UK & Ireland Online Horse Betting
Horse racing is considered the most beloved and oldest sporting event in Ireland and the United Kingdom. In Great Britain, it’s regarded as the second biggest spectator sport, just behind football.
Horse racing occurs throughout the year in various formats across the UK and Ireland and even lesser-known events manage to draw a significant crowd. The popularity which stems from these sporting events are primary due to sports betting in the UK. However, there’s no denying it’s a truly exciting sports in its own right too.
In this comprehensive article, we will introduce you to the best horse racing betting sites you can take advantage of in the UK and will explain the legality of horse race betting in the country. We will also dive into how to properly read a race card followed by how you can better understand the odds that are involved with horse race betting.
We also take an in-depth look at the different types of horse races before taking a look at the biggest horse racing events in both the UK and Ireland. We will also evaluate the different types of bets you’ll come across when it comes to horse race betting and provide a brief origin story of horse racing in the UK before we complete our article with an informative FAQ section.
Best Horse Racing Betting Sites in the UK
There’s only a handful of things in the world which can provide the same level of excitement as watching a live horse race after you’ve placed a bet. Most horse races will only last for a few minutes, but it can feel like a lifetime when you have a horse in contention. In most cases, it’s the betting aspect that is coupled with horse racing which draws people to this prestigious sporting event in the first place.
UK residents have access to some of the best horse racing events in the world, and betting on these prestigious races has always been huge business. However, thanks to the inception of the internet and online sportsbooks, betting on horse racing has managed to reach a whole new level.
Whether you consider yourself a sports betting veteran, or a newcomer looking for an online betting experience in the UK, you’ll be greeted by a plethora of UK sports betting sites, making it difficult to determine which one is perfectly suited for you.
Thankfully, we have done all the hard work for you. After spending countless hours on research and reviews, we believe that the following online sportsbooks are perfect for any type of bettor. Each of these sites are well-rounded in every aspect you can imagine and provide all the innovative features and flexibility that you would expect from a modern online sports betting site.
Bet365 impresses with two decades of experience in the industry and has more than 23 million customers globally. The company is based in the United Kingdom and is the largest privately-owned company in Stoke-on-Trent. The company was established by Denise Coates in 2000 and has since grown into one of the best horse racing sportsbooks in the world. Bet365 has received multiple awards for its services and products, including Operator of the Year award back in 2010, along with the Best Internet Company for 3 successive years, including 2012, 2011, and 2010.
The online sports betting site is regulated and licensed by the UK Gambling Commission and the Gibraltar Gaming Control Board. It comes equipped with a fantastic user interface which is easy to navigate and even easier to understand.
The horse racing section is truly comprehensive, giving you access to horse racing information for the next three days, locally and internationally. You can also benefit from an innovative live streaming platform and audio commentary on most of the horse races on the site.
Newly registered bettors are greeted by a 100% welcome bonus up to $200 which only needs to be wagered 3 times to meet the wagering requirements on the bonus. You will have 90 days to meet the playthrough requirements, which is far better than any other sportsbook online. The site also offers an excellent variety of promotions to existing players along with plenty of payment methods to easily fund your account. You will also be pleased to know the site offers mobile apps on both Android and iOS devices, along with a customer support desk that is available around the clock.
The Betway online sportsbook has been around since and comes equipped with additional products, including an online casino, online bingo room and online poker site. The sportsbook offers a vast selection of sporting events along with plenty of betting markets to ensure you have a memorable online betting experience, regardless of the sport you decide to bet on.
Horse racing is a comprehensive section at Betway, complete with live streaming capabilities and mobile compatibility to ensure you never miss a single event.
The sportsbook provides horse racing from Ireland, UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai and more. Newly registered players will be treated to a 100% bonus up to $100 where you will need to wager the bonus 10 times to meet playthrough requirements.
The overall look and feel of the site is modern, sophisticated, and easy to use. Everything is neatly presented on the site and the same goes for the dedicated betting apps for iOS and Android devices.
The site also comes with an extraordinary selection of payment methods for both your deposit and withdrawal needs along with a superior customer support center which can be reached through multiple contact channels around the clock. You can also enjoy the latest news from the betting industry along with plenty of betting tips to assist you in walking away with a sizable profit.
Is It Legal To Bet On Horses in the UK?
Unlike most regions across the globe, the laws in the United Kingdom are relatively straightforward when it comes to online gambling and betting. Some legislations currently in place can be complex and difficult to understand. However, this is primarily an issue for those that offer gambling services and products in some form. For the citizens in the UK that wish to gamble online, the laws are easy to understand for the most part.
