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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Five Things You Should Always Consider Before Placing a Horse Racing Bet

There is nothing quite like the buzz of watching a horse race when you have money riding on the outcome. Placing a bet has the ability to transform the race into a thrilling event, but actually selecting a horse from the field can be a daunting prospect for newcomers. You really should study the form of each runner before laying down your hard-earned cash, ensuring that you are making an educated guess from a position of knowledge. These are the five key things that you should always look at before placing a horse racing bet:

The Going

This describes the condition of the ground at the racecourse on a particular day. In summer the going is often firm due to a lack of rain. A dry surface allows the horses to run faster and this is generally when you will see the quickest race times. If a course has been battered by rain over a considerable period of time you will find the going to be heavy. This provides a real test of each horse’s stamina, as the wet ground is much harder to run on. Heavy going is alternatively referred to as a bog or as sloppy. In between firm and heavy, you will find good to firm, good, good to soft and soft.

The going matters because different horses thrive on different surfaces. Some hate heavy going and they will often be withdrawn from a race if there has been too much rain. Others positively relish it: Bristol De Mai loves running in the slop and has secured some impressive victories after rainy spells. First you need to check what the ground is like at a racecourse on the day you want to place your bet, and then you must investigate how well each runner has fared in similar conditions. Tipsters will often help you out, but it is good to arm yourself with as much information as possible before placing a wager.

Form of the Runners

You can pore over a form guide of the runners before placing a bet on a particular race. A horse’s form relates to the results it has secured. You should study current form and overall form. Check out how well a horse has fared in his or her last few races, noting the quality of the race, the calibre of rivals faced, the distance and of course the going in each run.

If a horse has won its last three races then it is likely to be an appealing choice. However, it is not that simple. It might have won those three races at Group 3 level, and it is now stepping up to a more challenging Group 1 race and taking on more dangerous rivals. It might have won those three races over a particular distance and now it is stepping up in trip to run over a longer distance. It might have won when the going was soft, but now it is firm.

Ideally you want to find evidence of a horse flourishing over a similar distance and in similar conditions. You will often note that runners in a particular race have locked horns before, so you should bear in mind who prevailed.

You should also compare current form to overall form. If a horse has run poorly over its last few races, but it has a strong overall record, it could simply be a glitch. You can often enjoy your greatest successes as a punter by identifying horses that are in poor form but have the potential to rediscover past magic. Bristol De Mai was struggling for form and went off at 13/2 to win the 2018 Betfair Chase, but ended up surging to victory.

You should also check to see how long it is since the horse’s last race, as you need to bear in mind fatigue and rustiness. If it is a big race, you will also be able to access a wealth of statistical information about the type of horse that generally secures victory, including age and form.

Course Record of the Runners

It is worth noting that some horses thrive at particular courses and struggle at others. In fact, it is common to see horses consistently running well at some courses but flopping elsewhere. If a runner has secured a victory over a similar distance at that course before then it becomes an appealing choice.

Most horses have a preferred distance, so you should always pay close attention to runners that are stepping up or down in distance. It is also advisable to take a close look at horses that are stepping up or down in class, but course record is an equally important consideration. You should also check out the form of the jockey and the trainer, as some have a great record at particular courses or meeting.

Best Odds on Offer

You should always shop around for the best odds before betting on a particular horse. Rival bookmakers often price up a race differently and you can net yourself a much higher potential profit by hunting out the most attractive odds. For example, you might see a horse priced at 3/1 by one bookmaker, 10/3 by another, 7/2 by a third bookie and 4/1 by another. If you are placing a £50 bet, you will stand to earn a £200 profit as opposed to £150 by going to the bookmaker offering 4/1 instead of the bookmaker offering 3/1. This can ultimately be the difference between generating an overall profit or a loss as on a given day.

You can use odds comparison sites in order to see which bookies offer the best prices on a race. You will eventually notice a pattern whereby two or three sites typically offer market-leading odds. Some bookmakers, such as, consistently offer generous odds, so it is advisable to sign up for an online account with them. This will allow you to earn an extra profit on successful bet, and that can really add up over time.

