How To Place A Bet At The Races

Guides | 23rd January 2024

A simple guide with all you need to know when it comes betting at the races

Many people love a flutter on the horses whether they’re at the races or just watching on TV.
Having a small gamble is a great way to increase the excitement of watching horseracing but placing a bet can be a little bit daunting for the novice or occasional punter.

Here’s a simplified guide to having a bet.

Pick Your Horse

The very first step is to pick your horse. Whether you like studying the form, identifying the best-looker in the parade ring or plump for the prettiest colours, there’s no right or wrong way to make your selection.

Some might like to just go for the name that means something personal, while others leave it to the experts and listen to one of the many tipsters in newspapers or on TV.

The names of the horses, jockeys and trainers can be found in the racecard together with a brief form guide to the runners.

Choosing Your Stake

Once you’ve chosen which horse you want to bet on, you need to decide how much you want to bet. Of course, you should never bet more than you can afford to lose.

The amount you bet is known as your stake. 

Type Of Bet

Now you’re all set to place your bet but there are numerous types.

The most popular is a win bet but you can also bet each-way. This is, in effect, two bets. One to win and one for your horse to finish in the places. So a £1 each-way bet costs £2.

The number of places depends on the number of runners. For races with five to seven runners, your horse would need to finish in the first two places. For races eight and above it is three places, while handicap races with 16 runners have four places.

It’s also possible to have bets with multiple selections. A two-horse bet is called a double, a treble is for three horses and an accumulator involves four or more.

A Yankee involves four horses. It is 11 bets made up of doubles, trebles and an accumulator.

It’s obviously harder to pick more than one winner but the rewards are greater.

When racing is covered live on ITV there is the chance to win big with the ITV Seven. You need to pick the winner of the seven designated races to win but the best bit is it is completely free to enter on the channel’s website. It’s a fun way to heighten your enjoyment of the racing without losing any money.

Checking The Odds

Horseracing odds are given in fractions but you don’t need a degree in mathematics to understand how they work.

For instance, a 3-1 winner would pay three times the amount you bet and your original stake is also returned.

A 15-8 winner would return a profit of £15 if you had an £8 win bet, so your total return would be £23.

The horse with the shortest odds in a race is known as the favourite.

One of the most fun things to do if you’re having a bet on a racecourse is to hunt out the best odds as the bookmakers ‘prices’ often differ slightly.


Bookmakers Or Tote

If you want to know your odds before the race then betting with a bookmaker – on the course or in a betting shop – is the way to go but there is another way.

The Tote offers pool betting. This is where all the money bet on a race through the Tote goes into a pool and is then split up between the winning tickets to produce a dividend.

The Tote – that has numerous betting stations on racecourses – also has other bets.

The Exacta is a bet where you have to predict the first two horses home.

They also offer a Placepot. This a great way to have an interest throughout the day.

You have to pick at least one horse to finish in the places in each of the first six races. The dividend can often pay out hundred, or even thousands, of pounds for just a one pound bet.

Placing Your Bet

Now you have all the information needed to place your bet.

You simply approach your chosen bookmaker in the on-course betting ring or Tote window and say, for example, £5 to win on number three please.

You will be given a ticket. Check that the details are correct and then make sure you have a good position to watch the race.

If your horse is successful, simply take your betting ticket back to where you placed your bet and collect your winnings.

Best of luck.

Just remember, betting can be great fun and add extra excitement to watching horseracing but never, ever, bet more than you can afford.