handicap horse racing

How does Handicap horse racing work?

In Handicap horse racing, the better horses are given a disadvantage. Conversely, the worse horses are given an advantage. This is done by making the horses carry different weights. A handicapper decides the weight (this weight is known as the impost) each horse should carry. The total weight of the jockey, saddle, and weights (lead) will equal the impost. The weights are carried in lead pads (saddle pads). In Great Britain, there is a central system, operated by the BHA who assign weights. Weights can change (e.g. be increased if a horse wins a race). The most famous handicap race in the world is of course the Grand National. Another example is Australia’s Melbourne Cup.

So, if the horses have been handicapped, how do you go about picking a winner?

  • You could look at the horses form (e.g. past performances, giving more weight to recent performances).
  • You could look at the ability of the jockey.
  • Also look at the condition of the ground. If it has been raining recently, the ground may be soft. If there has been a lot of sunny/dry weather the ground may be hard. How do the horses in the race perform under the expected condition of the ground?
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national hunt racing

What is National Hunt Racing?

In National Hunt Racing, there are obstacles* on the course (as opposed to Flat racing, where there are not). The two most iconic and well-known horse races of any kind held in Great Britain, the Grand National and the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, are National Hunt races.

  • The majority of the National Hunt races in Great Britain take place in the winter months, rather than summer. There is a good reason for this, as the race courses should be softer in winter (as of course there should be more rain). As horses have to jump obstacles, this makes it a lot less dangerous than in the summer months.
  • National Hunt racing can take the form of either hurdles or steeplechases.
  • In hurdles races the obstacles the horses must jump are hurdles. There will be a minimum of eight hurdles in any race. These hurdles have a minimum height of three and a half feet. The races are between two to three and a half miles.
    • A well known example of a National Hunt hurdles race is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which is a Grade 1 race – this race is the first race on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
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Grand National facts

What is Flat Racing?

In Flat Racing horses with the best speed or best stamina (or both of these) have the advantage, depending on the distance of each race. Jockeys also play a major part as they have to be able to get their horse to do the right thing (e.g. ‘ask’ them to go faster or slower). Thoroughbreds are the most common form of horse breed you will see in this form of racing. Natural grass race courses (also referred to as turf) are the most common. You will see some races run on synthetic or all-weather tracks (especially for flat races run in winter). Flat Racing generally takes places over shorter distances than National Hunt racing, and there are no obstacles in Flat Racing (as the name suggests).

Flat Racing (in Great Britain, at least) takes the form of (1) Conditions races, or (2) Handicaps.

  • In a Conditions race, horses carry weights. Females carry less weights than males. Older horses carry less weights than younger horses. Less successful horses carry less weights than more successful horses. Conditions races are not handicap races – as the weights are allocated according to the predetermined conditions of the race (not by an handicapper).
  • The most prestigious of the Condition races are the Pattern races (which are usually called Group races).
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horse racing explained

Horse Racing Explained

There are 2 popular types of horse racing that take place in Great Britain: these are Flat Racing, and National Hunt Racing. In this ‘Horse Racing Explained‘ article, we explain the difference between these two types of the sport. We also explain what exactly a furlong is (a common term you will hear in relation to the length of horse races).

  • Flat Racing – run on courses where there are no obstacles present (i.e. it is flat). Distances for Flat Racing are between 5 furlongs 2 miles to 2 miles 5 furlongs 159 yards. Some of the best examples of flat races are the Royal Ascot festival, and the five races known as the British Classics – 1,000 Guineas (Newmarket), 2,000 Guineas (Newmarket), The Oaks (Epsom Downs), The Derby (Epsom Downs), and St.Leger (Doncaster).
  • National Hunt Racing – run on courses with obstacles, taking the form of a Hurdles race or a Steeplechase race. They are generally run over longer distances (2 miles to 4 and a half miles) than the Flat Racing mentioned above. The best examples of National Hunt Racing are the Grand National (Aintree) and the Cheltenham Festival.
    • Please note slightly confusingly, there are also National Hunt Flat Races (also known as Bumpers) – which are run under National Hunt rules, but there are no obstacles on the course (13 – 20 furlongs are common distances for these races).
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starting price

Is it preferable to take the Starting Price?

