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Ian Bruce

Want to know how to bet on horses in a few simple steps?

  1. Choose a reliable online betting site.
  2. Open an account and make a deposit.
  3. Explore the betting markets and make your selection.
  4. Enter your stake and submit the bet.

It’s as simple as that!

That’s the short answer. In this guide, we’ll go into a lot more detail and provide you with all the information you need to get started. We’ll discuss the various bets that you can make, the best places to bet safely, and how to do it – step-by-step. We’ll even give you some tips to help you increase your chances of winning.

Why Bet on Horse Racing?

Horse racing is one of the most popular sports for betting in the UK. Every year there are thousands of races being run (around 10,000 per year, according to official BHA statistics). And there are multiple betting markets available for each one. That gives those who bet on horses a plethora of opportunities to land a winning wager.

Another reason why betting on horses is so popular is that it can be as easy or challenging as you want it to be. At the easy end of the scale, you can concentrate on picking horses to win or get a place. Or, if you want a much stiffer challenge, you can try and pick the winner of every race at a particular meeting, or predict which horses will occupy the first three places, and in what order.

And then there’s convenience. When you know how to place a bet on a horse race online, you can enjoy the hobby without ever setting foot in a betting shop. Instead, you can do it from the comfort of your own home, and many people do. In fact, wagering on horse racing online is fast becoming one of the most common ways to bet these days.

How to Bet on Horses Online

Having explained the appeal of betting on horse races in the UK, it’s time to discuss how to bet on horses in detail. The process of signing up with a bookmaker and making a bet is actually quite simple. Here’s our step-by-step guide to get you started:

1. Choose a Horse Racing Betting Site

The first thing you need to do is choose a bookmaker to bet with. Visit our best horse racing betting sites page, and you’ll find plenty of information about the safest, most reliable, and most feature-packed sites available. For now, choose one that you’d like to get started with. You can always join additional sites later if you want to.

2. Sign Up for an Account

Next, visit your chosen betting site and look for a button labelled Sign Up, Join or something similar. For example, at Paddy Power, you’ll see a Join Now button in the top right corner of the screen.

Paddy Power Join Now


Tap that button, and it will open a simple registration form. Enter the details requested, which will include your name, email address, date of birth, and so on, and submit the application.

Paddy Power Registration


Assuming that you are old enough to bet in the UK (which means 18 or older) an account will be set up for you on the spot.

3. Make a Deposit

The next step is to make a deposit so that you have some cash to bet with. Log in to your new betting site account and head to the banking area. There you’ll be able to choose a payment method that suits you (debit cards are most commonly accepted).

Enter your payment details and the amount that you want to deposit, and in most cases, the transaction will be completed in a matter of seconds.

4. Explore the Horse Racing Betting Markets

You can now visit the Horse Racing section of your betting site and explore the races and markets available. Even on the quietest of days, you’ll usually have at least a dozen races to choose from, and often a lot more.

Paddy Power Horse Betting Markets


Click on any race, and a new page will open to show you all of the markets that are available to bet on.

5. Pick a Horse and Place Your Bet

When you find a horse that you want to bet on, simply click on it, and it will be added to a virtual betting slip. This will normally appear on the right-hand side of the screen, but it can also appear as a smaller pop-up window.

Paddy Power Bet Slip


Enter the amount that you want to stake, check the details to make sure they’re all as you want them to be, and then submit the bet. Your stake will then be deducted from your account. Winnings will be added to your account automatically after the race if your bet succeeds.

Common Ways to Bet on Horses

Although horse racing is a very straightforward sport, the best online bookmakers still manage to give us an impressive variety of ways to bet on it. Here are some of the most common horse race betting markets and what they involve.

Win Only

Betting on horse races doesn’t get any simpler than it is in this market. Your task here is to select one horse to win its race. If your horse wins, so will your bet. Of course, if the horse loses, your bet will also lose. The payout you’ll get from a win-only bet will be your stake multiplied by the odds taken. If you aren’t familiar with this concept, use our free Single Bet Calculator to work out your returns quickly and easily.

