If you’re a fan of horse racing and enjoy the thrill of betting, then you know just how important it is to choose the right horse to bet on.
With so many horses to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. But fear not, as specialists who have tested out hundreds of horse racing tipsters and betting systems, we’ve compiled a list of 5 expert tips to help you choose the right horse to bet on.
From analyzing past performances to checking out the jockey, these tips will give you the edge you need to make informed decisions and increase your chances of a winning bet.
So, whether you’re a seasoned bettor or a newbie to the world of horse racing, these tips are sure to help you make the most of your betting experience.
Now if all the information below seems like a lot to take in, don’t worry. We’ve got a “cheat code” at the end that will save you a great deal of time and effort in finding a winning horse.
Before that though, let’s take a look at some expert tips for picking a winning horse.
Get ready to saddle up and let’s get started!
Understanding the basics of horse racing
Before we dive into the expert tips, it’s important to understand the basics of horse racing. Horse racing is a sport where horses compete against each other in a race. The race can take place on a flat track or over jumps.
Jumps racing is often referred to “National Hunt” racing in the UK and there are different types of jumps races – fences and hurdles.
There are also different types of horse races in both flat and jumps racing, which can be summarised as follows:-
- Group (or stakes) races: the highest level of races in horse racing. They are divided into three categories: 1-3. Group 1 races are the most prestigious, featuring the highest-quality horses competing at the elite level for the biggest prize money. Examples of Group 1 races include the Kentucky Derby, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Melbourne Cup.
- Listed Races: the level just below Group races in terms of prestige. They are named as “listed” because the race conditions and entry requirements are listed by the governing racing authority.
- Handicap races: a type of horse race where the weight carried by each horse is adjusted to equalize their chances of winning. The objective is to create a more level playing field by assigning weights based on the horse’s ability or past performance.
- Claiming races: a type of race where horses are available for purchase by anyone who meets the price.
- Allowance races: horses carry a certain weight and can only compete against other horses carrying a similar weight.
Resources to Help You Pick a Winning Horse
To help you pick a winning horse it is worth having access to a racing guide or racecard for the day’s races.
Within the racecards you can see info like the horse’s form, jockey & trainer stats and a host of other information.
Factors to consider when choosing a horse
When it comes to choosing a horse to bet on, there are several factors to consider.
- Form: typically considered the most important factor in horse racing because it provides valuable information about a horse’s recent performances, which can help assess its ability, consistency, and potential for future races.
- Distance: races are generally run at distances ranging from 5 furlongs (a sprint) up to around 3 miles for the longest jumps races. Certain horses will be suited by the distance of today’s race whilst others won’t. You can check the horses’ record over today’s distance and see how they’ve fared.
- Ground (aka “the going”): ground can vary from heavy (very wet and boggy) to firm. Analyzing the ground conditions and assessing a horse’s past performances on similar surfaces can provide valuable insights into its suitability for an upcoming race.
- Jockey’s and trainer’s records: Jockeys and trainers can have a strong record at a particular track, demonstrating familiarity and understanding of the nuances of that specific track.
- The horse’s age and experience: some horses have a habit of doing well in certain races year after year, whilst others may be relatively inexperienced.
A Lot to Take In, But Don’t Be Overwhelmed!
If you are new to horse racing, all this information may seem like a lot to take in and a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry! You don’t need to understand and analyse of all of this information in order to pick a winning horse.
There are plenty of simple strategies that can prove effective and don’t require you to spend weeks or months studying the intricacies of horse racing to find a winner. You can focus in on just one aspect of a race to pick your horse rather than trying to weigh up a whole host of different factors.
Or, as we mentioned at the start, you can skip to the end for our special “cheat code.”
Anyway, before that let’s take a look at our 5 expert tips for picking a winning horse.
Expert tip #1: Look at the horse’s past performance
The horse’s past performance is a key factor to consider when choosing a horse to bet on. It’s important to look at the horse’s recent form, including their last few races.
Form guides will typically include numbers written like this: 313-21, although there might be some variance in the layout depending on the publication.
