Every week we bring you tips of the weeks best horse racing. The tips run every Saturday – hence the name – and cover every race that’s televised on live TV in the UK. Normally there are six or seven races shown on ITV4, although this can vary slightly throughout the year. Tips are added each Friday afternoon.
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ITV Racing Tips for 9th December 2023 (Sandown & Aintree)
Aintree and Sandown serve up a sizzling star-laden feast of jumping action this Saturday. Nicky Henderson’s brilliant duo of Constitution Hill and Jonbon top the bill in the rearranged Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, whilst the rising stars line up in the third Grade 1 event of the Henry VIII Novices Chase. Over at Aintree, all eyes turn to the formidable Grand National fences as a big field goes to post for the latest edition of the Becher Chase.
Those settling down for the afternoon will find a bumper nine races on the ITV schedule. Here, we pick out our best betting option in each event in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:15 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m
Newcastle’s loss is Sandown’s gain, as following last week’s abandonment, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle kicks off the TV schedule. Towering above everything else at the head of the market - and miles clear of every other 2m hurdler in training - is the magnificent Constitution Hill (2/9). If anything, that price looks pretty big on his overall level of form, but we have a nagging doubt as to whether he will take part. Likely to be run on near bottomless ground and coming only 17 days before the Christmas Hurdle, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see Henderson err on the side of caution.
As such, we will go with an each-way punt in the opener. Love Envoi (15/2) and You Wear It Well (14/1) are talented mares, whilst Goshen (40/1) has his conditions if getting out on the right side of the bed, but at 12/1, we can’t resist a punt on the second Henderson runner, Shiskin.
This one also holds an entry on Boxing Day in the King George, but given his antics at Ascot, we expect Henderson will be keen to get that out of the horse's system before rocking up at Kempton. A 2m spin around here should provide a nice tune-up for this converted staying chaser. He’s 10lb and 23lb clear of the two mares but concedes only 7lb, boasts a seven from 10 record on soft or worse going and is already a four-time Grade 1 winner at this trip. With the going set to bring stamina into play, his class can see him hit the frame.
1:30 Boylesports Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m4f
Competitive handicapping fare sets the ball rolling at Aintree, with a decent case to be made for a whole host of these. Defending champion Brave Seasca (4/1) is vying for favouritism for the bang in form Venetia Williams yard and boasts obvious claims off a 1lb lower mark. However, he was beaten 39l on his first start since a wind-op on his seasonal return, which is a little off-putting at a shortish price. Heltenham (4/1) makes more appeal, having scored over hurdles on his seasonal return, but was a little scruffy at his obstacles that day and fell on his last chase start.
War Lord (6/1) is another for the shortlist following an encouraging third on his first start since a wind-op, but the one to get the vote is the Donald McCain-trained Richmond Lake (9/2). A perfect two from two in chases at around this trip, it was expected he would need the run on his hurdles return but he still proved too good for a decent field at Wetherby. Only 2lbs higher than for his most recent win over the larger obstacles, there may be plenty more to come from this Hemmings Racing-owned runner.
1:50 Betfair Henry VIII Novices’ Chase
Grade 1, 1m7½f
Back to Sandown for the opening Grade 1 of the day for a race which includes Altior, Edwardstone, and Jonbon on the recent roll of honour. Whether there is anything of that calibre in this field remains to be seen but we at least have a few runners with major potential.
Jamie Snowden’s Colonel Harry (4/1) falls into that category, having made an eye-catching start over fences at Chepstow, as does the dropped-in-trip, Unexpected Party (4/1), whose stamina may prove an asset in these conditions. However, had JPR One (7/4) not unseated after the last at Cheltenham last time out, we suspect he would be an even shorter price here. This bold jumping front runner put the field to the sword in that Arkle Trial and was well on his way to posting one of the most impressive novice performances of the season, only to stumble on landing and send Brendan Powell to the turf. He looks the one to beat if none the worse for that experience.
2:05 Boylesports Becher Handicap Chase
Premier Handicap, 3m2f
The Chair, Canal Turn, Valentines, and Becher’s Brook take to the stage in the most impressive spectacle of the day. The presence of the 162-rated Coko Beach means that the bottom five runners must race from out of the handicap. Of that quintet, Percussion (11/2) may still go well, having finished third here 12 months ago and second in the Grand Sefton over these fences last time out.
This race has been no stranger to a repeat winner and defending champ Ashtown Lad (4/1) heads the betting for Dan Skelton. Only 2lbs higher than in 2022, he's handicapped to go close. On the downside, he produced an error-strewn round before being pulled up on his comeback at Wincanton, and there may be better value elsewhere. The Big Breakaway’s (8/1) narrow second in the 2022 Welsh National brings him into it, but he didn’t make it any further than the second in the Grand National.
At a bigger price, a chance is taken on the Donald McCain representative, Minella Trump (20/1). Back down to his most recent winning mark, he was bang in contention well into the final circuit of the Grand National, only for his stamina to ultimately give way. This trip looks more likely to be within his range, and that proven ability to handle these obstacles can stand him in good stead.
2:25 Rachael Blackmore Serial Winners Fund Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m
Nicky Henderson’s Impose Toi (5/2) heads the betting in this handicap affair as he moves out of novice company for the first time. Never out of the first two in five starts over hurdles and winning nicely on his seasonal return, he boasts plenty of potential but will need to improve following a hefty 10lb hike for his most recent success.
Last time out winners Bucksy Des Epeires (13/2) and Arqoob (7/1) are others to appeal from towards the head of the market, but the one to catch our eye from an each-way perspective is the Emma Lavelle runner, Red Rookie (14/1). An ability to handle bottomless going is likely to count for plenty here, and this one boasts a perfect three-from-three record on heavy going – including when landing a novice event over this track and trip. A couple of subpar efforts have seen him drop in the handicap, and these conditions provide an ideal opportunity to bounce back.
