Horse Racing Bookmakers – The Best Bookies With Racing Free Bets

Betting on horse racing is great fun and hugely popular in the UK and indeed many other parts of the world. It is an activity that takes place on many different levels, ranging from expert punters who study the form religiously and place a bet on most days, right through to the once-a-year Grand National punters.

In between, you have enthusiastic punters who follow the big races, total newbies heading to the races with colleagues or friends and a whole lot more besides. Whatever your interest in betting on a horse race, you’ll need a bookmaker if you want to roll the dice and see if you can pick a winner. This is our dedicated horse racing bookmaker hub and we’ve got everything you need to help you learn more about having a punt on the horses.

That includes what you should look for from a racing bookie and how to compare them, the extra features that some (but not all) sites offer, and a quick guide to betting on horse racing. In that last section, we’ll look at the most popular racing wagers, win and each way betting, and we’ll give some information on Rule 4 and much more besides.

Horse Racing Free Bets (Updated July, 2024)

£30 Matched Bet if Your First Acca Loses
New UK customers only. Min Stake: £5. Maximum Free Bet: £30. First bet on a Football or Horse Racing multiple with 3+ selections. Overall odds: 3.00 (2/1) or higher. Free Bets available upon settlement of the qualifying bet. 100 Free Spins on Gold Blitz (£0.10 per spin) credited on settlement of qualifying Acca bet. No wagering requirements on free spin winnings. Debit Card deposit only (exclusions apply). This offer is valid 7 days from the new account being registered. 18+ BeGambleAware.org. Bet the Responsible Way. Full terms apply. #ad
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Racing Bookies: What to Look Out For

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Racing is generally considered to be the second-largest sport in terms of how much is bet on it in the UK, behind only football. The most up-to-date stats from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) confirm this. We can see that of the £2.6bn taken in by remote gambling companies (betting websites), £1.2bn of the gross gambling yield (basically how much they won before expenses) came from football bets, with £856m coming from bets on the horses.

That almost a third of their income came from betting on horses suggests that bookies take this area of gambling very seriously; it also means that all major UK bookies offer opportunities to bet on this sport. So, whilst this page is titled “Racing Bookmakers”, the reality is that most online betting sites can be classified as “racing bookies”.

There are two things to point out, however. First, as we explain in our article on New Bookmakers, some smaller, newer bookies that use off-the-shelf white-label tech to power their sites, may not offer betting on the gee-gees at all. Second, even allowing for this, the majority of UKGC-licensed sites do have horse racing markets but that does not mean to say that all racing bookies are created equally.

So, what should you be looking for when it comes to choosing a bookmaker with whom to place your racing bets? We will look at less common features and extras shortly but for now let us consider the basics. These are the most important aspects of choosing a racing bookie and whilst in a way these are the bare minimums, it is not just that a bookmaker should be ticking these boxes, it is that they should be excelling in these areas.

Best Odds Guaranteed

Best odds guaranteed, shortened unappetisingly to BOG, began as a genuine offer but now has become almost standard. We love it because not only can it lead to some extra cash in your back pocket, but it also removes what can sometimes be an agonising choice. All of the very best horse racing betting sites offer BOG on all UK and Irish races, as well as selected other contests too.

That’s all very well, but you may well be asking what does best odds guaranteed mean. Well, when you make a bet, assuming it is neither ante post nor in-running, you usually have the option to either accept the current odds or opt for the Starting Price (also known as the SP, of which more below). In the days before BOG, this meant that punters faced a decision: accept the current odds, or hope the horse drifted and you got a bigger payout thanks to the SP.

Of course, inevitably, whatever you choose you’ll be wrong! Take the SP and the horse will be backed in to odds-on. Opt for the price when you place the wager and you can guarantee it will drift like a barge before romping home, leaving everyone who took the SP minted and you cursing your decision. Or is it just us who have such terrible luck?

