Make Money from Horse Racing: A Practical Guide 

 September 3, 2023

By  Philip Borrowman

Horse racing, often referred to as the 'Sport of Kings,' is more than just a thrilling spectacle—it's a potentially lucrative venture for those who know how to play their cards right.

This guide serves as a comprehensive resource for anyone looking to turn their enthusiasm for horse racing into a profitable endeavor.

Whether you're a novice looking for a starting point or an experienced bettor aiming to refine your strategies, this guide has something for you. 

We'll delve into key strategies, betting techniques, and best practices to help you navigate the complex yet rewarding world of horse racing betting.

Preparing Your Betting Bankroll

Importance of a Dedicated Bankroll

Before you even think about placing a bet, it's crucial to establish a dedicated bankroll solely for your horse racing ventures. This is money you're willing to risk, separate from your personal or household finances. Having a dedicated bankroll ensures that you gamble responsibly and don't dip into funds meant for other obligations.

Starting Amount

The initial amount you set aside can vary depending on your financial situation and risk tolerance. However, a good rule of thumb is to start with an amount you'd be comfortable losing. For some, this might be £100, while for others, it could be as much as £1,000 or more.

Management Techniques to Grow Your Bankroll

Managing your bankroll effectively is just as important as having one. Here are some techniques:

Fixed Stakes: This is the simplest method, where you bet the same amount, say £5, on every race regardless of your confidence level.

Variable Stakes: Here, you adjust your stake based on your confidence in a particular bet. However, this method requires a good understanding of value and risk assessment.

Percentage Staking: This is the most recommended method for long-term profitability. In this approach, you bet a fixed percentage of your current bankroll. For example, if your bankroll is £500 and you decide on a 2% stake, your bet would be £10. The beauty of this method is that it automatically adjusts; as your bankroll grows, so does your stake, and vice versa.

Why 2%?: A 2% stake is conservative enough to withstand a losing streak but also substantial enough to grow your bankroll over time. Some experienced bettors may go up to 5%, but it's advisable to start conservatively.

Adjusting Percentage: As you gain more experience and confidence, you might decide to adjust the percentage. However, any adjustment should be made cautiously and backed by a consistent winning record.

By adopting a disciplined staking plan, you not only mitigate risks but also set yourself up for long-term success.

Understand the Racing Basics

Understanding the fundamentals of horse racing is essential for anyone looking to make money from it. Let's break down some of the key aspects:

Types of Races

Flat Races: These races are conducted on a flat, level track without any obstacles. They are generally shorter and speed is the primary factor.

National Hunt: These races involve jumping over hurdles or fences. They are longer and require a different skill set from both the horse and jockey.

Maiden Races: These are races for horses that have never won a race. They are often considered entry-level races where new horses are tested.

Claiming Races: In these races, all horses are up for "claim" or purchase for a price that is set before the race. The idea is to level the playing field as no one would risk a highly valuable horse for a low claiming price.

Stakes Races: These are high-level races with larger prize money. Horses participating in stakes races are generally of higher quality and have a track record of good performances.

Handicap Races: Unlike standard handicaps where weights are assigned, in these races, horses are handicapped by other factors like distance to be run or obstacles to be jumped.

All-Weather Races: These races are conducted on synthetic tracks that mimic turf or dirt. They are designed to be less affected by weather conditions, allowing for a more consistent racing surface.

For a deeper understanding of these and other types of races, refer to our A-Z Glossary of Horse Trading.

The Race Card

The race card is your go-to guide for any horse race. It provides crucial information such as:

  • Names of the horses
  • Jockeys and trainers
  • Weight carried by each horse
  • Recent form
  • Odds

Understanding how to read a race card can give you a significant edge when placing bets.

Key Terminologies

Form: This represents a horse's past performance and is usually a string of numbers and letters. For example, '123-456' would mean the horse finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in its last three races and 4th, 5th, and 6th three races before that.

Handicap: This is a system where horses are assigned different weights based on their past performances. The idea is to level the playing field.

Odds: These numbers indicate the potential payout of a bet. For example, odds of 5/1 mean you stand to win £5 for every £1 you bet, plus your original stake.

For a complete list of terminologies, you can refer to our A-Z Glossary of Horse Trading.

By grasping these basics, you lay a strong foundation for more advanced strategies and betting techniques.

Effective Research Techniques

In the world of horse racing betting, information is your most valuable asset. The more you know, the better your chances of making profitable bets. Here are some research techniques and resources to help you stay ahead of the game.

