Many punters reading this article will have already placed a bet or two ‘in play’, be it on the football, tennis, golf or another sport.
But horse racing? Surely betting on races that seem to pass by in the blink of an eye is impossible after the action has already begun?
That’s not the case, and actually there’s edges ‘in running’ for sharp punters that do their homework to exploit.
So can you bet on a horse race after it has started? The answer is a resounding yes.
Horse Racing In-Play Betting
The good news is that the absolute vast majority of bookmakers offer in-running odds for horse racing, although of course comparing prices is very difficult given the speed with which you’ll need to place your bets.
So you’ll need to choose your in-play bookie based on other parameters, with the quickness of their site/app and how easy it is to find and place bets two of the most obviously-important attributes when it comes to in-running betting.
You can use a racecard for that day’s action – these are readily available online – to make a note of what time each race starts; that will save you the hassle of toggling to each bookies’ ‘in play’ section to see what’s available.
You place your bets in the normal way – simply tap the odds to add them to your betslip, enter your stake amount, double check and then confirm your bet. The only complication, compared to pre-race punting, is that the odds will move frequently, so you will need to move fast to lock in a value price.
It’s also worth trying to set up in a way that allows you to watch the live stream of the race – remember, most bookies offer racing streams for those that have a funded account and/or have placed a bet in the preceding 24 hours – as well as see the odds fluctuations at the same time. Two screens, say a mobile phone and a laptop, will allow you do this easily.
The trick to betting on horse racing in-play is to be able to read the action. Who has started too fast? Which of those horses at the back of the field have the pace and stamina to get to the front at the business end? Who will thrive/struggle with an uphill finish?
You will need to do your homework too to examine the tactics of each jockey as they relate to their horse’s preferred running style.
Frontrunners, Stalkers & Hold Ups
As you are no doubt aware, all horse races are run differently – almost like a chess match on the grass.
It would be nonsense for a jockey to send their horse off at top speed in a bid to simply outpace the field – that is only viable in the shorter sprint races. For a three-mile outing over fences, it would be a recipe for disaster.
That said, some horses simply run better when they are the frontrunner – trying to open up a gap to the rest of the field early on. They may not be the best of stayers and therefore need a lead heading into the final furlongs, or maybe they get spooked by the presence of other horses; giving them space at the front of the pack can get the best out of them.
One of the great frontrunning horses was Denman, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner whose nickname – ‘The Tank – spoke volumes of his favoured style.
Paul Nicholls’ horse, who also twice won Newbury’s Gold Cup, would be settled in front or tracking the leader and simply never relent. He was the dream ‘back to lay’ horse for those using the Betfair Exchange, with his odds shortening as he routinely hit the front early on in a race.
The day he demolished the outstanding Kauto Star in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham back in 2008 will long be remembered – especially by those who backed Denman in running.
Sometimes, your in-running bets will be based on a hunch – typically, that will be a ‘stalker’ horse who is travelling well just off the lead.
Requiring a perfectly timed ride from their jockey, stalkers will simply wait until the leader(s) start to weaken, asserting their dominance and staying on. That charge can come in the home straight or a few fences from the line, and requires a jockey to have an excellent feel of how much their horse has left to give.
Alternatively, some horses are most comfortable at the rear of the field – their staying power meaning that their charge to the front will come late on in the piece.
Red Rum was a famous ‘hold up’ horse who would have stamina to burn in the latter stages of races – take a look at this triumph in the 1973 Grand National, where was at least 30 lengths off the pace for much of the action.
Right Place, Right Time
Knowing the horse and the strategy of their jockey is vital when betting in-running.
Make sure you read the notes about each horse on the card and, if possible, watch highlights of their most recent runs. You may be able to determine a pattern that confirms how that horse and jockey partnership will run their race.
Try and paint a picture of a race in advance, so that you know who will run from the front (and whether they have the class to stay on) and who will be held up – do they have the pace and power to hit the line in first place?
There are some huge priced winners to be found in-running as back markers’ odds drift, but if you know they are being deliberately held up then you might just secure a better price on them to win in-play than was available pre-race.
When you bet on any sport, be it pre-off or in-play, doing your homework is absolutely vital. But for in-running betting on the horses, it is an absolute pre-requisite.