A day at the races is not complete for many without having a crack at the Tote Jackpot. It’s the sort of bet that dreams are made of. Land it and the results can be life changing in the right circumstances. It offers lottery-sized jackpots but rather than rely on pure chance you get to use your own skill and horse racing knowledge too. Admittedly, in reality you’re going to need a decent chance of luck too but at least you can pretend it’s all down to your racing expertise!
The biggest winners of the Tote Jackpot will testify to the impact that striking it lucky can have. In this article we take a look at exactly how the Jackpot operates and a couple of examples of the vast prizes that can be won to give you inspiration for your next attempt, or even first attempt, at landing a big Tote Jackpot win!
What is the Jackpot?
The Jackpot is one of several bets offered by the Tote. In order to win the Jackpot, punters must correctly predict the winner of the first six races at a given race meeting. The Tote choose which of the day’s meeting will have the Jackpot offered and it runs on every day of the week giving you plenty of chances to win.
While the Tote provides the Jackpot, you don’t have to visit the Tote website to take part. It is offered by all the biggest bookmakers while those betting in person can have a crack at winning the Jackpot in shops and with oncourse bookmakers.
As with the other Tote products, the prize for the Jackpot is paid out of a pool. This means the prizes on offer can change considerably. The prize is also shared in the unlikely but not unheard of event of multiple winners. This means that a few surprise winners from among the selected races can help thin out the number of winning tickets and increase your payout should you get lucky. The minimum size wager for the Jackpot is just 50p so it is a widely accessible bet that can really see punters win big from pennies.
Although the Jackpot requires punters to make six correct picks, many decide to make more than one option on certain races. This is known as ‘perming’. For example, if a punter was convinced about the horses to win five of a day’s races but was struggling to pick between two horses in the sixth, they could choose both horses, with the selections going in different lines.
Many punters will pick more than one horse in more than one of the Jackpot races. While this increases your chances of winning, it also increases the stake which can quickly add up. Whilst picking one horse in each race costs just one unit bet, and having two picks in one race requires just one extra bet, when you add multiple horses in more than one race things get more complex.
For example, if you fancy three horses strongly but then can’t decide between two in the fourth and fifth, and three in the sixth, this will necessitate 12 bets in total. To calculate how many bets will be needed just multiply all your picks together – in this instance the equation would be 1 x 1 x 1 x 2 x 2 x 3 = 12. It is therefore important that punters carefully check their bet before placing it, with the total number of bets/stakes automatically calculated on your online betting slip.
Biggest Ever Tote Jackpot Wins
Winning the Tote Jackpot is very difficult. You would hope that calling the winner of six races would secure a large return and while it’s impossible to predict the size of the pot before a day’s racing, the Tote guarantee a minimum Jackpot prize of £10,000. Nice as that prize is, it’s some way short of the huge Jackpot wins detailed below. This is because when the top prize is not won the pool (minus deductions) rolls over. Over the years there have been some truly staggering wins and here are just a selection.
£1,445,671 Winner – Exeter, 2011
If you need any evidence that impact of the Tote Jackpot can have, you only need to look at Steve Whiteley. When he won nearly £1.5 million on the Jackpot during a card at Exeter in 2011, the media were understandably keen to grab a word with him. When asked what he does for a living, Whiteley replied, “I’m a heating engineer – well, I was.”
The 60-year-old was able to leave his job and enjoy early retirement thanks to striking it lucky with a £2 bet. Brilliantly, Whiteley was present at Exeter on the day so he could cheer Lupite on in person as the horse won the sixth race and secured his monster payout. He told the press that he’d used his bus pass to get down to the track but was able to travel in more comfort afterwards. Whiteley also earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the biggest Jackpot win.
The odds of his six horses were as follows:
- Race 1 – Semi Colon at 2/1
- Race 2 – Black Phantom at 12/1
- Race 3 – Ammunition at 16/1
- Race 4 – Mr Bennett at 16/1
- Race 5 – Lunda Sky at 5/1
- Race 6 – Lupita at 12/1
The combined odds of those winners was almost 900,000/1, showing just how hard this bet can be to land. We’d be happy with one winner at 16/1 let alone two!
£30,000 Dividend – Kempton, 2020
Because the Jackpot is such a hard prize to win it often goes unclaimed. When this happens the prize fund rolls over. It doesn’t take many rollovers for the total Jackpot fund to reach seriously big levels even for a relatively small meeting. When there’s a big prize fund you get more punters trying to take advantage, further boosting the prize on offer in a virtuous circle. However, of course, the more people that enter, the more likely it is that more than one person will land the winning six horses.
This perfect storm occurred in December of 2020, when a single £1 unit for the jackpot at Kempton paid out to £30,000 with a total pool of almost three quarters of a million pounds. In total, there were 24.57 units left in the Jackpot when Soar Above won the sixth race at 15/2. This meant that there was no single, huge winner, but rather a number of punters who took home a still very handy five-figure win. A late flurry of bets, combined with two well-backed favourites losing helped to keep the prize nice and high for those lucky enough to win the rollover.
The One That Got Away
There have been loads of big five- and six-figure wins on the Tote Jackpot over the years but spare a thought for the punter that was half a length away from £900,000 back in 2011 (you know, back when £900,000 was a lot of money and not just your monthly gas and electric bill!).
After the Jackpot had rolled over a number of times the total pool stood at around £1.2m and one punter had managed to land the first five races at Newmarket during the Cambridgeshire Meeting. Swiss Dream was the horse to let the bettor down, turning it more into a nightmare than anything else.
The horse, a 4/1 shot finished second, just half a length back, which meant the Jackpot rose to around £1.7m with a pool of approximately £2.5m. Not bad given this is a bet that is settled in just a few hours during one, hopefully glorious, afternoon of racing!