Where to Find Reliable Information

Official Racing Websites: Websites like the British Horseracing Authority or Racing Post provide a wealth of information, including race cards, statistics, and expert analysis.

Social Media: Following trainers, jockeys, and racing experts on platforms like Twitter can give you real-time insights and updates.

Horse Racing Forums: Websites like The Racing Forum or Punters Lounge offer a platform for enthusiasts to share tips, strategies, and inside information.

Subscription Services: Some websites offer premium content, including in-depth analysis and betting tips, for a subscription fee. Examples include Timeform and At The Races.

Betting Exchanges: Platforms like Betfair have forums and blogs that offer tips and insights from experienced bettors.

For a comprehensive list of terms and more resources, refer to our A-Z Glossary of Horse Trading.

Deciphering Form Guides

Form guides are essential tools for any horse racing bettor. They provide a snapshot of a horse's recent performances, including:

  • Track conditions
  • Finishing positions
  • Timings
  • Jockey changes

Learning to interpret these guides can give you a significant edge when placing bets.

Use of Specialized Software for Analysis

Horse Racing Analytical Software: Tools like Proform Racing and RaceXpert offer advanced analytical capabilities, including predictive algorithms and statistical modeling.

Betting Tools: Software like Bet Angel or Geek's Toy can help you manage your bets more effectively, offering features like one-click betting and automated trading strategies.

By employing these research techniques and utilizing the available resources, you can significantly improve your horse racing betting game.

Specialized Betting Techniques for Maximum Profit

The world of horse racing betting isn't limited to simply picking winners and hoping for the best. While traditional "Mug" betting—where you bet on a horse to win, place, or show—has its merits, it often relies more on luck than skill. You're essentially playing against the bookmakers, who have the advantage of setting the odds in their favor.

Trading, on the other hand, offers a more nuanced approach that allows for higher profitability and risk management. Here's why: 

  1. Dynamic Odds: Unlike traditional betting where odds are fixed at the time of your bet, trading allows you to take advantage of fluctuating odds. This dynamic nature provides opportunities to buy low and sell high, much like stock trading.
  2. Risk Mitigation: Trading techniques often involve placing multiple bets that counterbalance each other. This reduces your overall risk and can guarantee a profit regardless of the race outcome.
  3. Greater Control: Trading gives you the ability to react to real-time events, such as changes in weather conditions or a horse's behavior before the race, allowing you to adjust your bets accordingly.
  4. Skill Over Luck: While luck will always be a factor, trading relies more on skill, strategy, and analysis. The more skilled you are, the more consistent your profits will be.
  5. No Bookmaker Margins: When you're trading, you're typically using a betting exchange like Betfair, which means you're betting against other punters, not the bookmakers. This eliminates the bookmaker's margin, potentially offering better value.

For those looking to go beyond the basics and maximize their profits, specialized betting techniques offer a more sophisticated and potentially lucrative approach. In the following sections, we'll delve into some of these techniques in detail.

Specialized Betting 1: Scalping on Betting Exchanges

What is Scalping?

Scalping is a short-term trading strategy that involves placing multiple bets on small price movements in the betting market. The goal is to make a series of small profits that add up over time. Unlike traditional betting where you're committed to the odds at the time of your bet, scalping allows you to take advantage of minor fluctuations in odds before the race starts.

How Does Scalping Work on Platforms Like Betfair?

On a betting exchange like Betfair, odds are constantly changing due to the actions of other punters. Scalping involves:

  • Laying a Bet: First, you lay a bet at lower odds, essentially offering odds to other punters.
  • Backing the Same Outcome: You then back the same outcome but at higher odds.
  • Locking in Profit: The difference between the lay and back odds is your profit, locked in regardless of the race outcome.

Scalping Example

Let's say the odds for Horse A to win are currently at 5.0. You lay a £10 bet at these odds. Moments later, the odds move to 5.2, and you back the same horse with a £10 bet. Here's the math:

  • Lay Bet: You offer £10 at odds of 5.0, risking £40 (5.0 x £10 - £10).
  • Back Bet: You back with £10 at odds of 5.2, standing to win £42 (5.2 x £10).

If Horse A wins, you lose your lay bet but win your back bet, making a £2 profit (£42 - £40). If Horse A loses, both your lay and back bets cancel each other out, and you still make a £2 profit.

