Below I aim to provide you with a full understanding of horse racing trading on Betfair: What it is, how it works, and which are the most successful trading strategies for producing regular profits with minimal risk to your bank.
Where relevant, I'll link to my other articles on sub-topics.
What Is Horse Racing Trading?
First things first I'll assume you already know at least the basic principles of Betfair trading.
In the simplest terms, trading the racing markets just means backing and laying horses at advantageous prices in order to secure reliable and regular profits in your Betfair trading account over the long-term.
While arguments will go on (forever!) about which one is the most profitable horse racing system, the truth is it varies depending on the personality and risk appetite of each trader.
Since I began trading horses on the exchange many years ago now, I've seen a gradual rise in the number of profitable Betfair strategies, but also in the specific interest for horse race trading.
Now in 2023 there are more ways to trade on Betfair than I can even count. Whilst many people fail to master it, there are now many thousands, probably tens of thousands of professional traders who trade the horse racing markets for a living.
If you're curious as to why the interest is so high, let's look at the pro's and con's.
Advantages Of Racing Markets
There are countless tradeable sports markets on Betfair. These days there are also many non-sports markets which can also be traded (i.e. politics).
The racing markets present some fairly unique benefits, making them a wise choice for any Betfair trader who's serious about their business, and looking to expand their bank growth as rapidly as possible. Below are a few of the main advantages.
You don't need me to describe the popularity of horse racing in the UK, not to mention it's ancient history with its roots going back to Roman times. It's practically a British institution and has been for centuries. This made it by far the biggest betting industry too.
But with the more recent creation of the world's first betting exchange, the huge popularity of horse racing transferred over automatically and thus created an enormously 'liquid' trading exchange.
Liquidity simply means the amount of money involved in a market. The more money, or 'liquidity', the more predictable and stable any market becomes, and the more tradeable it becomes for those with successful strategies and the necessary skills.
This is true not just of the 'race pre-market' (i.e. before the race is run), but during the running of races too. On Betfair, around a quarter of all money traded on any horse race, is traded after the off!
As I'll explain, this provides two distinct but equally exciting trading environments to earn profits from.
So you can find tradeable opportunities practically whenever you want. (You can even trade US racing events now.)
One of the big advantages of horse racing is the almost round the clock availability.
Beginners usually have a 'day job', so you can learn to trade outside normal working hours while continuing to earn your keep as usual from 9 to 5.
There are frequent evening racing cards, as well as weekend meetings. In fact weekends are usually where the most 'liquid' markets are found, perfect for practising on with minimum stakes.
Whilst I have traded other sports for many years, and whilst profits can definitely be good in all types of sports trading, not many sports strategies can match the profit potential of Betfair racing markets.
I've met people who hate some sports enough to not want to trade them, no matter how much profit is on offer. Whether you like horse racing or not, I think it's a sport which virtually anyone can come to enjoy, at least enough for a full-time trader's purposes anyway.
Drawbacks of Racing Markets
Despite the strong advantages, there are a few disadvantages of these markets too.
The racing markets move at lightning speed.
This means as racing traders we must either get used to doing so as well, or use a strategy which avoids that necessity by approaching trades differently, I'll show you some examples below.
Another defence to the speed and volatility of the odds movements, is to use a Stop Loss religiously, especially when learning. This will protect you from sudden fast moves which you haven't yet learned to predict or react to quickly enough.
There are almost limitless ways you can profit from these markets. But that doesn't mean you will.
Resisting the urge to click randomly, or without a real trading plan, is a crucial skill you must learn.
The best approach is to plan every trade and think before you click. No 'taking a stab' at anything, as the horse racing markets are no place for guesswork.
This is mostly due to the volatility, i.e. a combination of the speed and size of price movements. Trading errors can be very costly so it's vital to spend a long time on minimum stakes, if only to mitigate that risk while you hone your trading technique.
Coming back from a huge bank blowout is extremely hard, and it can affect your trading for years.
Choosing A Trading Window
Before listing the specific racing trading strategies you can consider using, you must first decide which of the two trading periods you want to be using them in:
Before The Off
This is obviously safer because the horses are not actually running so nobody can fall off or hit a jump!
But that doesn't mean the markets are any 'easier' to get right, or to trade successfully and profit from.
This pre-off period uses very different trading strategies to those you would use after the off. These techniques would be called 'pre-race strategies'.
As you'd expect, the risks are greater, in theory anyway. But in practice, you trade differently than you do before the off, so the risks are mitigated by this adjusted approach.
Trading 'in play' has grown in popularity since the start of betting exchanges. These days, well over a quarter of all money traded (or bet) on any race is done after the off, during the race.
(Note: I explain my entire approach in my ebook course: 'The Pre-Race Trader's Bible')
The process involves finding a few important racing trading indictors which help you shortlist runners/races that have good prospects for trading profitably due to likely favourable price movements.
It's not difficult, and it's a great strategy for learner traders due to the extremely low-risk, meanwhile teaching a lot about how these horse racing markets behave, and how trends work within them.
Read more about early trend trading.
This is a fantastic pre-race strategy which focusses on winning small amounts, but doing so as frequently as possible. Scalping isn't unique to Betfair, it's an age-old trading method used on virtually every market you can think of.
The idea is to find a stable market in which you place a few orders. Then, as each order gets close to being matched, you take the other side of the bet to earn yourself one green tick.
Note the importance of the word 'stable'. The last thing we want here are steamers and drifters!
We want runners who's price barely moves, or at least moves very slowly, one tick at a time. For this reason scalping can often be made even easier by just trading a bit further from the off, rather than right before the runners line up as that's when prices start moving more eratically.
In my opinion this is both one of the most satisfying ways to trade the racing markets, and also one of the most useful for learning about price movements and market dynamics.