2:40 Boylesports Daily Money Back 2nd Juvenile Hurdle
Not too much form to go on in this event for the three-year-olds, with Max Of Stars (10/3) being the only runner in the field with more than two runs over obstacles to her name. Her second-placed finish in a Listed event sets the standard, but that looks a short enough price in a field packed with almost completely unexposed rivals.
Hailing from the Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton operations, the ex-French duo of Liari (7/2) and Le Fauve (7/2) are unsurprisingly proving popular, with the former having won on yard debut, and the latter’s French form well-advertised since. Again, both look a little short for our liking and, in a tricky event, we will make a small each-way play on Iain Jardine’s Midnight Lion (16/1).
A fair performer on the flat when with Charlie Johnston, this one looks the type to be well suited to this sphere and sire Nathaniel does pretty well with his National Hunt performers. A recent gelding procedure, wind-op and first-time tongue tie tick the potential reasons for improvement boxes, and he looks attractively priced to hit the frame.
3:00 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase
Grade 1, 1m7½f
The classiest chase of the day sees the best British 2m chaser in training take his next step towards a crack at the Queen Mother Champion Chase crown, and it would be something of a surprise to see him beaten. Only two horses have mastered Jonbon to date, in the shape of Constitution Hill and El Fabiolo, and there is nothing of that calibre amongst the opposition here.
Edwardstone was brilliant when sauntering to success in this 12 months ago but couldn’t lay a glove on Jonbon when 9½l adrift at Cheltenham last time out. With Jonbon standing in his way, he may take up an alternative engagement in Sunday’s Peterborough Chase. With the talented Captain Guinness being a late absentee, that leaves Boothill (12/1), Haddex Des Obeaux (14/1) and Nube Negra (28/1) - all of whom are rated 12lbs and more below Jonbon. He’s priced accordingly, but the hot favourite is much the most likely winner.
3:15 Boylesports Extra Place Races Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m4f
Sonigino (4/1) heads both the weights and the betting in the final TV race from Merseyside and, having finished a decent fourth in the Greatwood Hurdle last time out, boasts solid form claims. He is, however, yet to win over quite this far and has looked a better horse on slightly quicker ground than he is likely to encounter here. Similar comments apply to Vicki Vale (11/2) from the yard of Dan Skelton, who boasts bags of potential but is yet to show her best on soft ground.
The one for us is the rapidly improving Bashers Reflection (11/2). This six-year-old has exploded into life over the past 12 months, rising from a mark of 94 to his current rating of 121, and he may not be done yet. Slamming decent yardstick Molly Ollys Wishes last time out at Wetherby, he’s three from five on soft or worse going, a dual winner at the distance, and can make a bold bid.
3:35 Betfair Exchange London National Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m4½f
Beauport (3/1) and Fontaine Collonges (3/1) are currently vying for favouritism in the finale, but neither has convinced that they are suited to a marathon test such as this. Fontain Collonges would be our pick of the duo on his first start since a wind-op, but we prefer to look further down the list for our selection.
The enigmatic Fotrescue (12/1) and Couer Serein (28/1) make some each-way appeal. Rapper (18/1) boasts strong claims on his best form, but the fact he was pulled up with an irregular heartbeat last time out has to be a fairly major concern. The one for us is the tough-as-old-boots Truckers Lodge (9/1) from the yard of Paul Nicholls.
A former winner of the Midlands National, he rounded off last season with a strong staying effort to claim the West Wales National at around this trip and is only 5lbs higher here, with Feddie Gingell’s claim bringing him down to a reasonable racing weight of 11st6lb. Unlucky to be brought down on his comeback at Cheltenham, he can put that behind him with a bold show here to help us end the day with a very nice win indeed.
- ITV Racing Tips for 2nd December 2023 (Newbury & Newcastle)
- ITV Racing Tips for 25th November 2023 (Haydock, Ascot & Punchestown)
- ITV Racing Tips for 18th November 2023 (Cheltenham & Lingfield)
- ITV Racing Tips for 11th November 2023 (Wincanton, Newcastle & Aintree)
- ITV Racing Tips for 4th November 2023 (Wetherby & Ascot)
- ITV Racing Tips for 28th October 2023 (Newbury, Cheltenham & Doncaster)
- ITV Racing Tips for 21st October 2023 (Ascot)
- ITV Racing Tips for 14th October 2023 (York & Newmarket)
- ITV Racing Tips for 7th October 2023 (Ascot, Newmarket and Redcar)
- ITV Racing Tips for 30th September 2023 (Newmarket, Chester & Haydock)
Saturday Racing Highlights
The hope for many of the owners in racing is that their horse is able to progress up the handicap ratings so they get a run in one of the big Saturday handicaps that take place all year round. Big field handicaps play an important role on the best Saturday meetings on the flat and over jumps as do prestigious Graded and Group level races.
Saturday usually brings the best racing of the week but not all Saturdays are equal. There are some real highlights in the horse racing calendar which we have detailed for you below. There is huge variety in terms of what we see, with the most famous NH contest in the world, Saturday at Royal Ascot and a number of Classics. Saturday racing highlights also include certain trials days, as well as standalone contests that may not have quite the same global appeal as, say, the Grand National, but are really big fixtures in the UK none the less.
