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How Horse Racing Markets Work

Written by Darren Wilson
Last updated 4 years ago

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes with horse racing markets. Every minute odds change and we will cover why they change, signs that they are going to change and how it can help with your betting.

The prices given for horses are set by your chosen bookmaker. There is a lot of mathematics behind the scenes and bookmakers make sure they will make a profit regardless of the outcome. In every race it’s not very often that there is an equal winning chance in a race and that’s why odds differ so much. With this in mind, lets say we have a horse that the majority of punters are putting money on, the bookies adjust the prices on that horse to reduce the risk of making a loss if it wins.

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Let’s make this as easy as possible, lets say we have an 8 horse race and we will call our horses, horse1, horse2, horse3 and so on. If all horses had the same ability and chance of winning (which doesn’t generally happen) the bookies would most likely set all the prices at 4/1. If punters bet evenly on all the horses, let’s say £100 on each. The bookmaker would take £800 and pay out £400 on the winning horse, giving the bookmaker a profit of £400. In an ideal world this would be easy money for a bookmaker, but luckily for us, the punter it doesn’t work out like that.

Let’s say there Horse1 takes £300 then the bookies will reduce the odds to something like 2/1 and the odds on horse2, horse3, horse4… will increase to 6/1. This makes it more tempting for punters to bet on the higher prices. Let’s say horse2 won the bookmaker would then pay out £600 and still make a profit from the other bets. If horse1 wins many people would get 4/1 prices and the late punters would only take 2/1, therefore reducing the payout for the bookmaker.

This is why prices are constantly changing in horse racing markets. It’s a way for the bookmaker to reduce the risk of a loss and to try and persuade punters to bet on the higher odds that are less likely to win. There are obviously many other reasons why the markets are the way they are. Horses don’t all start out at the same price due to form, weight and many other factors which we cover in our other guides.

Bookmakers control the way many bet on racing and often they will give offers on the favourite winning to tempt punters to bet on the favourite. Quite often bookmakers will lose money if the favourite wins due to these offers so why would they do it? Well… the favourite actually gets beat more times than winning.

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