Most of us probably already have a go-to site for placing our bets, but it’s worth taking a look to see what else is out there from time to time. Just like how never checking around to see if you can get a better deal on your car insurance means you could end up paying more than you need, never looking at what the competition are offering means you could be missing out on better odds, offers or features.
Below you’ll find some of our favourites, along with their current sign up offer (most betting sites will offer a welcome bonus when you sign up, adding an additional incentive to shop around).
Best Free Horse Racing Bets
The following offers were all able to be used in conjunction with horse racing at time of writing. If you notice any changes or errors, please let us know.
Betfred - Bet £10 Get £40
Betfred are offering £40 in free bets and casino spins when you sign up, deposit and bet £10. Your qualifying bet needs to be at odds of evens or more and you'll need to use bonus code WELCOME40 to claim.
What Can You Use the Free Bets On?
As mentioned earlier, unless the offers have changed since they were last checked, all of the bonuses should be horse racing friendly meaning that you can use them to bet on racing.
However, there may still be restrictions. Some betting sites take a relaxed attitude to their sign up offers, meaning you that aside from a few minor clauses (such as minimum bets) you can use it to bet on whatever you like.
Other sites are a bit more prescriptive in nature and specify what wagers you’re allowed to make with the free bet. These restrictions are most commonly based on the bet type, such as singles, accas or multiples.
To add a little confusion into the mix, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of consistency between the bookmakers. Some don’t want you placing accumulators with their free bets, whilst others only allow it to be used on an acca.
Full Cover Bets, Exchanges & Totepool
Despite what we’ve said thus far, there are a few common exclusions. So whilst the majority of sites vary which bets you’re allowed to use there are some that are frequently excluded. Some for obvious reasons, others we’re not so sure about.
- Full Cover Bets – We’re not really sure why, but lots of bookies will exclude full cover bets such as a lucky 15 or goliath. This is true even of some sites that allow the free bets to be used on large leg accumulators.
- Totepool – Most sites won’t allow their free bets to be used on totepool bets. With totepool you’re not betting against the site, you’re contributing to a pool, so a totepool free bet is a guaranteed loser for the bookie.
- Betting Exchanges – If the bonus is being offered via a traditional fixed odds sportsbook, it normally con’t be valid for the exchange. Obviously this applies to a very small number of sites that offer exchanges, but if you’re using one of those then bear it in mind. Sometimes the sites will have some kind of exchange specific welcome offer so if you’re more interested in peer to peer betting then head on over to the exchange in case there is a more suitable alternative.
It’s All in the Terms
Since the governing body that regulates gambling in the UK (the UK Gambling Commission) introduced their new rules a couple of years ago, it’s made deciphering offers a lot simple. It wasn’t so long ago that the free free came with a set of terms and conditions that required a diploma in Paralegal Practice to understand, but new rules mean that the key terms of the offer have to be simple, written in plain english and visible.
What this basically means is that you should be able to figure out the key details of an offer from reading a couple of sentences. To make things simpler we’ve also copied the key terms and included them with each offer so you can compare them right here on the page.
What About the Betting Sites Themselves?
Putting aside welcome deals for a moment, does it matter which site you choose or are they all roughly the same?
There are a couple of different factors at play here which you’ll want to consider. Some are pretty black and white and can be easily quantified – such as how good are their odds – whilst others are a little bit more like choosing between the fries at Burger King and McDonalds, it all comes down to personal preference.
Are the Odds the Same at All Bookies?
Generally speaking odds will vary between betting sites, although the degree of variation will itself vary by race and horse. In some races you may find the odds for the more likely candidates to be pretty similar, whilst in others you could see some pretty drastic differences.
In the example below you see the odds for four horses from an upcoming race from three different bookmakers. As you can see the odds are almost identical, deviating only slightly for one of the horses from one of the sites:
You can also find these odds below in case that’s easier to follow:
|Horse||Site A||Site B||Site C|
|Know The Score||4/1||4/1||4/1|
In this specific scenario, unless you were planning on betting on Captain Cattislock (and assuming you were going to bet on one of the other three) then it doesn’t really matter who the bet was placed with from an odds perspective.
However, in some races you’ll find slightly bigger differences – such in the example below.
Again we’ve converted these odds to table format:
|Horse||Site A||Site B||Site C|
|See The Eagle Fly||5/2||5/2||5/2|
|Green or Black||10/1||10/1||12/1|
In this race some horses have the same odds at all betting sites. However there are a few differences starting to creep in between Sites A & B and Site C, although it’s going to depend on who you want to bet on.
At Site A/B you can get 5/2 on Progressive compared to 9/4 at Site C. So if Progressive is your horse then betting with Site C would be costing you money as the odds are slightly shorter.
However, Site C has better odds for both of the longer odds horses – offering 7/1 compared to 13/2 and 12/1 instead of 10/1. Clearly if you’re backing Sarceaux or Green or Black then Site C is the way to go.
We should also point out that in these comparisons we’ve been sticking to the better sites. These are the ones we bet with ourselves and the ones we’re happy to recommend to our readers. For this reason you’ll notice that the difference in odds is never huge as they’ll generally try to stay competitive, however there are plenty of other lesser sites, particularity low budget white labels, where the odds will be a lot worse.
