Horse Racing Basics - What You Need to Know Before You Start Betting on Horse Races

Submitted by: Trevor Stonham

There are certain things you need to know about horse racing basics. We'll cover as many of them as possible here.

Flat or Jumps

In the UK, horse racing is either Flat or National Hunt. Flat races are ones where there are no jumps or hurdles for the horses to navigate, even though the race track itself may undulate. Additionally, flat races can be run on grass or on "all weather" surfaces. The latter are designed to allow racing to continue even if weather conditions would mean that a race on grass would not be safe.

National Hunt races are run from autumn to spring - the ground in the summer is usually too hard for horses to land safely. There are different types of fences and some of the jumps also involve water. These races are usua


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lly more of a test of stamina and are normally longer than flat races.

Handicap or not

Some races are described as handicaps. The idea is that each horse in the race is given an individual rating and carries a certain amount of extra weight in order to make each horse as close to equal as possible. If the handicapper has done their job perfectly then each horse should cross the finish line at exactly the same time - which is, of course, impossible. But it does mean that handicap horse races are often more "open" than non-handicap ones.


In the same way as human runners, horses prefer different distances. Some prefer short sprints whereas others prefer longer races. Short races are measured in furlongs and longer races in both miles and furlongs. There are 8 furlongs in a mile. If a horse has won a race of the same distance, it is (fairly obviously) called a distance winner and will be marked as such on the race card.


As a general rule, the shorter (smaller) the odds offered for a horse to win a race, the more likely it is to win. Bookmakers and online services such as Betfair offer odds on every horse in every race. When you place a bet, you can choose to accept the odds on offer at the time you place the bet (if the bookmaker you use offers this) or take the "starting price", which is the actual odds offered at the start of a race. Some bookmakers offer a "best price" guarantee so you can take the odds at the time you place the bet and, if the starting price is greater your bet will be treated as though you had taken the starting price instead. Betting exchanges such as Betfair typically only give you the price at the time your bet is accepted.

Odds give an indication of the likelihood that a horse will win a given race - over time the odds offered are similar to a horse's chance of winning. But much like a weatherman saying that there's a 60% chance of rain, nothing is guaranteed for any single occasion. After all, if it was, the bookmakers would be out of business.

There's lots more to horse racing than the above but these few guidelines will help to get you started.


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