Here is an example of a horse called Flagman, from the Racing Post racecard:
Flagman’s form figures are below the number 11 on the left hand side. Basically, the numbers denote the horse’s results in its most recent races.
So the number on the right (number 1 in this case) signifies that the horse came first in its most recent race. The number 9 denotes that the horse came ninth in the race before that, the number 6 that it came sixth in the race before and so on. The numbers before the dash denote performances from last year.
Some people like to pick a horse that has very good form figures next to its name, with lots of 1s and 2s for example. Whilst this can hold a certain appeal, it is not usually the best way to find value as the odds will probably reflect that strong form and be quite short.
If your sole aim is to pick a winner however, then this could be the simplest way of finding one! If the horse has impressive recent form and is at short odds – likely the favourite – then it will give you a decent chance of finding a winner.
However, if you want to try and find some value and be a bit smarter than those punters just picking the obvious “form horses,” you could also consider the horse’s record at the track and distance of the race. A horse that has performed well in similar conditions to today is more likely to perform well in the current race.
A clue to look for on your racecard is for the letters “C” or “D”, or both together (“CD”) under a horse’s name.
The letter “C” means the horse has won on this course before, which is a good sign.
Below is a horse called Joke Dancer, which has a “C” (encircled in grey next to “2 tips”). This means it has won at this course before.
Different tracks can have their own characteristics and some horses always seem to perform well at the same tracks over and over again, whilst struggling at others. You may have heard the phrase “horses for courses,” well it’s amazing how often it proves to be the case!
The letter “D” denotes that the horse has won at this distance before, which again is a good sign – showing it is capable of passing today’s test in terms of the length of the race.
Here is an example, a horse called Luckofthedraw which has a “D” under its name, indicating that it has won at this distance before.
If you see the letters “CD” together it means the horse has won at the same course and distance as today’s race, which is a very good sign.
The horse Our Laura B has the letters “CD” below her name, indicating she is a course and distance winner:
Note that in the case of Our Laura B the “C” and “D” are together, denoting she won at this course and distance in the same race.
If however, the “C” and “D” are separated as per the example of Ribeye below, it means the horse has won at this course before and at this distance, but it wasn’t in the same race.
If a horse has been out of form recently but has been running at tracks and distances that don’t suit it, whilst today it is returning to a course and length of race that do suit it, that horse could be a value pick and worth following.
Certainly it is less obvious than just picking the favourite or horse with the best recent form and it is an approach that can pay dividends. As we say, the age-old phrase “horses for courses” still rings true today, for good reason!
Expert tip #2: Assess the jockey’s and trainer’s record
The jockey is a key factor in a horse’s performance. A good jockey can make all the difference in a race. When choosing a horse to bet on, it’s important to assess the jockey’s record. Look at their recent form, including their win percentage and their record at the track.
Here is the record of jockey Hollie Doyle, which you can see at a glance by clicking on her name on the Racing Post racecard:
From this you can see her record with different ages of horse and on different types of surface (turf and all-weather).
In the column on the far right, under “£1 stake” you can see the returns if you had bet £1 on every horse Hollie Doyle has ridden under those particular conditions.
It is important to bear in mind that whilst her numbers here don’t look good, the vast majority of jockeys will have a negative number as the results are taken at the industry starting price (SP), which isn’t very generous. Those taking early odds or the exchange odds are likely to have done considerably better.
In any event, beyond the raw figures you can delve further into the jockey’s record to look at their recent form, which horses they have a particularly good (or bad) record on and more detailed stats.
It’s important to consider the jockey’s relationship with the horse. Some jockeys have a better rapport with certain horses, which can lead to better performances. Look for jockeys who have ridden the horse before and have had success with them.
Also worth considering is whether a jockey has a good record at the track and has won races in similar conditions. Just as it is a case of “horses for courses,” it can be “jockeys for courses” too!
Another aspect to consider is not just the jockey, but the jockey and trainer combination together.
Jockeys and trainers who have a strong record at a particular track often demonstrate familiarity and understanding of the nuances of that specific track.