It’s Not Just About Odds
Circling back to our first example, even though the odds are very similar, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t advantages to being selective with your choice of bookie. Some sites offer bonuses on a race such as ‘money back if your horse falls’ or ‘get a free bet if your horse finishes second’.
Whilst the offer itself shouldn’t make you choose bad odds over good, if the odds are the same it makes sense to take the promotion if it’s available.
Another common promotion for bigger races are extra places. This is where the place portion of each way bets are paid out to a higher number of places than is required by the BHA. For example, if a race normally pays out to three places you could see a bookmaker offering to pay up to four.
This is particularly common with high profile races such as the Grand National, where you’ll often find bookies pay two extra places.
The benefit here should be fairly obvious as it makes the difference between a bet potentially winning or losing.
You may also find different offers at different bookies, meaning you’ll need to choose the promotion that best suits your bet. For example, you could see a scenario where three sites offer the same odds on your chosen horse but also have the following:
- Bookie X – No offer
- Bookie Y – One extra place
- Bookie Z – Money back if your horse finishes second
The first option, Bookie X, can easily be eliminated as they don’t offer any kind of additional value. Whereas bookie’s Y and Z are probably comparable in value. If you think the horse has a good shot at winning, go for the money back. If it’s longer odds and you’re backing it each way in case it places then the extra place would make more sense.
Features To Look Out For
In addition to paying out on extra places for select races, there are several other ways bookies can enhance your online betting experience. Some of these ways revolve around giving punters better value for money but there are further extras such as special bets and providing live coverage of races.
Live streaming has become rather widespread in the online betting scene, so you shouldn’t have to spend too long looking to find a bookie that offers it. It may be that you need to place a bet to watch the content, but this is not always the case. Some bookies will allow users to watch UK races providing they have an active balance in their betting account. For races abroad, there is likely to be a requirement to place a bet of at least £1 on the race in question.
It does not matter a great deal either way as punters usually only want to watch races they have had a flutter on. Seeing the action unfold with your own eyes can really add to the overall experience. At least for British horse races, the stream should come with live commentary too so you can have a clear understanding of what is going on every step of the way.
The live streaming feature is not just great for watching the action, however. You may find that within the stream there are certain ‘extras’ such as predictors, tips, key stats and video analysis of previous runs. There can be some useful information slotted into the live streams provided that are well worth checking out prior to placing your bets.
Staying on the topic of ‘live’ action, it is possible to bet on the action as it is happening, rather than having to pin all your hopes on your pre-race predictions. To do this though, you will need to head to a betting exchange rather than a traditional bookmaker. Bookies will close the market when the race begins but on an exchange, where you essentially bet against other punters, bets continue to flow.
It is not a betting option for everyone but should you want to explore it there are a couple of things to be aware of. Firstly, it helps to be at the racecourse or to at least ensure you have a stream with only a short delay. The further back your stream is, the bigger the disadvantage as other bettors have more information at their disposal. Secondly, remember that for in-play horse race betting, prices can be extremely volatile and can change almost instantly.
Best Odds Guarantee
This is a promotion you will find across most major bookmakers but less so with smaller names. Even among the big names though, exact policies tend to vary regarding cut-off points so it is worth reading the terms and conditions before placing your bets. The premise of a best odds guaranteed (BOG) always remains the same however and it ensures you won’t lose out on the odds by taking the early price.
It does this by guaranteeing that you will at least be paid out at the official ‘starting price’ of the horse. This is something independently calculated using the median figure from a sample of bookmakers. If you backed the winning horse at 5/1, but its starting price ended up being 7/1, you would be paid out at 7/1 under BOG. Also, if you backed the horse at 9/1, and it ran with a 7/1 starting price, you would still be paid out at the higher price of 9/1.
So, BOG is a fantastic way of ensuring you do not end up getting a lower payout than you cold have got from your bookmaker. It also encourages punters to place earlier bets (on the day of the race). If the odds increase on your selected horse after placing your wager and the horse starts with a bigger price, the best odds guaranteed policy has you covered. If the odds decrease afterwards though, you have your superior odds locked in.
Lengthen Your Odds
One frustration some punters have when betting is not being able to find a type of bet that matches how well they think a horse can win by. Imagine that in one race, you are absolutely convinced that the favourite will tear up the field and win by a comfortable margin. Sure, you can back it to win but the payout for this could well be small, for example if it is a short priced favourite.
Fortunately, some bookies have responded to their customer demands by adding a ‘lengthen your odds’ feature for most races. This enables customers to pick a more precise bet, thus increasing the odds, though also making it more likely that the bet will fail, of course.
In one race we looked at, Gordons Aura was the even money favourite, so a £5 bet would return £5 in winnings, £10 in total with the stake. If we backed him to win by a certain distance, however, we could get a much bigger price.
Lengthening your odds is a great option for when you are confident a horse will win by a decent margin but there will be times when you are much less assured. It may be that you like the look of a runner but you are wary that there are one or two horses that could beat it if anything goes slightly awry. You could simply brave it and cross your fingers, or you play it safer and simply back the horse for a ‘top two/three’ finish, a bet you will find at many bookies.
