There are enough well known aphorisms with regard the difficulty of betting in general to make a beginner think it’s an exercise in futility. “You never see a bookie riding a bike” and “the only dead certs are in the grave” were two of my granddad’s favourites, whilst “it’s a mug’s game” is one favoured by disapproving relatives everywhere.

However, whilst it’s very difficult to make a living from betting, it’s not impossible… merely very difficult. For those not seeking to make a career of gambling though, having enough wins to make the occasional bit of extra money and having some fun doing it should be well within your grasp (especially with our top horse racing tips). So read on for some pointers for picking the winners.

Study the Form

race cardHorse racing is blessed with a wealth of stats and information on past races that theoretically help in discerning which horse is likely to win. Of course, the odds will usually reflect the most obvious indicators, but if you are prepared to put the time in and look at a wide variety of information you could just have the edge and find some value.

Some of the most important factors to look at are the horse’s recent performances (their finishing position in previous races are indicated by a series of numbers on the card, so 1121 shows three wins and a second in the last four); the weight the horse is carrying as a handicap and how that compares to previous races and results (if a handicap race); the class of the race; the form of the trainer; past performances over similar distances in similar conditions and past performance at the particular course.

Of course, being the major factors those are the ones most featured into the odds, both through the bookies original pricing and also the market reaction to them. If you can find out a lesser known fact, perhaps that although the horse finished fifth last time it had a slight injury, or that it has improved its jumping since the last race, then you could be in a position to cash in. The bookies do not always know it all and by doing as much research as possible you can gain that all important edge. 

For more information on reading a race card, see this guide.

Watch The Odds: Steamers and Drifters

Whilst this may sound like a band from the 60s to the uninitiated, backing steamers at the right time can be a good way to profit. Also known as following the money, this tactic relies on following moves in the market on the basis that they are an indication of inside knowledge. Whilst no guarantee it’s a lot easier than pouring over sheets of stats and reels of past races.

The logic is that if a horse goes from 18/1 down to 12/1 it could well be that the owners, trainers or just eagle-eyed punters have good reason to believe it will win and have been backing it heavily. If you get on quickly enough you may get some value at 12/1 before it gets backed in any lower.

This is akin to buying shares in a company if a key director or investor does the same after finding out some key information before the rest of the world does – though obviously such insider trading doesn’t go in the in world of finance!

Following the market is by no means a fool-proof methodology but it will often at least give you a decent value bet. In case you were wondering what drifters are, they’re the opposite, a horse whose price is getting bigger. Again, the logic isn’t always right and they may win…but I wouldn’t bet on it!

Tipster/Subscription Services

There are no end of websites offering betting tips for a monthly fee and claiming they have proven records. But ask yourself this: if you had winning betting tips that you claim to guarantee profit, wouldn’t you just bet on them, rather than share the information with others to make money? Almost all of these services are doomed to failure in the long-term and the best you may get is other peoples’ scraps – that is to say the tips they have already backed at a higher price. In this instance you are getting lower odds and therefore, over time, will lose out.

In summary then, do your homework, know what you’re betting on and, ultimately, cross your fingers. Good luck!