Horse Racing Betting


Horse racing is one of the most popular sports to bet on in the UK. Whilst big events like the Grand National catch the headlines there are multiple races taking place on nearly every day of the year. This makes horse racing great for people that like to place regular bets.

Horse racing, though, can be a little confusing when it comes to terminology, especially if you have not bet on it before. In this guide, you will find an overview of some of the common terms or phrases that you may encounter when betting on horse racing.

UK Horse Racing Categories

In the UK, we split our horse races into 2 main categories and these are “Flat Racing” and “National Hunt Racing”.

Flat Racing:

Flat racing, as the name suggests, does not require the horses to jump over hurdles; instead, it is a race without any obstacles. Flat races generally take place over short to middle distances and take place during the summer months.

Some of the big flat racing festivals you may have heard of are:

  • The Epsom Derby
  • Royal Ascot
  • Newmarket
  • Glorious Goodwood
  • York Ebor
  • The St Leger

National Hunt Racing:

National hunt races, the majority of the time, involve the horses jumping over obstacles.

These obstacles, that the horses face, can be split into 2 different races:

"Hurdle races" which involve, funnily enough, races with hurdles in the way.

The other is “Steeplechase” racing where horses have to jump over, not only fences but also ditches and water jumps. A famous example of this type of racing is the Grand National.

As mentioned earlier, the majority of National Hunt races take place over hurdles but there is an exception to this. These exception races are called “bumpers”.

National Hunt bumper races, which you may also see called National Hunt flat races, have no obstacles in them. These races are there for horses who haven’t raced before, on either the flat or over obstacles, to give them some experience before they attempt racing. The reason I mention this is because some horse racing promotions offer money back if your horse falls in the race. So just be aware of this and don't place a qualifying bet on an ineligible bumper race. To help you on your way, these bumpers do tend to be the last race of the meeting.

National Hunt races normally take place between Autumn and Spring and some of the big festivals you may have heard of are:

  • Cheltenham Festival (this is the big racing event for matched bettors)
  • Aintree Festival (including the Grand National)
  • Punchestown Festival

Horse Racing Distances

Horse races in the UK are generally measured in miles and furlongs, although you occasionally you may also see yards used.

A mile we are well aware of, as it is a regularly used unit of measurement in the UK, but what about a furlong?

A furlong equates to the following distances:

⅛ of a mile


220 yards

Or in metric: 201.168 metres

UK horse races range from 5 furlongs to over 3 miles.

Winning Distances

There are a lot of betting offers out there that will reward you with a bonus of some kind if your horse wins by a certain distance, for example, William Hill’s High 5 bonus promotion.

Common winning distances used are:

Length: This is the whole horse measurement from head to tail. As horses are all different lengths this distance is judged as 8-9 feet / 2.4-2.7 metres.

Nose: 0.05 x length

Short Head: 0.10 x length

Head: 0.20 x length

¼ of a Length: 0.25 x length

Neck: 0.30 x length

½ a Length: 0.50 x length

¾ a Length: 0.75 x length

Dead Heats: Occur when a photo finish cannot distinguish any distance at all between the 2 or more horses when they cross the winning line. If this does occur winning bet returns will be split between the number of horses that have dead-heated. For example, if you bet on a horse that was involved in a dead heat between two horses and were due to receive £100 winnings, you would actually only receive £50. £100 divided by 2 = £50.

Betting on Horse Racing

Prior to a horse race starting, horses that are running need to be officially declared as racing. As a general rule of thumb, this is usually 10:00 am the day before the race.

Before this declaration, the race is described as being in “Ante-Post” and you will often see this on future races. At the ante-post stage, you will normally see more horses than actually run on race day and, there are likely to be, horses pulling out or not running. We recommend that you do not place bets on ante-post markets, and there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, you may not qualify for offers if betting on the ante-post market. The most important reason though is that if you place your bet in ante-post, and your horse is a non-runner, your bet will not be void it will be settled as a losing bet. You would, therefore, lose your entire back stake.


If a horse does not run, they are declared as a non-runner which will be indicated by “NR” on the race card. As there are fewer horses running in the race this, in turn, impacts the odds on the remaining horses in the race. Their odds will be reduced and this is known as a Rule 4 and the odds will be reduced by a percentage factor. The percentage amount is dependent on the odds of the horse withdrawn. If it is a high odds horse then the reduction factor will be low and if it is a low odds horse the reduction factor will be high.

If you have placed your back and lay bets already you do not really need to worry about this reduction. The only impact on you would be if the offer you are doing is a minimum odds related offer and the odds are brought beneath the min odds by rule 4. Again, nothing really to worry about, it will just mean your selection will not be eligible. Indeed a rule 4 reduction can actually have a positive effect as a matched bettor. On occasion the bookie may apply a smaller reduction than the exchange, therefore, creating an artificial arb and giving you some unexpected profit.

When betting on horses there are a multitude of markets to bet on but some popular ones are:

When betting on horses there are a multitude of markets to bet on but some popular ones are:

Win market: a single bet backing a horse to win a race.

Each Way market: 2 bets rolled into one - 1 backing the horse to win and one backing the horse to place which means to finish in a set number of positions in a race so 2nd or third for example. Full guide here.

Forecast and Tricast Betting: With these bets, you need to predict the finishing order of a number of horses. With Forecast in order to win you will correctly predict the horses that will finish first and second. With Tricast you are predicting the horses that will finish first, second and third. Odds will be high for this type of bet but it will obviously much harder to predict than a straight win bet.

Odds and Outcomes

When you back a horse, you are backing at set odds which will be displayed on your betslip. These are known as fixed odds bets. Outside of your bet slip these odds will continue to move about either up or down prior to the start of a race. When the race starts, the price that they start with is called the starting price or the SP. These SPs are set by an independent body and adopted as the starting odds by the industry.

Best Odds Guaranteed

Best Odds Guaranteed or BOG is where you back a horse, at fixed odds in a race, and the starting price for that horse is higher than your backed odds when the race begins. Some bookies will then, if your horse wins, pay you out at the higher starting odds rather than the odds you backed at. This means that you will make more money from your bet, with the potential here of some big extra payouts.

An example of this would be if you placed a £25 bet on a horse at odds of 4 and the SP for the horse is 5. If the horse wins you would get paid out £125 at the odds of 5, and not the £100 at odds of 4, giving you an extra £25 profit!

Not every bookie offers best odds guaranteed, and some have specific terms for bet placement, but you can find a list of bookies that do on the forum. This will show you the bookies and their terms, but you should always double check this for yourself on the bookie site.

How to win betting on horse racing

Well, the old saying that you will never see a poor bookmaker rings true with betting on horses. You can study the form all you wish but the only true way that you will be able to profit long term on horse racing is through the technique of Matched Betting.

What is Matched Betting?

Matched Betting is a way of taking advantage of the hundreds of free bet offers dished out by bookies. Although it has betting in the name there is no real gambling involved as, unlike normal betting, we cover all possible outcomes of an event. This means regardless of the result we can make profit and turn those free bets into real cash!

Keen to Get Involved?

The great news is you don’t need to be a sports fan or betting fanatic to sign up and use Profit Accumulator. Many of our members are not sports fans and had never placed a bet in their lives but that doesn’t stop them from making some tax-free cash.

For more info on what matched betting is, check out these articles:

Useful Links

Match Catcher & Video Guide: A great tool to help you find horse racing matches quickly

Each Way Catcher & Video Guide: Use this to find horse racing each way matches quickly

Betting Odds Overview: A guide on the different odds systems that you may encounter