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Horse Racing Guide – Everything You Need to Know

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They call horse racing the sport of kings but it’s actually for everyone. A day at the races brings people from all parts of society together in one place. In this handy horse racing guide, SportsLens covers all the basics you need to know.

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Results in Horse Racing

As with any sport, it’s a results driven business that keeps racehorse owners and punters interested, and trainers and jockeys employed. How they prepare and ride the equine athletes on the track can make or break chances of winning. Every single one of the top bookies in the UK pays attention to horse racing results for one very simple reason. These influence the odds for future races.

Win a race and a horse could be stepping up to higher levels of opposition. Run well in defeat and they could be one to keep onside for next time. Following results in horse racing is thus very important. It’s just a matter of can it be taken literally. Was a horse lucky to win? It may have been if a rival couldn’t get a clear run out of the chasing pack until it was too late. You can always mark horses up based on how strong they are at the finish. That’s what the best betting sites often do when pricing up markets.

Depending on the number of runners, horse racing results will always show you at least the winner. If there are five, six or seven horses competing, then an official result shows first and second. For eight or more, then it’s the first, second and third displayed. Results include the Starting Prices (SPs) of the horses in the money. When betting on the races, getting the Best Odds Guaranteed, which gives you this if it’s bigger odds than those you took, always helps. View the latest and past results in horse racing right here.

Horse Racing Cards

Reading a race card when you’re at the course or on horse racing betting sites might seem difficult at first. Once you get to grips with it and understand everything, then it’s different. The trainer, jockey and even owners sometimes are displayed below or next to the horse’s name. Each runner has a number on horse racing cards that you’ll find matches the one on the saddlecloth.

If it’s a handicap race, then the higher the number indicates the closer to the top of the weights a horse is. In conditions races, meanwhile, the horses may be off level weights and are thus listed in alphabetical order on the card with the exception of fillies and mares who come at the end. Some cards even show the past form figures of the horses. The most recent run shows last in the sequence of letters and numbers.

Detailed race cards display the number of days since the horse had its last race. The current or forecast betting odds may also appear. This allows you to see what the market expectations are about their chances. We’ll have more about the odds in horse racing below, so check out today’s race cards on all the UK action:

Horse Racing Calendar

With the sport dating back centuries in some parts of the world, there is a well-established annual horse racing calendar today. This ensures there is something going on somewhere across the globe pretty much every day of the year. This isn’t football with an off-season. Races happen all the time, even on Christmas Day in certain countries!

Adverse weather like torrential rain causing the course to become waterlogged or frost leaving the track frozen means events can be abandoned during the winter months. Extreme heat has also led to races stopping because of concerns for equine welfare. If there isn’t a cold snap, downpour or a heatwave, then most meetings go ahead. Ground staff at racecourses often water turf tracks over the summer, so the going doesn’t become too firm underneath the grass.

If you’d like to learn more about the horse racing calendar, then there is more on the big events in the sport below. You can also see what the daily schedule of races looks like here. This lets you see what is happening when with all the latest meetings and any betting available.

Big Horse Racing Events in 2022

With so many years, decades and even centuries of history behind certain horse racing events around the world, the annual programme has some major meetings and Festivals. These each have their place in different months as part of wider journeys. For example, Cheltenham betting reaches fever pitch for jumps racing fans in March. Some are big horse racing events in their own right, while others fit into the bigger global pattern. Win at Royal Ascot, for instance, and a horse could have a Breeders Cup invite.

What sets horse racing events apart from other sports is there are major meetings and races on every single month of the year. They may not be in the UK or Ireland but somewhere on Planet Earth a valuable and/or prestigious race takes place. The table below details the 25 biggest events in this sport, when and where they happen, so you know about them:

Horse Racing Events Country Racecourse Type of Horse Racing When
Pegasus World Cup USA Gulfstream Park Flat Dirt January
Dublin Racing Festival Ireland Leopardstown National Hunt February
Saudi Cup Saudi Arabia Riyadh Flat Turf & Dirt February
Cheltenham Festival UK Cheltenham National Hunt March
Dubai World Cup UAE Meydan Flat Turf & Dirt March
Grand National UK Aintree National Hunt April
Punchestown Festival Ireland Punchestown National Hunt April
Kentucky Derby USA Churchill Downs Flat Dirt May
Guineas Weekend UK Newmarket Flat Turf May
Preakness Stakes USA Pimlico Flat Dirt May
Derby Festival UK Epsom Downs Flat Turf June
Belmont Stakes USA Belmont Park Flat Dirt June
Royal Ascot UK Ascot Flat Turf June
July Festival UK Newmarket Flat Turf July
Glorious Goodwood UK Goodwood Flat Turf July
Ebor Festival UK York Flat Turf August
St Leger UK Doncaster Flat Turf September
Irish Champions Weekend Ireland Leopardstown & Curragh Flat Turf September
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe France ParisLongchamp Flat Turf October
QIPCO British Champions Day UK Ascot Flat Turf October
Melbourne Cup Australia Flemington Flat Turf November
Breeders Cup USA Different every year Flat Turf & Dirt November
Winter Carnival UK Newbury National Hunt November
King George VI Chase UK Kempton Park National Hunt December
Christmas Festival Ireland Leopardstown National Hunt December

Odds in Horse Racing

There isn’t another sport anywhere in the world as intimately connected to odds and betting as racing horses. Whole forms of gambling like parimutuel and Tote betting have been invented just because they apply to this. With fixed odds markets and betting exchanges developed online, it has never been easier to find and therefore understand this.

There are many different bet types but odds are an expression of implied probability. The price of Evens, or even-money, means this is at 50 per cent. In other words, if the same race with the exact same horses running over the same distance in the same conditions were run twice, the horse with that price would win it at least once. There are two main popular ways of expressing odds in horse racing – using either decimal or fractional prices.

Fractions see you divide the top number by the bottom when calculating profit. For example, the price 3/1 or 3-1, wins £3 for every £1 wagered. The total return here is £4, because you need to add in the stake that you get back too. With decimal odds, meanwhile, you simply multiply the stake by the decimal number when calculating what you receive. Expressing a price this way means 3/1 the fraction becomes 4.00 the decimal. Try our odds calculator which takes all the hassle out of betting prices.

Tips on Horse Racing Today

There are a lot of so-called experts and tipsters out there, claiming to have all the answers. Some search simply for winners, no matter how short a price their betting tips are. Others look for value, knowing that favourites in horse racing are beaten on average around two-thirds of the time. So many opinions and so many horses running. How do you know who to trust?

That is the trouble with tips on horse racing today – there are too many voices competing to be heard. From Timeform to Templegate and the Racing Post to any number of whimsically named tipsters in the national press and online, it’s a crowded marketplace. Nobody is right all the time, so horse racing tips come with absolutely no guarantees but consulting trusted experts is part and parcel of the sport.

Here at SportsLens, we have our own tipsters that follow the horses very closely. They aren’t always right either but they make logical, stats or form based selections every day on all the horse racing action taking place. Sometimes, just reading the reasons and case behind why they fancy horses helps you understand better. You can see their latest horse racing tips in full below:

Latest Horse Racing Tips

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Horse Racing Terms

Just like any sport, there are horse racing betting terms and industry jargon that you need to know. Understanding it will help open this world up to you, whether you’re watching on the TV, placing a bet or enjoying a day out at the races. We asked our experts for a list of key horse racing terms so that beginners and novices can begin learning:

  • All Weather – Horse races that don’t take place on turf or dirt but artificial surfaces like Polytrack, such as Kempton Park and Lingfield Park; and Tapeta, like Southwell and Wolverhampton.
  • Betslip – The physical slip of paper or digital equivalent where you write desired horses to bet on. If you’re at the course, then keep this as you need to hand it in to the bookmaker you had the wager with to collect your winnings!
  • Bumper – Colloquial term for a National Hunt Flat race. There are no obstacles for the horses to jump but this Flat race takes place under National Hunt Rules. Most bumpers are over about two miles, but junior events can be as short as a mile-and-a-half. In Ireland, there are extended bumpers up to two-and-a-half miles.
  • Classics – There are five prestigious Flat horse races in the UK ran for many decades with significance for the future of the thoroughbred. These are called at the Classics. The races are open to three-year-old colts and/or fillies only. They are the 1000 and 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, Epsom Oaks and Epsom Derby and the St Leger at Doncaster.
  • Dirt – Popular in the USA, dirt horse races take place with no turf or grass on the track. Going ranges from fast to sloppy. Dirt races can be over a very short distance of half-a-mile with few beyond a mile-and-a-half.
  • Flat – Horse races that don’t take place over jumps are called Flat races. These can be on turf, dirt of the All Weather. Races range from five furlongs up to beyond two-and-a-half miles.
  • Furlong – A unit of distance for horse races in the UK and Ireland. This is one-eighth of a mile. In Europe, the USA and beyond, metres are the unit of measurement for race distances. Roughly speaking, five furlongs is about 1,000m (1km).
  • Going – An official description of the ground on the day of the races. This can change as the meeting progresses, especially if there is a wind drying the track out or rain falling onto the course. A going stick and how far it goes into the ground is used to measure this by the Clerk of the Course.
  • Handicap – The majority of horse races are run as handicaps. An official assessment of each horse’s ability by race organisers relates to their allotted weight. The highest rated horse in a race carries the heaviest weight and frames the handicap for others.
  • Headgear – Trainers can use various pieces of tack to go on or around a horse’s head to help them in races. Cheekpieces and blinkers help eliminate distractions. Hoods can be worn whilst parading in the paddock and then taken off for a race if necessary.
  • Hurdle – A race where horses jump hurdles. These are usually birch panels but can also be fixed in place at some racecourses. Hurdles are smaller than steeplechase fences. Races range in distance from about two miles to three-and-a-quarter miles.
  • Non-runner – If a horse doesn’t come under starter’s orders after being declared for a race, then they are a non-runner. This can happen for any number of reasons including injury, unsuitable going, vet’s advice or refusing to enter the stalls.
  • Photo Finish – When the naked eye of the judge cannot call the winner of a horse race, they use a photo finish. A camera takes a picture of horses crossing the winning line. If the judge cannot separate two or more horses from a photo finish, then the race is a dead heat.
  • Stalls – In Flat and dirt races, horses come out of narrow stalls or starting gates. This is to try and ensure a level break at the beginning of the race.
  • Steeplechase – Often shortened to chase, these races see horses jump fences. These obstacles also made of birch are taller than hurdles. Races range in distance from about two miles to beyond four miles.
  • Turf – Turf races take place on courses covered with grass. Going ranges from firm to heavy.

Horse Racing News

Whether it’s the Cheltenham Gold Cup entries or the Grand National weights, keeping up to date with what’s happening in the world of horse racing is important. We’re not just talking about following results but trainer quotes and jockey interviews. Knowing what the people who matter think about a horse’s performance can tell you so much more.

That is where horse racing news comes in. Just think of it as being like following your favourite football team. Studying the weights or a release of entries can help you with any ante post betting you may be thinking of doing for an early closing race. This information is out there in the public domain, available to you and everyone else. That is really helpful, so SportsLens is proud to have its own section packed full of news, previews and tips on all the big events in this sport.

Conclusion

That’s a wrap for our horse racing guide. All the basics from key terms to odds, events, results and cards have been covered on this very page. You can be the envy of all of your friends by knowing more than the average person about this great sport enjoyed all over the world.

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Jamie Clark (@JamieClarkSport) edited Coral bookmakers’ digital platforms for a number of years with great success before forging a successful freelance career as a tipster. Growing up in an equine environment, Jamie is never afraid to take on the favourite and focuses on value. He is now sourcing you winners at SportsLens from the best of the British and Irish horse racing action.