Place Terms

Many punters simply stick to betting on which horse will win a particular race, but there are alternative options at your disposal. You can look at forecasts and tricasts, for example. A great option is the each-way bet. This essentially sees your stake divided in half. If you bet £10 each-way on a horse, £10 will go on it winning the race and £10 will go on it placing, resulting in an overall stake of £20. Placing means finishing in either the top two, three or four places, depending on how many runners there are in the race. You will be informed of the place terms before putting on a bet.

If it is a small field of runners, only the top two finishers will count for an each-way bet. If it is a huge field you might be paid out if your horse finishes third or fourth. Some bookmakers even pay out on the top five finishers at the Grand National due to the size of the field. The place terms will also indicate the fraction of the odds you will be paid if the horse places.

Let’s say you fancy a horse Dutch Delight to win the Champion Hurdle at odds of 10/1, and the place terms are a fifth of the odds on the top three places. If he you bet £10 each-way and he finishes third, you will make a £10 profit. This is because the win part of your bet would fail, but the place part of your bet would pay off. You would gain a fifth of the odds, and a fifth of 10/1 is 10/5, or 2/1. A £10 bet at 2/1 would winnings of £20. You would get your £10 stake back too, resulting in a return of £30 and a profit of £10.

If Dutch Delight won the race, both the win and the place parts of your bet would pay off. You would have £10 at 10/1, which results in a £100 profit, and £10 at 10/5 on the place, resulting in a £20 profit. That would leave a total profit of £120 and a return of £140, as you get both parts of your stake back.

You should always check the place terms before putting on an each-way bet. Sometimes you will see a quarter of the odds on the top four, and at other times it is a fifth of the odds on the top three, or a quarter of the odds on the top four. If bookmakers are paying a quarter of the odds, you will earn a profit if the odds assigned to your horse are greater than 4/1 and it places. If bookmakers are paying a fifth of the odds, you will earn a profit if the odds assigned to your horse are greater than 5/1 and it places.


Horse racing, especially National Hunt racing, is notoriously unpredictable. The Grand National, of which there have been five winners at 100/1, is the most notorious of all, but other prestigious races, such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle, have also featured winners at 33/1, 50/1 and 100/1.

However, the longest-priced winner in British horse racing history came not in a high-profile, ‘championship’ race, but rather in the Grants Whisky Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, an otherwise non-descript event run over 2 miles 6 furlongs at Kelso on November 21, 1990. The winner that day was Equinoctial, who was returned at a starting price of 250/1.

Equinoctial had won a maiden point-to-point at Askeaton in Co. Limerick in February, 1990, when trained by Eric McNamara, but had already passed through the hands of Michael Hourigan and Michael Dods before making his debut, as a five-year-old, for Norman Miller in a novices’ chase at Perth the following September. Sent off 10/1 third choice of the seven runners, he was tailed off as early as the fourth of the eighteen fences and pulled up well before halfway.

On his next start, in another novices’ chase at Southwell a month later, he fell at the first and jumped badly when again tailed off and pulled up at Catterick two weeks later. So, after three starts, and three non-completions, over regulation fences, Equinoctial was put back over hurdles – a sphere in which he had previously finished last of fourteen on his only previous attempt at Ballinrobe two years earlier – at Hexham two weeks later. Ridden for the first time by conditional jockey Andrew Heywood, who claimed 7lb, he did at least complete the course, albeit a respectful 62 lengths behind the winner, Tranquil Waters.

Two weeks later, Equinoctial and Heywood tried again, at Kelso, but with no worthwhile form under Rules and racing from 15lb out of the handicap proper, the gelding was, justifiably, given no earthly chance by the bookmakers. Nevertheless, under 9st 7lb, Equinoctial chased the leaders from the fourth-last flight of hurdles and stayed on under pressure to lead on the run-in and win by 3½ lengths. Aside from a place in the history books, his prize for doing so was just £2,385.

