We take a look at five golden rules if you are looking to win money betting on the nags.

1 – Be selective.

Selectiveness, being willing to pass on betting opportunities and having the patience to wait for the ‘right bet’ is the most fundamental attribute between a gambler that makes money betting on horse racing and an amateur.

Even on the slowest of racing days, three or four meetings are staged across the United Kingdom, and plenty more globally. Having an investment in a large number of races each day is the fastest way to the poor house, and that’s nailed on.

Punters that bet race to race are customers that bookmakers are keen to keep for a lifetime, while the clients that specialise in certain areas of racing are shown the virtual door sharpish.

The reason being, if you’re betting race by race, even if you have a run of good results and have a fortunate couple of days in which the results go your way, you’re guaranteed to lose money long-term, as there isn’t a single gambler that bets on every race and makes a profit long-term.

‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ doesn’t pay when betting on racing, you need to find what you’re best at, and stick to it, whether it’s races over a certain distance such as sprint handicaps or spotting future stars in bumpers, maiden and novice events. Unless you’re betting solely for enjoyment, in which case, crack on and have a great time, but if you want to make profit long-term from betting on horse racing, you must be selective.

Selectiveness is not the only key to making money betting on racing – Willingness to pass on betting opportunities is vital. We can all fancy a horse in every race, but passing on the ones you half-fancy and only backing the runners you are supremely confident in, gives you the best chance of making money.

2 – Control your emotions and never place a bet that makes you nervous.

If you’re feeling very anxious and nervous about a bet you’ve placed, one of two things has happened. You have either bet more than you can afford to lose, or you haven’t been as selective as you ought to be, as if you had, you’d be confident and excited rather than nervous.

Emotions are as suited to betting as a dodgy jumper is to a novice chase. Extreme highs and lows lead to the stereotypical pitfalls of a bad gambler, in which you allow your emotions to decide your bets. This often leads to chasing losses and another visit to the aforementioned poor house.

Remember, just because you want a horse to win a particular race, doesn’t mean they will. You almost have to be cold-hearted and detached to be able to analyse a race from all sides. Leave your emotions at the door when opting to back a horse or not, and similarly after the race, win or lose.

3 – Trust your own judgement.

This is a simple one, but as important as any – Trust your own judgement. There’s nothing worse than letting yourself be talked out of backing a horse you fancied and then watching it win.

We’ve all heard the phrase “opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.”. Stick to your own judgment on a race, after all, it’s your own money you’re risking.  Especially at a meeting like the Cheltenham Festival when everybody has a tip.

4 – Keep records of your bets.

Keeping detailed records of all your bets placed is beneficial in many ways. The most obvious benefit is knowing whether or not you are winning or losing money long-term.

Records also allow you to analyse your bets, to be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps you are great at picking out winners of low grade handicaps over five-furlongs, and awful at selecting winners of long distance races. Records will give you this information, in which you can adjust your betting accordingly to reduce losses and boost your profits.

Keeping records is easily done using spreadsheets. Data to keep include:

  • Type of race (distance, course, going, class etc)
  • Type of horse (gender, age, breeding, trainer, jockey, etc)
  • Type of bet (win, each-way, lay, amount)
  • Outcome (win-lose, profit-loss, in-running odds).

5 – Understand market moves.

Understanding and reading a pre-race market is a useful tool to have in your artillery against the bookmakers.

Just because a horse shortens from 10/1 to 5/1 doesn’t mean it’s ‘mad fancied by connections’ and ‘heavily punted’ as you may be led to believe by racing pundits and so-called experts on racing channels.

There is always a reason behind a horse shortening in the market, knowing the reason with a high degree of confidence will allow you to understand the significance of the move.

A horse may shorten in the market after being tipped by a well followed tipster, such as Pricewise of the racing post, or Hugh Taylor of At The Races. Such moves aren’t as significant as they are based on one person’s opinion on the race, and bookmakers will quickly shorten these selections in anticipation of money, rather than bets actually placed.

A runner might be ‘backed’ based on the outcome of another non-related race. For example, if a trainer has won the first two races on a card, it doesn’t mean their 33/1 no-hoper in the third race will suddenly sprout wings and win the race, despite shortening in the market.

Spotting when a move for a horse is ‘genuine’ can help you to identify winners. After all, a weight of money behind a runner can indicate whether or not it is fancied from the people ‘in the know’ (owners, trainers, stable staff, etc). Track horses linked to connections/yards that seemingly like a gamble and have a good record of collecting when the money is down.

This however shouldn’t be the sole reason behind backing a horse.