Horse Racing Bets

Horse Racing BetsSo, having studiously weighed up the form, looked up your favourite tipster’s selections or just picked a few names you like the look of, you are now armed with your horse racing selections. The time has come to place a bet. But what type of bet to place?

For the uninitiated, the list of horse racing betting options can at first appear a little daunting. Thankfully it’s really not as complicated as it first may seem and with handy little guides like this one you will have the hang of it in no time. Here we take a look at some of the most popular types of horse racing bets. First though a word on one of the most important considerations when placing a bet, namely the price or odds of your selection.

Starting Price (SP)

When the moment comes to place your bet you will be greeted with a choice when it comes to the price (odds) you take. Prices about all runners in a race are in a constant state of fluctuation right up until the moment the stalls are opened or the flag is lowered to signal the start of a race.

The cause of all this price movement is, of course, money; if a bookmaker takes a lot of money for a horse he will react by shortening its price, likewise if no one seems willing to back a certain runner the bookmaker will lengthen its odds, hoping to make it a more attractive proposition. The decision the punter must make is whether to take what is known as the starting price or to instead opt for the current odds, i.e. the odds at the time the bet is placed.

Let’s take a look at the starting price first. The clue is in the title with this one, if you take the starting price you will receive the price at which the horse starts the race. All starting prices are determined by the prices offered by the on course bookmakers. At the off, an average of the varying prices offered by these trackside layers is taken and this is returned as the starting price.

Option two is to take the current price which will be clearly displayed alongside the name of your noble steed when you come to place your bet. The price of your selection could subsequently go up or it could go down, there really is no way of knowing for sure. If you take 10/1 for example this is the price you will get whether the horse eventually returns an SP of 20/1 or 5/1.

There seems to be an awful lot of thinking involved in all this but thankfully a fairly recent bookmaker offer has made things a whole lot easier. Best Odds Guaranteed, which goes under the rather attractive acronym of BOG, has been one of the biggest boons to punters in recent years. Many firms offer this concession, especially online. It works like this: Say you back a horse called Big Bertha in the 3.10 race at Kempton and opt to take the current odds of 10/1. Should the horse go on to win the race at 16/1 you will be paid out not at the 10/1 you took but at the bigger starting price of 16/1. So, what if Big Bertha does the business but is instead returned at the miserly SP of 5/1? No problem, you will be paid out at the 10/1 odds you took when placing the bet. This is a win-win situation and should not be missed. When you have the option, always bet with a bookmaker offering Best Odds Guaranteed and always take the current odds.

So that’s the price decision dealt with, now on to exactly what type of bet to place. Let’s run through the options.

Win Bet

We shall start with the bread and butter of the betting world: the win single. Plain and simple this is a bet on one horse to win a given race. If it wins, you win; if it loses, you lose. If for example you place a £10 win bet on a horse called Dozy Doris at 5/1 and she romps home in front you will receive a total of £60 (£50 winnings plus your £10 stake). Any other result than a Dozy Doris victory and you receive nothing.

Each Way Bet

The next most common bet is the each way single. This is in fact two bets, one bet on the horse to win and another to the same stake on it to be placed. The win part of the bet is settled in exactly the same way as a win single.

The place part will be paid out at a fraction of the win odds. The value of this fraction depends upon the number of runners and what type of race it is but is always either 1/4 or 1/5 of the win price. The exact each-way terms should always be listed alongside the prices for a race. These will state both the fraction paid and the number of places on offer, for example “1/4 1, 2, 3” means a quarter odds will be paid on the first three horses across the line.

Going back to our friend Dozy Doris, if instead of a £10 win single you opted for a £10 each way bet at 5/1 the pay-out would be calculated as follows. We will assume that the each-way terms for this race were 1/5 1, 2, 3.

In the event that Dozy Doris wins the race the £10 win part of your bet would be settled in the same manner explained above resulting in a return of £60. You will of course also be paid out on the place component of the bet. The odds for this work out at 1/1 or Evens as 1/5 of 5/1 is 1/1. Your £10 place bet would thus return £20 (£10 winnings plus your £10 stake). Adding the pay-outs for the separate win and place elements gives your total return on the bet. In this case it would be £60 + £20 = £80.

Should Dozy Doris finish second or third rather than first, the win part of your win bet would be a loser but you would still receive the £20 for the place element.

An important thing to remember here is that as an each-way bet has two components it will cost you double the unit stake you specify, for example, a £1 each-way bet actually costs £2.


