How to Bet on Horses

By Robbie Evans on

Horse racing is one of the best-known sports in the UK, with millions of racegoers and TV viewers tuning in to the nation’s biggest racetrack events every year. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about horse racing betting and get you ready to place your very first punt.

Grasping the terminology heard at racetracks is often daunting as a new bettor. Words to describe different types of bets — like ‘superfecta’, ‘trifecta’, or ‘exacta’ — can make you feel in over your head while trying to stick money on a horse as a newcomer to the sport. With that in mind, we’ll cover all bases in layman’s terms. 

For a quick look at some of the bookmakers you can expect to visit as a horse racing punter, check out our list of the best UK racing betting sites here.

How to Choose

First - Choosing a Betting Site

Online sports betting has never been more popular. There’s a site for every type of punter — meaning there’s plenty of variety — but this can make it difficult to find the best platform. Some bookmakers only prioritize horse racing during major events, like Cheltenham, whereas others thrive during lesser-known races. As such, the best online betting site for you will vary depending on your interest in the sport. 

Below, we’ve outlined a list of things to look out for when deciding where to place your first flutter. 

  • Ensure the site is licensed by the UKGC
  • Examine the range of racing-related promotions and offers
  • Competitive odds — use our odds comparison engine to see which site ranks best
  • Downloadable mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Excellent customer support

How to Sign Up to a Betting Site

Creating an account with an online betting site is simple, but the process will require that you enter some personal information. Sportsbooks must verify customers’ details in order to comply with UK gambling laws, so don’t be put off by requests for your mobile number, home address, and other private data.
Before getting started, make sure to have a utility bill, a form of photo ID, and your payment details at hand. These documents may be necessary during KYC checks. Once you’re all set up, you’re free to take your knowledge on how to bet on horses and indulge in major horse racing events — whether they’re in the UK, America, or across the rest of the world.
Without further adieu, let’s run through each step.

Red Man Magnifying Glass STEP 1
Consult our lists and reviews of the best horse racing bookies, and once you’ve found the right site for you, click the ‘Sign Up’ button to access the bookmaker’s website.
Blue Man Checklist STEP 2
You’ll need to enter your full name, address, email address, phone number, and create a unique password. After that, you’ll be required to upload the requested documentation to comply with KYC checks — this is necessary before being permitted to bet.
Yellow Money Checklist Card STEP 3
Choose a deposit method, such as an e-wallet or debit card, then enter the amount you’d like to deposit. Remember to meet minimum deposit requirements if you opt to take advantage of a welcome offer or racing bonus.
Red Man Playing Games STEP 4
Place your bet
Find the horse racing tab and view the range of available markets. Once you’ve selected a market you like — e.g. each-way, tote markets, future meetings — add it to the bet slip along with the amount you’d like to wager. All that’s left to do then is await the final result.
Online Bet Slip

Navigating your Online Bet Slip

Found in the corner of your screen, your bet slip contains each selection you’ve chosen. For example, let’s say you choose a particular horse to win a race at Ascot — the famous annual meeting near Reading. The name of your selected racehorse will show up within your bet slip, along with the betting odds, the event, and your potential payouts — also known as payoffs. Keep in mind that the name of a jockey will rarely be displayed on your slip.

Bet slips are a constant when it comes to online betting, no matter your experience level. Veteran punters use bet slips to create accumulators and put money on mutuel wagers, while rookies become accustomed to bet slips by having a flutter on singles and doubles. 

Here’s how to add a wager to your bet slip.

  1. Find the horse racing page via the sidebar menu or the relevant icon image.
  2. Clicking on your chosen betting odds will add your selection to the slip. 
  3. A stake box will be present — this is where you enter the amount of money to bet.
  4. You may be asked if you want to use any free bets attached to your account.
  5. Once you’re happy with your bet, hit ‘bet now’ or ‘submit’.
Odds Explained

Horse Racing Betting Odds Explained

If you feel overwhelmed and confused by a horse’s odds, take some solace in the fact that you’re not alone. Even the most experienced punters had to start somewhere! 

You can get off on the right foot when it comes to how to bet on horses by learning some basic bet types. We won’t throw complicated bets at you here — you only need to know a handful of terms. Use the following list to aid your early betting journey, whether you’re trying your luck at a racecourse or online.