Major Saturday Meetings
As you can see from this table, there is a great variety of races and meetings on Saturday for racing fans and punters to get their teeth stuck into. What’s more, with big meetings taking place every single month of the year, the wait for exciting racing should never be too hard to bear!
|Festival Trials Day||Cheltenham||January|
|Clarence House Chase||Ascot||January|
|Ascot Chase Day||Ascot||February|
|The Grand National||Aintree||April|
|Scottish Grand National||Ayr||April|
|Jumps Finale||Sandown Park||April|
|The Derby||Epsom Downs||June|
|King George Weekend||Ascot||July|
|Sprint Cup||Haydock Park||September|
|Ayr Gold Cup||Ayr||September|
|British Champions Day||Ascot||October|
|Vertem Futurity Trophy||Doncaster||October|
|The November Meeting||Cheltenham||November|
|Fighting Fifth Hurdle||Newcastle||November|
|Tingle Creek Chase||Sandown Park||December|
Festival Trials Day, Cheltenham
The biggest and most prestigious NH festival in the world takes place Tuesday to Friday in March but Cheltenham Trials Day is a major stepping stone towards the big one. This really marks the countdown to the Festival and sees a cracking day of racing.
It is also a great day to keep your racing notebook handy. In 2019, for example, Frodon, Paisley Park and Siruh Du Lac all delivered the goods on Trials Day before doubling up on the third day of the Festival a couple of months later. The card is full of interesting contests but the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, the Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle, the Cleeve Hurdle and the feature, the Cotswold Chase, are the main highlights.
Clarence House Chase, Ascot
As well as its huge flat meeting later in the year, Ascot hosts some top notch NH racing at the start of the year and Clarence House Chase Day is certainly a brilliant Saturday of jumps horseracing. The feature is the 2m1f Grade 1 that lends its name to the day and is a great indication of who to look out for in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Seven horses have doubled up, including Sprinter Sacre and Altior.
Of course, the rest of the day’s card doesn’t quite live up to that, but the Mares’ Hurdle, a relatively recent addition and a Grade 2, and the Grade 3 Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle are the main supporting cast.
Ascot Chase Day, Ascot
The Ascot Chase is the last of three Grade 1 jumps contests held at the Berkshire course each year. Won by Kauto Star and twice by Cue Card, this is a really classy affair, with winners of this also often taking big prizes at Cheltenham the following month.
As well as the eponymous race, this Saturday, typically in mid-February, hosts a number of other really interesting races as well. The Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase, a Grade 2 run over three miles, is a key contest for those hoping to thrive in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. Also, look out for the Swinley Chase, a handicap that is always a great betting heat.
Winter Derby, Lingfield
The Winter Derby is one of the highlights of the year at Lingfield in Surrey. A Group 3, it is run on Lingfield’s all-weather surface and is one of the biggest winter contests for racing fans who like their action on the flat. Run over 1m2f, it was established in 1998 and is one of a very limited number of Group class races not to take place on turf.
Frankie Dettori has won the day’s feature race a record four times and he also has a win in the day’s other major race, the Hever Sprint Stakes. The Italian won that aboard No Time in 2004.
The Grand National, Aintree
The Grand National is the biggest race in all of British horseracing. It is the one race of the year that does more than any other to draw the attention of fans outside of racing to the sport. It is the feature race of the Grand National Festival at Aintree and comes on the final of the three days, always a Saturday.
It isn’t just about the big one though and other big races of the day include three Grade 1s – the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, the Maghull Novices’ Chase and the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle. It’s the marathon four mile two and a half furlong Grand National that draws the fans to the Merseyside track and sees millions tune from around the world though.
Scottish Grand National, Ayr
The Grand National at Aintree isn’t the only prestigious, long distance handicap of the year that takes place on a Saturday. The Scottish Grand National at Ayr follows its equivalent on Merseyside by just a few weeks. Several horses who ran at Aintree also contest the Scottish Grand National but the legendary Red Rum is the only horse to complete the double.
The Scottish Grand National features around 30 horses, all of which have to slog it around the 4 mile 1 furlong circuit (or as far as they can go before falling or being pulled up). It is always a fascinating watch and a race full of each way opportunities for punters.
Jumps Finale, Sandown Park
By the time April rolls around spring is very much in the air, which means racing fans are starting to turn their attention from jumps to the flat. The two-day Jumps Finale meeting at Sandown is a great way to celebrate the National Hunt season with some very big races taking place on Saturday including the Celebration Chase, the Gold Cup and the Select Hurdle.
Big name trainers like to send some of their top string to Sandown for one last hurrah before taking a break over the summer, but the Jumps Finale is also a chance for some improving sorts to lay down a marker for next season.
2,000 Guineas, Newmarket
The build-up to and early stages of the new Flat racing season always revolve around Newmarket in May for the first Classics of the season. The 2,000 Guineas is that first Classic, featuring a selection of the best three-year-old colts in training. Run over 1 mile, this historic race has been won by some of the best horses of all time since its inauguration all the way back in 1809.
The 2,000 Guineas always takes place on a Saturday in May and is followed by the fillies’ equivalent, the 1,000 Guineas, the next day. The day’s racing also includes the Palace House Stakes (a Group 3 sprint) and the Dahlia Fillies’ States (a Group 2 held over 1 mile 2 furlongs).
Lockinge Day, Newbury
The Lockinge is one of the major highlights at Newbury, a Group 1 of around a mile that includes the likes of Brigadier Gerard, Cape Cross and Frankel on the roll of honour. Held in mid-May, this is the clear highlight of the day and is the course’s only top level race on the calendar.
The Group 3 Aston Park Stakes is another one to watch out for on the day though, the one and a half mile race won back to back in 2018 and 2019 by Crystal Ocean. With a nice mix of other contests, including a couple of listed races, this is definitely a great Saturday to make a trip to Newbury.
The Derby, Epsom
The Derby is the second colts’ Classic of the season. Like the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby is open only to three-year-olds but is a markedly different race. For a start, the Derby takes place over 1½ miles so is a significantly tougher test of stamina. Then there are the severe undulations at Epsom that make life all the more challenging for the horses. Having the speed and early season fitness for the 2000 Guineas and then following that up with the stamina to win the Derby is the mark of an absolute star.
