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Horse racing enjoys huge popularity, in the UK, but also in other parts of the world and there are few different types of horse races, most notably flat and steeplechase races, but also harness races and endurance races. Horse racing generates almost £4 billion for the British economy and millions of people from all over the world watch some of the most prestigious UK horse races. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is an avid fan of horse racing and she owns few horses that take part in races.

Horse Racing History

Horse racing is probably the oldest sport on the planet, at least the oldest that is still practised. Evidence shows that horse races have been held ever since the horses were domesticated for the first time, which happen somewhere in Central Asia about 6,500 years ago. The Ancient Greeks, Babylonians and Egyptians all engaged in horse racing and in Ancient Rome both mounted horse racing and chariot racing were popular.

The horse racing as we know it today evolved from thoroughbred racing that was very popular with the high classes of the British society. Horse racing earned the name ‘the Sport of Kings’ in those days. Thoroughbred horse races were developed during the 17th and 18th century when domestic males, typically bred on the British Isles were crossbred with stallions from other parts of the world. The origins of most modern thoroughbred horses can be traced to that period. Thoroughbred horses spread from the British Isles to all over the world and there are currently millions such horses.

Most racing horses are thoroughbred horses and that’s why sometimes people use ‘thoroughbred’ to refer to all racing horses, whereas the term is actually reserved only for horses of the actual race. The Jockey Club in the UK was founded in the 1750 and the Rules of Racing were codified for the first time.

Horse racing betting has been one of the most prominent types of betting throughout history and it still one of the major branches of sports betting today. Initially betting was only allowed at specialised bookmaker corners that were established at racecourses, but in the 20th century, off course horse racing betting was also permitted. Nowadays, a lot of horse betting punters bet online, even though betting onsite betting, at racecourses is still popular. Many people who don’t usually place wagers, like to place a bet or two on the most popular horse races. 

Horse Racing Betting Markets

A single race winner bet is the simplest horse racing betting market. With this bet you predict the race winner and the bet only wins if your horse wins the race. Since there are usually multiple participating horses and races can be pretty unpredictable, the odds are usually pretty high, even for the horses that might be considered to be one of the favourites.

Each-way betting is also very popular. With this bet your stake is divided into two equal parts, one covers the winner market the other the place market. So, even if your horse doesn’t win but manages to secure one of the top places, you will still get paid. The number of places which are covered depends on the number of participants, if there are 5 to 7 horses than the first two places are covered, if there are 8 or more than 3 places and with more than 16 horses 4 places will be covered.

Forecast and tricasts are bets on the same race which include betting on two and three horses, respectively. There are multiple options here. If you place a straight forecast, then you’ll need to predict which horse will win the race and which will finish second. With a reverse forecast, the order doesn’t have to be correct, either horse can finish first or second. A combination forecast involves more than 2 horses where at least two of them need to finish third or second. The situation with tricasts is similar.

You may also place one bet that includes multiple selections of different races. You can place a double, treble or accumulator (4+ selections) where all selections have to win in order for the bet to win, but there are also different system bets. With system bets only some of the selections need to win for you to win a prize, but the more selections win, the more money you will earn.

Most Notable Races and Festivals

British horse races are divided into two groups, flat races where there are no obstacles and National Hunt races, where the horses are required to jump over hurdles or steeplechases. Flat races are divided into different groups – Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, Handicapped races and other races. The races of Group 1 are the most renowned races and they usually attract the biggest crowds and most punters.

Similarly, National Hunt races are also divided into Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 and selected other races. Grade 1 races are the races of top quality. Horse races take place throughout the year. For example, Group 1 flat races take place April – October, whereas Grade 1 National Hunt races are held November – April.

The Royal Ascot is one of the most popular and most visited UK horse racing festival. It takes place in June and it features multiple flat races, including some of the most notable Group 1 races such as the Queen Anne Stakes, King's Stand Stakes, St James's Palace Stakes, the Commonwealth Cup and few more.

The Cheltenham Festival usually coincides with St Patrick’s Day and that is why it is very popular with the Irish. It is a National Hunt festival and it features numerous Grade 1 races, including Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Champion Hurdle, RSA Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup, as well as other races. The prize for the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup exceeds £300,000.

The Grand National is another extremely popular annual National Hunt race. This race takes place at the Aintree course, which is located near Liverpool. It is the most valuable steeplechase race with a total prize pool of £1 million, where the winner wins over £500,000. 

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