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How to Pick a Winning Horse

When betting on the races, there are several different approaches you may want to consider. Of course, some people will choose a horse randomly or based on factors such as its name, the jockey’s colours, and the like; however, if you want to make a more informed decision, there are ways you can increase your chances of picking a winning horse.

 

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And, while you can’t ever know for certain which horse will win a race, there are definitely a few signs and factors to assess to help you work out which horse will be in with a higher chance.

Picking a Winning Horse: What Counts as a Win?

Before we go further, we first need to define what counts as a win. Indeed, there are actually several ways you can win on a horse racing bet, and so, keeping this in mind could help you increase your chances of picking a winning horse overall.

Race Winner

The main market that people tend to think of when picking a winning horse at a betting site is the race winner market – in other words, betting on whether the horse will come in first place or not. The race winner market means that if your horse should come in first, you’ll receive the total bet payout; however, if your horse doesn’t take the gold, your bet will lose.

Each Way

Another betting market you could consider when choosing a horse is the each way market. Each way bets are actually comprised of two individual bets: the first is whether the horse will win the race, and the second is whether it will come within the top handful of horses.

The number of places paid for in each way bets will typically depend on how many horses are entered and start the race; for example, a 16-horse race will usually have three or four places paid, whereas an eight-horse race may only pay each way for one or two additional places.

Each way bets don’t pay out in the same way as the regular race winner market; they will usually be based on a fraction of the race winner odds. If you’re planning to place an each way bet, make sure to consider this odds difference; on an animal with low odds, it’s not uncommon for an each way place win to still pay out less than your initial stake regardless.

How the Market Type Impacts Picking a Winner

Picking a winning horse is significantly easier with an each way bet than a race winner bet since the chances of a horse placing in the top three/four/five places will be far higher than coming in first. As such, if you want to place a winning bid, each way bets may be a more likely result – however, your winnings will be lower based on the stake for an each way bet.

How to Pick a Winning Horse: Factors to Consider

Now that we’ve considered the two different markets you could consider betting on (and how this will impact the likelihood of picking a winning horse), we can begin looking a little more closely at the racers themselves.

Of course, it’s not just the horse’s stats that you’ll want to consider when trying to pick a wining horse. While a horse’s training and genetic potential will have a significant influence in terms of their race performance, this is also tied closely to the choice of jockey. As such, be sure to take both factors into account.

Start With the Odds

Before you even look at the statistics directly, though, looking at the odds first is hugely important. By looking at the odds offered by the racing bookmakers, you’ll get a quick idea in terms of which horses are popular picks and which are likely to be outsiders.

In line with this, if you’re looking for a winning horse, choosing one at odds of 100/1 is unlikely (though not impossible) to pull through. Contrastingly, you’ll have much better chances of picking a winner if the odds are lower at around 5/1.

But the odds alone won’t guarantee a winner, so while you can potentially narrow down your options by looking at the odds and other people’s recommendations, considering other factors could help you further choose who to bet on.

Horse Statistics to Consider

Without a doubt, when choosing a winning horse, considering the horse’s performance, training, genetic potential, and the like is one of the most overarching factors. Indeed, especially in large broadcasted races, the horses themselves are elite athletes. Thus, the animal’s performance and abilities will be among the most influential factors in terms of which horse wins.

