Building a Horse Racing Betting Strategy

Betting on Horse Racing doesn't have to be complex, and by applying some golden rules and learning some basic strategies, you can enjoy betting in a way that suits you perfectly...

  • Apply some golden rules to your betting strategy

  • Why keeping a profit/loss record is essential

  • Some popular betting strategies explained

Five Golden Rules

When it comes to having a strategy on betting on Horse Racing, it can very much be each to their own. What way one punter prefers to bet might be completely different to the way another punter likes to bet.

In a nutshell, what suits you should be your best strategy.

If you ever feel uncomfortable betting on certain types or races, or you find that you regularly lose placing certain types of bet, then don't do it.

There are hundreds of horse races to bet on every week, and there are many different ways to bet on these races, so being selective, and more importantly, feeling comfortable with what you're doing, is key to any betting strategy.

Every betting strategy should carry some golden rules however, and the first two of these rules (listed below) should apply to every form of gambling, not just when betting on horse racing.

1. Only bet with what you can afford to lose

It's very much an obvious rule, but it's one that we should keep reminding ourselves on a regular basis. Never bet with money that you can't afford to lose.

Betting should always be fun. Never place a bet if it means that by losing you have to miss paying a bill or buying something that you need. Similarly, never place a bet if you're hoping to win enough money to pay a bill or buy something that you purchase regularly.

Would you have a night down the pub with your mates if it meant that the following day you'd wake up with regret, wishing you hadn't spent that money, or even worse, knowing you now can't afford to pay an important bill?

No you wouldn't. So treat gambling in exactly the same way. Never bet with money that you can't afford to lose.

2. Give yourself a betting bank/set a deposit limit.

To help you with the number one rule (betting with what you can afford to lose) it's good practice to set aside a betting bank for a period of time.

This may be a weekly, monthly or even yearly amount of money that you're happy to gamble with, knowing that if you lose it then it won't have a negative impact on your main finances.

We explain in more detail how to use a betting bank as a strategy further down this page, but to make sure you never spend more than your betting bank then always set a deposit limit on your online betting account.

You can learn how to set a deposit limit, and read about other important tools to help you bet responsibly in Betfair's Safer Gambling section.

3. Bet on the types of races that suit you best

This is a very important rule for any horse racing betting strategy, as only betting on races that suit you will mean that you become more experienced and skilled on those types of races.

There are many types of races in horse racing - all explained here - and some require more time than others when it comes to assessing them.

Some people prefer to bet only on big-field handicaps, enjoying the challenge of form study and knowing that bigger odds are available, while some people prefer to bet mainly on Group or Graded races where a solid bank of form is known and the cream usually rises to the top.

Whichever types of races you decide to wager on is entirely up to you, and of course, you can have more than one type.

But it's generally good practice to only wager on a few types of races when starting out before gaining more experience and confidence in assessing more race types.

4. Always bet with a fresh mind

This is another important rule to any betting strategy and doesn't really need much explaining.

The key is to never rush a bet. Never dash home from wherever you are to fire up the laptop and switch on the TV if it means you placing a bet at the last minute without knowing all the information at hand. This is when mistakes happen and you lose any edge you had.

Only bet when you have a fresh mind and are happy that you've assessed the race correctly, have all the information that you need, and you're happy with the odds on offer.

It's so easy in the current world to get distracted, and we're all prone to becoming stressed in our lives. Stress and distractions can lead to complicated minds, so if this is how you feel when you'd normally place a bet then take a step back and remember our final golden rule below.

5. There's always another day

The beauty of betting on horse racing, betting on any sport in fact, is that there's always tomorrow.

Never rush or force a bet just because you've arrived at the final race of the day. Remind yourself that there are many more horse races tomorrow, and if you're busy tomorrow then remind yourself that there's many more horse races the day after.

No one can ever claim to have a successful betting strategy if it means they bet on the very next race available. You have to pick and choose your battles, and if that means skipping that last four races of one day because they don't suit your strategy, and waiting for the next day, then that's never a bad thing.

Create your own Horse Racing Betting Strategy

So now we've discussed some of the golden rules to any horse racing betting strategy it's time to learn about what else can help you build your own strategy.

However, it's important to know that anyone can have their own unique strategy, and that you may already have one without even knowing it.

Simply put, whatever method you use that helps you profit on horse racing is a good strategy. Below are some of the main things you can do to help you build your own betting strategy.

Keep a Profit/Loss record

Perhaps the most important aspect of any successful horse racing betting strategy is to keep a profit/loss (P/L) record of all your betting activity.

It doesn't have to be a detailed account of all your bets in terms of making a record of every single bet you place, but more of a daily (if you bet regularly), weekly or even monthly summary to show how much you're staking and how much you're returning.

However, a detailed P/L summary can be extremely helpful in terms of assessing what type of horse races you profit more on than others.

For example, you can compare a P/L record for 20 bets that you have had on sprint handicaps against a P/L record for 20 bets placed on Group races. If you are making far more profit on the sprint handicap bets then it will make sense to concentrate on these races far more than betting on Group races.

Use a 10% betting bank system

A very good way to ensure that you never (or rarely) run out of money to bet with is to use a betting bank system.

This is the process of depositing an amount of money for a set period of time - known as your betting bank - and then wager 10% of your betting bank every time you place a bet.