The more adventurous punters will often go forth into the world of the accumulator. These are some of the most popular bets in the world of horseracing, offering excitement and the potential of a big win for a relatively small outlay.

The simplest of all accumulator bets is the double. Doubles can be either win or each way. A win double requires the selection of two horses running in different races, both of whom must win in order for the bet to succeed. Let’s take a £10 win double as an example.

Your selections are Nitty Nora at 2/1 in the 2.10 at Doncaster and Success At Last at 3/1 in the 3.30 at Aintree. Should Nitty Nora win, the £30 return (£20 winnings plus £10 stake) will all then go on to your second selection, Success At Last at 3/1. If Success At Last also wins then your double will be a winner to the tune of £120 (the £30 stake resulting from Nitty Nora’s win plus £90 winnings).

An each-way double is made up of one double on both horses to win and another on both to place. The win portion works as explained above whilst the place element follows exactly the same procedure but using the adjusted place odds, i.e. either 1/4 or 1/5 of the win odds.

Trebles work in the exactly the same way as doubles but with the addition of a third selection. Larger accumulators can also be placed, a fourfold contains four selections, a fivefold five and so on.

Picking three, four, or more horses and having them all win is rewarding when it happens but is in reality rather difficult to achieve. Imagine the frustration at placing a four horse win accumulator and having your first three win, only for the last one to let you down when finishing second by a nostril. Despite heroically picking three winners you would be rewarded with precisely nothing for your efforts. Enter the combination multiple bet.

Like singles, doubles, trebles and so on, combination multiple bets can be placed either as win or each way bets. A vast array of such bets are on offer both online and in the betting shops, some of the most popular being:

  • Patent: A patent consists of three selections which are permed into three singles, three doubles and a treble, making a total of seven bets.
  • Yankee: Fancy four runners? Then a yankee could be the way to go. This bet perms your four selections into six doubles, four trebles and a fourfold, making a total of eleven bets.
  • Lucky 15: This contains four selections and is very similar to a yankee, differing only in that it also contains singles. The bet consists of four singles, six doubles, four trebles and a fourfold. One major attraction of this bet is the common concession offered should you have just the one winner. If you only hit the target with one of your four selections many firms will pay you out at treble the odds for your winner.

These types of bet are hugely popular as they retain the possibility of a windfall should all your selections win, whilst also offering some sort of pay out even if one or more of your selections let you down.


For the bolder punters amongst you the forecast offers the opportunity to predict the first and second placed horses in a race in the correct order.

Some firms do offer a price on a forecast prior to the race but more commonly bets are settled at the computer straight forecast (CSF) price. Unlike the fractional odds displayed for the win and placed horses, forecasts are expressed as a dividend. For example, you may see CSF: £26.48 on the results screen, this simply means that a £1 forecast returns a total of £26.48. It seems to require a PhD in mathematics to understand exactly how these dividends are determined but the primary factors are the number of runners in the race and the starting prices of the first and second.

A variation on the forecast bet is the reverse forecast which is like an each way forecast in a sense, allowing you to win if your two horses finish first and second but in either order. The stake will be double that of the straight forecast.


Forecast still not challenging enough for you? How about a tricast? This bet goes one step further than a forecast in that it requires you to correctly predict the first second and third in the correct order. And yes that is as difficult as it sounds but on the plus side the rewards can be great. In common with the forecast the odds are expressed as a dividend and are determined using a complex mathematical formula. One thing to note here is that tricast betting is only available on certain types of race. The race must be a handicap contest with eight or more horses declared to run on the morning of the race in order for a tricast dividend to be returned.

The “each way” version of the tricast is called a combination tricast which pays up if you pick the top three horses but they can finish in any order. This is six bets and hence costs six times your unit stake.


The above are the most common types of horse racing bet in the UK but there are many other popular options which are often listed under the specials banner. Some of the more popular examples are:

Betting without the Favourite

A number of races over the course of a season hold little betting appeal due to the presence of an overwhelming favourite in the race. Because of this many bookmakers open a separate market on the race that does not include the favourite in order to create a more competitive event.

Match Bets

This is a bet where two horses in the same race are pitted against one another. You simply need to select which of the two will achieve the better finishing position. The beauty with this bet is that you have only one horse to beat in order to win. Your selection may be second last but if the other runner in the match bet is last you can still head to the pay-out counter, which is where you want to be.

Winning Trainer

Here you simply bet on the trainer who saddles the winner, which can be a useful bet in big races in which top trainers have multiple entries.

Winner Margin

A bet which allows you to select the margin of victory of the winner, which can be a good bet if there is an overwhelming favourite in the race.