So you’d like to start betting on horse races in the United Kingdom. Join the crowd – it’s certainly a popular pastime! But where to begin?
Casinos advertise hefty sign-up bonuses, and racebooks tout their long history and reliable bank accounts. Handicappers vie for attention and offer picks for sale. It can feel a little overwhelming.
Betting online can be a little dodgy, too. The special deals for beginners can turn into traps, markets drop and appear again with new odds, and those so-called “55%” handicappers aren’t always above picking horses with hatpins. Some sites are just rubbish.
Don’t get played for a mug. Here are 10 of the top horse racing betting sites in the UK, rated by reputation, legitimacy, and ease of use.
Our Top Recommended Uk Betting Sites
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What Makes a Good Betting Site
Racebook odds are not as manipulated by the “house,” or book, as often as betting lines for other sports. Instead, it is the action, or the number of punters betting on particular horses, which drives the odds. But that doesn’t mean the racebook won’t take steps to protect itself along the way.
If there is a rush of bets taken on one racehorse, the odds manager may take the market offline for a day or a week to regroup or focus action on other races.
Gamblers must get to know the online racebook or racebooks on which they choose to fund an account. That way, there are less nasty surprises, such as planning to make a bet in 12 hours and finding the page taken down by then.
If you are brand new to a website, it will likely offer a “sign-up bonus” or cash reward for opening an account. Sign-up rewards are tricky. Betting books will ask newbies to bet their entire stake before a withdrawal can be made. That’s fair because otherwise, clever users would sign up, add the bonus, and withdraw before making one wager.
But racebooks often include a “rollover” clause along with the bonus. A 4x rollover means that 4 times the entire stake must be bet before any withdrawal can be made, and an 8x rollover means that the stake must be bet 8 times before it becomes the equivalent of real money.
Since the house always collects a “vig,” or extra percentage on every bet, this method of forcing the user to bet his or her entire deposit plus bonus 4 or 8 times works strongly in the book’s favor.
Look for a site that makes it easy to decline the sign-up bonus. It’s not always made obvious. When in doubt, use the chat function (most betting books have them) to talk to a representative and learn how to avoid the bonus and the rollover.
If the bonus seems too good to pass up, read the fine print and try to get the least stringent rollover deal possible.
It is also important to find a reputable site that pays out reliably on won bets. The best UK horse racing sites are known for rock-solid payoffs and easy withdrawals. The sites also make sure the gambler’s personal information is secure and safe.
When a book does not pay its winners every time or makes punters wait and wait for their checks, users of online betting forums will post about it. Look around the web and make sure the site or sites you choose are not cheating the players.
Finally, look into each website’s betting markets and find one that suits your style. Racing junkies who like going to the track every day will want to find racebooks that constantly update with the next day’s horse races in the UK and elsewhere around the world.
But sites that rely on daily betting can be skimpy on odds for huge races such as the Grand National. They’ll offer odds on the “Biggest Race of All,” but often later than other racebooks do. Other sites are geared more towards big events and will offer futures odds and trifecta betting for the Aintree race early in the season.
Things to Consider When Betting on Horse Races
So you’ve found a reputable website, avoided the sneaky rollover deal, and gotten a few pounds deposited in your account. How to go about placing that first bet so as not to begin with a sure-fire loss?
Start by recognizing how fast odds can change when action drives the numbers. There may be a terrific 10/1 betting market on a horse which is recommended by bloggers and serious handicappers. But as the hype around the animal grows, the odds can shrink in a hurry.
It’s best not to log on, check the odds, and then take a weekend at St. Andrews while pondering whether to make the bet. Strike quickly when there’s something good available.
Don’t be quick to take the advice written on the betting sites themselves. That’s not to say that such articles are a trap posted to lure the bettor into a mistake. Most bloggers hired by racebooks are knowledgeable and honest journalists. However, they’re not going to print hot tips based on in-depth info and buzz from trainers and fans.
If a brilliant handicapper wrote an advice column for a betting site, just think of the site’s losses when readers followed along!
It’s also a tosh idea to pay online handicappers for picks. Thankfully, very few reputable betting sites link to such charlatans. The racebook wants as much money as it can take in. Its owners will not be keen on sending players to other sites where they can spend part of their leisure funds.