As an example, let's say you deposit £100 for the month to use as your betting bank. The first bet you place in that month would be to a stake of £10 (10% of £100). If your bet loses then you will have £90 left in your betting bank. The stake for your next bet would then be £9 (10% of £90).

If you win on some of your bets and your betting bank increases to £142 for example, then the stake for your next bet would be £14.20 (10% of £142), and so on.

At the end of the month you either top up your betting bank to get it back to £100, or you withdraw any winnings above £100 leaving you with a full betting bank to start the next month.

A 10% betting bank system is a very good strategy to use if you don't bet regularly. Say you only have a few bets per week, this system ensures that you never lose your betting bank in one fell swoop, and it will also never run dry.

It's also a very good system to use if your prefer to bet accumulators or big-price selections. Let's be honest, if your betting bank is down to £30 meaning your next bet is to a £3 stake, a 2/13.00 winner isn't going to boost your bank much. But a 25/126.00 acca winner will get your betting bank back to around where it originally started.

Use a 1-5 point staking plan

Many experienced and professional gamblers will use a 1-5 point system when gambling on horse races.

This is because you're never going to have the exact same confidence about every bet you place. It stands to reason that you will have more confidence in some selections than others.

A 1-5 point system allows you to wager a set amount of money based on your confidence; a 1pt bet being your least confident and a 5pt bet being your most confident.

Depending on how much you're willing to stake you would set a 1pt bet at an amount of money you're happy with, meaning all other points-based bets are a multiple of that amount. For example, if you set a 1pt bet at £5, then a 3pt bet would be £15, a 5pt bet £25 etc.

If using a 1-5 point system then it's a very good idea to keep a profit/loss record for each stake.

In theory you should make more profit (as a % to your stake, known as Return on Investment) from your 5pt bets as these are your most confident, but if this isn't the case then a slight re-think may be required when applying your confidence to each bet.

Popular Betting Strategies

By applying the golden rules, keeping a profit/loss record, and deciding what staking plan to use you should be well on the way to building a horse racing betting strategy that suits you.

The final part of the jigsaw is to decide what type of bets to place. This doesn't have to be just one type of bet, but by the same token you should never do certain types of bet just for the sake of it.

For example, if there's a horse race that has a 1/41.25 favourite that you fancy to win, but the odds are not to your liking, then don't be tempted to do a straight forecast if you're not familiar with that kind of bet.

Just like we said in our golden rules, there's always another day can easily be changed to there's always another race.

Only place the bet types that you're familiar with, comfortable with, and perhaps more importantly, making the most profit on. Below are some of the most popular ways to bet that experienced gamblers will add to their horse racing betting strategy.

The 80/20 strategy

It's worth remembering that far more horses get placed in races than they do win.

On the Flat for example, around 98% of races have at least five runners, meaning that by the rules of racing bookmakers have to pay out on one winner and two placed horses (the winner and the second).

Races with at least eight runners (three places) and 16 runners (four places) are also very popular so backing horses 'to place' as well as to win makes a whole lot of sense.

The 80/20 strategy means you place 80% of your total stake on a horse to place and 20% of your stake on it to win. This is different to each-way betting where 50% of your total stake goes on the place part of the bet and 50% of it goes on the win part of the bet.

The 80/20 way of betting is perhaps more beneficial for bigger-price horses that have a good chance of getting placed but a lesser chance of winning. It means you get a bigger payout at the place odds than an each-way bet if your horse only places, but you also get a nice payout at the win odds if the horse wins.

Use the Betfair Exchange for big-price selections

If your betting strategy is to always back horses to win in singles (as opposed to each-way or in accumulators) then you will almost always get a bigger price on the Betfair Exchange win market.

This is especially true about bigger-price horses. It is not uncommon for horses that are available to back at 12/113.00 on a traditional sportsbook to be available to back at around the 20.019/1 mark on the Betfair Exchange.

And the bigger the Sportsbook price will generally mean a bigger Exchange price. There have been many examples of horses winning at an industry starting price of 50/151.00 plus, that returned a Betfair Starting Price (the price you get on the Exchange) of in excess of 200.0199/1.

Yes, you're delighted that you've landed a 50/151.00 winner, but just imagine your delight at backing the same horse at over 200/1201.00 on the Exchange.

Follow in-form trainers

It's an obvious strategy to use, and one that needs little explaining, but however you bet it's good practice to follow in-form trainers.

Trainers whose horses are in great form will have shorter odds than they perhaps normally would, but that doesn't always mean you shouldn't bet them if they are your selections. The slightly shorter price could easily be compensated by the horse potentially running to a much higher standard than it has previously shown.

However, a great skill to successful horse race punting is to spot the stables that are very likely to come in to form, and just as important, the stables that are losing form.

Keeping track of trainers that you like to follow will help in this regard. You will build up knowledge of the time of year that particular trainers usually send out more winners.

Take advantage of each-way offers

If backing horses each-way is your preferred way to bet then a good strategy is to take advantage of each-way offers.

There's perhaps never been a better time to bet each-way with the Betfair Sportsbook offering better place terms than standard on horse races on a daily basis. So why back a horse each-way to three places when you can back it at the same price to four places?

These generous each-way offers become even more popular when it comes to the big race meetings and Saturday televised racing, so if it means you only bet a few times a week or month, concentrating on races that offer enhanced place terms is never a bad strategy.

Now read more Betfair Education articles here.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.