They may have insights into the track conditions, layout, and the characteristics that can affect a horse’s performance. This knowledge can be advantageous when strategizing race tactics or making training decisions.
Here are a few examples of successful jockey/trainer partnerships in horse racing:
- Frankie Dettori and John Gosden: Frankie Dettori, a renowned jockey, has enjoyed great success riding for trainer John Gosden. Together, they have won numerous prestigious races, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup. Their partnership has been known for their ability to strategize and execute race tactics effectively.
- Ryan Moore and Aidan O’Brien: Ryan Moore has formed a successful partnership with Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. Moore has ridden for O’Brien’s powerful Ballydoyle stable and has achieved remarkable success in major races worldwide. Their partnership has resulted in victories in races like the Epsom Derby, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
- Javier Castellano and Chad Brown: Jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Chad Brown have established a highly successful partnership in American horse racing. Castellano has been the go-to jockey for many of Brown’s top horses, and together they have achieved numerous victories in prestigious races such as the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the Arlington Million, and the Travers Stakes.
- William Buick and Charlie Appleby: Jockey William Buick has formed a successful alliance with trainer Charlie Appleby, primarily associated with Godolphin Racing. Their partnership has led to victories in significant races like the Epsom Derby, the Dubai World Cup, and multiple Group 1 races worldwide.
These are just a few examples of successful jockey/trainer partnerships, and there are many other notable partnerships in horse racing history. Successful collaborations between jockeys and trainers often rely on effective communication, understanding each other’s strengths and preferences, and building trust to make informed decisions during races.
Whilst you may not have any of the famous names above at the racecourse today, your race guide should have jockey and trainer statistics for the course. Have a look for any that stand out, for example those that have a high winning percentage at the track and/or distance.
In particular, look out for examples where the jockey and trainer combination together has a good winning percentage. It’s the combination that can really make the difference and deliver the winning result we are looking for.
Expert tip #3: Analyze the track condition
The track condition is an important factor to consider when selecting a horse to bet on. The track can be fast, slow, or somewhere in between. Some horses perform better on fast tracks, while others perform better on slower tracks.
Analyzing a horse’s record in different ground conditions involves examining its past performances on various track surfaces to identify patterns and preferences. Here’s a step-by-step approach to analyzing a horse’s record in different ground conditions:
- Gather the horse’s race history: Collect the race history of the horse, including its past performances on different ground conditions. This information is usually available in race programs, online databases, or racing publications such as those listed above.
- Identify the ground conditions: Note the ground conditions listed for each race in the horse’s record. Pay attention to keywords such as “firm,” “good,” “yielding,” “soft,” or “heavy,” which describe the state of the track surface.
- Evaluate performance in different conditions: Assess the horse’s performance in various ground conditions by examining its finishing positions, margins of victory or defeat, and the level of competition faced in each race. Look for any consistent patterns or notable performances.
- Consider win percentage: Calculate the horse’s win percentage on different ground conditions. A higher win percentage on a particular ground condition may indicate a preference or better performance on that surface.
- Assess performance relative to competition: Compare the horse’s performance on different ground conditions to the quality of competition it faced. If the horse consistently performs well on a specific ground condition against strong competition, it suggests a higher level of adaptability and competitiveness.
- Analyze running style: Consider how the horse’s running style aligns with different ground conditions. Some horses may have a running style that suits certain ground surfaces better than others. For example, horses with a strong closing kick may excel on a yielding or soft surface that allows them to maintain their late speed.
- Consider pedigree and breeding: Take into account the horse’s pedigree and breeding. Certain bloodlines are known to produce horses that perform well on specific ground conditions. If the horse’s lineage has a history of success on a particular surface, it may indicate a genetic predisposition to perform well in those conditions.
- Assess recent form: Give more weight to the horse’s recent performances on different ground conditions as they provide a more accurate reflection of its current abilities and preferences.
By analyzing a horse’s record in different ground conditions, you can identify any patterns, preferences, or strengths it may have on specific track surfaces. This information can be valuable when assessing its prospects for upcoming races, especially when considering the ground conditions expected for the race day.
