Horse racing for dummies: Everything you need to know

Last updated & tested: 2019-09-06

Have you been searching for a horse racing betting guide that is easy to understand and helps you to place successful bets? You’ve come to the right place! Horse racing is one of the oldest established forms of betting, and is popular with fans all over the world. The fast paced action of the track cannot be beaten, and there are some impressive profits to be made if you can get it just right.

This is the only betting on horses guide you need, so read on to get started…

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Horse racing betting guide: what you need to know

Horse races come in two different forms: flat racing and national hunt racing, so it’s important to know which of the two categories your chosen race falls into. The main difference between the two is that national hunt racing involves obstacles, and this can have a major impact on the outcome of your race.

In both flat racing and national hunt racing, there is a range of classifications that dictate the worth of particular horses in the running. This affects the odds offered by bookmakers, and thus, the likelihood that you will win – as well as the amount that you could win on the basis of your stake.

There are several misconceptions when it comes to betting on horse racing, one of which is that you should bet on a grey horse when it’s raining. Some people believe that a grey horse is better able to handle wet conditions, but this is just a myth. Many also believe that all jockeys are very short in stature but, although this is common, it’s not a defined requirement for successful horse racing.

Betting on horses guide: delving a little deeper

Flat racing

If you’re keen to find out how to bet on horses UK, you should understand exactly how both flat racing and national hunt racing work. Flat racing is the simplest form, and probably the ideal choice in terms of horse racing for beginners UK. It involves a race between horses on either a straight or curved track, and the winner is the the first one to reach the finishing line – or to be first past the post, as it is also known.

National hunt racing comes in two different forms: hurdles and steeplechases. Horses which run in steeplechases need to jump over fences that are higher and more challenging than those featured in hurdle races. Steeplechases sometimes include water jumps and ditches too, which can add a considerable amount of excitement and nail-biting tension for bettors – will your horse be up to the challenges ahead?

Before you go ahead and place bet on the race and horse of your choice, you should consider the classifications that are allocated to the horses. Grade 1 is the top classification, in which the best horses that are considered most valuable are placed. There is a total of 3 grades, then listed and handicap races. Handicaps means that the quality of the horse dictates the weight it should carry – with the best horses being expected to be able to bear the most weight while maintaining good form.

Horse racing for dummies: a step by step guide

To help you to understand our horse racing betting guide, we have created an example of the steps that you might take in placing a successful bet.

  • Choose a flat race: This is the easiest way to get started, as it is less unpredictable and complex than national hunt races.
  • Select the favourite: If you are new to betting on horse racing, choosing the horse that is tipped to win by the bookies is the easiest way to place your first bet.
  • Identify the odds: Your chosen bookmaker will offer specific odds on the favourite, such as 1/2 for the top horses. If you bet £10 on the favourite at these odds, you stand to make a profit of £5.
  • Watch the race: Enjoy the thrilling action that you can only get with horse racing, and wait for your horse to come in.
  • Collect your winnings: You have two options at this point: walk away with your profit intact, or reinvest some of your winnings into the next race.

The best bookmakers for horse racing

Bookmaker Our
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18+. UK+IRE only. Paypal & some deposit & bet types excl. Min first bet £10 a odds 1/2 or more. Tote and Pool excluded. Must be placed within 14 days of account reg. £30 credited as 3 x £10 free bets. Not valid with CashOut. Free bet valid for 7 days. Free bet stake not returned. 18+ T&Cs Apply."
693 / 10030£30T&Cs apply, 18+MoPlay bonus
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New Customers only. Up to £100 in Bet Credits. Sign up, deposit £5 or more to your account and bet365 will match your qualifying deposit in Bet Credits when you place qualifying bets to the same value and they are settled. Min odds/bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. T&Cs, time limits & exclusions apply.
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Other ways to bet

Horse racing

Our horse racing betting guide is all about explaining how to bet specifically on horses, but there is a huge range of alternative ways to wager on sports. Football betting is one of the most popular ways to put your money on who you think will be the winner, and there are a whole host of different kinds of ways to do this – from a simple bet on your team to win, to matched betting, handicap betting and much more.

Bookmakers today take bets on almost every sport imaginable, including the following: boxing, baseball, tennis, basketball, cricket, rugby, esports, ice hockey, cricket, Formula 1, golf, snooker, martial arts, volleyball, and much more. It’s best to bet on a sport you have some knowledge of, but there is no comparison with betting on horse racing when it comes to the sheer excitement and anticipation that it generates.

Possible options

Our betting on horses guide would not be complete without some information on the best bookmakers for a horse win. Fortunately, because horse racing is such a popular and well-loved sport for betting – there are lots of options when it comes to bookmakers. Because there is so much choice, the bookmakers often offer very competitive odds to ensure that you choose to bet with them – and this means that you can make decent profits if you win. Read on to find out about our top three bookmakers for a bet horse that might net you a profit.


Betway is one of the longer established bookmakers that takes wagers on a range of horse racing events. Established in 2006, the operator is a popular choice with bettors for horse racing, not least because they offer decent odds – but also a whole raft of regular horse-racing specific promotions to help you get more from your bets. New members of the Betway sportsbook can get a welcome bonus in the form of a deposit match that it worth up to £30 in free bets.


888Sport was introduced in 2008, and has established itself as one of the premier providers of sports betting, including horse racing for thousands of customers in the UK and Europe.  There are regular special offers for horse racing fans that can help you to minimise your losses and get more bets for your deposits. In addition, 888Sport offers up to £30 in free bets with a £10 deposit for all new members of the sportsbook. It’s easy to see at a glance what races are being run today and in the near future, by clicking on the link that says ‘horse racing’ on the right hand side of the homepage. From there, you can also access live streaming of many of the top events – so that you can watch the action to see if your bet comes in.


Betsafe was launched in 2006, and offers a good range of horse racing bets for a wide variety of races. Like Betway and 888, new members of this popular bookmaker can access up to £30 in free bets on signing up and making a small initial deposit. The dedicated horse racing page at Betsafe is packed with action, including special deals to help you make the most of every penny of your bet. As well as details of upcoming races and the horses running, you can also access a whole range of other useful information. Check out the statistics link to find out everything you need to know about recent results – these can help you to make better choices when it comes to selecting your next horse. There’s also a streaming page for checking out the action as it happens. Want to get really savvy about betting on the horses? Have a read of the dedicated racing tips page — or check out our tips for more information.

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Horse racing betting in conclusion

Horse racing betting is arguably the longest established means of wagering on sport, and remains extremely popular to this day. It is easy to do, even if you are a beginner. It helps to have a reasonable understanding of the types of races that are commonly bet on; and to have some knowledge of your chosen horse’s performance in previous races. Because there is so much competition among bookmakers offering bets on horse racing; there’s lots of choice and loads of great promotions, plus decent odds out there. It’s a good idea to do a bit of research both on the horses and the bookmakers before you start – to help give yourself the best chance of generating a win.

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