Complete Guide to Placing Online Horse Bets

Part 1: Selecting a Race

There are no two ways about it. If you want to make betting on horse racing pay then you must have a solid understanding of the form book, and for betting on British and Irish horse racing that means you must be able to understand how racing form is presented.

The reason we focus on Irish and British horse racing is because it is the most available form for online horse race betting. The United States do offer some premier events, but  you will find the most daily betting options with Irish and British racing.

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Racing form, news, and tips provide an essential basis on which both experienced and new punters base their selections. Databases are updated daily so the performance of every horse, as well as the trends and statistics relating to the owner, breeder, jockey, and trainer of each horse, are available for the racing public to consider. On our “Horse Racing Guide Following the Stats”  we go through each of these key aspects in detail.

As the user’s knowledge and ability to handle the racing form develops, punters can then choose to look in even more depth at detailed information relating to the pedigree of horses, the prices paid at public auction, long-term trends etc, but again, for those dipping a toe for the first time in the complex but hugely exciting and fascinating racing world, the basic form-book provides more than enough information and news to get your betting career underway.

Regardless of which betting company or companies you choose to open an account with, gaining at least a basic understanding of the form book is an essential tool in the armory of every punter wanting to make a profit from his betting and enjoy this terrific sport.

At our site we will guide you stage-by-stage through the different elements involved in understanding the form, giving you an essential basis on which to build a successful betting career.  All our content, worth over $5,000 on the market is free.

Anyway as well as understanding the form it is important to stay up-to-date with our latest racing news stories – always worth reading in order to get a feel for what is going on in the business – future plans of significant horses, as well as reports on significant past races and who were the big winners and losers.

One example of a user friendly, high-profile betting site is the internationally successful Bet365. We’ll base this guide on reading horse racing form on, but the basic rules apply wherever you choose to bet.

Click any of the images below for a larger view.

How to place a horse racing bet on Bet365

Once you reach the Bet365 horse racing home page by clicking Horse Racing on the left side menu, you will see all the British race fixtures for that particular day presented in alphabetical order, followed by the Irish fixtures.

Each fixture will have the times of its scheduled races listed alongside the name of the track.  

To begin the process of selecting a horse to bet on you simply click on the relevant race time and you will see the list of runners and riders appear in numerical order. You will the screen similar to below.

How to read the Bet365 horse racing event page

The  colored  silks worn by the jockey  are displayed alongside each horse so that you can identify your selection should you choose to view the race live and follow the action as it happens.

The page is automatically set to display the betting at ‘Fixed Odds’ as this is the preferred option of the overwhelming majority of punters, particularly those who are just starting out and learning the many aspects of the sport of horse racing and the betting that goes along with it.

Fixed Odds mean that when you place a bet at the price displayed, those are the odds you will receive if your horse wins. The payout will not change whether or not the horse goes up or down in the betting odds.

In Part 2 of this guide we will explain the information features presented on Bet365 basic racecard and you’ll be well on your way to having your first bet.

Part 2: Reading the Race Card – Track Type, Horse info, and Odds

Having arrived at the race on which you may choose to have a bet and seen the list of runners and riders and the jockeys’ silks, we now need to understand more of the information displayed on the Bet365 racecard, the site we are using as a guide on how to understand British and Irish racing form.

How to read the racecard of Bet365 horse racing

The list of horses is presented in numerical order, but before we begin to assess the prospects of each runner we need to understand what type of race we are betting in. Are we betting on a Flat race or a race over the jumps, for example? Scan across the page on the same line as the race time and a brief description of the type of race is presented. If, for example, the distance of the race is shown as simply ‘6f Flat’ (1), that means the race is over seven furlongs and is a Flat race.

(A furlong is an old imperial measurement still used in British & Irish horse racing that equals 220 yards (200metres). A mile race, for example, is made up of 8 furlongs and is equal to 1600 metres.)

If the race is displayed as 2m 4f Chase, this tells us that we are looking at a jumps race over the bigger fences. In jump racing there are two types of obstacles; hurdles are the smaller obstacles, whist chase fences are bigger. In jump racing the minimum distance is two miles (displayed as 2m), so a 2m 4f Chase is a jumps race over the bigger chase fences that is run over two-miles-and-four-furlongs, a distance equivalent to 4 kilometres.

