Betting on horse racing can get complicated if you don’t know your blinkers from your Rule 4s. Millions of bettors are preparing to bet on Cheltenham this year – and Paddy’s here to get you up to speed.
If you’re new to the sport but have found yourself confused by Yankees, Handicaps and SPs, then read our guide to horse racing terms you may be hearing more about.
And remember, you can always get the best horse racing tips and daily picks from Paddy whenever you need it!
WANT TO LEARN MORE? Click here for all Horse Racing explainers
The age of the horse when it races. All horses are given a birthday of 1 January. Horses often run against those of similar ages in order to level out the competition. The Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, for example, is open to horses aged four to six.
A roll-up bet involving more than one selection with the winnings from each selection going on to the next selection. All selections must be successful to get a return. I’ll land it, one of these days.
Ante-post / Future Racing
A bet placed in advance of the final declarations (usually 48 hours now) in advance of the race. For example, placing a bet in February for a horse to win the Grand National, which is in April. The main thing to remember is that you won’t get your money back if the horse doesn’t run, so while the odds look good at the time, there is a large risk and reward element at play.
An apprentice jockey is aged between 16 and 25, who is working towards becoming a full professional. Apprentice jockeys run on Flat races and are paid just like professional jockeys. However, they do get weight allowances based on their experience. Read more in our apprentice jockey guide.
Balloted Out of a Race
This happens rarely enough, but if a horse is declared at the final declaration stage but fails to get a run because there is a safety limit of runners or maximum field size (again the Grand National, only 40 runners can take part on the day) you do get your ante-post / future racing bet refunded. Not as glamorous as it sounds, really.
Best Odds Guaranteed
Paddy’s promise that you’ll get paid out at higher odds. If the Starting Price (SP) is longer than the price you took earlier in the day, you’ll get paid this better odds price, once the Best Odds Guaranteed prices were active.
Here’s how it works: You’ve spotted what you think is a nice bet at 4/1 in the morning prices, but the market disagrees. It goes and wins anyway at say, 8/1, (well done you), but you’re slightly miffed that your returns at 4/1 are going to be half what they should be, given the starting price (SP) of 8/1.
However, if you placed your bet after 8am on the day of the race, Paddy’s Best Odds Guaranteed concession will have kicked in, so you will be paid at the higher odds of 8/1 rather than the 4/1 taken on the betslip! Huzzah!
Blinkers are headwear that is placed on a horse so they can’t see in their peripheral vision. They help the horse to look forward and focus on the race, rather than events going on around it. Read more about blinkers here!
When a horse is backed or backed-in their odds suddenly fall, which indicates a flurry of bets have been made on it to win or place.
A conditional jockey is the same as an apprentice jockey but they ride in National Hunt races, not Flat races. Conditional jockeys get weight allowances and are not amateur jockeys. Read our conditional jockey guide for more info!
Connections in horse racing is a term used for all those who have influence over the horse. This primarily means their owner and trainer, and sometimes jockey too. Read more about connections in horse racing here.
A chaser is a horse that runs in steeplechases. These events cover large distances of two miles or more, and involve jumps. Chasers need stamina and must be able to concentrate for the entire race, so as not to fall. The National Hunt Challenge Cup is the longest steeplechase at Cheltenham Festival, running for three miles and six furlongs. There are 23 fences and it’s open to amateur jockeys only.
A dead-heat in horse racing is when two horses cross the line at the same time. Dead-heats are followed by a photo finish, which usually determines which horse won by a whisker. However, on rare occasions a dead-heat is called and both horses win. Read more about what happens if there is a dead-heat!
An each-way bet splits your wager into two, with half the bet backing the horse to win and the other half backing it to place. If the horse wins then both halves of your bet win. If it places (finishes 2nd, 3rd, 4th, maybe even 5th) then only the second half of your bet pays out. Learn all about each-way bets here!
Forecast / Reverse Forecast
Nothing to do with weather, instead it’s a bet where the aim is to predict both the winner and runner-up in a race. For reverse forecast, they can finish in either order.
The form of a horse is effectively its past results. You can use the form as a guide to gauging how well the horse could do in an upcoming race. If its form reads 15532 then it came second in its most recent race, and hasn’t won a race in five.
Group 1 / Grade 1
Group 1 is the to level of horse racing for Flat races, while Grade 1 is the elite level for jumps races. These events feature only the very best thoroughbred horses that have proven themselves by earning Official Ratings points. The Derby is a Group 1 horse race, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup a Grade 1 race.
Handicaps & Handicap ratings
Probably the most important factor is determining a horse’s chances of being competitive in any given race and should be looked at first before the ground, distance, quality of race etc. come into effect on race day.
Horses carry different weights according to their official rating. In theory, a handicap race should see most of the field cross the line together. In practice, we’ve yet to see that happen – except for a couple of dodgy photo-finish decisions. The majority of races that are run in Ireland and the UK are handicaps. A handicap is a race where each horse is allocated a weight to carry based on their ‘official rating’.
