The Importance of Watching Horse Races for Pre-Race & In-Play Trading: A Comprehensive Guide 

 August 29, 2023

By  Philip Borrowman

Trading in both pre-race and in-play horse markets is a nuanced activity that requires a deep understanding of multiple variables to make profitable decisions.

One often-debated aspect is the role of watching the races themselves. How vital is it to view these events live, and what should you be focusing on if you decide to watch?

This article aims to delve into these questions and offer some clarity.

Watching the race has benefits both pre-race and in-play. The most profit is when the race is in-play, due to the huge spikes in odds based on the performance of the horses.

So, let's dive into this topic and discover why watching horse races is so important when trading on the betting exchanges.

Why Watch the Races?

Real-Time Insights

Trading depends on a delicate balance of information and intuition. Watching a race can give you real-time insights into a horse’s performance that you won't get from a form guide or statistical model.

Hot tip: watch the racing on the Betfair live feed, not on mainstream media, such as Channel 4 racing or RacingTV because of the time delay. The Betfair live feed is as much as 5 seconds faster!

Emotional Nuances

Seeing jockeys and horses in action can provide clues about their emotional state and confidence levels, factors that numbers on a screen can't easily convey.

Changing Variables

Weather changes, unexpected injuries, or even on-the-spot decisions by jockeys can all have significant impacts on the outcome. Being in tune with these elements can offer you an edge.

Hot tip: listen carefully to the commentators to stay ahead of the game. They can give you last minute clues as to the condition of the horses and jockeys.

What to Look For When Watching a Race

Horse Behaviour and Body Language

Focus on the horse’s behavior during the parade ring and the walk to the start. Does the horse look eager, relaxed, or perhaps a bit unsettled? This can be a strong indicator of the horse’s mental state before the race, impacting its performance.

Jockey Interactions

Pay attention to how the jockey interacts with the horse and the trainers. Are there last-minute discussions, or does everything seem planned and smooth? The jockey's body language can often tell you a lot.

Track and Weather Conditions

Keep an eye out for how the track is holding up, especially in poor weather conditions. Some horses perform better on certain types of ground. Knowing this can help you make a more informed trading decision.

When is Watching Essential?

High-Stakes Races

For significant events, like the Grand National or the Cheltenham Festival, watching live can provide you with a level of detail and nuance that you can't get from stats alone.

Hot tip: the bigger meetings tend to have huge fields of horses. This creates a huge opportunity to use the live feed to see which horse has a bad or a great start. This can allow you to place in-play bets based on these events.

Our favourite beginner friendly in-play trading strategy is the perfect strategy when a horse has a really bad start.

Close Markets

In tightly contested markets, every bit of information can make the difference between a good trade and a great one, especially when the race goes in-play.

New Entrants

When a new horse is making its debut, watching can offer clues that aren't yet represented in their racing form.

The Limitations

Time Investment

Watching every race can be time-consuming and may not be practical for everyone.

Emotional Bias

Getting too emotionally invested in a race can sometimes cloud judgment and lead to poor trading decisions.

Benefitting from Watching a Horse Race: A Detailed Example for Beginners

Let's consider a hypothetical situation to illustrate the benefits of watching a horse race for a trader on the Betfair Exchange.

Race Scenario:

The venue is Newmarket. There are eight horses in the race, and it’s a flat 1-mile race on a dry summer day. "Galactic Runner" is the favourite, priced at 2.5 odds on the Betfair Exchange, but the second favourite, "Misty Meadows", is close behind at 3.0 odds.

You're considering placing a trade but are unsure which horse to back or lay.

Benefits of Watching the Race:

  1. Parade Ring Observation: As the horses are paraded, you notice "Galactic Runner" is sweating excessively and appears agitated, frequently bucking and tossing its head. This behavior might be a sign of nerves or discomfort. On the other hand, "Misty Meadows" seems calm, alert, and has a glossy coat - signs of a horse in prime condition.

    Trading Insight: A nervous horse might expend unnecessary energy before the race even starts, which could compromise its performance. Observing this, a trader might consider laying (betting against) "Galactic Runner" or backing (betting on) "Misty Meadows".
  2. Jockey Interaction: The jockey of "Galactic Runner" seems to be having an extended conversation with the trainer, occasionally pointing towards the horse's legs. In contrast, "Misty Meadows"' jockey looks confident, patting the horse reassuringly.

    Trading Insight: The conversation between the jockey and trainer could indicate a potential concern. Confidence, or lack thereof, can have an impact on a horse’s performance. A trader might see this as another reason to be wary of backing "Galactic Runner".
  3. Race Start: As the race begins, "Galactic Runner" has a hesitant start, further indicating its nervousness. "Misty Meadows" breaks cleanly from the gates.

    Trading Insight: A slow start can make a significant difference in a race's outcome, especially in shorter distances. This observation can provide a split-second opportunity for in-play traders to adjust their positions.
  4. Race Progress: By watching the race unfold, you can see how each horse responds to challenges, their stamina in the final furlongs, and any strategic moves by the jockeys.

    Trading Insight: Observing the race dynamics, like a horse being boxed in or a jockey making a move too early, can be invaluable for in-play traders, helping them make decisions based on real-time race developments.

Example Summary:

For a trader on the Betfair Exchange, watching the race provided real-time insights that would have been unavailable or delayed on a trading platform.

The observations made before and during the race could inform a variety of trading decisions, potentially leading to more profitable outcomes. 

While not every race will offer such clear indications, developing the habit of observing and interpreting these nuances can give traders an edge in the competitive world of horse racing trading.


Watching the races can offer invaluable insights that enrich your pre-race trading strategy.

However, it's essential to balance this with practicality and ensure that you're not substituting emotion for informed decision-making.

The key lies in knowing when to tune in and what to look for, all while keeping your overall trading strategy in mind.

Remember, in pre-race horse market trading, knowledge is power. The pre-race goes in-play and then you can use all these tips mentioned to make consitent profit.

The more you know, the better your chances of making profitable trades. So, switch on that race and add another layer of analysis to your trading arsenal.

Continue Reading & Learning

To continue learning about trading indicators, here are 3 horse racing indicators which can add more tools to your trading toolbelt.

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.

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