Each Way

While the each-way bet is a little more complicated than a win-only, it actually makes it easier for you to get a return. That’s because it comprises two bets. One is a win-only bet, as just described. The other is a place-only bet, which pays out if your horse gets a place. A £5 each-way bet would therefore cost you £10 in total.

If your horse wins the race, both parts of the bet will win, because a win also counts as first place. If the horse doesn’t win, but it still gets a place (such as second or third) only the place part of the bet will pay out. You can learn how to work out a bet on the horses each way – or get it done automatically – by visiting our Each Way Bet Calculator page.

Betting each way is commonly regarded as the best way to bet on horses for beginners, as it gives you the best possible chance of getting a return.


A Straight Forecast bet is a lot more difficult to win with than a win-only or each-way bet. That’s because you need to pick the two horses that you think will finish in first and second place. And you need to pick them in the right order. A Reverse Forecast bet will win if your two horses finish in first and second place in either order. That’s only because it covers both possibilities in two bets. The payout for a successful forecast will depend on the Starting Price of the two horses involved and will be published when the race result is officially declared.


A Tricast bet works in much the same way as a Forecast, but here you need to select the three horses that you think will finish in first, second and third place. Again, you also need to get those horses in the right order for the bet to win.

If you want to cover your three horses for all finishing order possibilities, then you can do so with a Combination Tricast. This costs six bets because there are six ways of ordering three horses. A £1 Combination Tricast would therefore cost £6.

Tricasts are harder to win with than Forecasts, but they pay out more when they succeed. As with a Forecast, payouts are determined by the odds of the horses involved and are published when the result of the race has been declared.

Multiple Bets

Another way of betting is by making selections in several races and then placing them in a multiple bet to cover them for doubles, trebles, and so on. One of the most popular multiple bets for horse racing is the Lucky 15. This costs 15 bets (30 if you bet each way) and it lets you pick one horse in each of four races. The Lucky 15 will then cover those selections for singles, doubles, trebles and one fourfold accumulator. Should you ever place this type of bet, you’ll want to use our Lucky 15 Bet Calculator to work out your winnings.

Pool Betting

The betting markets just described can be found at all online bookmakers in the UK. However, there are other types of bets that you will only find at the Tote betting site. Those are pool betting markets, where stakes are pooled together and then divided between those who land winning bets.

With pool betting, you can bet on horses to win or place. You can also bet on the first two horses past the post (Exacta or Reverse Exacta), or the first three past the post (Trifecta or Combination Trifecta).

There are other bets that are more unique to pool betting. For example, the Tote Placepot is a bet that requires you to pick a horse to place in the first six races at a particular meeting. If you’re even more ambitious, the Tote Jackpot can give you a big payout for a modest stake if you can pick the winner of the first six races at the featured meeting.

Betting on the Tote certainly has its merits. However, if you’re only just learning how to bet on horses UK bettors should focus on the fixed odds markets discussed in the previous sections of this horse betting guide.

Horse Racing Betting Tips for Beginners

You’ve learned how to bet on horses, but that’s not quite the same as knowing how to bet on horses and win. For that reason, we’ll now give you some tips that will help you to improve your chances of picking a few winners. They don’t guarantee success, of course, but they will definitely put you on the right track.

✅Focus on Easier Races

Horse racing is a varied sport, and the most important thing to learn is that some races are easier than others – at least as far as picking winners is concerned. Non-handicaps are easier than handicaps, and the fewer runners there are, the more likely you are to pick the one that wins. That being the case, our first tip is to focus on non-handicap races with 12 runners or less.

This is just a rule of thumb, of course. We should also say that races which offer particularly high amounts of prize money to the trainers of the winning horses will usually be more competitive than those with lesser prizes. Bear this in mind and focus on day-to-day races at smaller meetings rather than high-profile races. You can always tackle races at big meetings like the Cheltenham Festival when you have a few winners under your belt.

✅Follow the Favourites

Bookmakers set their odds – at least initially – according to how they assess the chances of each horse winning a particular race. And they aren’t fools. If a bookie offers huge odds of 66/1 about a horse, it’s because they don’t have any faith in its ability to win (see Betting Odds Explained for more information). That’s why we recommend focusing your attention on the horses at the opposite end of the market.

If you were to bet on market favourites blindly, you would win around 30 to 35% of the time. You can increase that strike rate further by also focusing on easier races (as discussed a moment ago) and by following our next tip. We aren’t saying that you should only bet on the clear favourite, of course. But you’d do well to concentrate on the first four or five horses in the betting.

✅Assess the Form

As we’ve just said, bookies base their odds on their own study of the horses involved in a race. Now you must make your own assessment. Look at how the horses performed in their previous races. If one has won its last two races by a country mile and the others haven’t finished better than sixth place, the habitual winner would obviously be a better bet.

Of course, things are rarely that straightforward, but you get the idea. Focus on horses that have a proven ability to win or go close rather than hoping that those with poor form will suddenly raise their game. Past performance is no guarantee of the future, as the saying goes, but it’s still the best guide that we have.

✅Grab the Best Odds

Getting the best odds when you make your wagers is essential if you want to learn how to bet on horse racing effectively. The bigger the odds you can get for your selection, the more you will win if the bet succeeds. It really is that straightforward.

One of the easiest ways of getting the best odds is by signing up with several different betting sites. That will let you see what prices are being offered for each race you consider. You can then bet with the most generous bookie in each case.

The most serious bettors make grabbing the best odds the cornerstone of their hobby. In fact, it can be one of the most effective horse racing betting strategies around. You can find out more in our Value Betting guide.

Mistakes to Avoid When Betting on Horses

Now that we’ve shared our tips on the best way to bet on horses, it makes sense for us to also highlight three of the most common mistakes that are made by beginners. Being aware of these at the outset will help you to avoid accidentally making the same mistakes yourself.

❌Staking Without a Plan

Many beginners start betting with no clear idea of how much they should bet on their selections. Instead, they stake according to however they happen to feel at the time. They might bet £5 on one race, £20 on the next, £8 on the next, and so on. That isn’t an approach that leads to success.

To avoid this mistake, set aside a fixed sum of money for betting on horse racing. Then bet only a predetermined part of that bankroll on each race. For example, you could set aside £100 and bet £2 or £5 per race so that the bankroll would fund at least 50 or 20 bets, respectively.

❌Betting On Every Race

Betting on horse racing can be a lot of fun. We get it. But there’s rarely a good reason for betting on every single race, every day of the week. You might be lucky and catch one or two extra winners, but you’ll also catch way more losers. Make this mistake, and you’ll tear through your bankroll in no time.

❌Being Overambitious

There are lots of beginners who place ambitious bets such as forecasts, tricast and multiples, right from the start. That’s usually because they are seduced by the big potential payouts that those types of bets offer. But those types of bets are also the easiest to lose with.

In the beginning, avoid being overambitious. Focus on simple win-only or each-way bets, and you’re much more likely to enjoy your first taste of success.

Where to Bet On Horses Online

You know how to place a bet on horse racing, but where should you bet? While most online bookmakers in the UK offer horse racing markets, it’s important that you use a reputable and reliable company. Good examples are Bet365, Betfair, Paddy Power, and BetVictor.


What is the best way to bet on horses?

What is the best horse bet for a beginner?

How do I place a bet on a horse?

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Ian Bruce

Ian Bruce joined Safest Betting Sites in 2024 as Senior Sports Editor to oversee the quality and usefulness of its gambling content. He originally developed an interest in betting after landing a winning Yankee on his first attempt. He then spent years figuring out how to replicate that success. Along the way, he became one of the UK’s leading writers on the topic of betting and gaming. Ian’s career has now spanned more than three decades, and his enthusiasm for systematic and responsible betting hasn’t waned one bit. However, his preferred approach to winning these days is Dutching, for the simple reason that “It’s a lot easier than landing Yankees.”