Of course, you may not have time to analyze the horse’s ground record in such detail. Don’t worry though, often the notes that accompany each horse in your race guide should tell you if the horse does well in today’s conditions.
Here is an example for a horse called Thundering that is running at York:
The horse’s performance in its last race was poor, finishing fifth out of six horses in the race. However, the comments here suggest that the soft ground was not ideal, whereas today’s ground is due to be good.
Looking at Thundering’s race record, we can see that it has performed well on firmer ground, with second places on good (Gd) and good-to-firm (GF) ground.
It also had a win and a second on the all-weather track at Newcastle (St/Slw) which tends to be firmer than turf.
The horse also finished second on soft ground back in April 2022, suggesting it can act on different types of ground. However, the results above suggest it is perhaps best suited by firmer ground conditions.
You may come across horses with very distinct records of only doing well on certain types of ground. Those can be good horses to follow, particularly when the conditions are extreme – either very soft or very firm.
Expert tip #4: Consider the horse’s age and experience
A horse’s age and experience are important factors to consider when choosing a horse to bet on. Younger horses may have more potential, but they may lack the experience and maturity to perform well in high-pressure situations. Older horses may have more experience, but their age may affect their performance.
Statistically, older horses tend to have an advantage over younger horses in terms of racing performance and maturity.
This is down to their:
- Physical Development: As horses age, they typically undergo physical development and reach their peak athletic abilities. Their bodies become stronger, more robust, and better suited to handle the physical demands of racing.
- Experience and Maturity: Older horses have had more time to gain experience and develop racing skills. They have been exposed to various race scenarios, track conditions, and competition levels, allowing them to learn and adapt.
- Mental Preparedness: As horses age, they often exhibit increased mental maturity and focus. They become more accustomed to the racing environment, including the sights, sounds, and pressures associated with competition.
- Development of Racing Form: Older horses tend to have a more established racing form, with a track record that provides a better indication of their abilities and potential.
- Class Advancement: Older horses often compete in higher-level races against stronger and more seasoned competition. This exposure to challenging races can improve their skills, competitiveness, and overall racing performance.
The advantage of older horses over younger ones has been demonstrated in a range of different ways, including in:
- Stakes/Group Races: In stakes or group races, which are typically the highest level of competition, older horses often have a statistical advantage over younger ones. This is evident in races such as the Triple Crown races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes), where three-year-old horses compete against older horses. Historically, older horses have a higher winning percentage in these races.
- Win Percentages: If you examine win percentages across various age groups, you may find that older horses tend to have higher win percentages compared to younger horses. However, it’s important to consider factors such as class levels, track conditions, distances, and the specific competition faced by each age group.
- Handicap Races: In handicap races, which are designed to equalize competition by assigning weights based on horse ability, older horses are often assigned higher weights compared to younger ones. This weight assignment recognizes the maturity and development advantage that older horses possess.
- Longevity: Older horses have typically had more racing experience due to their longer careers. This additional racing experience can contribute to better overall statistics and a more established racing record.
Now of course all of this doesn’t mean you should just go and back old horses blindly! Age is just one factor among many and probably not the most important in itself.
However, it is often overlooked and most punters are not aware of the disparity in age demonstrated by the stats above. So if other factors are lining up in an older horse’s favor, or you just feel a more experienced horse is being unfairly disregarded (what we might call “ageism”), it could represent value.
There are a number of famous horses who achieved tremendous success at an older age.
Wise Dan, for example, achieved significant success as an older horse, winning multiple Grade 1 races. At the age of six, he won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2012 and repeated the victory the following year at age seven!
Winx, an Australian mare, achieved phenomenal success as an older horse in the 2010s. She won an unprecedented four consecutive Cox Plate races, a prestigious Group 1 race in Australia, from 2015 to 2018. Winx’s unbeaten streak extended to 33 races and she is considered one of the greatest racehorses in Australian history.
At the same time, John Henry had enormous success as an older horse, winning several prestigious races in the 1980s. At the age of nine, he won the Arlington Million, a Grade 1 turf race, for the second time in 1984. He also won the Santa Anita Handicap twice, at ages eight and nine.