Most gambling forms in the United Kingdom, including online betting and gambling, are completely legal and the industry is also well regulated. The UK Gambling Commission regulates the betting industry and falls under the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport for the government under the terms of the 2005 Gambling Act. The Gambling Commission ensures all operators that provide gambling services and products meet the necessary standard to provide a safe and secure environment that is both fair and honest.
As a result, it’s only natural that gaming and betting is a huge business within the United Kingdom. There are loads of land-based poker rooms and casinos across the country along with hundreds of betting shops as well. You will also be treated to a vast selection of UK-based gambling websites along with an arsenal of offshore gambling websites that can legally provide its products and services to players in the UK thanks to a UK gambling license that has been obtained from the UK Gambling Commission.
How to Read Race Cards
When you visit a racetrack in the United Kingdom or Ireland, you will receive a race card. However, if you’ve never seen a race card before, it can be a daunting task that will undoubtedly spoil your experience. Fortunately, we included this section to assist you with reading a race card, while explaining each section and how you can use the information to evaluate the winning potential of each horse.
#1 – Horses Number & Draw Number: The first big number that is displayed on the left of the race card is the horse’s number in the race. This number will be assigned by the track officials. It’s worth mentioning the big number is usually assigned according to weight and is the number you’ll see on the saddle of the horse during a race. The smaller second number presented next to it is the draw the horse will have in the stalls. Usually, a lower number will indicate that the horse is closer to the rails, which can be an advantage on certain distances and tracks.
#2 – Horse Finishing Position – Underneath the horse’s number and draw number is the form of each horse. This number will indicate the finishing position of each horse in the previous races. The last number displayed will always indicate the latest race. When you come across a dash, it will indicate that the races before the dash symbol occurred in the previous season. When you come across a slash, it will indicate a gap of at least two seasons. When you come across a 0, it means that the horse did not place in the race or it finished outside the top 9. You will also come across various letters in this section which can mean the following:
- U – Unseated Rider
- F – Fell
- R – Refused to race or jump
- B – Brought down
- O – Ran Out
- D – Disqualified
- V – Void race
- S – Slipped
- L – Left at start
- R – Refused
- P – Pulled Up
#3 – Jockey & Colours – Following the form, draw, and number of each horse is the colours that each jockey will wear. Please note that not all sites will present this information, but its definitely handy to have when you follow a race. Next to each of the jockey colours is the name of the horse. Underneath each horse name are informative abbreviations which tell you more about its past performances. For instance:
- BF – Was considered a beaten favourite the last time it ran
- D – Distance winner
- C – Course winner
- CD – Won over distance and course
#4 – Days Since Last Race – After the above-mentioned abbreviations, you will find another number that will indicate how many days its been since the horse participated in a race. You will sometimes find another number in brackets that will indicate it participated in another race type.
#5 – Horse Age & Weight – The next column will give you the horse’s age, followed by the horse’s weight. This is the weight each horse will carry. The weight also indicates the total combined weight of both the saddle and jockey. You will sometimes also come across a race card that will have more letters next to the weight, which will indicate any equipment that the horse might wear during the race, including:
- P – Cheek pieces
- T – Tongue strap
- H – Hood
- C/C – Eye cover
- E/S – Eye shield
- V – Visor
- B – Blinkers
#6 – Horse Rating – Located underneath the weight of each horse will be the official rating on each of them. These ratings will allow each horse to participate in handicap races. The higher rated horses will carry more weight. The next column will indicate the trainer and jockey of the horse followed by two additional columns that will indicate the ratings of each horse by the site along with odds for each horse by the online sportsbook.
How to Understand Odds
Odds will essentially give you a methematical illustration of how probable an outcome is from taking place. In the world of horse race betting, it will basically give you an indication of how likely it is for a horse to win a race. You will also get an indication of how much you’ll win if your bet is a winner.
Once you have a good grasp on horse racing odds, you can easily determine the value when you take a glance at upcoming races. You will essentially find odds displayed in two forms at online sports betting sites, including decimal and fractional. Decimal is more recent, while fractional is considered more traditional.