The Derby is arguably the most prestigious flat race in the entire world. It is certainly a contest that all owners, trainers and breeders want to have on their CV so it often sees international entries. Each of the jockeys competing in the Derby dream of winning it but they’re also enthused by some of the other races on the June card at Epsom including the Princess Elizabeth Stakes, the Diomed Stakes and the fillies’ Classic, the Oaks, which takes place the following day.
Royal Ascot, Ascot
There is no Flat racing meeting quite like Royal Ascot. It is Britain’s most valuable meeting by far, with over £7 million of prize money given out across its five days. The final day falls on Saturday and is massively popular with the racegoing public and those who prefer to watch on from the comfort of their own homes.
The organisers at Ascot like will often make changes to the schedule of the five days but they always ensure that there are several top class races to bring the curtain down on Saturday. The Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Coronation Stakes and Wokingham Handicap have all played key roles on the final day of Royal Ascot in recent years but whatever the exact lineup, it is always a cracker.
Northumberland Plate, Newcastle
When Newcastle Racecourse decided to rip up its flat turf course and replace it with an all-weather layout there were more than a handful of dissenting voices. It is fair to say the decision has proven to be a wise one though as Newcastle now hosts a string of excellent all-weather contests whilst important historical races such as the Northumberland Plate have been given a new lease of life.
The Northumberland Plate is one of the richest 2 mile handicaps in Flat racing. It is always a hugely entertaining race and the betting is incredibly competitive. That has remained the case with the race taking place on the new Tapeta surface, even if it wasn’t one of those races threatened by unsuitable ground, taking place as it does in either late June or early July.
Eclipse Stakes, Sandown Park
Sandown Park hosts some top class Flat and National Hunt racing. When it comes to the summer months there is no bigger race at Sandown than the Eclipse Stakes (also known as the Coral-Eclipse). Named after one of racing’s early superstars from the 18th century, the Eclipse is a prestigious Group 1 race that takes place over the exact distance of 1 mile 1 furlong and 209 yards. It always hosts a high class field and is supported by a good card including the Coral Charge, Coral Distaff and some valuable handicaps.
Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sadler’s Wells and Sea The Stars are just some of the equine legends to have landed the Eclipse in its long history. With a handsome purse up for grabs a top class field is guaranteed so this really is an excellent Saturday of racing.
July Festival, Newmarket
The July Festival isn’t at the same level as Royal Ascot but it is still a very important fixture on the Flat racing calendar. It was originally a midweek fixture but has been moved later in the week so that it now ends on a Saturday. The highlight on Saturday for many is the July Cup, a Group 1 sprint which can often throw up a surprise result. Those who prefer the opportunities presented by big field handicaps are also well catered for, with the Bunbury Cup the standout in that regard.
King George Weekend, Ascot
Top level racing makes a quick return to Ascot after the Royal meeting with King George Weekend which is held every July. As the name suggests, the headline of the meeting is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Run over a mile and a half, the Group 1 race is up there with the very best middle distance contests for older horses in Europe, on a par with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France.
The calibre of horses competing in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is always of the highest level. Every winner of this race is one of the best horses around but there is a special place for horses like Enable and Galileo who were able to serve it up to their elders in the July of their three-year-old campaign.
Glorious Goodwood, Goodwood
Like Royal Ascot and the Newmarket July Festival, Glorious Goodwoood is one of the jewels in the crown of the Flat racing season. Set in the picturesque course in the Sussex Downs, Glorious Goodwood is a huge draw for racing fans and includes more than enough high class racing to keep punters busy throughout the five days of superb action which culminate on a Saturday.
The pick of the races on Glorious Goodwood’s Saturday is the Stewards’ Cup, a sprint handicap in which a large field of over 20 horses compete in a mad dash for the line over 6 furlongs. A true cavalry charge, not only is the Stewards’ Cup one of the racing spectacles of the year, it’s also one of the most active betting markets.
Ebor Handicap, York
For many racing fans, the Ebor Festival at York is better than any of the prestigious meetings taking place at Ascot, Goodwood or Newmarket. York Racecourse has a passionate group of fans who always make the trip to the Saturday of the Ebor Festival which includes its feature race, the Ebor Handicap.
For some trainers and owners, the entire season is targeted around the Ebor Handicap. There are few staying handicaps with as much prestige or as big a prize fund as this 1 mile 5 furlong 188 yard contest. With its scheduling in mid-August, the weather even sometimes plays ball, making for a truly brilliant Saturday of racing in North Yorkshire.
Sprint Cup, Haydock
Jumps racing fans know Haydock as a haven for mudlarks. The ground at Haydock quickly becomes incredibly demanding if the rain falls. That doesn’t only happen in the winter months though as the going can often be testing for the Sprint Cup which takes place at Haydock in September. For that reason, this Group 1 sprint can often be won by an outsider, even though top class sprinters regularly head to Haydock for a race that awards the best part of £150,000 to the winner.
Ayr Gold Cup, Ayr
The Ayr Gold Cup is another huge prize in the Flat racing season. It’s an incredibly competitive six furlong handicap which attracts a big field to Scotland for one of Ayr’s most important Saturdays. Competition for a place is such that only horses with a high handicap rating get in which ensures that there are several horses with a realistic chance of winning once the race gets underway.
As if it wasn’t already a tough enough puzzle for punters to piece together, there are always hard luck stories in running in this frantic race. It really is a contest that often demands bravery on behalf of the winning jockey to take advantage of a space as soon as it opens up, so experience and skill in the saddle are a must.
Cambridgeshire Handicap, Newmarket
By the time the Cambridgeshire Handicap comes around in late September the vast majority of the Flat racing season is behind us and thoughts are beginning to turn to the jumps. Oftentimes that means more inclement weather and softer ground, so horses who haven’t had much success over the summer months can often roar back to form. That is, of course, providing that they’ve done well enough to maintain an official rating high enough to get into this 1m1f race which takes place on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket.