Because many racetracks in Britain & Ireland stage both jumps and Flat racing, it is important to know before you bet which type of races are being staged so as to avoid any confusion. This is especially important as some horses are capable of running both in Flat races and jumps races.

For this example we will look at a Flat race, so having established the distance we can look at horse No.1. Under his number is another figure in brackets (2). This figure indicates the stall into which the horse will placed at the start of the race. It can often prove significant as at some courses there is a distinct advantage to being placed in a high or low numbered stall. We’ll look into that later on.

Looking left-to-right, after the racing colors of the horse we have the horse’s name, under which we see first the name of the horse’s trainer and to the right of this the name of the jockey (3). Moving across, we reach the ‘Form’ category (4), below which, (reading left-to-right) are a series of numbers which represent the finishing position of the horse in its last six race. In the case of a horse that is new to racing or inexperienced, there may be none or just a few form figures.

Underneath the form figures are two icons. The first is a play button (4)  that allows those who have registered an account with Bet365 to watch a video replay of the horse’s most recent run. This can sometimes be an excellent visual guide to a horse’s chance. Click on the second ‘i’ icon (4)  and a description of the horse’s last run is shown on the left, some of which is in abbreviated form which we will teach to thoroughly understand later on. To the right, a ‘Spotlight’ analysis of the horse’s chance (provided by the bible of the horse racing industry the Racing Post), gives a brief analysis provided by an experienced racing journalist of the horse’s chance in this particular race.

Continuing to read across the form line we reach the category headed ‘Weight-Age’ (5)  which displays the weight in stones and pounds that the horse will carry. This weight includes the bodyweight of the jockey. It will be displayed, for example as 8-12, which means the horse is set to carry 8 stone 12 lbs. Beneath this figure is the age of the horse clearly indicated as, for example ‘Age 5’.

The column to the far right of the race card displays the ‘Odds’ (6). At this stage we will use the ‘Fractional’ odds that are automatically displayed, but these can also be displayed in decimal form, something we’ll come to later on. If the horse’s odds are displayed as 4/1, that means for every one dollar you bet you will receive a profit of $4, as well as receiving your $1 stake back.

To the left of the ‘Odds’ columns is another column headed ‘Previous Odds’ (7)  which will show any changes in the odds that are currently offered , and indicates if a horse’s odds are shortening or lengthening, according to the confidence, or lack of confidence in its chance in the betting market.

You should now have a working understanding of the basic racecard.

Part 3: Finding a Winner, a Detailed Look at the Horse

OK, it isn’t that easy to predict a winner, but having grasped the basics of reading a racecard it’s important to look in just a little more depth at finding useful information that can guide us towards increasing our odds of picking a winner.

how to select the winner on Bet365 racecard

Using the excellent Bet365 racecards as a working example and having selected a race (as shown in Part 2 of this guide), it is well worthwhile moving your cursor across the page to the right to the ‘Show All Race Info‘ button. Click on this button and the format of the racecard immediately changes to present more information that is concisely presented and generally easy to understand.

Detailed guide of how to understand Bet365 racing form

At the top of the new-look page is the Overview‘, a few sentences summarizing the race as a whole and highlighting the horses the writer believes have the best chances of winning the race, as well as those who the writer might feel have rather less chance than their odds might suggest. The ‘Overview’ will also display the recommended selection – usually presented in capital letters (in this example the recommended selection is PLEASE TALK)  – the horse that the correspondent believes has, in his opinion, the best chance of winning.

If you can’t be bothered to work your way through the form, or don’t have the time to sit down and come to a decision yourself on which horse is the most likely to win, then the ‘Overview’ is definitely a useful short cut to reaching a decision.

The ‘Show All race Info’ page will show a two line review of the horse’s ‘Last Run, displayed beneath the name, number and racing colors of the horse, whilst to the right side of the page there will be the Spotlight‘ opinion (as mentioned in Part 2 of this guide), that provides a brief analysis of the horse’s chance, given by a journalist from the hugely respected Racing Post team.

Bet365 detailed raceform explained

If you want to know more about a particular horse on which you are considering having a bet, click on the ‘Show All Race Info‘ button and return the page to its original setting, move the cursor up to the top of the page and click on the third icon from the right in a row of six; it looks like three different height building blocks. This ‘Horse Form’ button will then reveal a pop-up page of form which presents a whole new world of more detailed information on each and every horse, jockey, and trainer in the race.