A rating is arrived at based on what level of ability a horse has shown on the racecourse. This is usually gauged after three races on the track. The better the race the horse contests, the higher the rating he’s likely to have. That’s important. The theory is that horses running off different weights should all finish closer together as those carrying less weight are less talented and need this concession.
A profitable area of betting and one that bookmakers are always wary of is a handicap debutant that has been shrewdly placed in previous races. They can often make a mockery of their ‘official rating’ when contesting their first handicap.
There are many ways that horses ended up running in handicaps. The most familiar routes are by coming from maiden races, juvenile races, dropping down in class from Graded races or stepping out of novice company. And a well-handicapped horse doesn’t have to finish out the back of the tellybox in previous efforts – many are frequently winners whose potential has either been underestimated or disguised by clever placing.
Let’s take the example of leading Cheltenham Champion Hurdle contender Saint Roi in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last season.
An easy winner of one of the most competitive hurdles in the jump racing calendar last March, this was just his fourth start over hurdles – and notably his handicap debut.
Saint Roi had actually won his previous race at Tramore – a maiden hurdle – two months earlier and was given an official ‘rating’ or ‘mark’ of 137 for the Country Hurdle at Cheltenham 2019 which he won very easily.
He subsequently won a Grade 3 Hurdle at Tipperary in early October (above) from a revised rating of 151 (14lbs higher than his Cheltenham win) and despite being narrowly beaten in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, now sits at 156.
That he can still be competitive off a mark 19lb above his initial Country Hurdle rating last March shows just how well handicapped he was at Cheltenham, despite the competitiveness of that race.
The trick is to realise that at the time though!
Hurdles and Fences
Hurdles and fences are the jumps that horses must vault during National Hunt races. Hurdles are smaller with a minimum height of 3ft 6in and are less robust, so horses can practically sprint over them. Fences are higher and more sturdy, meaning horses need to time their jumps more. Read more about the difference between hurdles and fences in this guide!
A mare is a female horse aged five years or above. The Mares’ Hurdle is run at Cheltenham Festival every year.
A selection that changes in price significantly either way, by decreasing in odds (steaming) or increasing in odds (drifting).
The best bet of the day that a tipster or your girlfriend’s brother’s mate nicks from a WhatsApp group he’s in. Not to be confused with what your Nan does during Bargain Hunt.
A non runner is a horse that has been withdrawn from the race before it starts. Read about what happens to non-runner bets here.
On/Off the bridle
A horse is ‘on the bridle‘ when it has accepted the bit between its teeth, the reins are well positioned, and it is running smoothly. If the horse is ‘off the bridle’ it is being pushed and is likely losing contact with the bit in its mouth.
Patent (7 bets)
Another multiple bet that involves three different selections and seven separate bets (three singles, three doubles & a treble). Not to be confused with securing intellectual property rights on some invention and making your millions.
Rule 4 in horse racing is a recalculation of winning bets if one horse is withdrawn from the race ahead of time. Effectively it’s a means of ensuring fair odds, especially if it’s the favourite who was suddenly withdrawn. Rule 4 gets a little complicated and is hard to calculate. So, we recommend our Rule 4 guide for those who want to know more.
Starting Price (SP)
The price at which a horse is ‘returned’ after the race is run to determine the pay-out odds for winning punters. (See Best Odds Guaranteed above). My Granny always told me to “take the f*@$ing price”, as you don’t have any control over the SP.
A stayer is a horse that runs over long distances and has the stamina to compete in big races.
A stewards’ enquiry happens when the race stewards – who act as referees in the race – spot something that needs closer attention. This can often be contact between horses when running, or perhaps overuse of the whip from jockeys. Stewards’ enquiries take place immediately after the race and don’t affect winning bets, even if they are subsequently overturned.
The weight in horse racing is the overall load a horse carries when running. The idea is to ensure all horses carry the same weight, in order to prevent jockeys from starving themselves to keep the weight down. So, lead weights are added to saddles. Inexperienced horses, fillies, and young jockeys may get weight allowances. Read more about weights in horse racing here!
Yankee (11 bets) / Lucky 15 (15 bets) / Heinz (57 bets) / Lucky 63 (63 bets)
A multiple bet consisting of 11, 15, 57, or 63 bets depending on your mood – and for Cheltenham week Paddy is doubling the odds if you have just one winner on this multiple bet. . These are multiple bets where you picks four / five and six selections in different event to try and get a maximum return form what can be a reasonably modest outcome. Simply, multiply your stake by the number of permutations, e.g £1 Lucky 15 = £1 x 15 bets ( 4 single bets, 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and 1 four-fold accumulator) for a total stake of £15.
One selection must win for a return in these bets (except for two in a Yankee (11) & two in a Heinz (57) which exclude the single bet element) . The theory is that the more winners you have, the more permutations kick into play as the doubles, trebles and acca’s roll up to give you a bigger return rather than backing each as singles. That’s the theory anyway!
WANT TO LEARN MORE? Click here for all Horse Racing explainers