How to Bet on Horses: A Comprehensive Guide

Major horseracing events, such as the Galway Races and the Dublin Racing Festival, offer an exciting opportunity for horse betting enthusiasts. Beyond the thrill of the races, engaging in thorough research and making well-informed bets can potentially lead to financial gains.



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If you are new to betting on horseracing, follow this comprehensive guide for an introduction to horseracing terminology, how to place a bet online or on-course, and a list of betting strategies to get you started.


Terms and phrases to be aware of

Before you place your first bet, it is essential to familiarise yourself with common horseracing terms and phrases. Instead of getting bogged down by confusing terminology at the races, refer to this table for terms and phrases to be aware of. You may recognise a few, as not all of them are unique to horseracing.

BookieSlang for a bookmaker.
Boxed inWhen a horse is being blocked by other horses, and has no room to manoeuvre.
DriftWhen a horse’s odds lengthen before the race, signalling a perceived decrease in its likelihood of winning.
FavouriteThe horse that is expected to win based on the opinions of the betting public. The favourite is the horse with the shortest odds.
Fixed-odds A type of betting where the odds are set at the time the bet is placed, ensuring that the odds you receive at that moment are the odds you will be paid out at if your bet is successful.
FormThe performance or racing history of a horse, a critical aspect of horseracing well understood by experienced punters.
GoingThe ground conditions in a race, ranging from firm to heavy. This is a major indicator of how the horses will perform in a race.
HandicapAn assigned rating given to a horse based on its performance that determines the amount of weight it must carry in a race. The handicapper assigns this mark after the horse has completed three runs.
JollySlang for a favourite, the horse that is expected to win.
Long-oddsA horse with long-odds is considered less likely to win the race.
Odds-onWhen the potential return will be less than your stake.
Off the bridleWhen a horse is not responding to the jockey’s cues or is not moving along without being pushed.
One-pacedWhen a horse moves at the same pace throughout the race without speeding up.
OutsiderA horse that has longer odds. Placing a bet on this horse is riskier, but the potential profit from a winning bet will be higher.
Pulled upWhen a jockey intentionally stops or slows down a horse, due to lameness or injury.
RacecardA programme containing detailed information about scheduled races, jockeys, and horses.
Short-oddsA horse with short-odds is considered more likely to win the race.
Starting PriceOdds offered on a horse when the race begins.
SteamerA horse whose odds have significantly decreased before the race.
ToteThe Tote offers pool betting such as the placepot and jackpot bets, where all stakes go into a pool and punters earn their share.

How to place a bet

Betting online has grown in popularity in recent years. This is a preferred option among many betters because betting websites are available around the clock and can be accessed from the comfort of home.

Alternatively, you can bet while you are at the races with on-course bookmakers or in a high street betting shop, and avoid the fuss of signing up to any betting websites.

How to bet online:

  1. Choose one of the betting sites from the list below. These are the most popular, but you can also find more at our horse racing betting sites page.
    1. Betfred, Bet365. Tote. BetVictor. PaddyPower ,talkSPORT BET, Ladbrokes
  2. Once you have signed up to the website of your preferred bookmaker, go to ‘sport’ and click on the link to ‘horseracing’.
  3. Select which horse you would like to bet on from the list of races.
  4. Choose carefully the odds you would like to bet for your horse. The betslip should now appear.
  5. Type in the amount you would like to bet and click the ‘place bet’ button.

How to bet on-course:

  1. Refer to your race card for a list of horses to bet on. Alongside the names, there will be useful information about the horses and jockeys that can help inform your decision.
  2. Choose a online bookmaker to place a bet with. They are usually located close to the running rails. If you’re having trouble finding one, don’t hesitate to ask staff for help.
  3. Tell the bookmaker how much money you want to bet e.g 8 euros on number 2.
  4. If you get lucky, return to the bookmaker to collect your winnings.

Types of bets

Explore this list of bets, starting with basic bets and progressing to more complex combination bets. Betting can get quite complicated so it is advisable for beginners to start with the win, place and show bets. Rely on this list as you gain more betting experience and can advance to more complex types of bets.

Basic bets:

These three bets are straightforward and perfect if you are new to betting on horses. They allow you to focus on one horse that you think has a good chance of finishing in the top positions, through your knowledge of form and attention to the betting market.

WinA bet on a horse to win first place. The most straightforward kind of bet.
PlaceA bet on a horse to finish either first or second.
ShowA bet on a horse to finish either first, second or third.