Tips and Strategies

  • Timing: Scalping requires quick decision-making. The best time to scalp is usually just before the race starts, where the most liquidity is in the market.
  • Liquidity: Always check the market liquidity. Higher liquidity means more opportunities for scalping.

For a more in-depth understanding and real-world examples of scalping, continue your learning by reading our complete blog post on What is Scalping in Horse Racing?.

Specialized Betting 2: Value Betting

What is Value Betting?

Value betting is a strategy that involves identifying instances where the bookmakers' or exchange's odds are more generous than they should be. In other words, you're looking for opportunities where you believe the true odds of an outcome are better than what the market suggests.

How Does Value Betting Work?

The concept of 'value' in betting is all about comparing your own assessment of the odds with those offered by the bookmakers or the betting exchange. If your calculated odds are lower than the market odds, you've found a value bet.

Value Bet Example

Let's say you've assessed that Horse B has a 50% chance of winning a race. In odds, this translates to 2.0 (1/0.5). However, the market is offering odds of 2.5 for Horse B to win. Here's the math:

  • Your Calculated Odds: 2.0
  • Market Odds: 2.5

Since the market odds are higher than your calculated odds, this is a value bet. If you place a £10 bet at these odds, you stand to win £25 (£10 x 2.5), whereas based on your calculations, you should only be winning £20 (£10 x 2.0).

Tips and Strategies

  • Odds Calculation: Understanding how to calculate odds based on probabilities is crucial for identifying value bets.
  • Market Tracking: Keep an eye on market movements. Odds can change rapidly, and value opportunities can disappear quickly.

For a more comprehensive guide on value betting, including how to calculate your own odds and identify value opportunities, check out our complete blog post on Horse Race Value Betting.

Specialized Betting 3: Each Way Betting Systems

What is Each Way Betting?

Each Way (EW) betting is a wagering strategy that involves two separate bets: the 'Win' bet and the 'Place' bet. Essentially, you're betting on a horse to win the race and also to finish in one of the top positions (usually 1st, 2nd, or 3rd).

Components of an Each Way Bet

  • Win Bet: This is a bet on the horse to win the race.
  • Place Bet: This is a bet on the horse to finish in one of the top positions, as defined by the bookmaker.

How Does Each Way Betting Work?

When you place an Each Way bet, your stake is essentially doubled—one stake for the 'Win' bet and one for the 'Place' bet. The odds for the 'Place' bet are usually a fraction (commonly 1/4 or 1/5) of the 'Win' odds.

Calculation Example

Let's say you place a £10 Each Way bet on Horse C at odds of 10.0, and the bookmaker offers 1/4 odds for the 'Place' bet. Your total stake becomes £20 (£10 for 'Win' and £10 for 'Place').

  • Win Odds: 10.0
  • Place Odds: 10.0 x 1/4 = 2.5

Betting Examples

  1. Horse C Wins
    • Win Bet: £10 x 10.0 = £100
    • Place Bet: £10 x 2.5 = £25
    • Total Return: £100 (Win) + £25 (Place) = £125
    • Profit: £125 - £20 (Total Stake) = £105
  2. Horse C Finishes 2nd
    • Win Bet: £0 (Lost)
    • Place Bet: £10 x 2.5 = £25
    • Total Return: £25
    • Profit: £25 - £20 (Total Stake) = £5

Why Each Way Betting is a Long-Term Winner

  1. Diversification of Risk: Each Way betting essentially allows you to hedge your bets. While the 'Win' bet aims for a higher reward, the 'Place' bet serves as a safety net. This dual approach diversifies your risk across two different outcomes, making it less likely that you'll lose your entire stake.
  2. Exploiting Market Inefficiencies: Often, the market focuses heavily on outright winners, leaving value in the 'Place' market. Skilled bettors can identify these opportunities to secure better odds for the 'Place' bet, thereby increasing the long-term profitability of their Each Way bets.
  3. Strategic Race Selection: Not all races are equally suitable for Each Way betting. Races with smaller fields may offer less value for 'Place' bets, while those with larger fields can offer more lucrative opportunities. By being selective and focusing on races where the conditions are favorable, you can increase your edge.
  4. Bankroll Management: Because Each Way betting is less volatile than traditional 'Win' betting, it allows for more consistent bankroll growth. The 'Place' bets often win or place, providing a steady stream of smaller profits that add up over time, thereby reducing the risk of significant drawdowns in your bankroll.
  5. Compounding Gains: The consistent wins from 'Place' bets can be reinvested, leading to compounding gains over time. Even if the 'Win' bets are not always successful, the steady profits from 'Place' bets can be significant when compounded.
  6. Psychological Benefits: The frequent wins from 'Place' bets can have a positive impact on your psychological state, encouraging discipline and a more level-headed approach to betting. This is crucial for long-term success, as emotional decision-making is one of the biggest pitfalls in betting.

