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A guide to horse betting terminology

Horse betting guide part 2

Horse betting guide part 1: How to bet on horses
Horse betting guide part 3: A guide to the different types of full cover bets
Horse betting guide part 4: What is totepool betting?
Horse betting guide part 5: Tips for picking a winning horse

Many betting markets are available on horse racing in the UK and the terminology alone can be intimidating for some.  Here we look at some of the key markets and the jargon to help you get to grips with it.

Win, Place and Each-Way

Win bets are single bets you place on a horse to win a specific race.  Only the selected horse winning the race will yield a return.

The overall return will always include the stake. If you place a £5 wager on a horse at 3/1 and it wins, the return will be £20.00 (3/1 x £5 plus £5 stake).

Upon making the bet, you will be given a choice of ‘taking the price’ or leaving it to the SP (starting price).  Taking the price means that you are committing to the bet at whatever odds the horse is trading at the time of the bet.

This is a balancing act for a punter. The horse may be 3/1 when you place the bet but may eventually start at a bigger price. This means you may have missed out on a potentially larger return.

Naturally though it can go the other way; with a horse with plenty of backing just before the race naturally shortening in price.  To counter this, most online bookmakers offer ‘best odds guaranteed’, meaning you should take the price when placing the bet and if the SP is larger, you will receive your winnings at that price anyway and so you have nothing to lose by taking the price.

A ‘place’ bet is something which catches some punters out.  In the USA, for example, you can back a horse to ‘win, place or show’.  When backing it to ‘place’, it may win or finish 2nd for you to collect a return. 

In the UK, what constitutes a ‘place’ is much more fluid. It largely depends on the conditions of the race and the number of runners.

These are the standard rules in the UK:

1-4 runners – the horse must win to have reached a ‘place’
5-7 runners – the horse must finish in the first two
8+ runners – the horse must finish in the first three
16+ runners – the horse must finish in the first four in handicap* races only

*Handicap races are those where each runner carries a certain weight, dictated by their rating.

Those are the hard and fast rules. However, bookmakers can apply their own spin, i.e. some paying out 1/4 odds while others pay 1/5 of the odds.  They are all obligated to pay place money on the above, though for races such as the Grand National or the Cambridgeshire where there may be as many as 30-40 runners, some bookmakers will pay 5 or even 6 places as a special offer.

Place bets can be made as a single bet with the Tote, the only instance of ‘pool betting’ in Britain.  Not only the perceived chance of the horse but also how much money is in the pot overall will dictate what returns the gambler will get for it to be placed and this changes almost constantly until the race is off.

Racecourse have tote screens all over. These screens keep the race goer up to date on how each horse is trading.

Each-way bets are a combination of the above. They’re both win bets and place bets in one; you are effectively placing two bets at once and so your stake will double.  For the ‘win’ section of the bet, the selection must win the race and for the place part the horse must finish ‘in the places’ as dictated by the conditions of the race.

For example, say your horse has odds of 12/1.  Your bookie is offering a quarter of the odds for the first three places.  A £10 each-way bet will actually cost £20 in total.  If the horse wins you would receive £130 for the win part (£10 at 12/1 plus your original stake) and another £40.00 for the place bet.

Had the horse finished 2nd or 3rd in this instance, only the £40.00 return would be forthcoming by virtue of your £10 stake going on at a quarter of the actual odds (12/1 effectively becoming 3/1).

Ante Post betting

‘Ante Post’ is a term that refers to a betting market formed before the official final declaration stage of the race.  These days in UK racing, the ‘final decs’ are made by 10AM the day before the race for National Hunt fixtures and 10AM two days before the race for the Flat.

Any bets placed before the final declaration stages are classed as an Ante Post bet. They are also subject to different rules and regulations.  One of the key differences is the Non-Runner, No Bet rule.

Bets placed Ante Post are made on the understanding that it’s not certain which horses will definitely line-up on the day. It’s a chance the punter must be willing to take.

The odds, or ‘prices’, are generally higher in the Ante Post market. This means punters are usually willing to take the risk that their horse may not run, given that they can stake less.

There are downsides to Ante Post betting however; the most obvious being that horses are not machines.  Loss of form, loss of confidence and of course illness and injury mean horses which look well placed to run a big race in a certain event may end up out of the fixture altogether.

Injuries can occur at any time to a horse and with their best interests at heart as an animal, not just an asset; owners and trainers will usually not hesitate to pull a horse out of a race at any time.

Changes in racing weight can occur too.  In the Grand National which is a handicap race; the theory is that all horses will have an equal chance. However, it’s generally the case that the more weight the horse is carrying, the harder it will be to win.

As a punter, you may fancy a horse’s chances Ante Post. You might believe there are plenty of other horses above it in the handicap. Therefore, your horse may be capable of carrying say, 10st 7lbs.  If enough of the better horses drop out, your horse will move up the handicap appropriately and therefore may end up carrying well over 11st which may spoil its chances.