Finally, write down a list of goals based on what you’d like to get out of your betting experience. Gambling on sleepers, or long-odds horses, can be pleasurable if one is simply having a good time and jackpot hunting. But it’s not always the most efficient means of coming out ahead. Favorites don’t promise big percentage payoffs but are more likely to come in first.
Trifecta and superfecta markets are something akin to playing the lottery. If that’s the bettor’s cup of tea, great…but with the promise of fantastic riches comes more favorable odds for the book. Trifectas are much like “parlays” on more than one basketball game or cricket match.
Mathematicians have taught us how the odds on 2 or 3 happenings working out as predicted are deceptively long compared to a single occurrence.
Overall the most cost-efficient bets are still placed on one horse to win, place, or show. Boring and old-fashioned? Yes. But effective in winning money.
Horse Racing Betting Strategy
There are plenty of betting-advice columns on the internet with tips for evaluating the ponies. But remember that some of the most cliché slogans are actually misleading.
For instance, an ordinary handicapper will advise players to ignore the hype. That’s not clever.
Remember that action drives the odds, and hype can drive the action. The most recent Grand National winner Tiger Roll ought to have had shorter odds to win before the race began. However, his earlier victory at Cheltenham was considered to be dodgy by some handicappers due to the “cheese wedges” and other strange jumps on the course.
It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it created a nicer payoff on a winning bet slip when the 8-year-old Thoroughbred won at Aintree.
Here are more helpful pages with advice on horse race betting strategy:
About Horse Racing in the UK
The United Kingdom offers gamblers a lot of chances to play the ponies, in person as well as online! Horse racing is the 2nd-largest spectator sport in Britain and produces almost £4 billion for the national economy.
Much like golf, horse racing owes many of its traditions to the UK. Thoroughbreds, the staple breed of American and Middle Eastern flat-track races, were first bred in England centuries ago under the watchful eye of King Charles and other royals.
The Jockey Club created the Rules of Racing in 1750. Handicaps, or the weights placed on National Hunt horses to equalize speed and jumping prowess, were pioneered by Jockey Club member Admiral Rous. The UK has also birthed some of the greatest jockeys of all time.
Victor Chandler Chase
Cheltenham’s annual celebration of horse racing features world-class events on 4 consecutive days. The first is the Champion Hurdle, known as the most prestigious hurdling event in Great Britain. Day 2 features the Queen Mother Champion Chase, commemorating the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday.
The World Hurdle captivates fans on the 3rd day of the festival. It is a legendary test of stamina held on a 3-mile track. The gelding Big Buck’s won 4 straight World Hurdle races from 2009 to 2012, winning big bucks for gamblers in the process. Finally, the 4th day’s Gold Cup is the most valuable non-handicap chase in the United Kingdom and has been won by a succession of legendary horses and trainers.
This is the crown jewel of racing in the UK. Contested over a distance of about 4 miles and 4 furlongs, the “Biggest Race of All” includes an arduous 30 fences to jump on the heralded Aintree course.
The event serves as the most valuable of all National Hunt races and has been running at Aintree since 1839. Punters and office workers are known to bet on the Grand National even if they avoid gambling on the other 364 days of the year.
2000 Guineas Stakes
Known as the corker of the early flat-track racing season, the 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket is the first leg of the British Triple Crown and has been held since 1809.
Britain’s richest horse race with total purses well into 7 figures, “The Derby” (not to be confused with America’s Kentucky Derby) is the middle leg of the Triple Crown and is open to 3-year-old colts and fillies. It is run over a distance of a mile, plus 4 furlongs and 10 yards, and began way back in 1780.
St. Leger Stakes
Held at Doncaster, the St. Leger Stakes is the one of the oldest horse races in Europe. In fact, the original organizers were so dedicated that they held the first race in 1776. What’s a little Revolutionary War when there’s racing to be had?
The St. Leger is the 3rd leg of the British Triple Crown.
More Information on Horse Racing
We hope you’ve enjoyed our run-down of the best horse racing sites in the UK as well as the finest races on which betting markets can be found. Here are some other pages for further reading: