Horse racing can be one of the most fun and entertaining avenues of the betting industry and it is perhaps the only major sport in the world that is almost entirely predicated on gambling. It is why, more than any other sport, there are professional tipsters and pundits who dedicate their careers and lives to predicting horse races.
Of course, betting on horse racing is full of pitfalls and it is certainly not an exact science – otherwise all those tipsters and pundits would be multimillionaires! While looking to experts for advice and tips is always wise, it is also important to form your own strategies and gain a full understanding of how to approach horse racing betting.
However, just as important as knowing what to do is knowing what not to do. And on that basis, here are the biggest mistakes to avoid when gambling on horse racing.
Placing large bets on big favorites
It might seem logical on paper that a horse that is odds-on favorite to win a race is the horse most likely to win. While that may be the case, you need to look at it from the perspective of making money on your bets.
If the only way to achieve significant returns by backing such a horse is to place a substantial wager, then you are setting yourself up for an expensive fall. For example, a look back at the winners of the Kentucky Derby on Twinspires.com will show that only 50 of the 143 winners started the race as favorites.
Your options in this case are to either look at the other challengers for Each-Way bets or to avoid the race altogether.
Making fanciful bets on outside shots
We have all seen social media posts of people striking it lucky and boasting about huge returns from backing a huge outsider in a race, but this is akin to winning the horse racing lottery: it hardly ever happens and those same people don’t show the many losing tickets from before or after.
Therefore, if you are going to back a long-shot horse, do so because it offers real value based on logic and research, not because of the fanciful hope of landing a jackpot. Remember, long shots are long shots for a reason – they hardly ever win!
Ignoring the jockey
For many amateur bettors, the focus of which horse to back starts and ends with the horse itself, and while the horse is a vital factor to consider, so is the person aiming to ride it to victory.
Just as important as the speed and power of a horse is the strategy behind the race, and it is the jockey who dictates the strategy. Therefore, ignoring the jockey when deciding which horses to bet on can be a costly mistake.
To avoid this mistake, take some time to research the jockey. Do this by studying his overall recent results and times, his results when paired with the specific horse, his previous results at that racetrack, and his results in similar races (classifications, distances, conditions).
Additionally, you will want to try where possible to wager on experienced jockeys. These jockeys will not only be more reliable when trying to execute a race-winning strategy but will often be the ones entrusted by trainers with the horses they believe have the best chances of victory.
Ignoring starting positions/gate numbers
A failure to take gate numbers into consideration is a common mistake made by inexperienced horse racing bettors. However, it is not as simple as, say, the 400-metres in athletics when it is often preferable to be in a middle lane (or in horse racing cases, a middle gate).
While a central starting position could be advantageous, it often depends on the horse and the jockey. Some horse-jockey pairings perform better from wider gates, while others achieve more success starting closer to the rails.
Again, do some research to see how the horse and jockey have performed in the past from the gates they have been drawn in for the race you are betting on to find consistencies. It is an often-overlooked aspect that you can capitalize on.
Placing too much importance on speed
This might seem counterintuitive as, of course, the fastest horse always wins the race. However, by solely relying on past times over similar distances, you might not be taking into account the strength of the field, while relying on speed alone is not much help if you are betting on a handicap race, when faster horses are carrying more weight.
Certainly, take speed and past times into account, but don’t rely on it as the only factor when selecting which horses to bet on.
Making bets too early
While odds tend to fluctuate in all sports betting based on various factors, only in horse racing are these fluctuations a direct result of money being placed on the horses. That means that a horse’s odds might get shortened because plenty of money is placed on it – often by a single individual with a large stake – but it does not necessarily mean it is favourite to win the race.
Therefore, you should be smart about when to place your bets. If you believe a horse has good value and is offering attractive odds, then perhaps an early wager is a good idea. However, getting your bets in early is not always the best idea. Leaving it late can give you a fairer idea of the landscape and spot any late value.