How to research horse racing and pick a winning horse

There are few sports that can match the thrill of racing and the feeling you get when a horse you’ve backed pulls away from the pack to hand you a win.

For many punters this experience is one that occurs so seldom that betting on the horses is much like pulling a lever on a slot machine at a casino and hitting a small jackpot.

They win often enough to keep at it, but they never feel like they have any real control of the outcome of their racing betting.

Winning horseracing strategies are possible

However, horse racing is not like a slot machine, a lottery or a roulette wheel in a casino. The house does not have a built-in edge that ensures you will lose in the long term.

Instead, when you bet on racing you are effectively in a duel with bookmakers. It’s your expertise against theirs, and your ability to identify horses that offer real value that can give you an edge.

That does not mean it is possible to consistently pick winning horses.

Over the long haul you will lose more bets than you win. But it’s the bets you do win, and the value you get off these, that can earn you modest profits over the long term.

Three ways to approach picking a winning horse

There are three ways to approach picking a winning horse on a more consistent basis.

These include:

  1. Relying on expert tipping services and tipsters to make your selections for you.
  2. Doing intensive research into every horse and race that you bet on, and making your own selections.
  3. Using betting strategies to make your betting activities more systematic and consistent, and refining these strategies to the point where they are profitable.

We’ll give you an overview of the pros and cons of each of these below.

Using tipsters

Using tipsters or paid tipping services is the easiest way to improve your chances of picking a winning horse. Particularly if you’re a novice or couldn’t be bothered to do the research required to identify a winner.

Instead of having to figure out how to read a card and all the codes and jargon that come with it, you can rely on an experienced punter to make your picks for you.

This offers you quite a few benefits:

  • It’s fast, if you’re pressed for time.
  • You don’t need to spend years developing the ability to identify and pick winner.
  • You’re going to get better results long term than using purely amateur approaches to making selections, like picking favourites, betting on horses by the colour or number or any other random long-shot strategies.

If you want to take the tipster route there are both free and paid services available.

Some of the top tipsters operate paid subscription services, where you get sent daily picks in exchange for a monthly fee.

This isn’t a bad option. If they don’t give you winners, you don’t stick around and pay them, so they are incentivised to deliver on their promise to help grow your bankroll.

Many top tipsters give their tips for free, including on a number of daily newspapers and tabloids.

There’s not quite the same degree of accountability here, but if you follow any tipster for a prolonged period you’ll soon figure out whether or not they deliver the goods.

An even better option is aggregated tipster services, like betHQ’s daily naps, which highlight horses that several leading tipsters have backed in a given race.

Don’t be ashamed to test whether or not a tipster can help you pick winning horses.

There’s no harm in letting someone who has a talent for picking winners give you pointers if you don’t have the time or knowledge to pick your own.

Doing your own research

If you have a passion for horse racing, you’re probably going to want to knuckle down and understand the ins-and-outs of horseracing and racing betting at some point.

This can be quite a steep learning curve, as you’ll need to get on top of a few different technical aspects of horseracing betting, including:

This is not a quick process. To fully understand horse racing can take several years of following the sport and making errors as you progress towards the blend of accurate analysis and gut instinct that allows you to pick winning horses on a consistent basis.

That said, doing your own research is also the most rewarding approach to betting on racing. You’ll develop a skill which can earn you a modest side income, and you’ll only get better as time goes by.

Using betting strategies and systems

Once you have a decent grip on how horseracing works, and the various factors that contribute towards racehorse performance, developing a racing betting system is a logical next step.

This approach is vastly preferable to random horse betting, because it helps to formulate what you think defines a good selection, and to remain consistent when making selections from race to race.

Racing systems can vary considerably in complexity, and there is definitely no one-size-fits-all approach to developing a system.

Creating a basic betting system

Whether a racing betting system is simple or complex, what they all have in common is that they will require you to identify variables that you think are critical to racehorse success.

These can include:

  • course, ground and distance preferences
  • recent form
  • racehorse rating
  • specific odds margins which ensure winning bets provide enough value.

So, for example, a simple racing betting system might be to only bet on horses that:

  • have previously won over the relevant course and distance
  • have previously won over the relevant ground conditions
  • won last time out
  • have a rating over 100
  • are priced over 4/1.

Once you have established the basic parameters for a winner, you’ll immediately notice that it isn’t possible to find a horse that meets your requirements for every race.

So, for example, it’s unlikely that you will be able to routinely pick a specific high profile race, like one of the English Classics, for example, and find a horse that meets your criteria on the card.

Instead, you will find that you need to review several racecards before you find a horse that meets all of your requirements.

Testing your racing betting system

One of the great things about testing racing betting systems is you don’t need to spend any money to get an idea of how effective they are.

That’s because you can use races that have already taken place to see how your system would have performed.

The only difference is that you’ll need to use race results rather than a race card to figure out how well your system holds out.

If you’re betting on flat racing, FlatStats is a very useful tool that allows you to set parameters for horses and races in all UK flat racing for extended periods of time, and will crunch the numbers to give you performance statistics for horses and races that match your parameters.

Play the long term game

One of the most important things you need to understand if you are going to try to make a profit from racing betting systems is that you need to be in it for the long haul.

The reality is that even a successful racing betting system won’t produce winners in every race, or even every 2nd or 3rd race.

In fact, you may go 10 races at a stretch without winning a cent, then win a cluster of races to bring your bankroll back into the black.

It’s important to give your system a chance to succeed. Run it for 20-30 races, see how it does and only tweak or abandon it once you have enough data to work with.

Also remember to practice flat betting. Bet the same amount on each race, and don’t be tempted to increase your stake the longer you go without a win.

Don’t buy betting systems

A final note on betting systems is that you should steer clear of people or websites who claim to be able to sell you a winning racing betting system.


Firstly because anyone with a winning system would be making enough money off it not to need to sell the system to other people.

More importantly though, any winning system would be duplicated and shared. What would happen if enough people found out about this fantastic system?

You guessed it. You’d have hundreds, perhaps thousands of people making use of the system, and often making the same selections.

Large numbers of people making the same selections would put downward pressure on the odds of those selections, and destroy the thin profitability margins that made the system work in the first place.

So if you don’t have the time and inclination to develop a system yourself, rather steer clear of this approach and learn to pick winners based on analysis or use a tipster.

Try racing betting at William Hill, open an account and get a risk-free bet

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