Fractional Odds in Horse Racing
Fractional odds will always be presented as 5/1 or even 1/5. You will also need to keep in mind that fractional odds does not include your initial. Fractional odds in a horse race will read as follows:
- 5/1 = For every $1 you wager, you will receive $5 should you win
- 8/3 = For every $3 you wager, you will receive $8 should you win
- 10/5 = For every $5 you wager, you will receive $10 should you win
Fractional odds can also be presented the other way around, like 1/6, indicating that the horse is considered a favourite to win the next race. For instance:
- 1/5 = For every $5 you wager, you will receive $1 should you win
- 1/10 = For every $10 you wager, you will receive $1 should you win
Decimal Odds in Horse Racing
Decimal odds will always be presented as 6.0. When you come across these odds, simply multiply the decimal number by your wager amount to determine the potential profit from a winning bet. These odds essentially indicate the money you will win from your wager. Please keep in mind that your initial bet will always be included when it comes to decimal odds.
For instance, should you want to make an even money bet (a bet where the profit will be equal to your wager) if will be presented as 2.0. This basically means that your $1 wager is included with the potential profit. A 7/1 fractional odd, allowing you to receive $7 for every $1 you wager, will be presented as 8.0 in decimal odds.
Types of Horse Races in Great Britain & Ireland
Most of the horse racing action that occurs across the globe can be divided into two primary categories, including National Hunt and Flat. The main difference between the two is the flat occurs on courses with no obstacles, while National Hunt occurs on courses with obstacles in the form of fences or hurdles.
The flat racing season essentially occurs in the beginning of spring and concludes towards the end of autumn. However, you will come across a handful of races that take place on other times of the yearly calendar too. Most of the courses in flat racing take place on turf surfaces and occur at varying distances. This can range from a mere 1,000 meters to over 2 miles. It’s important to note that only Thoroughbred horses are allowed to participate in flat racing, starting their careers from as early as 2 years old.
In the United Kingdom, you’ll notice there’s a good balance between flat racing and National Hunt racing. However, in Ireland you will notice National Hunt racing is much more dominant. The prize money in flat racing is higher when compared to National Hunt racing and the horses are far more valuable in flat racing too, with short racing careers.
National Hunt Racing
National Hunt racing was essentially born in Ireland and is much more popular when compared to flat racing. Although flat racing is more prestigious to bettors due to the bigger prize pool, the jumping aspect that you’ll find in National Hunt racing definitely makes it more captivating for fans that watch the sport. National Hunt racing occurs between October and April where the weather conditions ensure the ground is much softer which makes it much better for jumping.
Unlike flat racing, the horses in National Hunt racing don’t have to be thoroughbreds. Most of them are, but there’s opportunities for different breeds as well. The horses in National Hunt racing feature robust and strong characteristics which make them ideal for jumping. Horses in National Hunt racing only peak when they are between 7 and 10 years old. Therefore, these horses have no breeding value, making them far cheaper for National Hunt racing as opposed to flat racing. You will find two types of National Hunt races, including steeplechases and hurdles.
Biggest Horse Racing Events in the UK & Ireland
With a season that runs from March through to December, there is obviously no shortage of horse racing action every single year. Most races are considered focal points in both sporting and social calendars in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. Below, we included a brief overview of each major horse racing event across Ireland and the United Kingdom.
#1 – The British Classics
The British Classics consists of five horse races that occur during the flat racing season. These 5 races are restricted to only feature three-year-old horses and represents the highest level of achievement for horses that run against their own age group. The five horse races include:
- St. Leger Stakes
- 2,000 Guinea Stakes
- Epsom Oaks
- 1,000 Guinea Stakes
- Epsom Derby
Both the Epsom Oaks and 1,000 Guinea Stakes are restricted to only feature fillies, while the Leger Stakes, Epsom Derby and 2,000 Guinea Stakes form the English Triple Crown, which is open to colts and fillies.
#2 – The Irish Triple Crown
The Irish Crown received its inspiration from the English Triple Crown which is why you’ll find races that share the same names. In the Irish Triple Crown, you’ll come across the following races:
- Irish St. Leger
- Irish Derby
- 2,000 Guineas
The very first time that all three races were contested was back in 1921. The Irish Triple Crown usually occurs from May through to September, and all three races are held at the Curragh Racecourse.
#3 – Royal Ascot Festival
The Royal Ascot can be seen as the centrepiece when it comes to the Ascot Racecourse, consisting of 30 different races that span across 5 days in June starting on Tuesday and ending on Saturday.
#4 – The Grand National
The Grand National is one of the most popular National Hunt racing events that is held at the Aintree Racecourse every year in Liverpool, England. With a track length of over 4 miles and hurdles that are higher than any other National Hunt event, it’s considered the most physically demanding and toughest race of the season.