Combination bets:

Each WayA combination of a win bet and a place bet on the same horse. If the horse wins, both the win and the place bet pays out. If the horse only places, the place bet pays out. 
Across the BoardA combination of a win, place and show bets. This provides multiple ways to pay out.
DoubleA bet on the winners of two consecutive races. Both selected horses must win their respective races for the bet to be successful. A higher risk, but higher potential returns.
TrebleA bet on the winners of three consecutive races. Like the double, all three must win for the bet to be successful.
Accumulator (Acca)A bet on the winners from multiple sections. For the bet to be successful, all individual sections must win.

Combination bets either focus on one horse you predict will perform well, or multiple horses from different races. This is a more complex betting strategy and can lead to higher profits.

Multiple bets:

Yankee, Canadian (Super Yankee), Heinz, etc)Various multiple bets involving different combinations of sections. These consist of a combination of 11 bets, 26 bets, and 57 bets respectively. With increased complexity comes higher risks but multiple ways to pay out.
Lucky 15, lucky 31 etcCombination bets that include singles, doubles, trebles, and an accumulator.

 These are bets that involve multiple sections and can be various combinations of singles, doubles, trebles and accumulators. Multiple bets can be an opportunity to implement a more personalised betting strategy.

Forecast and tricast bets:

ForecastA bet on not only the first two finishers in a race, but the order in which they will place. This type of bet offers higher potential returns compared to simpler bets due to the increased difficulty of predicting the exact order of finish.
Reverse Forecast (Quinella)A bet on the first two finishers in a race without specifying the order.
Tricast (Trifecta)A bet on the order of the first three finishers in a race. This is even more challenging than forecast, because the better must predict the exact order for the bet to be successful.
Tricast Box (Trifecta box)A bet on the first three finishers in a race without specifying the order.

 Some of these bets require more precision as the bettor must predict the order in which horses finish the race. Others simply involve a bet on multiple horses. Focusing on more than one horse requires advanced knowledge and expertise on form, as you have to keep track of each horse’s performance.

Pool bets:

PlacepotA bet on horses to place in a number of races, usually the first six races of a meeting. Your selected horses must place in the top positions to win the bet.
JackpotA bet on horses to win in a set of consecutive races. For the bet to be successful, all selected horses must win their respective races.

This is a type of bet in which participants contribute their stakes to a common pool. The winnings are then distributed among those who correctly predict the outcomes of the races. Pool bets introduce a communal aspect to the process, as bettors get to share in the collective excitement of pool betting.

Strategies for betting on races

Now that you have grasped the fundamentals of horseracing and betting, you can develop a reliable betting strategy to maximise your success. With many types of bets to consider, your strategy should be well-rounded and focused on a variety of factors.

  1. Start small

If you are new to betting on horses, you may want to start with the basic, low-risk bets. It can take a while to learn the intricacies of horseracing and develop a good instinct for betting. Many get caught up in the lively atmosphere of horseraces and overestimate their knowledge of horseracing. Avoid this trap by taking calculated risks.

  • Study form and statistics

Studying these statistics is known as form analysis and is the first step to selecting horses to bet on. Consider factors such as their win percentage and their experience level. Also, take note of a horse’s history of racing at different distances. This will help you gauge its suitability for the race you are betting on. You can find all of this information online at or on the racecard.

  • Consider breeding

A horse’s breeding or pedigree is an indicator of how well it will perform in a race. This information is also available on the racecard or online. Examine how successful a horse’s sire (father) was on a certain track or distance to make well-informed predictions. If the horse hasn’t run before, it is more likely to have similarities to its sire.

  • Understand track conditions

Weather can significantly impact track conditions. Horses may perform differently on soft or heavy ground compared to firm ground. Check the weather forecast, but most importantly observe the track conditions on the day to see how the ground will affect the horses’ performance.

  • Closely observe the horses

No matter how much you research beforehand you cannot accurately predict how a horse will perform on the day. Horseracing always involves an element of unpredictability. You can learn a lot about a horse’s performance by observing its behaviour. For example, a horse tends to perform better when it’s relaxed than when it’s sweaty or excitable. Learning about horse behaviour should form part of your research.

  • Understand handicapping

Handicapping, a special kind of rating on a horse’s performance, determines how much weight a horse must carry in a race. Understanding how the weight a horse carries can impact its performance can help inform your betting strategy.

  • Focus on specific races or tracks

Through research and experience, it is possible to become knowledgeable about specific types of races or tracks. Once you specialise in one area, you can adjust your betting strategy accordingly.

  • Don’t always bet on a favourite

While betting on a favourite can be a good beginner strategy, it is not that profitable in the long run because lower odds result in lower returns. Taking calculated risks on other selections with higher odds is the better strategy if you are knowledgeable about horseracing.

  • Watch for market trends

Observe how the betting market is reacting. Changes in odds and betting patterns can provide insights into which horses might place or win, and help you identify potential value opportunities.