Best odds guaranteed does what you might expect and guarantees you the best price. To avail yourself of this offer you have to place your bet at the odds available at the time. If the horse is a steamer (the odds have shortened by the start of the race), you’ll get your original price. On the other hand, if it goes from 4/1 when you made the wager, to an SP of 8/1, you’ll get paid out at the far more rewarding odds of 8s.

Little can beat the pleasant surprise of logging into your account to see a lot more in your balance than you were expecting. For example, if you made a bet at 16/1 for £10 and you know that the horse won but nothing else, you would expect to check your balance and find £170. However, if you made that bet at a site that offered BOG, and the horse drifted out to 33/1 (unlikely but far from impossible), you would see double that – a tidy sum of £340. Perhaps the only thing to beat that sensation would be learning that your unpleasant boss backed the same horse at 16/1 but with a site that didn’t have BOG!

Sites that do offer BOG tend to make it very clear and, whilst we have said that all the top racing bookies offer BOG, in recent years, there has been something of a move away from this. Now some sites offer it on fewer races or even not at all, so if you love the horses, make sure that you gamble with a horse racing bookmaker that pays at the best odds.

Range of Nations & Markets

If you are a casual racing punter, you will find that any site that offers odds on horse racing will serve your needs. If you are only going to be betting on contests, such as the Grand National, the Derby and the odd big race, and only on the most popular markets, you will find that all horse racing bookmakers offer what you want.

However, if betting on the horses is your number one area of wagering then you will no doubt want much more than this. Due to its nature, racing is not a sport that lends itself to having hundreds of different markets. In football, you can bet on every element of a match, from corners to cards and goals to passes, with the best football bookies offering around 750 markets on a big game.

In contrast, a horse race is simply a race and there are only limited wagering options. However, the best bookies still carve out a few more interesting options than just the standard bets. This might include specials on a big meeting, wagers on the trainer and jockey championships, markets concerning winning distances and more.

However, the larger point of difference relates to what markets are offered on races from around the globe. A bog-standard bookie will offer UK and Irish racing with, at best, coverage of contests like the Melbourne Cup and the Kentucky Derby. Our number one picks for punting on the horses, however, include daily races from all over the world. This means you can bet on action from France, Australia, USA, South Africa and more, with some sites even pricing up races in the likes of Sweden, Norway, Italy, Chile and Uruguay!

In-Play Betting

In-play betting has been growing for many years now and on some sports, certain bookmakers who are “all about the in-play” (said in a London gangster accent) actually take the majority of their wagers live, rather than pre-match. In-play has lots of benefits and legions of fans and if it is something you enjoy, it is important to check that your preferred bookie offers live betting on horse racing. Many do, but plenty don’t.

In truth, we would suggest that in-play betting and horse racing do not marry together all that well. This is partly down to the speed at which a race can change, especially in a National Hunt contest. Horses can fall, stumble or unseat riders in Flat contests too but it is far more common with jumps action.

You might feel that a horse romping clear is good value even at short odds of 1/6 but that can change in an instant if they crash into the last fence and go down. Risk is part and parcel of betting and that is why the odds were 1/6, not 1/10,000. But even so, in-play betting has its dangers.

Such wagering can be especially risky if you are watching the race on a “live” stream as this may be delayed. If live odds look too good to be true, in comparison to the footage you are watching that is classed as “live”, it might be because somebody somewhere has already placed a sizeable bet on a different outcome.

So-called “courtsiding” can be an issue in all sports, with punters who are physically present at an event seeking to exploit any time lag in television broadcasts and streaming services. However, in racing this has become a bigger issue, with some canny (or criminal, depending on your perspective) punters using drones to obtain truly live footage and gain the edge over others.

Limits

When it comes to betting, many of us will never have any issues with limits of any kind but there are certain scenarios where different types of limits can affect even an occasional punter. First off, there are staking limits, which if you are a high-roller, are worth checking. These are related to maximum payouts, with bookies having a limit on the amount they will pay out, even if your bet would have technically won more.