#5 – Cheltenham Festival
This is another popular National Hunt meeting that is second only to the Grand National in terms of prize money. The festival occurs in March each year and provides the best Irish and British trained horses. The festival offers several races which include the four major championship races, including:
- The Queen Mother Champion Chase
- The Cheltenham Gold Cup
- The World Hurdle
- The Champion Hurdle
#6 – King George VI Chase
This is regarded as the second most prestigious chase that occurs in England which is only surpassed by the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The track distances is 3 miles in length with 18 different fences. The event usually occurs on Boxing Day.
#7 – Newbury Winter Festival
This racing event was rebranded in recent years and is now known as the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival. The event occurs at the Newbury Racecourse and comes equipped with a host of races that take place in the beginning of December every year.
#8 – Irish Grand National
This is another tremendously popular National Hunt racing event that is basically the equivalent of the Grand National, but not as challenging. It’s essentially a handicap race for horses that are five years of age or older and takes place on Easier Monday each year.
#9 – Punchestown Irish National Hunt Festival
This is considered one of the biggest highlights each year when it comes to the Irish sporting and social calendar. The National Hunt festival is regarded as the grand finale of the prestigious jumping season and is also considered a major festival in terms of the National Hunt season. The event occurs in April and spans from Tuesday through to Saturday.
#10 – Galway Races
This is a renowned Irish horse racing festival that begins on the last Monday in July each year. The event is hosted at the Ballybrit Racecourse and is the highlight in Ireland when it comes to the summer season. It spans across 7 days which makes it the longest horse racing event in Ireland.
5 of the Biggest Tracks in the UK
Did you know that there are more than 60 racetracks across the United Kingdom? While these racetracks will vary greatly in accessibility, quality, and prestige, each one of them offers something exciting and unique. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest racetracks that are available across the United Kingdom.
- Address: Evesham Rd, Cheltenham GL50 4SH, UK
- Phone: +44 1242 513014
The racecourse is located on 350 acres of the Cotswolds, showcasing some of the most prestigious National Hunt racing events in the country. It all started back in 1815 and has since managed to evolve into one of the biggest racetracks in the country, attracting around 68,000 spectators with each event. The Cheltenham Festival is considered the highlight of this racetrack that runs over 4 days.
- Address: High St, Ascot SL5 7JX, UK
- Phone: +44 344 346 3000
This racetrack is regarded as the epicentre when it comes to British racing. The venue hosts 26 days of top-quality racing which includes nine Group 1 Flat races. This is a multi-purpose track for both National Hunt and Flat fixtures, while the Royal Ascot is seen as its most prestigious event each year. The racetrack was established in 1711 and is considered a true testament to British tradition and racing.
- Address: Ormskirk Rd, Liverpool L9 5AS, UK
- Phone: +44 151 523 2600
The racetrack is situated on the west side of England and is home to the prestigious Grand National. The Grand National, which originated back in 1939, is considered the longest jump race in the entire United Kingdom and is regarded as a National Hunt tradition. The event manages to attract over 70,000 spectators each year, making this a very high profile event.
- Address: Westfield House, The Links, Newmarket CB8 0TG, UK
- Phone: +44 1638 675500
Newmarket is renowned as the home of racing thanks to its rich history when it comes to racing and breeding that stretches back for over 30 years. You will find two racetracks at Newmarket, including the July Course and the Rowley Mile. The July Course takes care of the summer fixtures, while the Rowley Mile course fills in for the remainder of the horse racing season.
- Address: Racecourse Road, Knavesmire Road, York YO23 1EX, UK
- Phone: +44 1904 620911
This racetrack has received the Best Racecourse in Britain award on four occasions and is a marvellous tourist attraction that is located in Yorkshire. It can be traced back to the Roman times due to evidence that suggest that racing took place as early as 1530. You will find Flat racing throughout the summer months with the Ebor Festival as the highlight in August.
Types of Bets
There are several types of horse racing bets that you can use when you bet on horses in both the UK and Ireland. Let’s take a closer look at each type of bet you will come across when you want to place a bet on the next horse race.
- Single – Often referred to as a Win Bet, this bet type is considered the most simplistic and is a wager on a single horse winning the race.
- Each Way – This bet type is essentially a wager on a horse to either Place or Win the race. Both wagers are included into one bet type.
- Accumulators/Roll-Up/Acca – This bet type will allow you to place several wagers on different horses in multiple events. The only way you can win an accumulator bet is by correctly predicting all of your selections. If one selection is incorrect, you will lose your entire bet.
- Trebles, Doubles, Four-Fold Accumulators – A double is essentially an accumulator bet with two selections, while a Treble is basically 3 selections as a single bet. If you decide to take 4 selections on a single wager, it’s called a Four-Fold Accumulator.
