Horse Racing Betting for Beginners: A Guide for New Punters

Look to start your journey as a horse racing bettor? Check out our comprehensive guide for new punters. From free bets to bet types and tips, we cover everything you need to know as a newbie...

Horse Racing Betting for Beginners: A Guide for New Punters
Horse Racing Betting for Beginners: A Guide for New Punters

Horse racing betting is a pastime a staggering number of Brits partake in every year, with iconic events such as the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National capturing the attention of millions. While the spectrum of bettors is huge, from infrequent gamblers to professional punters, they all started somewhere. If you are new to racing betting, you may face an initial period of confusion, not really knowing where to start when navigating the hundreds of markets up for grabs. With betting-specific jargon and the vast number of racing betting sites  to a whole range of different promotions, knowing where to start can be tricky.

In this blog, we look at some of the best tips for those new to horse racing betting - we hope they help!

History of Horse Racing 

The first racetrack was constructed back in 1665 on Long Island, with many of the big horse races formed in the 1700s. The sport quickly became of interest to aristocrats after King James openly publicised his great interest in the sport. Over the years, due to a rise in horse breeding, horse racing became valued as one of the most followed sports across the world, particularly in the UK and Ireland. Thanks to television and the internet, horse racing has grown significantly, with racing action more accessible than ever.

With horse races being so unpredictable and often conjuring up some real upsets, betting on races is a fascinating pastime. While many may encourage bettors to study a horse's form, past performances and trainer history, there is an argument that Lady Luck should never be underestimated when it comes to betting on the horses.

Understanding Race Categories 

UK and Irish racing is split into two categories: Flat and National Hunt racing. The Flat racing season runs from mid/late March and to mid/late November, while the National Hunt season spans from October and April.

Flat Races are simple; horses start and continue on a flat surface until the end of the race. Whichever horse reaches the winning line first wins. 

Alternatively, there is National Hunt Racing, where a set course of obstacles is in place to challenge horses and jockeys. National Hunt Racing is split into two categories: hurdles and steeplechases. 

Steeplechase races consist of stronger and higher fence jumps to be negotiated and conquered. Ditch and water jumps are often involved. Hurdle races are significantly easier. Often, you would find less experienced horses partaking in a hurdle race. 

Race Classifications

In both Flat racing and National Hunt racing, there are classifications according to the amount of prize money and the quality of participating horses. The prize money is often referred to as a 'purse'. 

In Flat racing, races are put into "groups". Group One races tend to involve horses of the best quality and reputation. 

Similarly, in National Hunt racing, there are classifications, with each race categorised under a specific "grade". Graded races are the highest stakes races, with Grade 1 (G1), Grade 2 (G2), and Grade 3 (G3) indicating the class of horses competing. The size of the purse, the amount of additional money, and the race's historical significance all play a role in deciding grade status. Grade 1 (G1) is the highest classification.

Although Group 1 / Grade 1 races generally command the highest purses, it's not a given. Purses are usually dictated by other factors, such as sponsorship fees. For example, the Grand National is not a graded race but a handicap and has one of the highest purses.

Horse Racing Odds 

In basic terms, odds communicate the likelihood of an outcome, for instance, a specific horse winning their respective race. Odds also show the relation between how much money you need to place on a horse and how much you are expected to receive if your prediction is correct. Fractional odds will tell you how much your bet is expected to return without your stake included. For example, if you've placed a win bet of £10 at 7/1 and your horse wins, you'll get £70 (7 x £10), plus your £10 back. The total amount you will receive will be £80.

Bet Types for Beginners

Most UK bookmakers will offer punters a variety of bet types to choose from. These are the most common and are the best types we recommend starting with.