When you place a bet on a horse race, instead of taking the fixed odds price on offer you might be able to place a bet at an unspecified Starting Price. Sometimes for future races, which haven’t been priced up by your selected bookmaker, you can only place a bet at the Starting Price (SP).

When you place a bet at the SP, you do not know in advance what odds you are getting! So, why on earth would you want to take this option? Odds on horses can fluctuate, in the build up to the race. When the race start time comes closer, it is clearer what the conditions will be like (e.g. is the ground heavy or soft, will it be raining or really hot at the time of the race), if any other horses have withdrawn, and if the horse has any issues etc. Odds can thus fluctuate for many reasons, including the amount being bet on a horse. So, with lots of money coming in, the price is likely to go down and vice-versa. In the UK, a panel decides the starting price (it should be the same regardless of which bookmaker you use), based on how they view the fluctuations of prices.… Read the rest

wisdom of the crowd

How does Wisdom of the Crowd affect odds?

  • Wisdom of the Crowd refers to the phenomenon that a large number of individuals in a group, will usually be able to make better decisions than any individual in that group.
  • For example, at a funfair say their was a big jar with an unknown amount of marbles. People were asked to guess the number of marbles (with the closest getting a prize). If you took all the guesses and averaged them (provided there was a sufficient number of people in the group) it would usually come close to the actual number of marbles in the jar. Obviously, the more people who participated the closer to the actual number you would get.
  • This happens, because individual noise is filtered out.
  • In the case of betting odds, Wisdom of the Crowd also has an effect as bookmakers are forced to lower prices getting a lot of betting action (and increase prices not getting a lot). So, highly backed outcomes get their prices lowered, and less well back outcomes get their prices increased.
  • However, for Wisdom of the Crowd to work people have to be making rational and independent decisions. In the case, of marbles in the jar at the funfair this may be the case.
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moneyline odds

How do Moneyline Odds work?

We have already explained how to understand the Fractional Odds system used by UK bookmakers, as well as the popular Decimal Odds system. For completeness, we thought we would also explain the ins and outs of Moneyline Odds. This system is popular in the USA, and as such we will use dollars in the examples below (but of course the same principles apply whatever the currency). To understand Moneyline Odds, first look at if the odds are positive or negative. Then, look at the odds. Moneyline Odds are expressed per $100 staked (although of course, you should be able to bet any amount, subject to minimums or maximums).

  • POSITIVE Moneyline Odds show how much profit you will get if your bet wins, for every $100 staked (if you win you will get back your original stake too).
  • NEGATIVE Moneyline Odds show how much you will have to stake, to get $100 profit if your bet wins (if you win you will get back your original stake too).

Let’s look at two actual examples:

  • +500: this means for every $100 bet, $500 profit will be paid if your bet wins (i.e. if your bet wins they will return you original stake of $100, and pay you another $500).
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What are Decimal Odds?

What are Decimal Odds?

Having understood the ins and outs of Fractional Odds (traditionally used by UK bookmakers), we think it will be a useful exercise for you to understand the Decimal Odds system as well. Decimal Odds show how many times your original stake (INCLUDING your original stake) you will get back if your bet wins. Obviously, this number should always be more than 1.0 as you should always get back your original stake if you win, plus some profit. Compare that to Fractional Odds which only show the potential profit you will get back if you win (of course regardless of the odds system, you will always get your original stake back if you win).

Let’s look at some Decimal Odds examples:
6.0 – for every £1 bet you will get £6 back, if your bet wins (i.e. you make £5 profit, per £1 staked). 5/1 (Fractional Odds), and 6.0 (Decimal Odds) are equivalent.
1.2 – for every £1 bet you will get £1.20 back, if your bet wins (i.e. you make £0.20 profit, per £1 staked). 1/5 (Fractional Odds), and 1.2 (Decimal Odds) are equivalent.

Fractional Odds are popular in the UK & Ireland. Decimal Odds are popular in Continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.… Read the rest