Age and MaturityOne of the biggest factors at play when choosing a race winner is age, and this can be true for many reasons. Of course, maturity is a big part of this; a freshly-backed horse is unlikely to race as well as its more mature peers simply due to the overwhelming nature of the race track for a young horse.   Moreover, slightly older horses will also have had more time to mature, train, and grow into themselves. In line with this, it’s perhaps no surprise that the youngest winner of the Grand National ever was seven years old, and the majority of winners were around nine years old. However, age isn’t always a good thing. Indeed, the oldest winners of the Grand National have been twelve years old. Needless to say, a racing career can be incredibly demanding, and slightly older horses won’t be able to perform at their best forever.   So, looking for a horse within this “sweet spot” of seven to twelve years may be a good option. Don’t necessarily disregard a horse just because it’s outside of this range, though.
Training / TrainerTraining is a vital component of a horse’s performance on the race course. Indeed, racing isn’t just a case of letting the horse run as fast as it can; there’s a huge amount of training involved to ensure that the horses are capable of meeting the demands of the racetrack and running to the best of their ability.   As such, considering how much training the horse has received – and the reputation and skill of the trainer themselves – can play a significant role in your choice.
Form and Recent PerformanceForm and recent performance can be a little difficult to judge, in some cases, since every race is different. However, a horse that’s performed well in all of its recent races may be a more likely bet than one that’s fallen or failed to place consistently.   Considering the horse’s recent form can provide plenty of information about its abilities and likely performance during the race. For example, a horse that has fallen in a steeplechase regularly may be a risky bet.   While considering a horse’s recent races is worthwhile, the most important races to look at here are those with conditions similar to the current race. Some horses may thrive in smaller or larger races. Moreover, a horse may be better suited to shorter or longer races. The most useful data here can be found when the horse has performed on this particular track in the past.   Be careful to look too far back in terms of form, though. A lot can happen between one year and the next, and while a horse that has never won a race in its career is unlikely to suddenly win everything, races from years ago may not reflect the horse’s current abilities and training. That’s true for better and for worse; if a horse’s past results were better than they are now, the horse may be approaching retirement.
Ground ConditionsOne of the most influential factors is the ground condition – and this can leave even the best horses at the back of the group. Indeed, horses will typically perform best on specific surfaces, and the preferred going will vary from animal to animal.   There are six types of ground conditions: firm, good to firm, good, good to soft, soft, and heavy.   Generally speaking, drier surfaces will allow horses to run more quickly. However, if the conditions aren’t ideal, try to consider how a horse has performed with that type of surface in the past. For example, some horses may still cope well with softer ground, while others may struggle to really show off their full potential.
Genetic PotentialGenetics are a tricky one, as they can potentially allow a horse to be the next big thing in their yard – but genetics alone aren’t enough to make a horse into a winner. As such, while genetic potential is a good factor to keep in mind, make sure you’ve also checked whether the horse is mature and well-trained enough to actually perform to their potential.   If a horse is from a bloodline that’s reputed for having great racing results, this can definitely set the horse up for a good chance. Nevertheless, this isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Take the famous Tiger Roll, for example; despite being bred from stellar flat racing bloodlines, he went on to astound the horse racing world by becoming the first horse since Red Rum in the 70s to win back-to-back in the Grand Nationals.

Jockey Statistics to Consider

While there’s a huge amount to be said for the skill, training, and abilities of the horse when choosing a winning animal, the jockey also plays a vital role in helping the horse perform to the best of its ability. In line with this, it’s highly important to consider the jockey’s traits and skills to help when picking a race winner.

Some of the main things to keep in mind in terms of the jockey include:

  • Experience and reputation: One of the main factors to consider in terms of the jockey is their experience and reputation. Needless to say, certain jockeys are always popular bets by punters for their incredible talent and skill, which ensures they know how to ride the horse to the best of its abilities. For example, a big name such as Franki Dettori, who won roughly 19% of races and placed 45%, is going to be a much more likely bet that someone who is new to the racing scene or hasn’t got as much experience in riding racehorses at a professional level.
  • Weight category: Jockeys are stereotypically very short and small, and this ties in with their role as professional athletes and can directly influence the horse’s performance. Indeed, a lighter jockey will often be a good bet, as their weight will hold back their horse less.
  • Repeat pairing: Jockeys who have past experience with a particular horse – for example, a previous win while riding the same horse – may be a better bet than someone who hasn’t ridden the horse as often. Inevitably, each horse has its own unique quirks and traits, and the best jockeys will typically have experience with the horse to learn their mannerisms and help them perform to the best of their abilities. For example, a horse that often burns itself out at the start of a race may need a jockey who understands them more closely to hold them back, so that they still have energy left for the final furlong!

These are just a few of the main things you’ll need to consider when attempting to pick a winner. But, in the end, it’s really down to chance, and even the most successful race horse and jockey combination will eventually need to retire from the racing scene.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been planning to take a punt on the horses, knowing how to pick a winning horse can really help. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that your chosen horse will win. Indeed, there are many different factors at play here – and even when a horse is way ahead of the pack, one misplaced hoof is all it takes for a winner to end up disqualified from a race or at the back. Nevertheless, it can still be an exhilarating decision to try and pick a winning horse, provided that you recognise that you might still end up losing.