  • Win: There are numerous types of bets that can be placed on one single race. However, many beginners usually opt for the 'to win' bet. This is a very straightforward bet. You simply put a win bet on one horse, and if it wins, your bet is a success.
  • Each Way: E/W is another simple bet for beginners. You are effectively placing two separate bets if you go for an E/W option. The first bet would be for your horse to win the race, and the second is for the horse to be "placed". The number of places paid out depends on the number of horses entered. If there are between 5 and 7 runners, your horse must finish 1st or 2nd. If there are between 8 and 15 runners, your horse must finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd. If the race is not a handicap and has 16 or more runners, your horse must finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd. If the race is a handicap and has 16 or more runners, your horse must finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. But bookies often offer a 'place boost' which will pay out for extra places. The Grand National, for example, can pay out for up to 8 places with some bookies.
  • Tricast: If you are having a particularly lucky day, you may want to consider a tricast bet. The tricast bet is when you correctly predict the top three horses of the race. You will also need to guess the exact order they will come in. The rewards for this bet can be staggering. 
  • Forecast: A Forecast consists of 1 bet that requires you to predict which selections will finish 1st and 2nd in the correct order. Also known as an exacta, this is a very popular bet that may result in substantial payouts for those who get it right, especially in heavy handicaps where even the favourites are highly-priced.
  • Double, Treble, Fourfold: A double bet is when you are supporting two horses in two separate races. You will receive your stake and extra, providing these horses come in. Simply, treble and fourfold stakes are exactly the same but with three and four selections. The process continues with the option of fivefold bets, etc. 
  • Accumulator Bets: Accumulator bets, or "Accas" as they are commonly known, are bets that combine multiple selections into a single bet. These selections are often referred to as "legs". While they are a lot riskier than most bet types, they can conjure up some serious winnings. Most bookies allow punters to place acca with up to seven selections included. This would be called a "seven-fold" or "seven-leg" acca.

Safe Gambling Tools 

When starting out in the world of horse racing betting, the thought of losing money can be worrying. This is why it is essential that you familiarise yourself with various safe gambling strategies to ensure you do not overspend and let your gambling sessions turn into a problem. Here are some suggested tools you may want to research before placing horse racing bets. 

Deposit Limits: All UKGC-registered betting sites will give customers the option to place a "deposit limit" on their account. This makes it physically impossible for you to exceed your predetermined limit. Punters have the option to place daily, weekly and monthly deposit limits on their accounts.

Time Limits: As well as setting deposit limits, players can also put restrictions on how much time they spend engaging in horse racing betting activities. Like Deposit Limits, Time Limits can be set as daily, weekly or monthly. The reason for this tool is to ensure players err on the side of caution and do not end up over-gambling and chasing bets.

Self-assessment: If you are new to horse racing betting, it can be hard to spot the signs of problem gambling. If you start to begin your gambling may be getting out of hand, you can always utilise the self-assessment tool. This provides players with a series of questions, with the results of the quiz-style questionnaire giving an indication of how healthy your relationship with gambling is.

Helplines and charities: All top betting sites, including the likes of Ladbrokes, UWin and William Hill, will feature contact details for responsible betting helplines and charities. These will be found on the betting site's 'Responsible Gambling" page.

Utilising Racing Bonuses as a Beginner

Online betting offers, such as free bets and bonuses, are a great way for new punters to enhance their bets and stretch their deposits further. While free bets sound too good to be true, they can be claimed by numerous bookmakers, including new betting sites. Most free bets are available to punters when they open a new account, meaning new bettors have a wealth of free bet options to explore! Whether you are considering registering with horse racing-specific operators like BetGoodwin or popular brands such as Coral and BoyleSports, you will be welcomed on board with a juicy new player bonus.

As well as free bets, there are plenty of other betting promotions new racing bettors can take advantage of. These include:

  • Odds Boosts: As the name suggests, Boosted odds provide a higher potential reward for the same level of risk on specific bets. By boosting the odds on a certain selection, punters receive more attractive betting options.
  • Extra Places: As mentioned towards the top of this blog post, Extra Places offers are geared at bettors placing each-way racing bets. When an Extra Place offer is on the table, the punter is paid out on an extra place in the race. For example, the total number of places being offered by the bookmaker would be four as opposed to the standard three.
  • Best Odds Guaranteed: When a bookmaker offers BOG, and you place a winning bet on a qualifying race, you will be paid out at the best odds between the price you paid when you placed the bet and the horse's Starting Price (SP).

Take Advantage of Free Racing Tips

As a betting newbie, it is advised that you do as much research before placing your initial bets. By furnishing yourself with as much information about the race, horse, trainer and so on, you will go into your bets well-informed. It is also worth taking inspiration from betting tips, with expert tipsters with a proven track record potentially helping you enjoy success as a new bettor. Here at, we offer free racing tips every day of the week. Our tips come from a variety of sources. These include our resident tipsters, tips from leading media outlets like Timeform and At the Races, as well as AI-generated tips!

Compare Racing Betting Sites at

Finding the right betting site for you is essential for enjoying a great welcome to the world of sports betting. It is important to note that not all betting sites offer horse racing betting, so conducting your research is a must! Here at, we work with hundreds of betting sites. Compare the best of the best right here, right now. If you are looking for horse racing betting sites suited to beginners, here are our top suggestions:

William Hill





Icon for NAGS Bet

Deposit and bet £10 and get a £10 free bet to use on any market. Simple! 4.5 ★1401 ratings, 0 reviews

Claim here Review & Details