Note that if you are a fan of accumulators or similar bets, such as Lucky 15s (and Lucky 31s/63s), then payout limits are often based on the lowest limit within your multiple. Bookies will usually have different maximum payouts according to the size and prestige of a race. Top UK and Irish races will probably have a far larger maximum than low-level contests from Europe, for example.

This means that if you do an eight-fold acca with seven of the legs on major races from the Cheltenham Festival, but one from a very small race in France, the cap on the whole bet will be the lowest applicable. Winning £10,000 can never be a bad thing but if you were expecting £236,567 it might be a little disappointing, to say the least!

Sites can also apply individualised limits that are specific to your account. They do this to protect themselves from punters who are classed as gainless. Unfair as this may seem, if you land a string of winners, you may see your stakes capped at very low, often derisory, amounts of less than £1. Just backing winners doesn’t lock in such a limit (or even, eventually an outright ban from using the bookie). However, if your winners were on very unusual selections or markets, or where the odds subsequently shortened significantly after your bet, these are more likely to be flagged up and sound the bookie’s alarm bells.

Racing Features to Watch Out For

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As well as these core aspects of a horse racing bookmaker’s offering, there are a number of extra features that bookies may offer. Here are some to look out for.

Live Streaming

Live streaming is offered by many top UK online betting sites and racing is one of the sports that tends to have the best coverage. However, it is far from universal and so if you like betting on a race and watching how it plays out, make sure that your bookmaker offers it.

In addition, as with other areas we have looked at, whilst many bookmakers may offer live streaming of races, not all of these products are created equally. Does your bookie offer live streaming on all UK and Irish contests, as well as others? Does it work on mobile or tablet? Are streams smooth, clear, quick and reliable? Can you watch any race you want, just one you have bet on, or what other requirements are there, such as having funds in your account or having placed a bet in the last week?

Whilst major races are televised, live streaming is perfect if you are out and about and want to watch on the move. It is also great for smaller races that are not easily viewed otherwise. Watching your horse storm to victory is a thrill that is hard to match and with live streaming, there is now no real reason to ever miss a race you have had a bet on. All you need to do now is find those horses that are going to “storm to victory”!

Offers for Existing Customers

Perhaps the biggest thing you should look for when it comes to choosing a horse racing bookie is what offers they provide for their existing customers. An attention-grabbing free bet for new customers is one thing but you can typically only claim that once, when you join. A much smaller offer might not get a lot of coverage but if it can be claimed weekly, or even perhaps daily, it may be far more beneficial to you in the long run.

There are so many different types of horse racing offers and some are much better than others. Aside from BOG, which we have mentioned, common promos include odds boosts on named horses, enhanced each way offers (where the bookie pays the each way portion of the bet down to more than the standard number of places) and money back deals.

Money back offers see your losing stake refunded dependent on any one of a range of specified outcomes. Common ones include if your horse falls, is beaten into second by the favourite, refuses to come out of the stalls, or loses a race very narrowly. The refund is increasingly paid as cash but may also be granted in the shape of a free bet.

Another type of excellent promo isn’t specific to racing but works very well with the horses given that many racing fans love an acca. You may see a payout boost if you land an acca with a certain number of selections, or alternatively, if you only get one bet right (usually in a bet like a Lucky 15 or a Yankee), you may get your odds doubled (or with larger multiples bets even tripled or quadrupled). Another promo is generically referred to as acca insurance and will often refund your stake (as cash or a free bet) if just one leg of an accumulator lets you down.

Non-Runner No Bet

NRNB could have been listed with the above promos but is slightly different in that it applies only to ante post wagers. If you love trying to bag some early value ahead of big races, especially the Grand National or those at the Cheltenham Festival, be sure to look out for this.

Normally, when you make an ante post bet you lose your stake if your pick doesn’t make it to the starting line. However, if your bookie is offering non-runner no bet you will get your money back. Slightly less beneficial and less common these days is non-runner free bet where your stake is refunded as a free bet rather than withdrawable cash.