There is a middle ground though that might offer more appeal and is known as place insurance. With this, you will have your stake returned if your horse fails to win but finishes within one of the ‘insured places’. Typically, you have a choice of two places insurance (covering second place) or three places (covering second and third). The table below shows how this can impact the odds (note: not all runners are listed).
|Horse||Win Odds||2 Place Insurance||3 Place Insurance|
|This Is My Half||8/1||7/1||6/1|
As you can see, the shorter the odds, the larger the proportional cut in odds. This is a standard approach as the stronger the horse, the more likely they are to fall within one of the insurance places.
Money Back If Second
For bookies that provide place insurance, you should find this is an option across most races as it is something of a standard additional market. Offering money back, normally as a free bet, should your horse finish second though is much more of a special offer and something you will only see promoted across a small minority of races. With this, all you need to do is make a qualifying bet and should your horse finish as the runner-up, your stake will be returned.
In the screenshot above, the bookie is refunding players in the form of a free bet but others may refund in cash. In either case, the benefit of this promotion is that you do not have to accept lower odds just to get second place insurance. Qualifying bets are those placed on the main market with customers selecting the ‘full’ price.
Non-Runner No Bet (NRNB)
If you place a bet on a horse a few hours before, but the horse is forced to withdraw for whatever reason, your stake will be refunded. This is standard policy across absolutely all bookmakers and not a kind of special feature you only find at certain websites. Should you place your bets days (or weeks or even months) earlier though, while the race is still under ante-post rules, you would not ordinarily be covered if your horse ends up not participating in the race.
This is the risk you take when backing a horse before the final declarations are made. You can obtain significantly better odds but you take the risk that the horse may not compete and if so, your stake is lost. With a NRNB policy though, ante-post bets are protected in the case your selection does not end up running in the contest. When declared as a non-runner, your stake will be returned shortly after, meaning you can place an ante-post bet without losing your stake if they don’t run.
Money Back If Your Horse Falls / Faller Insurance
It is possible (in selected hurdle or steeplechase races) to back a horse with faller insurance. When choosing to place this kind of bet, you will receive your stake back, normally as a free bet, should your horse take a tumble. This can be entirely their own fault or it can include instances where a horse is brought down (BD) by another. Faller insurance may also cover instances where the jockey is unseated, but generally speaking no other circumstances will be covered.
As with some place insurance options, you could also accept a lower price than the ‘full’ odds. A ‘money back if your horse falls’ policy may be viewed as a superior option to this, when available. Here, the bookmaker simply promises to return any stakes placed (usually as a free bet rather than cash) in the main market whenever a faller has been backed. This is particularly useful when having a flutter on any horse that lacks consistency when jumping.
RequestABet / GetAPrice
Want to have a flutter on something you cannot find at a bookmaker’s website? There is no need to worry as there are several brands that support a ‘request a bet’ or ‘get a price’ feature. As the name suggests, with this you simply need to contact the bookie with what you want to bet on and they will send you the odds shortly after. There is no obligation to take the bet so if you feel the odds are too short you can simply ignore their offer.
Some bookies allow customers to request a bet via social media (usually Twitter) or by email. Alternatively, it may be a feature supported within the bookie’s official mobile app. Regardless of the approach though, what regularly happens is that each bookie supporting the feature will list a sample of request bets on their website. This allows punters to take advantage of customised bets created by fellow punters.
Across many race days, selected bookmakers will give their customers some ‘extra value’ bet options through their boosted selection. With these the bookie artificially increased the price on a particular outcome, or sometimes two or three combined outcomes (such as two or three favourites to win). Price increases do not tend to be massive, perhaps jumping up from 4/1 to 5/1 but it is still worth taking advantage of for a bet you would place anyway. Additionally, it can be a good starting point if you are looking to explore different bet options as they tend to (but not always) represent better value.
Not To Win
Normally, if you wish to bet on a horse not to win a race, you would need to head to a betting exchange and place a ‘lay’ bet. Punters typically lay options when they believe a horse, often one high-up in the pecking order, is being overpriced and/or overhyped. It is possible to back a non-winner at select bookmakers though should they offer a ‘not to win’ market. The benefit of placing such a bet through a bookmaker rather than laying at an exchange is that your wager is guaranteed and you do not have to worry about it being matched (for instance when liquidity if low at the exchange on that market).
|Horse||To Win||Not To Win|
|West End Charmer||11/1||1/33|
You do pay a price for the guarantee and convenience though as lay odds you will find on betting exchanges tend beat those provided by bookmakers, though you would pay commission on winnings.
We have covered many of the most popular special features and bet types you might find at a bookmaker but it is not an exhaustive list. Some bookies, typically smaller ones, do not stray too far from the main handful of markets and lack much in the way of additional features. Others though are huge on horse racing and are committed to providing as many different bet types and as much live coverage as possible.
Our advice would be that if you are unable to find the types of features you want at your preferred betting website, you should consider shopping around. Not only do many bookies offer great incentives to new customers, but you can check many of their website features before you decide to sign up.