Monday, 21 October 2019

John Francome

John Francome was christened “Greatest Jockey” by erstwhile Channel 4 colleague John McCririck and, while he wasn’t, numerically, the greatest jockey of all time, he was the third most successful in the history of National Hunt racing in Britain. His career total of 1,138 winners, which was a record at the time of his retirement in April, 1985, pales by modern standards, by the fact remains that Francome won the jockeys’ championship seven times; only Peter Scudamore and Sir Anthony McCoy have won more.

Certainly one of the finest jockeys this country has ever produced, Francome also became known for his frankness and relaxed, irreverent sense of a humour. He was never one to take anyone, including himself, too seriously. At a press lunch, he once dubbed Jockey Club stewards ‘Cabbage Patch Kids’ and variously claimed that he rode mainly for the money and that one of the reasons for his sudden retirement, at the age of 32, was that he was fed up with always being hungry.

Francome has the dubious honour of being ‘the best jockey never to win the Grand National’, but he did win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, once, on Midnight Court, in 1978. Trained at Uplands Stables in Upper Lambourn, Berkshire by Fred Winter – whom Francome joined, straight from school, as a 16-year-old apprentice and remained with throughout his career – Midnight Court was a well-fancied 5/2 chance by the time the ‘Blue Riband’ event was run, in April, after being postponed due to snow. Nevertheless, his easy 7-length win over Brown Lad came over something of a relief to Francome, after tabloid allegations of wrongdoing as a result of his friendship with bookmaker John Banks.

Another vintage Francome moment came in the Champion Hurdle in 1981. On that occasion, Francome rode Sea Pigeon, trained by Peter Easterby, who was sent off 7/4 favourite after winning the race the previous year. Although Sea Pigeon was an 11-year-old, in an act of derring do, rode him for a turn of foot, delaying his challenge until halfway up the run-in, before sprinting away to win cosily under hands and heels.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Looking ahead to Champions Day at Ascot

With the smell of autumn in the air and the days rapidly getting shorter, you could be forgiven for thinking that the high days of the horse racing season are behind us. True, the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and the Grand National are distant memories. But there is still one important event to come, and it’s at the most famous horse racing venue of them all.

A Royal Event

Champions Day is a relatively new meeting, having been created in 2011 to bring the British flat racing season to a dramatic conclusion. However, it is nevertheless steeped in history, as it brings together several historic races that were previously run at Ascot and Newmarket. 

The showpiece event is the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, a race that has been won by some of the most iconic names in the sport, and has always been the season-closer at Ascot. However, it would be reasonable to say that Champions Day really has two headline races, as the Champion Stakes has just as high a profile, and prior to 2011 was the main event at Newmarket. 

What’s happening this year?

This year, Ascot racecourse will be hosting Champions Day on 19 October. Gates open at 10:30AM, and then it is all action, with the following six races run between 1:30 and 5:00:

  • 1:30PM: British Champions Long Distance Cup

  • 2:10PM: British Champions Sprint

  • 2:45PM: British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes

  • 3:20PM: Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

  • 4:00PM: Champion Stakes

  • 4:45PM: Balmoral Handicap

There is always a festival atmosphere on Champions Day, and this year will be no exception. If you decide to attend, stay around for the after party, which this year, will be headlined by the inimitable Basement Jaxx.

Past winners

The most famous winner in the eight year history of Champions Day is Frankel. The legendary gelding was a favourite in every sense of the word among horse race betting enthusiasts, with a career that saw him unbeaten in his 14-race career. That included winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at the first ever Champions Day in 2011 and coming back the following year to win the Champion Stakes and officially retire undefeated. 

Last year, Roaring Lion was a popular winner in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, winning his fourth Group One race of the season before retiring to stud at the end of the year. Tragically, it was not to be a long retirement and he died of colic in August of this year. 

The Champion Stakes has been won the past two years in succession by Frankie Dettori and Cracksman. Like Finkel before him, Cracksman bade a fond farewell to thousands of fans at the end of the race and retired a winner. 

The stuff of legends

In its eight year history, Champions Day has already been the scene of some of flat racing’s most memorable moments. A record 32,000 people turned out to see Frankel’s crowning glory, and the event has been well attended ever since. If you love flat racing, Champions Day is something you just can’t afford to miss.