- Patent – This bet type consists of 7 wagers that involve 3 selections in several events. The wager includes 1 treble and 3 doubles.
- Yankee – This bet type consists of 11 wagers that involve 4 selections in several events. The wager includes an accumulator, 4 trebles, and 6 doubles.
- Lucky 15 – This bet type consists of 15 wagers that involve 4 selections in several events. The wager includes 1 four-fold, 4 trebles, 6 doubles, and 4 singles.
- Canadian/Super Yankee – This bet type consists of 26 wagers that involve 5 selections on several events. This wager includes an accumulator, 5 four-folds, 10 trebles, and 10 doubles.
- Lucky 31 – This bet type consists of 31 wagers that involve 5 selections on several events. This wager includes a five-fold accumulator, 5 four-folds, 10 trebles, 10 doubles, and 5 singles.
- Goliath – This bet type consists of 247 wagers that involve eight selections on several events. This wager includes 28 six-folds, an eight-fold accumulator, 8 seven-folds, 56 five-folds, 70 four-folds, 28 doubles, and 56 trebles.
- Straight Forecast – This bet type involves 2 selections in a single race where the selection needs to finish in first and second place in the order you selected.
- Reversed Forecast – This bet type involves 2 selections in a single race where the selection needs to finish first and second in any order.
- Combination Forecast – This bet type involves 3 or more selections in a single race where any 2 of the 3 selections need to finish in the top 2 positions in any order.
- Straight Tricasts – This bet type involves 3 selections in a single race to finish in first, second, and third in that order.
- Combination Tricasts – This bet type involves 3 or more selections on a single race that needs to finish first, second, and third in any order.
History of Horse Racing in the UK & Ireland
Horse racing can be traced back to 200 AD in Yorkshire, England where saddles were introduced to the sport 400 years later. In the beginning, the sport was rather slow and placed on hold due to bans that were placed on non-continental horses that were imported into the country. However, William Fitzstephen managed to document the very first horse race in 1174 in London at the horse fair in St. Bartholomew. The sport managed to grow quite rapidly over the next 300 years while King Henry VII was in power.
During the 16th century, the king passed several laws surrounding the breeding of horses and record keeping on this prestigious sport became far more substantial. In 1512, the first trophy was awarded in Chester, consisting of a wooden bat that was covered with flowers. In 1519, the oldest horse race occurred, known as the Kiplingcotes Derby.
Interest in horse racing peaked across the country, similar to how it expanded across the United States. However, during the 17th century, while Queen Elizabeth reigned, interested seemed to decline. Thankfully, this all changed in 1605 when James I managed to discover Newmarket, considered the home of horse racing in England. During 1622, the first horse race took place at Newmarket and £100 bet was made between the noblemen that owned the horses. In 1634, the first Gold Cup horse racing event took place at Newmarket and the season expanded to autumn and spring.
The Newmarket racetrack was initially established back in 1636. Following the establishment of the racecourse, several races occurred across the country where racers competed for silver bells. During this time, jockey’s weight were also measured. Things managed to really take off in the world of horse racing until Oliver Cromwell banned all horse racing in 1654. In 1664, horse racing was completely restored and the three foundation breeds made their way back to England. All thoroughbreds in the modern world can be tracked back to the original breeds, including Godolphin Barb, Darley Arabian, and Byerly Turk.
During the 18 century, the Royal Ascot was founded by Queen Anne and even to this very day, the opening of the horse race event is referred to as the Queen Anne Stakes. The Rules of Racing was established in 1750 and the Jockey Club applied these rules, considered the most exclusive social club at that time. In 1758, the first rule was passed that stated that all riders had to weigh themselves following a race. Horse racing witnessed a peak during the 18th century and 19th century, and the Oaks and Derby races were formed at Epsom thanks to Sir Charles Bunbury.
During the 19th century, the very first steeplechase races occurred that were organized in the 1830s by Tom Colman. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Grand National was also formed by William Lynn.
Horse Racing FAQ
The Queen Alexandra Stakes horse racing event is considered the longest race in Great Britain. This is a flat horse race that is open to horses that are 4 years or older. It occurs at Ascot that covers 2 miles, 143 yards, and 5 furlongs.
There are more than 10,000 events that take place on 60 different racecourses every year in Great Britain.
There are more than 2,000 events that take place on 26 different racecourses every year in Ireland.
The St. Leger, the Oaks Stakes, The Derby, and the Two Thousand Guineas along with the One Thousand Guineas.
Most horse races in the UK are anti-clockwise, or left-handed.