British Champions Day, Ascot
The anticipation and excitement about certain horses at the start of the Flat racing season doesn’t always translate into success during it. Some horses simply fail to fire as expected whilst others improve seemingly out of nowhere to win massive races. So it is that the stars of British Champions Day at Ascot always include horses who had rather modest ambitions in the spring.
British Champions Day was introduced in 2011 as a way to celebrate the success of the season and create another top class card. There are four Group 1 races during the day – the British Champions Sprint Stakes, British Champions Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Champion Stakes – and a Group 2, the British Champions Long Distance Cup; as well as the Balmoral Handicap to round the meeting off.
Vertem Futurity Trophy, Doncaster
The Vertem Futurity Trophy is the final Group 1 of the Flat racing season. Many racing fans may still call it the Racing Post Trophy, so long was it known by that moniker. Whatever you call it, it is a race for top class two-year-olds to show what they are capable of over 1 mile and has produced a number of top class winners over the years. No fewer than five winners of the Vertem Futurity Trophy have gone on to win the Derby, whilst 2019 winner, Kameko, followed up with victory in the 2,000 Guineas as well.
Kameko’s win also created history as it was the first Group 1 to be held on an all-weather track in Britain after the race was switched to Newcastle after the course at the usual host, Doncaster, was waterlogged. Abandonment of the final day of the Autumn Afternoon Meeting at Doncaster is rare but soft ground certainly is not at this time of year.
The November Meeting, Cheltenham
The November Meeting (formerly known as the Open Meeting) at Cheltenham is the first major meeting of the British jumps season. In many ways this is the start of the winter season of racing and in others it’s a precursor for the Cheltenham Festival.
There are some key differences between this and the Festival in March though. For one, the November Meeting takes place over the weekend from Friday to Sunday. Saturday’s card features many of the highlights of the November Meeting including the BetVictor Gold Cup, a 2½ mile, Grade 3 steeplechase.
Betfair Chase, Haydock
The Betfair Chase is the highlight of the racing calendar at Haydock and this November slog is the course’s only Grade 1. It has been won four times by Kauto Star, with Cue Card successful thrice. Run over more than three miles, it is the first Grade 1 of the NH season and has at times been part of a £1m scheme for any horse that could land it as well as enjoy success in other races.
The Betfair Million has changed format over the years and is now known as the Stayers’ Chase Triple Crown. This contest is the first leg, with success in the King George VI and Cheltenham Golden Cup needed for connections to scoop the million. Aside from this potentially lucrative chase, the Saturday’s racing action also includes the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle, a Grade 3.
Fighting Fifth Hurdle, Newcastle
It isn’t just chasing that has its Triple Crown and the hurdling equivalent kicks off with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle at the end of November or start of December. Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham complete the £1m set, the brilliant Buveur d’Air claiming the bonus in 2017/18 as part of a streak of five consecutive Triple Crown titles.
As well as the eponymous Grade 1, Newcastle’s biggest Saturday of racing also typically hosts six other races, with an early start before midday. There is a nice mix of hurdles and chase action, with novices, maidens and juvenile contests all taking place.
Ladbrokes Trophy, Newbury
The Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury is the feature race of the course’s Winter Festival. The event organisers at Newbury do a very good job of putting on an excellent day of festivities for the large numbers of fans who pour through the gates whilst the racing itself is well worth getting excited about.
At 3 mile 2 furlongs, the Ladbrokes Trophy is a proper test of stamina. The Grade 3 race has been won by some top class chasers over the years as they are tested out against other quality competitors. Punters and racing fans always have a keen eye on Newbury for the next Denman, Native River or Many Clouds.
Tingle Creek Chase, Sandown Park
December is a massive month for jumps racing thanks largely to a packed Christmas schedule. Before the King George VI Chase at Kempton it’s all eyes on Sandown Park for the Tingle Creek Chase.
This contest is run over the minimum distance for a steeplechase of 2 miles and is therefore often used by some of the leading hopes for the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Several horses have won both races including Altior and Sprinter Sacre but it has also been won by future Cheltenham Gold Cup horses, including the legendary Desert Orchid and Kauto Star.
Placing a Horse Racing Bet
Horse racing is arguably the sport most closely associated with betting and certainly one of the sports most-wagered on in the UK and worldwide. People have been betting on racing for hundreds of years and even with the vast changes in the betting industry in recent times, horse racing and betting remain inextricably linked.
History and tradition are important parts of the story but the only way that horse racing betting can continue is if new people are attracted to find out what it’s all about. We understand that horse racing betting can be a confusing and even intimidating prospect for newcomers, with lots of strange terms and rules to get to grips with, so let’s have a look at everything you need to know to go from a beginner placing their first bet to a betting expert.
Win, Place and Each Way Bets
Like all other types of racing, horse racing is ultimately about winning races. Trainers, owners and jockeys want to win every race they enter so it’s no surprise that betting on the winner of a race is the most popular form of horse racing betting. Each way and place betting are also very popular options though so this is the perfect place to start our guide to gambling on horse racing.
To place a bet on a win market for a particular race you first have to find the market with your betting site of choice. Bookies work hard to make their navigation as intuitive as possible so you’ll find odds for the closest (in terms of time) races right on the home page. Otherwise, you’ll find the race you’re looking for either on the main horse racing page, the list of the day’s racing or the individual race meeting page, whilst some sites may have a search tool, usually indicated by a magnifying glass.
Once you’ve found the market it’s time to place a win bet. Simply click on the odds next to the horse you want to back and you’ll see the selection added to your betslip. Now it’s time to choose your stake. Enter the stake, confirm your bet and you’ve placed your first horse racing bet!