Understanding and applying these principles, Each Way betting can become more than just a betting strategy—it can be a long-term investment approach that capitalizes on market inefficiencies, diversifies risk, and offers a sustainable path to profitability.

Specialized Betting 4: In-Play Betting Strategies

What is In-Play Betting?

In-Play betting, also known as live betting, allows you to place bets after the race has started and up until it finishes. This dynamic form of betting offers a unique set of opportunities and challenges, as odds can fluctuate dramatically during the course of the race.

How Does In-Play Betting Work?

In-Play betting is available on betting exchanges like Betfair, where odds are determined by the actions of punters in real-time. As the race progresses, various factors such as the horse's position, pace, and even the jockey's actions can influence the odds.

Why In-Play Betting Can Be Profitable

  • Real-Time Analysis: Unlike pre-race betting, In-Play betting allows you to make decisions based on what's actually happening in the race. This can be particularly useful if you have a good understanding of race dynamics.
  • Capitalizing on Mistakes: Punters often make rash decisions during live races, leading to mispriced odds. Skilled In-Play bettors can capitalize on these mistakes to secure value bets.
  • High Volatility: The odds can change rapidly during a race, offering the potential for high returns. However, this also comes with increased risk, making it crucial to have a well-thought-out strategy.

For those interested in diving deeper into In-Play betting strategies, including real-world examples and advanced tactics, check out our complete blog post on In-Play Horse Racing Strategy.

Using Betting Exchanges

What is a Betting Exchange?

A betting exchange is a marketplace where punters can bet against each other rather than against a bookmaker. This peer-to-peer system allows you to both back and lay bets, offering greater flexibility and the opportunity for more strategic betting.

Why Betting Exchanges Can Be More Profitable

  • Better Odds: Generally, betting exchanges offer better odds than traditional bookmakers because they take a smaller commission and you're betting against other punters, not the bookie.
  • Laying Bets: Exchanges allow you to lay bets, meaning you can bet against a particular outcome happening. This opens up new strategies like hedging and arbitrage.
  • In-Play Betting: As discussed in the previous section, betting exchanges often offer In-Play betting, allowing you to place bets during the race.

Examples of Betting Exchanges

  • Betfair: The most popular and widely used betting exchange, known for its liquidity and range of markets.
  • Smarkets: Known for its user-friendly interface and low commission rates.
  • Betdaq: Offers a wide range of markets and is considered a good alternative to Betfair.
  • Matchbook: Focuses on offering low commissions and has a growing user base.

How to Use Betfair Effectively with Software like BetAngel

  1. Sign Up and Deposit: Create an account on Betfair and deposit funds to get started.
  2. Download BetAngel: For a more advanced and efficient trading experience, download and install BetAngel, a third-party software that integrates seamlessly with Betfair.
  3. Navigate to Horse Racing: Use either Betfair's native interface or BetAngel to navigate to the horse racing markets. BetAngel offers advanced charting tools, one-click betting, and automation features that can give you an edge.
  4. Select a Market: Choose the race and market you're interested in. BetAngel allows you to view multiple markets simultaneously, making it easier to spot opportunities.
  5. Analyze and Place Your Bet: Use BetAngel's advanced analytical tools to assess market conditions and odds. Once you've made your decision, you can place your bet directly through the software, taking advantage of features like one-click trading and pre-set trading strategies.
  6. Monitor and Adjust: Keep an eye on the race and market fluctuations. BetAngel provides real-time data and allows you to make quick adjustments to your bets, which is particularly useful for In-Play betting.
  7. Record Keeping: Both Betfair and BetAngel offer features that allow you to track your bets and performance. This is crucial for analyzing your strategies and improving over time.

By combining the functionalities of Betfair with the advanced features of BetAngel, you can significantly enhance your trading capabilities, making your betting more efficient, strategic, and potentially more profitable.

Record Keeping for Specialized Betting Methods

Record Keeping for Scalping and In-Play Betting (Specialized Betting 1 & 4)

Importance of Tracking Bets

For methods like Scalping and In-Play Betting, where you're making a high volume of trades, the focus is on time vs reward ratio. Tracking individual trades may not be as important as understanding the averages and cumulative effects.