Bet365 raceform explained to handicap horses

Simply click on the name of the horse and a whole page will be revealed showing easy-to-understand statistics related to how many times the horse has won or finished in a place, at which distances the horses has been successful or unsuccessful, the type of ground conditions the horse prefers, its performances during the last 28 days (an indication of whether or not it is in peak form), and a breakdown of its performances over the last racing year.

Understanding horse stats with Bet365 racing form

You will see below this chart a description of the horse’s pedigree and where it was foaled, as well as confirmation of its trainer and owner, information that as you develop a better understanding of the sport can prove very useful.

The final section on the page (displayed in yellow type) lists all the horse’s runs together with at-a-glance details of how it performed in each race. For more detailed information though, just click on the date of the race and the result card for that race will appear with a full description of how the horse performed, giving you plenty of food for thought on whether or not it can be expected to do better in its latest race given the different conditions etc.

There is another aspect to this and that is understanding market signals, but that is a topic we touch on a whole different section.

Now you are beginning to understand how the many information tools available on the Bet365 horse racing site can open up a whole new world of analysis that can help you to be a more successful horse racing punter.

Part 4: Trainer Form

In Part 3 of this guide we learned how to access the ‘Horse Form‘- the third symbol from the right in a line of six at the top of each individual racecard.

Detailed explanation of the horse racing trainer form on Bet365

It looks like three different height building blocks. We also looked at how clicking on the name of a horse can open up a whole new area of more detailed information.

Understanding trainer form on Bet365

With the name of each runner, trainer, and jockey highlighted in yellow, it’s now time to click on the trainer, whose name is listed directly beneath the horse. Once you click on the name of the trainer a page will pop up offering plenty of additional information.

Trainer Form for horse racing example on Bet365

A chart is displayed showing how today’s jockey has performed when riding for this trainer so far this season, indicating the number of times the jockey has won or placed on horses trained by this person. A good percentage rate would suggest that this trainer uses this particularly jockey when he fancies his horses to do particularly well.

The next line down shows how this trainer does at the particular racecourse where this horse runs today. This is essential information as there is no doubt that trainers have preferred tracks where they send their better horses and achieve better results, whilst at other tracks they may have a much lower rate of success.

The third category on the chart is ‘Last 7 Days’, another crucial guide that indicates what sort of form the trainer’s horses have been in during the previous week. Stables often go through hot and cold streaks that can be related to the wellbeing of the horses (there might be a virus in the stable), or the fitness of the horses. If, for example, a trainer’s exercise gallops have been flooded by rain or frozen, this will invariably be reflected by lesser performances from his horses as they have been unable to reach peak fitness.

It never ceases to amaze how a stable can be out of form and then suddenly start to hit the target. When one horse wins or runs well it very often follows that others from the stable do the same and this factor can easily be gleaned by a glance at the ‘Last 7 days’ statistic.

The fourth category on the chart is the ‘Current Season’ statistics which give a broader view of how the trainer is doing during the current racing season. It indicates the number of wins and places from all runners for the stable together with easy-to-understand win and place percentage strike rates.

The Bet365 site often provides a brief background description about the trainer that can be useful when tallied together with the statistics chart.

The other significant thing to note on the trainer page is the list of runners from the stable that have been entered to run over the next five days. This can prove a very useful tool, as should a trainer enter three horses for a particular race at the five-day entry stage, then at the final 48-hour (Flat) or 24-hour (Jumps) stage rely on just one horse to represent the stable in the race, that could be an indicator that the trainer believes that one entry is likely to proving sufficient to run well for the stable and win some prize money.

Part 5: Jockey Form

We are continuing to use the Bet365 racing website as a good example of how to read basic horse racing form and give yourself a much better chance of picking winners than simple random selections.

Guide to jockey form on Bet365

Moving on from Part 4 where we used the ‘Horse Form’ icon, (third from the right of the six at the top of each race page) to access information about the horse and then the trainer, it’s now time to click on the jockey and look into useful information that might enhance our betting prospects.

Horse details and jockey form on bet365

Click on the jockey’s name (highlighted in yellow), and a chart similar to that seen for the trainer appears. The first line shows the number of ‘Lifetime’ rides the jockeys has had, indicating the number of wins and places achieved as well as the relevant strike rates. A win strike rate of 12% or upwards is perfectly respectable, anything above 16% (1 in 6 rides) is a very good strike rate, whilst anything above 20% (1 in 5 rides) is outstanding.