For the avoidance of doubt, when you back a horse to win a race, your bet will be settled as a winner if the horse finishes first and a loser if they finish in any other position or if they fail to complete the race (often because they’ve been pulled up or have fallen).
If the horse you have backed wins the race you will get more back from the bookie than your stake. The amount of this win depends on the size of your stake and the odds. You will also have your initial stake returned to you.
Each Way Betting
Popular in races with a high number of runners, each way betting can seem confusing but is easy to understand when you realise that an each way bet is actually two different wagers.
If you were to walk up to an on-course bookmaker and ask to place a £5 each way bet, you’d have to hand them £10 in total. That’s because you are placing a £5 bet on the horse to win the race and a £5 bet on the horse to place in the race. The win is one ‘way’ of betting on the horse, the place is the other. Hence, each way.
It is important to check the each-way terms before placing this type of bet. These terms refer to the place portion of the bet. The first term refers to the number of places in the race; the second term refers to the fraction of the odds that place bets are paid out at.
Let’s say you have a £5 each way bet on a horse at 10/1 in a race where the bookmaker is paying out three places (first, second or third) at ¼ of the standard odds. The £5 win bet will only be settled as a winner if the horse wins the race. The £5 place bet will be settled as a winner if the horse finishes first, second or third, returning £17.50 (£12.50 winnings and the £5 stake).
Each way betting is popular because it is possible to make a profit even if your horse doesn’t win the race. In the example above, you’d have a total gain of £7.50 from the bet if the horses finishes second or third but a total win of £62.50 if the horse wins (£50 from the win bet and £12.50 from the place bet).
Some experienced horse racing punters like the idea of each way betting but not necessarily the 50/50 split between win and place bets. The place market provides these punters with extra options.
Place betting allows you to bet on whether or not a horse will finish in the prescribed number of places without having to also place a win bet. The returns obviously won’t be as big as if you were betting on the horse to win the race but the outlay isn’t as big either.
The main benefit of the place market is that you can take the level of chance you are happy with on a given horse. Rather than splitting your stake equally between the win and place portion of the bet you could use 20% of your stake on the win portion and 80% on the place portion if you were less convinced about the horse’s ability to win.
In more recent times, the best online bookmakers have offered even more control over your place betting by giving you the chance to alter the number of places available. Although adding places to your bet will mean the odds offered are smaller, deviating from the number of places available can often be a very good route to winning overall.
Betting “Without” Markets
There is a lot more to successfully betting on horse racing than simply backing the favourite blind. However, there are times when a horse has such a strong chance of winning a given race that the odds available with the bookmaker are not worth taking. When such a race occurs the bookies will often offer what is called a Betting Without Market.
In these markets, the red-hot favourite is effectively removed from the race when it is settled. Thus, if your horse finishes second to the favourite your bet is settled as a winner. Your bet is also a winner if the horse you’ve backed wins the race but the odds will be shorter than if you had backed that same horse in the regular win market.
Ante Post Betting
One of the joys of horse racing is that the season is largely the same year on year. Certainly, that is the case with the biggest, most important races of the calendar. Such is the interest in a contest like the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the 2,000 Guineas that the bookmakers will price up markets way ahead of time, sometimes a year in advance of the race. This is called ante post betting.
Clearly, betting on a horse to win a race months in advance comes with a host of pitfalls. Horses pick up injuries all the time, they lose form and many only perform well when the ground is either firm or soft. If you are happy to take on this extra risk, ante post betting comes with greater rewards because those risks come with bigger odds than you might get closer to the race.
There are few better feelings as a horse racing punter than watching the horse you have backed a long time ago win a big contest. Not only do you get a real sense of satisfaction that your hard work and insight has paid off but you’ll almost always have backed the horse at a bigger price than those punters who waited until the day of the race.
Other Types of Horse Racing Bets
So far we’ve covered the most popular and simple types of horse racing bet. Don’t think it stops there though. There is a world of options out there ranging from special bets for individual races, to chances to win big from the outcome of multiple races and much more besides.
Forecast & Tricast
What happens if there are two or three horses that you really like the look of in a given horse race? You could split your stake over them to cover your options but a better bet would be to investigate the forecast and tricast markets.
A forecast market is a bet where you predict which two horses will finish first and second respectively. Use this sort of bet if you think you know which horse will win and which will finish second. Alternatively, you can place a reverse forecast which covers both options, the two horses finishing in the top two but in either order. This doubles the stake, effectively placing one bet one Horse A/Horse B and one on Horse B/Horse A.
Tricasts work the same way except you are attempting to pick the first three horses home in a race. Again, a straight forecast bet works by you predicting the first three and their order. If you want to cover the options like a reverse forecast, this bet is called a combination tricast.
Reverse forecasts and combination tricasts work in a similar way to each way bets in that they are made up of multiple bets. As said, a reverse forecast is actually two bets on both forecast options while a combination tricast is six bets covering each possible combination from the three selected horses.
Full Cover Bets
If you’ve done any other kind of betting – be it on football, tennis or any other sport – you’ll probably have some experience of multiples betting. Although predicting the winner of a horse race is often more difficult than predicting the winner of a football match, multiples are still popular in horse racing betting.
However, because of the inherent difficulty of horse racing betting, most punters prefer full cover bets to straight multiples or accas. Rather than simply backing a set number of horses to win various races, full cover bets involved a combination of doubles, trebles, quadruples and sometimes even more.
The Trixie is the most commonly placed type of full cover bet. A Trixie includes three selections, in this case horses in three different races. The bet is made up of four separate wagers – three doubles and a treble. You can, therefore, only earn a win from a Trixie if at least two of your selections do the business.