A Quick Guide to Betting on Horse Racing

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Choosing a bookie is easy enough, with so many top-notch racing bookmakers available to choose from. Less easy is finding winners! There is, and we can’t say this often or loudly enough, no system that assures you can beat the bookie. If something sounds like a clever staking plan or a fool-proof system, or someone promises to sell you winning tips or a magical system, treat it as if they had offered you magic beans!

Matched betting and arbitrage betting are advanced betting techniques that do work, whilst courtsiding can also pay. However, if we are simply talking about a “system” to make normal bets and win (as in take cash from the bookies in the long term) … it doesn’t exist.

However, there are still many fundamentals that a newbie should understand before they get involved with backing horses. These might make your results slightly better as you will understand what you are doing but they will certainly make you enjoy things more. So, to those basics!

Main Racing Markets

As said, racing does not offer hundreds of different bets and most punters place their bets on a horse to win a race. We will look at the difference between a standard win bet and also an each-way bet shortly. However, aside from backing a horse to win, you can also bet on it to place (a different market to backing it each way).

There are also alternative markets, such as “without” betting. This is popular when there is a favourite at very short odds and is essentially a bet on who will win the race with that named (or sometimes an unnamed) favourite excluded.

Other popular racing bets include a forecast, where you try to select which horse will finish first and which will be second. A reverse forecast is a bet on the first two but in either order, and really just sees your stake doubled, so that you are backing both Horse 4 first and Horse 7 second, and also Horse 7 first and Horse 4 second, for example.

A tricast is a similar bet but covers the first three horses in the correct order, whilst a combination tricast is akin to a reverse forecast and covers the first three in any order. This is also really just multiple bets covering all possible outcomes. With three horses there will be six bets (and therefore six stakes) but you can also opt to back four horses (or more) with any three of them to finish first, second and third, in any order, though this increases the stake dramatically.

Win or Each Way?

Perhaps confusingly for newbies, when you decide you want to bet on a horse to win and think that is your decision made, you then have the further choice of deciding to back it to win, also known as “on the nose”, or backing it each way. This latter option still falls under the win market but is slightly different.

Win: On the Nose

Back a horse to win and, unsurprisingly, if it doesn’t win the race, you don’t win your bet. It’s a simple, straight wager on the horse to be first past the post. A £10 bet costs £10 and at 2/1 returns £30, including your stake if the horse wins, or nothing at all if it finishes anywhere else. So far, so simple.

Win: Each Way

Still part of the same market, the race winner option, an each way bet is two bets in one, such that a £10 each way bet will set you back £20. The first £10 part of the bet works exactly like the on the nose option above. There is then a second £10 bet on the same horse to place. Place terms vary according to the nature of the race and the number of runners in it and these are standard across the industry. These terms cover how many places are included and what fraction of the standard odds this part of the bet will be paid at.

Let us imagine that for this race the each way terms dictate that your horse must finish in the first three places to be paid at a quarter of those 2/1 odds. Bookies can offer better terms but not worse, so, for example, a promo might see them pay at a quarter of the odds but for the top four places, giving punters a greater chance of winning.

If the horse finishes second or third, then just the place part of the bet wins. That means you lose the £10 on the win and get paid £10 at a quarter of 2/1, which yields a return (including that £10) of £15 for a loss of £5 overall. If the horse finishes fourth (and you made your bet with standard top-three terms) or worse, both bets lose and you are £10 down. If the horse wins then both bets are successful. So you get £30 for the first and £15 for the second for total returns of £45, meaning you win £25 overall.

Generally, each way bets are great when you aren’t convinced a horse will win but think it might, and certainly has a great chance of placing. They are typically used for picks at longer odds, perhaps around 6/1 upwards and ideally horses at double-digit prices. People have their own preferences but many will only back a horse each way if the place bet alone is enough to see them beat the bookie.

