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How to Choose a Winner at the Races

Credit Carine06 via Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/43555660@N00/16744499564

It’s no secret that I love watching the racing and that I will often put some money on a horse I like. Although I never make huge amounts of money betting on the horses, 80% of the time I do at least cover my costs of my bets and sometimes also the price of my ticket/petrol/drinks etc. Because of this, I often get asked how I pick winners.

I always find this quite hard to answer, mainly because as much as I try to choose horses that will win, I’m not betting to win, I’m betting so that I’m invested in the outcome of the race and enjoy watching it more! It’s also important for me to mention here that it’s fairly rare for me to consistently pick winners, but I do tend to consistently pick placers, so with some good each way bets, I am able to make my money back!

However, after spending several hours this week during the Cheltenham Festival carefully selecting my horses, I have decided to write a post explaining how I go about picking my horses and give you my top tips!

Step 1: Scan the Race Card

The first thing I do for any race, is scan the names of the horses running. Although I certainly don’t have a broad knowledge of racing, there are horses I know and remember. So when I first start looking, I scan for any familiar names and racing silks. I will also look for any jockeys and trainers I know and like.

I will make a mental note of any horse/trainer/jockey I like. If they are a real favourite of mine, that might be enough for me to place my bet there and then!

Step 2: Scan the form

Racing form

Next I will have a quick look at each of the individual horses form. These are the ‘random’ numbers and letters next to or under the horses name. These numbers and letters represent how the horse has done in their latest races. The right is most recent. The numbers represent the horses place, ie: 1 = 1st, 5=5th etc.

P means pulled up, F means fell and U means unseated the jockey. – or / symbolises a new year.

In the form I am generally looking for horses which have won before or have better form than the rest of the field. But you need to remember that form isn’t everything as it doesn’t tell you how many horses were in the race, the length of the race or what level the race was!

Step 3: Read the comments 

By this time I usually have 2 or 3 horses I like. Now I will read the verdict (the text at the top of the race card.) This is a paragraph written by someone who knows what they are talking about! In this they give their opinion on the race and usually mention the favourites and horses they think can challenge them.


After this I will read the individual comments about the horses I am interested in. This is usually a sentence or two basically saying how good a chance this horse has at winning.


If you are using an online race card, such as the Racing Post, or a betting site, you can also see all other facts, stats and tips about the horses you can use to help make your decision. I personally don’t use these too often, unless I am struggling to pick between horses.

Another really useful tool I like is the Racing Post Predictor. This basically gives you a prediction on how the race might go. But especially in races with a lot of horses in, this wont show all the horses! So might not be too helpful!

Finally, if you are lucky enough to be at the races, go down to the parade ring and have a look at the horses! Is there anything which stands out to you as being strong and impressive? Is there anything which looks like it’s going to tire itself out before it gets to the track? Don’t ignore any instincts you get about the horses!

Step 4: Check the odds

The last thing I do is look at the odds. I will now have a few horses in mind and will look at their odds to decide which ones to put money on and how much. I personally won’t put money on anything less than 3/1 as I don’t think it’s worth the risk. Similarly, if something has really high odds, such as 250/1 when everything else is around the 7/1 mark, I might not bet on it, especially not in a big field!

My Top Tips

  • Don’t go for the favourite. Even if it wins, chances are the odds will be rubbish!
  • Go for Each Way bets. This means you will get money back if the horse comes 2nd or 3rd and possibly 4th and 5th in big races. Each way doubles your bet, but gives you more of a chance of getting some money back!
  • Learn/Remember horses, trainers and jockey names. It can help you make your choice.
  • Don’t bet on all the horses in the race. You won’t make any money.
  • Don’t take what the card/experts say as gospel. Racing is unpredictable. They are just giving you their opinion on how they think it will go.
  • Set yourself a limit of how much you can spend on each race. If you have a few wins then you can spend more.
  • Have fun! Get behind your horse and enjoy it!

Last Updated on 05/04/2019

1 thought on “How to Choose a Winner at the Races”

  1. Pingback: Get involved in the Grand National 2017 – EquiPepper

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