The other full cover bets all work in the same premise. A Yankee, for example, is four selections comprising 11 separate bets – the six doubles, four trebles and fourfold accumulator that can be made using four picks. A Canadian (sometimes known as a Super Yankee) is five selections with 26 different bets, a Heinz is six selections with 57 different bets (hence the name), a Super Heinz is seven selections with 120 bets and a Goliath is eight selections with a massive total of 247 bets. Each of these component bets require their own stake though, so a 50p Goliath will cost not 50p but a rather substantial £123.50.
Full cover bets with singles included are also popular. The Patent is the name of the bet for three selections. A Patent is like a Trixie but as well as the doubles and trebles it also includes bets as singles on each of the three legs. With the addition of the three singles bets, the Patent consists of seven separate wagers; three singles, three doubles, and a treble. In these sort of bets, you only need one horse to win to earn a return but often need at least two horses to win to get back more than you staked.
If you want to back four separate horses in a full cover bet with singles, this is called a Lucky 15 which, as the name suggests, is made up of 15 separate bets. The five-selection equivalent is called a Lucky 31, whilst six bets is called a Lucky 63.
To add an extra layer of complexity to full cover bets (with or without singles included), you can also place them each way. As we saw from the section on each way betting above, this technically doubles the number of bets that you place as each bet is now split into win and place portions. Thus, an each way Yankee consists of 22 separate bets and an each way Lucky 15 consists of 30 separate bets.
While this all sounds complicated in theory, the online bookmakers do all the calculations for you when you place your bet. Simply add your desired number of selections to your betting slip and your bookmaker will display the various full cover options that are available to you and how many bets each include.
The most important thing to remember is that when you enter your stake into the slip for a full cover bet it will be multiplied by the number of separate bets. A £1 stake can very quickly become quite an expensive bet so make sure to be careful and sure of what you are betting on before confirming the bet.
The Tote is an example of a part of the long history of horse racing betting that is still thriving to this day. The Tote’s roots can be traced back to Winston Churchill and the late 1920s. When you bet you bet with the Tote your money goes into a centralised pot and winnings are distributed as dividends based on the number of punters who backed the right horse. This sometimes means that you can a better return on your wagers with the Tote than with a sportsbook.
Although the Tote is a separate entity to individual bookmakers, all of the best online bookies give their customers the option to bet with the Tote. They do this because of the popularity of the various Tote bets which provide punters the chance to win huge returns from meagre stakes.
One such popular bet is the Tote Jackpot. In this bet, punters must predict the winner of each of the first six races of a given race meeting. Any time a horse loses, those who have backed it have their Jackpot bet settled as a loser and their money goes into the pot which is picked up by the eventual winner or winners.
The Placepot is another very popular option as you don’t even need to predict the winner of the six races. Instead, you must predict a horse to finish inside the places of the six given races with those who get all six right getting their hands on a share of the pot come the end of the meeting.
The Scoop6 is a bigger version of the Jackpot in which the best races of a Saturday, or sometimes other major meetings, form the selection of six races. Larger number of punters get involved in the Scoop6 than a regular Jackpot and so the pot is bigger and the dividend can be considerable. The World Pool provides an even bigger pot as the best races from around the world are included and international punters are added to the large numbers of domestic bettors.
Odds in Horse Racing
Horse racing betting has a huge number of variables you must consider. The form of horses, trainers and jockeys, the difference in racecourses, the weather and going conditions, the conditions of the race, etc. There is so much to think about that a common mistake is punters getting too bogged down in the detail before they understand the basics.
A thorough understanding of odds, how they work and what they mean is about as basic as it gets. Without this understanding though, you have no way of knowing whether your bet is good or bad value.
How Odds Work
At their most basic, horseracing odds are a reflection of a horse’s chance of winning a race. The shorter the odds, the better implied chance of winning a horse has. Conversely, bigger odds suggest a worse chance of winning.
When you see a horse priced at 2/1, the odds are suggesting that for every three times the race is run, hypothetically speaking, the horse will lose twice and win once. Thus, they have a 33.3% chance of winning with a 66.6% chance of not winning. A horse at 9/1 has an implied chance of winning of just 10% as the odds suggest that for every 10 times the race is run the horse will win once and lose nine times.
Horse racing betting odds are most commonly displayed as a fraction but are sometimes displayed in decimal form. You can switch between formats with your online bookmaker to make things as easy as possible and see the prices in the format that you are most familiar with.
Although the bookmakers work very hard to ensure that they have covered all the angles and that their betting markets are as efficient as possible, odds are ultimately subjective. Your job as a horse racing punter is to work out where the odds are incorrect and suggest a horse has a worse chance of winning than they actually do. That is what is known as a value bet. Consistently finding value over a long period of time is the most economical form of horse racing betting.
Calculating Your Winnings
So, we have seen that odds are a short-hand way of seeing a horse’s chances of winning a race. The other key bit of information they give you is the amount of money you stand to win should you horse be successful.
Let’s take the example of a horse priced at 2/1 from above. When it comes to calculating your winnings, 2/1 means that for every £1 you place you will get £2 back in winnings if your horse gets the job done. Remember though, you also get your stake returned with winning bets.
Taking the second option of a horse at 9/1 from above we can calculate your potential returns from a £5 bet. As we know, you’ll get £9 winnings for every £1 you bet when the odds are 9/1. So, the simple calculation to work out your overall return from a £5 bet is £5 x 9 = £45. With your initial stake, that’s a total return of £50.
The Starting Price
If you take the time to look back through the form of a horse one of the key pieces of information you need is the price that a horse started the race at. For example, this lets you know how much of an upset or otherwise a particular run was. However, the various bookmakers do offer slightly different prices, so the horse racing industry uses the Starting Price to best reflect the odds of a horse.