So write off an older horse at your peril. As we say, going against the crowd when a high quality horse is being written off as “over the hill” can really pay dividends.
Expert tip #5: Evaluate the horse’s physical attributes
The horse’s physical attributes are an important factor to consider when choosing a horse to bet on. Look at the horse’s build, weight, and overall health. A horse that is well-built and in good health is more likely to perform well in a race.
This is the sort of thing you can evaluate for yourself if you are attending the races in person. One of the best places to get a good view of the horses is in the parade ring, where they are displayed a few minutes before the race is due to start.
Here are some key physical attributes to evaluate when assessing a horse’s betting potential:
- Conformation: Assess the horse’s overall conformation, which refers to the physical structure and proportions of its body. Look for balanced proportions, a strong and well-muscled build, and correct alignment of legs. A horse with good conformation is generally considered to have a better chance of soundness and efficient movement, which can positively impact its racing performance.
- Coat and Condition: Observe the horse’s coat and overall condition. A healthy, glossy coat, with well-defined muscles and a generally fit appearance, indicates a horse in good physical condition. A horse that looks fit and well-maintained is more likely to perform at its best.
- Musculature: Assess the development and tone of the horse’s muscles. Well-developed and defined muscles, particularly in the shoulder, hindquarters, and gaskin areas, can indicate strength and power. Look for a muscular horse without excessive fat or signs of poor conditioning.
- Legs and Hooves: Examine the horse’s legs and hooves for any signs of soundness and structural integrity. Check for straightness in the legs when viewed from different angles, the presence of any blemishes or swellings, and the quality of the hooves. Soundness and well-maintained hooves are essential for a horse’s performance and ability to handle different track conditions.
- Walk and Movement: Observe the horse’s walk and movement, both at the stable and during pre-race warm-ups. Look for a fluid and efficient stride with good reach and extension. A horse that moves with confidence, balance, and coordination is more likely to be agile and perform well on the racetrack.
It’s important to note that evaluating physical attributes alone does not guarantee success. It should be used in combination with one or more of the other factors described above.
If you are attending the races in person though, having a look at the horses’ physical attributes and how well they look could give you an edge over other punters and is an underappreciated angle to consider.
Common mistakes to avoid when choosing a horse
When it comes to choosing a horse to bet on, there are several common mistakes to avoid. One of the biggest mistakes is betting on a horse based on their name or the color of their jockey’s silks. Another mistake is betting on a horse without doing your research. It’s important to take the time to analyze the factors listed above before making a decision.
It’s also important to avoid betting on too many horses. Focusing on a few horses that meet your criteria is a better strategy than betting on every horse in the race.
***CHEAT CODE – If You Want a Quicker Way to Find a Winner***
If all of this seems like a bit much and you want a quicker way to find a winner, there is a simpler option.
You could just follow the advice of a tipster!
Yes these horse racing experts follow racing very closely and analyse all the information listed above – and more – in choosing their tips.
Now not all tipsters are worth following of course – most are actually quite bad and make a loss overall. However, here at Honest Betting Reviews we have tested hundreds of tipsters in search of the best ones.
Here are three horse racing tipsters we would recommend:-
- The Bookies Enemy – over £22,000 profit at £25 per point and a 15% ROI.
- Hanbury Racing – over 1300 points profit with a 25% ROI.
- Loves Racing – over 900 points profit with a number of winners over 50/1.
Following one of these tipsters could not only save you a lot of time and effort but could also direct you to finding some nice winners. Certainly their long-term records are among the best in the business.
Choosing the right horse to bet on in horse racing can be a daunting task, but by following these expert tips, you can increase your chances of a winning bet.
You can choose to analyze the horse’s past performance, assess the jockey’s record, analyze the track condition, consider the horse’s age and experience, and evaluate the horse’s physical attributes – or use a combination of these factors.
By avoiding common mistakes and focusing on a few horses that meet your criteria, you can make informed decisions and enjoy a successful betting experience. Good luck and happy betting!