Horse Racing Betting Strategy
Horse racing remains one of the most popular and exciting sports to bet on. But for the casual punter, or even seasoned pros looking to liven up their approach, the sheer number of 'dead cert' methods and the volume of data available in form guides, racing papers and beyond can seem like enormous hurdles to choosing a reliable horse racing betting strategy.
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When it comes down to it, though, it's not as difficult as it may first appear - in fact, all approaches are built on three fundamental principles: studying form, knowing your horse, and playing the numbers game.
Studying the Form
The form guide is the starting point for every self-respecting horse racing aficionado, and some systems are based solely on trend spotting in these racing-in-a-nutshell data sheets. A form guide will tell you:
Horse's Latest Finishing Positions - usually set out as 321-147, meaning the horse came 3rd, 2nd and 1st at the end of last season, then began this campaign with 1st, 4th, and 7th.
Horse's Identifying Details - the horse's age, gender, and colour, as well as the number they will carry on their saddlecloth, and if it is a Flat race starting from stalls, which gate they will start from.
Horse's Equipment - some horses wear equipment on their head to help them concentrate, breathe, or ease nervousness. If a horse is wearing equipment, it will be listed next to their name as one or two letters in lowercase. The most common are 'b' blinkers, 'p' cheekpieces, and 't' tongue tie
Jockey and Trainer Names - the identity of the trainer and the jockey is useful information, as a bit of research will turn up their experience, and also their relationship together - how horses perform when this jockey and trainer team up
Weight To Carry - in handicap races, the horses who have shown the best form carry the biggest weights as a way of levelling the field. These weights are determined by an official handicap rating. Weights can also vary in other races based on a horse's sex, age, or recent wins
Course And Distance - if a horse has won over the distance of the race, a 'D' will be marked near their name. If they have won at the course you will see a 'C' and if they have won over at the course over this race's distance, you will see 'CD'
At a glance, you can see all these details on any horse racing card. This can help you make a shortlist, and then you can delve deeper into each horse's form. Most online betting sites now offer full race cards, with additional analysis from experts commenting on each horse's chances. The top horse racing betting sites also allow you to click on a horse's name in the card and view their full racing history.
Knowing Your Horse
On top of the basic race card, a number of online betting sites allow customers to view a horse's full form, giving details of what races they have run in and how they have performed. In addition, the best sites also allow customers to watch a horse's recent racing history on their pages.
You can often learn how a horse has previously performed via jargon-heavy summaries on race cards or in newspapers, but nothing beats witnessing a race for yourself. By watching the race replays and following the horse you are interested in, you can get the best feel of how a horse runs, how it responds to certain jockeys, how it handles the track, and how it handles distance. You can also gauge what form it is is in right now.
First hand experience at the tracks can also go along way when getting to know your horse. The one thing you cannot assess online is the information you can get from looking at a horse in the flesh - either in the parade ring at the racecourse, or by watching the race live on the rails.
Playing the 'Numbers Game'
Many a horse racing betting strategy ignores such detailed assessments and simply plays the numbers game. These systems frequently follow financial models, and are best deployed at betting exchanges like Betfair, where you can lay bets as well as place them. Examples of techniques involved in the numbers game are: hedging (betting on multiple horses to spread your risk) and arbitrage (laying a horse when odds are low, backing it when odds are high).
This approach is best suited to those who know numbers better than sport, but they take dedication to a system, and there's no room for panic betting. Of course, most systems incorporate elements of all of these methods.
Very few rely on just one method. The important thing is to know which principle best fits your approach to betting, build your system with that as a basis, and apply it consistently over a fixed period of time so that you can accurately and fairly assess its viability.