Horse Racing: The Winning Formula for Betting on Horses

Horses in a race. (Photo by Justin TALLIS / AFP)

Horse racing and betting have sprinted in unison on a global scale since the 1600s, centuries later, and it’s still one of the most sought-after sports to wager on. Whether your grandmother enjoys picking a horse with a catchy nickname or your uncle believes he has the insider’s tips, it’s the gambling activity where you’ll find the entire family wanting to get involved.

For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of horse racing, placing a wager against a 10, 15, or 20-horse field can be daunting, especially for bettors who want an edge over their bookie and don’t want to select a horse based on its color scheme. 

Follow some of our basic formulas below and begin picking horses on your betting slip with confidence. 

Research Form

In most cases, recency bias is a red flag when attempting to pick a winner for almost every sport. However, horse racing slightly differs in this aspect. It would be best to look for horses that have performed well in the previous 12-24 months. If you notice ‘1s’ next to a horse’s form guide, this indicates they’ve finished first on multiple occasions. 

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. You may also want to review the grade of the race the horse ran and how long ago, and if they’ve defeated a high pedigree opponent, you may have a winner on your hands. 

Head-to-Head History

When looking at the most in-form horses, you might realize the most favored horses in one particular race have already gone head-to-head in the past. 

It would help if you didn’t automatically assume the horse will repeat his performance, but it’s worth taking note of the winning distance as you could find yourself betting on a horse who’s already lost to other horses in the race. 

Track and Length 

A horse’s form doesn’t solely focus on its placed finishes, so I’d suggest paying attention to the course and distance when implementing your betting strategy. Whenever you see “CD” next to a horse’s name, this shows that the runner has won at this track and over the exact same distance. 

Horses perform differently at different courses; making sure you’re aware of their track history statistics is just as important as their win/loss record

Trainers and Jockeys

While the horse usually receives most of the attention, you should always watch the top trainers. Most elite trainers will position multiple horses in big meetings, and not all will be trustworthy. Again, this comes back to form, but you don’t want to blindly back a horse with no form just because it’s associated with a well-renowned trainer. 

The best jockeys are usually riding the best horses; that’s just how it goes. If you’ve found a horse you really like and a top-level jockey has selected that same horse, you should feel good about your choice. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the best jockeys place first in every race.