What Is Rule 4?

Rule 4 is part of the official Tattersalls Rules of Racing and is applied equally by all bookmakers. It governs how payouts are calculated when there are late withdrawals from a race that would change the odds. For example, if there is a huge favourite at odds of 1/6 and you back the second favourite at 12/1, should the favourite be withdrawn just before the off, it would be unfair if the bookie had to refund the many people that had backed the favourite and also pay out at 12/1 on your horse if it won.

With normal race-day odds (not ante post or in-play), you get your stake back if your horse is a non-runner. As such, it is only fair that bookmakers do not have to pay the full, original prices. Obviously, your 12/1 shot now has a pretty decent chance of winning as it was the second favourite and the 1/6 shot has withdrawn. It is far more likely to win and the Rule 4 deduction (technically it is Rule 4c) details what reduced payout you will receive.

In short, the lower the odds of the horse (or horses) that are non-runners, the greater the deduction. Rule 4 includes a table that starts at 1/9 or shorter and goes down to “Over 14/1”. In the latter case, there is no deduction, whilst in the former, our winnings will be reduced by a massive 90p per pound. It is a sliding scale, such that odds of between 8/13 and 4/7 see a reduction of 60p in the pound and 6/1 to 9/1 means you will miss out on just 10p per pound.

If your winnings are lower than you were expecting the most likely explanation is a Rule 4 deduction. These are relatively rare and if your instinct is that this is unfair, you should remember three things. First, this rule is used by all horse racing betting sites. Second, your horse may not have won if the other horse(s) had now withdrawn, so just be glad you won; and third, remember that refunds of stakes for non-runners are only really possible because of this, so whenever you get such a refund, consider it cash you might one day lose to a Rule 4.

What Is the Starting Price (SP)?

The Starting Price, normally referred to as the SP, is the price of a horse at the start of the race. Simple, hey? The SP is calculated by looking at the different prices offered by a range of bookmakers and taking a sort of average. The exact way it is worked out has changed over the years and varies in certain countries. It used to be taken solely from odds of bookies at the course in question but has now been broadened and usually also includes some online bookies too.

As noted when we looked at Best Odds Guaranteed, rather than being given a quoted price when the bet is made, many punters may opt to go for the SP instead. If you place your bet with a bookie offering BOG then you don’t need to worry but otherwise you have a decision to make. In addition, before bookies have fully priced a race, they may take bets but only offer the SP. The concept of the SP also has certain technical applications in terms of a bookmaker’s liability and position on a race but that is not something punters need to be too concerned with.

How to Pick Winners

Holding a trophyAs said, there are no silver bullets, magic wands or secret win systems and beating the bookies is very hard. If you let a chimpanzee pick your horses for you, the animal would pick winners eventually and overall your results would not be all that different from those achieved by many racing fans.

This is because bookmakers factor in a margin for themselves into the odds and most people, most of the time, will lose around this much – perhaps between 5% and 20%. Betting on the horses should be seen as a bit of fun and a way to enhance a day out or even a day in watching the action on TV or via a live stream. If you are sensible and don’t chase your losses, losing 10% of your overall stakes seems a fair price to pay for the occasional day when you win big and the odd thrill here and there even if you lose.

That said, racing sure is a whole lot more fun when you do win. If you want to take things more seriously, study the form, watch past races, check the weather (and how it affects different runners) and look for any tiny detail the bookmakers and market might have missed. Value is also key. This means that you are not trying to find the horse that is most likely to win a race, strange as that sounds. Instead, you are looking for the horse which has the best chance of winning in comparison to its odds.

If all that sounds like too much work, there are loads of tipsters you can follow. However, we strongly advise against paying for such services and we also do not recommend putting too much faith in them. Bet what you can afford to lose and if you are trialling a tipster, or a methodology or theory of your own, begin with very small stakes at first. Oh, and most of all, good luck – you’ll be needing that no matter what!