices - factor in a 1-5% deduction on exchange prices

  • Check the going and look for horses suited to those particular ground conditions

  • Follow the form of both trainers and jockeys

  • If betting ante-post or at fixed odds, look for opportunities to hedge with betting exchanges to lock in profits.