The second line on the chart displays the name of the track at which the jockey is riding in this race. Again, the number of wins and places to overall rides, together with relevant percentage strike rates are displayed. This is an important set of statistics as there is absolutely no doubt that some jockeys perform better at a particular course than at others.

Some jockeys are better on straight, galloping tracks where the judgement of pace can be crucial, while others are more adept at tight tracks where their tactical superiority in being in the right place at the right time came make the essential difference between winning and losing.

The third category on the chart is ‘Last 7 Days’, once again an indication of whether or not the jockey is in form. Jockeys, like everyone else, rely greatly on confidence. If they are on a long losing streak their confidence is often affected and this is often indicated by the statistics and might persuade punters to look elsewhere.

The final category is ‘Current Season’, in which all the figures related to the jockey’s performance during the current racing season are displayed.

The chart also lists the number of rides that the jockey has already been booked for in the forthcoming five days. Knowing where a jockey is going to be riding and seeing that, for example, he has agreed to ride just one horse at a track, can give a strong clue that he believes such a journey is going to be worthwhile and the horse has a serious chance of winning.

Combining the Bet365 statics discussed in Parts 3, 4, & 5 of this guide can give you a real chance of being able to get to grips with the essential nuances and intricacies of racing form. It is certainly worth spending the extra time analysing the chance of your horse using the different factors discussed in these sections that will hopefully point you well on the road to achieving successful results as a punter.

Part 6 will reveal a few extra bits of very useful information that can help you reach your final selections.

Part 6: Additional Features of Bet365 for Horse Race Betting

Having got to grips with the main horse racing form features offered on  it’s now time to guide you through some excellent additional information that can really make a difference to your success as a punter.

Returning to the selected race page and clicking again on the third icon from the right of the six – the three building blocks – the ‘Racing Form’ page opens up once again. This time pay attention to the nine tabs just below the Bet365 banner. Reading left to right they reveal the following:

‘Race Cards’ – Offers a drop-down list of all the races at each fixture being staged that day. Simply click on the time of the race that interests you to view the runners and riders.

‘Race Overview’ – Offers a page of one paragraph analysis for every race at a particular fixture. The horses considered of most interest in each race are highlighted in yellow. Should you feel you want to look in a little more depth at the profile of a highlighted horse, simply click on its name and its career profile will instantly pop up in front of you.

‘Ratings’ – This is an easy to use tool that offers a rating for the chance of each horse in every race at your selected meeting. The horse’s chance is represent by between 0-5 stars; the more stars highlighted alongside the name of the horse the better the chance of it winning, in the opinion of the form analysts. Again, if you want more information on any horse simply click on its name and its career profile will instantly paper.

‘Horse Form’ – Lists every horse entered to run that particular day in alphabetical order and shows the racecourse and the time of the race it is entered to compete in.

‘Jockey Form’ – Displays every jockey booked to ride that particular day in alphabetical order. Alongside each jockey is the name of each horse he is scheduled to ride, as well as the racecourse name and race time of each event.

‘Trainer Form’ – Similar to the ‘Jockey Form’ displays the name of every racehorse trainer with runners that particular day. Again the name of each horse scheduled to run, the racecourse, and the time of its race are clearly indicated.

‘Results’ – Shows the result of each race that particular day soon after the contest is over. Using the ‘refresh’ button on the right side of the page you can be sure to get the latest results as fast as possible.

‘Search’ – A very useful feature that provides an excellent short cut to getting information about any horse, jockey, or trainer, simply by entering their name into the highlighted box. The name will then be revealed in yellow and after clicking will reveal a wealth of up-to-date information allowing you to concentrate your mind on that particular person or horse.

‘Nag Me’ – Another excellent feature. Often you will see a horse win or run an eye-catching race and tell yourself that you must bet on that horse next time it runs. The problem used to be that it is difficult keeping track of where and when horses are going to run, especially as there are around 15,000 in training. With the ‘Nag Me’ feature you simply register your email address, enter the name of the horse that interests you, and every time it is entered to run you will receive an email informing you of where and when it will be in action. There’s no excuse now about missing out on a good-priced winner because you didn’t know it was running!

*Still with us? Now that you know how to read the Racing Form and to use to it properly, why not upgrade your skills by learning how to Hedge with Betfair or cover your risk on horse betting.