  • Each-Way bet: This is a bet on two outcomes. First, you’re betting that the horse finishes before other runners. Second, you’re betting on the horse’s finishing position across a range — e.g. 1st to 5th.
  • Win: The most basic type of wager, a win bet is a punt on the horse to come first at the end of the event. 
  • Single: A wager on one horse to win a race. 
  • Double: A bet on two different selections from the same market. Doubles require both outcomes to go your way for the bet to win.
  • Treble: Like doubles, trebles require that all of your chosen bets are accurate to see a return. Here, you’re betting on three unique selections from the same market.
  • Trixie: Made up of three doubles and one treble, totalling four bets. This one’s a little more complicated, so we’ve provided an example bet below.
    • Your selection consists of: Horse A, Horse B, and Horse C to win their respective races.
    • Double 1 requires Horse A and Horse B to win.
    • ouble 2 requires Horse A and Horse C to win.
    • Double 3 requires Horse B and Horse C to win.
    • The treble requires that all three horses finish in first place.
    • You’ll see some returns if any of your doubles are correct, and full returns if each horse wins. 
  • Accumulator: A bet on four or more different horses from the same market. If each of your picks wins, the bet’s a winner.
  • Exacta: You select the exact order in which the top two horses will finish. Boxed exactas are also available, where the exact finishing order of your chosen pair of horses is not relevant — they just need to finish first and second. 
  • Trifecta: An expansion of the exacta, a trifecta is a prediction of the top three at the end of a race.
  • Superfecta: Popular in America, superfecta bets contain the finishing order of the top four finishers. 
  • Daily Double: Bet on a horse to win two consecutive races. 
  • Placepot: This is where you bet on the place of one horse across the opening six meetings within an event. 

How to Read Odds

Odds represent the likelihood of a bet coming off. The greater the odds, the more unlikely it is that your selection wins. If the price is on the lower end of the spectrum, it’s more likely that your bet will come in.

The most common type of odds listing is called fixed odds. Bettors are presented with predetermined prices for a variety of selections, and it’s the job of the punter to pick which prices to take. Although odds are generally shown in fractional format, most bookmakers support pricing in decimal form, too. 

For example, imagine visiting an online betting site displaying markets for the Kentucky Derby. Horse A is priced at 9/1, which means that a bet on this horse should win once in every nine outings. This gives the runner a predicted 10% chance to win, allowing for smaller bets to accrue impressive returns. On the other hand, Horse B is listed at 1/1. With bookies predicting a 50% chance of winning, Horse B is the clear favourite. As such, you’ll need to put more money down to get a better return. Any selection with odds of under 1/1 is considered ‘odds on’ — meaning that it’s more likely that this horse will win than otherwise. 

To calculate the probability of your horse winning using fractional odds, use the formula shown below.

  • Divide the numerator by the denominator +1, then multiply the result by 100.
  • E.G. For odds of 9/1, the formula works like this — 1/(9+1) x 100 = 10%.
Sigh Up & Play!

Get Started With Horse Racing Betting

Whether you’re an aspiring handicapper or just settling in to watch your first national hunt, our beginner’s guide strives to lend all up-and-coming punters a helping hand. By reading the walkthrough in full, you should now know how to bet on horses UK, how bet slips work, basic betting terminology, and how odds work. That’s all you need to get started.

Just click the link associated with any bookies listed on this page to claim your welcome bonus and place your first bets. Before we leave you, one last thing — remember to meet minimum bet requirements if you decide to partake in a horse racing promotion. 



What is the best way to bet on horses?

Visit the horse racing betting site that’s most suited to your preferences and add a selection to your bet slip. Just ensure that the site is licensed beforehand and you’re good to go. 

What is the best horse racing bet for beginners?

We recommend that beginners start with singles and work upward. Trixies may appear enticing at first — but you shouldn’t throw yourself in at the deep end. 

How do you pick a winner in horse racing?

To pick a winner, click or tap on the price listed next to the horse’s name. You should take a look at recent results to gain some insight concerning the horse’s form. 

What are some tips for betting on horses?

Only bet on markets you understand and are familiar with. Punting on alien markets will only result in disappointment in the long term. More importantly, we implore you to keep all wagers within the limits of your bankroll. 

What are the best sites for betting on horses?

For a closer look at the best horse racing betting sites, check out any of the online sportsbooks listed on this page. You’ll find exclusive racing bonuses, rewarding welcome offers, and a plethora of unique betting markets.

The people behind this page's online gambling content experts helped write, edit and check this page:

Robbie joined us in 2022 as a staff writer. He's involved in all content across the site, from detailed guides and reviews to responsible gambling advice, and puts his detailed sports knowledge to good use across our betting pages. Outside work Robbie plays football most weekends, tempers his resilience as a West Ham fan, and keeps up to date with the latest cinema releases.