Chapter 4 : Things to consider

Now you have a stronger understanding of how to bet on horse racing, further develop your knowledge of the sport and research what factors can impact the game and your bets.

  • Impact of the ground on horse racing
  • How the jockey influence horse races
  • Figuring out which horse is the favourite

The ground

The weather plays a huge part in the outcome of races. Horses tend to favour certain underfoot conditions and it is something you should be looking at before placing bet.

Horses who have performed well on soft or heavy ground may struggle to perform to the same level on firmer surfaces and vice-versa.

 Courses such as Bath are often notoriously fast, with others like Haydock often being extremely heavy. If a horse has never run on a certain surface or ground before, information can be taken from its breeding to give you an idea to the suitability of the going.

Although in the UK we have all-weather tracks for flat racing, they use different surfaces.

Fibresand – This surface is much slower and often replicates that of soft ground on the turf. Due its design there can be considerable amount of kick back, causing sand to impact those horses running behind the leaders. This experience can affect some horses and the only course in the UK to use this surface is Southwell.

Polytrack – With less kickback than a fibresand surface, it is considered to be a much fairer to all runners, with the going being much firmer than that of Southwell. It is also the most common all-weather surface with Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield and Dundalk all using polytrack.

Tapeta – Similar to polytrack with regards to kickback. This surface allows for more variable going conditions and is used by both Newcastle and Wolverhampton.

Field size

The number of runners in a race is important. It is something which can be varied with the Grand National having 40 runners and some races may only have 3. Some horses perform better in races with less runners with some horses benefiting from the hustle and bustle of big fields.

Bigger field sizes impacts on the chances of all horses and any bets in these races come with greater risk. A 3/1 chance in a 5-runner race has far less horses to beat compared to the same price horse in a 20-runner race.

The number of horses in the race will determine the number of places available on each way bets.

Number of Horses

Each Way Places


0 – Win only betting.


2 – 1st, 2nd


3 – 1st, 2nd, 3rd

16+ Non – Handicaps

3 – 1st, 2nd, 3rd

16+ Handicap races

4 – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th


Although these are the standard place rules for racing, bookmakers will offer a variety of different options when it comes to each way bets. These bets provide two chances for you to see a return from your bet and makes finishing 2nd, 3rd, or 4th more enjoyable.

Trainers and jockeys

Both trainers and jockeys have an important part to play. Just like the horses they can have off days and equally perform better in certain conditions.

It is always worth looking at the form of the trainer. Are they currently going through purple patch with their horses running well or have they been struggling to produce winners? Some trainers do particularly well at certain courses and will often send horses to those courses more frequently.

The relationship between horse and jockey can be crucial. Like the horses, jockeys will often have preferences for the type of races they are riding in. Some will display better results in sprint races compared to those over longer trips.

An important thing to consider is weight claiming. Amateur jockeys are allocated a claiming weight based on the number of wins they have achieved.

This is done to allow them to compete with jockeys who have much more experience. As they reach a certain number of wins the amount of weight, they can claim decreases until they turn professional, this is called riding out their claim.

Number of wins

Weight claimed








This can have a big impact on handicap races. As mentioned above the difference in weights between horses is done to create a scenario where they all cross the line together. If partnered with a jockey who can claim additional weight you will have horses running off lower weights than their official rating.

Race classification

It is important to know the classification of the race you are betting on. These allow horses to compete at various levels depending on ability.

In handicap races, horses will carry different weights depending on their rating. This is done to make the racing competitive and provide horses with a lower rating the chance to compete with horses rated higher than them. The objective of the handicapper is for each horse to cross the line at the same time. That can make betting on these races more challenging and having control of your staking becomes important.

After each race, horses are assessed by the handicapper and their rating will be adjusted to reflect their performance. Make sure you check the rating of a horse before backing it. Have a look at how it has performed previously at that rating. Horses all have a threshold to their ability and eventually will reach a point where it is much harder for them to win.

The Key Takeaway

Racing is a puzzle, with clues on solving it available from a variety of sources. The process of looking at a race, doing your homework and picking a horse to back is the skilful and most enjoyable part of the process.

As well as doing your own research there are some fantastic sources of information such as the Racing Post, At the Races and Timeform who all provide access to data covering the points mentioned above.

As mentioned previously, horses are not machines. You may back a horse that on paper ticks all the boxes, only for it to be beaten by a horse which you discounted. This is the risk you take when you have a bet. For more information on how you can manage the risks to ensure your betting remains enjoyable please check out some of our other articles.

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