Metrics to Track

  • Number of Trades: The total number of trades made during a specific time frame.
  • Time Spent: The amount of time invested in trading.
  • Average Profit/Loss per Trade: The mean financial outcome per trade.
  • Total Profit/Loss: Cumulative financial outcome over a period.
  • ROI per Hour: Return on Investment calculated against the time spent.

How to Analyze Records for Improvement

  • Efficiency Analysis: Assess the ROI per hour to determine if your time is being spent effectively.
  • Volume vs Profitability: Examine if increasing the number of trades correlates with increased profitability or if there are diminishing returns.

Record Keeping for Value and Each Way Betting (Specialized Betting 2 & 3)

Importance of Tracking Bets

For Value and Each Way Betting, the focus is more on the quality of each bet. These methods require a deep understanding of horse form, race conditions, and other traditional betting metrics.

Metrics to Track

  • Type of Bet: Whether it's a value bet or an each-way bet.
  • Odds: The odds at which you placed the bet.
  • Stake: The amount you wagered.
  • Outcome: Whether the bet was a win, loss, or break-even.
  • Race Details: Information like the racecourse, type of race, and conditions.
  • Horse Form: Any notes on the horse's form that influenced your bet.

How to Analyze Records for Improvement

  • Form Analysis: Regularly review your records to assess how well your understanding of horse form and race conditions is translating into profitable bets.
  • Strategy Refinement: Based on your record analysis, refine your betting strategies to focus on the most profitable types of bets.

Tailoring your record-keeping to the specific requirements of each specialized betting method, you can gain more actionable insights to improve your betting performance.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Emotional Betting

  • The Pitfall: Allowing emotions like excitement, frustration, or desperation to dictate your betting decisions.
  • How to Avoid: Stick to a well-defined strategy and don't deviate from it based on emotional impulses. If you find yourself becoming emotional, take a break from betting until you can approach it with a clear mind.

Over-Leveraging

  • The Pitfall: Betting too large a portion of your bankroll on a single race or bet, thereby risking significant losses.
  • How to Avoid: Always adhere to sound bankroll management principles. Never risk more than a small percentage of your total bankroll on a single bet. Diversify your bets to spread the risk.

Chasing Losses

  • The Pitfall: Trying to recover losses by placing increasingly risky bets.
  • How to Avoid: Set a loss limit for each betting session and stick to it. If you reach your loss limit, stop betting for the day and assess what went wrong before betting again.

Ignoring Value

  • The Pitfall: Focusing solely on picking winners without considering the odds and potential return on investment.
  • How to Avoid: Always seek value in your bets. This means comparing your own assessment of the odds with those offered by the bookmakers or the betting exchange.

Lack of Record-Keeping

  • The Pitfall: Failing to keep accurate records of your bets, making it difficult to track your performance and improve.
  • How to Avoid: As discussed in Section 6, meticulous record-keeping is essential for long-term success. Use spreadsheets or specialized software to track all relevant metrics.

Being aware of these common pitfalls and actively taking steps to avoid them, you can significantly improve your chances of long-term success in horse racing betting.

Conclusion

In this comprehensive guide, we've covered everything from preparing your betting bankroll to specialized betting techniques and best practices for record-keeping. Horse racing betting is not just a game of luck; it's a disciplined activity that, when approached correctly, offers a viable avenue for long-term profitability.

The key is to apply these techniques consistently and to always be learning and adapting. Here's to your success in the exciting world of horse racing betting!


How To Get Started Right Now & Make Money From Horse Racing

We have posts about various strategies on how to make money from horse racing by trading on Betfair.

There are also very helpful tips about bankroll management and trading hacks you can use to make money on the horse racing markets.

Here are a few guides to get you going:

Horse Race Value Betting – A Beginners Guide

What Is Scalping In Horse Racing + Real Example

2 Simple Horse Racing Scalping Techniques

Mastering Scalping Horse Racing: A Comprehensive Guide for UK Traders

Philip Borrowman


I am a full-time marketer and part-time Betfair trader. I have over 10 years of experience in the pre-race and in-play horse trading markets and spend my days writing guides, tips and tricks to help beginner Betfair traders find their way to a profitable second income. Read my story of trading on Betfair.

related posts:

September 12, 2023

Why Does the Market Always Go Against Me? 5 Common Mistakes in Horse Racing Trading

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