Commonly known as the SP, the Starting Price is an average of the price offered at the start of the race across an appointed selection of bookmakers. For a long time, the SP in Britain was taken solely from on-course bookmakers. This changed during 2020 when on-course bookmakers could not attend race meetings due to health concerns so online prices had to be used. Those changes were largely subsequently reversed but the industry is always looking at ways of ensuring the accuracy of the Starting Price.
Best Odds Guarantee
Bookmakers are always keen to find new ways of getting more customers and keeping their current customers happy. That is great news for punters who have a wealth of horse racing offers to choose from, with Best Odds Guarantee (BOG) one of the most commonly used.
Traditionally, when punters placed a horse racing bet they were asked in the betting shop whether they would like to take the current price or go with the Starting Price. Each punter had their own preference subject to the type of race and odds, etc, but it was often just luck whether or not they made the right decision. The Best Odds Guarantee offer removes this element of luck as it ensures that winning bets are paid out at whichever is bigger, the price taken at the time the bet is struck or the Starting Price.
Different bookmakers will choose different starting times for their Best Odds Guarantee to begin, but all of them operate the offer in the same way. This is now offered by almost all bookies so if you like racing make sure your bookmaker of choice has BOG as standard.
Important Horse Racing Rules
Horse racing is a unique sport with its own set of rules. The same is true of horse racing betting which has a few key rules that you must understand. Let’s have a look at the most important of these.
We talked earlier about ante post betting and the inherent risks that come with it. If the horse you have backed in an ante post market doesn’t run in the race, you lose you bet, even if, for example, tragically, the horse has a significant injury before the race. It isn’t quite that straight forward when you bet on the day.
Horses are pulled out of races on the day quite often. It could be that the ground has changed due to heavy rain or that a vet has found some problem with the horse. When this happens to the favourite the shape of the race changes considerably and the chances of the other horses improve markedly.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be fair for the odds taken earlier in the day to stand. In these circumstances Rule 4 comes into play. This rule, which applies the same across all licenced bookmakers, reduces the winnings of all bets. The size of the reduction changes subject to the odds of the withdrawn horse or horses, with a fixed chart denoting what amounts to a percentage deduction in winnings based on the odds of the horse or horses that withdraw.
Withdrawals in Multiples
Rule 4 applies to individual races but the reductions will affect accumulator winnings as and when they are applied. However, the main rule with regards to non-runners and accumulators is much simpler to understand.
Let’s use the example of an accumulator with five selections. If one of the horses in that selection is withdrawn from the race, that leg of the bet is simply made void. The odds and potential winnings change relative to the odds of the withdrawn horse and the rest of the bet continues as a normal fourfold.
It’s the same story for full cover bets. The withdrawn horse is also effectively withdrawn from the bet. This reduces all the component bets by that applicable leg, whilst if the bet was a single it is disregarded entirely.
Non Runner No Bet
We covered ante post betting above but it’s worth briefly talking about Non Runner No Bet offers. These are provided by the bookmakers for the biggest meetings of the year such as the Cheltenham Festival or Royal Ascot. Non Runner No Bet offers give punters an extra level of protection with their ante post betting in that bets are voided rather than settled as losers when horses are withdrawn.
The bookmakers usually do a good job of promoting these offers because they are very popular. It’s always worth having a quick look around though to find when Non Runner No Bet offers are live as they make a big difference. Should your horse not make it to the post you simply get your stake back, increasingly as cash but occasionally (if the offer is Non Runner Free Bet) as a free bet.
Does it Matter Which Bookie You Use?
The online bookmaking industry is incredibly competitive. Bookmakers push the boat out when it comes to their welcome offers, the choice they provide their customers and through loyalty schemes. That makes it a very good time to be a punter, providing you know what to look for. So, let’s go through the main ways that bookmakers differ and what you should be aiming for.
Sign Up Offers
As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. The best online bookmakers live by that maxim in as much as they work hard to provide prospective customers with some very tempting sign up offers.
These offers vary considerably. Largely though, they come in the form of free bets, bet tokens, money back offers and odds boosts. Make sure that the offer you’re taking advantage of suits your style of betting and that there are no overly onerous terms and conditions such as a minimum number of bets requirement.
Customer retention is just as important for the bookies as welcoming new players. For that reason, you’ll find a host of long-running offers for horse racing punters. Whether it’s weekly free bets when you place a certain number of wagers, accumulator bonuses or extra places, make sure that the bookmakers you choose look after you for a long time.
Offers are great but the main way that a bookmaker can stand out from the pack is by providing their customers with better odds than the competition. When shopping around for a new bookie, pay close attention to the odds they are offering both on major horse races but also the minor meetings that you may wish to bet on.
As we have seen, horse racing betting is about much more than just backing the winner of one race. It is, therefore, very important that you are not hamstrung by a bookmaker’s lack of choice. Have a look at a few horse races before signing up and make sure that the bookmaker you are investigating has a wide enough market choice to suit your horse racing betting style.
Ease of Use
The speed with which you can navigate a bookmaker’s website – both on desktop and mobile – may not seem as important as the market choice, odds or offers available but it’s the sort of thing that you won’t notice until you’re struggling to find a race in the minutes before it’s due to go off.
It is vital that you have a play around on a bookmakers’ website and mobile site or app before signing up to avoid missing out when you are pressed for time.
Responsible betting is a key feature of the betting industry. Betting is meant to be a form of entertainment but it can become problematic for some people so any bookmaker who does not take their commitments to the safety of gambling seriously is one to avoid.
Every online bookmaker is required by the UK Gambling Commission to set out the steps they take to keep their customers safe. The dedicated section of each website should be easy to find. Once you have found it, make sure that there are a wide range of tools available to you.
Things like deposit limits, time out reminders, links to independent charities and organisations and self-exclusion tools are all important. Hopefully you don’t feel as though your betting is a problem and that remains the case. Nevertheless, for the health of every punter and just in case things change, you must have access to help, support and tools.