* I will soon be publishing a full page all about scalping, it's just too much fun not to!! (Subscribe for email updates about new articles.)
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This is usually referred to as 'swing trading'. Some people also use the peculiar term 'cold trading' due to it relying heavily on raw data, often shown in charts.
For most people interested in mastering the pre-race markets, trading horse racing trends is almost certainly forefront in their minds. It's 'the big one', so to speak.
This is where the big money is, it's where the big learning needs doing, and it can be where the 'big pain' is found!
It is far from easy, but with some extremely rigid rules, and some good foundational knowledge, it is possible to get to grips with this strategy relatively simply.
Where it gets harder is in learning how to avoid losing what you make on your winning trades by getting one wrong, or getting angry and losing your cool after getting one wrong!
Any aspiring pre-race trader is sure to go through some serious troubles on their journey to mastering this method. Some say it's more an 'art' than a method, but I disagree, although I do agree it can certainly seem an art while you're on your way to conquering it.
Read more about swing trading on Betfair.
- You're not looking to trade a move as far as you can, but
- You are looking to trade more than one or two ticks
- And you're looking for safe stable market conditions, both to make it easier and to minimise risks.
Learning to trade ranges on Betfair can be extremely enjoyable, it's also very low-risk but can earn respectable profits.
I have covered this elsewhere but the main basis of the method is to find very slow-moving and non-volatile markets where prices are bouncing around inside a given 'range' of prices. You can then trade inside this range by backing at the higher end, and laying at the lower end, in either order.
Read more about price range trading.
(This is another strategy I cover in great detail in my PR ebook.)
Trading horse racing after the off has seen a huge growth in popularity in recent years, mostly because it can be very profitable but it's also to do with how exciting it can be compared to other strategies. It's also somewhat less complex to learn than, for instance, trading in the slower-moving race pre-market.
Some caution is needed in my view, mainly because once you start trading in-play, the lines between trading and gambling can quickly become blurred. Many punters actually use very similar approaches to the in-play systems I will cover below, but they use them more as horse racing betting strategies rather than true trading techniques.
Don't let that line become blurred! We're trading not gambling with these methods.
I have an article covering many In-Running strategies, but here are my top three picks:
Trading Front Runners
Some horses just prefer to run from the front.
Whether or not they win is another matter of course, but this characteristic of their running style is useful because we know that when horses are leading a race, their odds will nearly always shorten, often substantially.
For this reason, racing traders back them before the off, then lay them during the race after they've taken their prominent front-running position.
Trading profits are very impressive with this strategy. Better still, it's perhaps one of the easiest strategies for beginners to learn.
Read more about trading front runners in-play.
(I also have a very popular In-Running eBook.)
Trading Hold Up Horses
This is not as popular as the front runner strategy, but in my view that makes it more worthwhile looking into! Some horses prefer to run at the rear of the field, out of the jostling of the main pack, in free and open space.
A horse's form card will show this trait of their running style, in particular the 'pace' information.
As you've probably guessed, to trade this method you just do the opposite of the front runner trading method. You lay before the off, and back it during the race at higher odds, when it's at the rear of the field.
This has become quite popular with gamblers since in-play markets became available, as they can get better odds in-running then they would before the off.
Read more about trading hold up horses.
Laying All Runners
I am frequently surprised at how few racing traders use the Lay All strategy.
Maybe that's because it's not renowned for big profits, or maybe many just haven't heard of it.
By laying all runners, provided you get at least 2 of your lay orders matched before the race ends, you have an instant profit.
If that sounds nice, it should, and it is!
With a bit of research (and ideally some personal testing to fine-tune your selection criteria) you can obtain a good strike rate, and whilst the profits are not enormous, they are frequent and come at very very low risk. What's not to like?! (Especially for a novice racing trader).
As far as I am concerned this is a prime pick for a beginner strategy, for a variety of reasons:
- No exits to worry about. You just place orders, and wait and see!
- No greed to worry about, as you can't meddle with your own trades after placing the initial orders.
- No reading of the markets to worry about either.
For an extensive tutorial on this method, see my Laying The Field ebook.
That concludes the in-play section for this page, but there's a lot more detail covered in my article all about trading horses in-running.
Mental Attributes Required
There's no getting around it, trading can be a tough journey for many (if not all) who seek to master it. In racing trading, I firmly believe our own minds are far too often the biggest obstacle to success.
Here are a few of the most important mental aspects to consider:
If I was American, I would follow that with "Period"! But I won't, cos I ain't! 🙂
If you're the type of person who frequently makes promises you can't keep, deadlines you won't meet, or commitments you'll fail to achieve, you're going to need to have a serious talk with yourself.
As can be seen from the many testimonials I receive from my readers, over the past 10+ years I've helped a lot of traders improve their strike rates, as well as their trading profits.
But, surprisingly, this turned out to be almost as much of a learning experience for me as it has them.
What I've learned above all else is how the biggest gains were made by helping people become more disciplined, rather than just by helping them improve their trade execution and analysis.
The strategy stuff was obviously important, but it counts for very little without the necessary discipline to stick to the rules, resist silly temptations, and avoid taking 'questionable' trades.
An example is keeping a trading diary to document your trades, and doing so religiously, and honestly.
If you have an aversion to being organised, your trading learning curve will be longer than it probably needs to be. A clear and organised mind is something I always notice in successful traders.
For most of my life I wasn't exactly a very organised person myself. It was actually trading which helped me (i.e. forced me!) to sort that out.
You can be disorganised in other areas of life, if you must! But when it comes to the trading itself, and the related stuff like managing your trading bank, planning your trading sessions etc, you need to be fastidious about your organisation.
This will dramatically improve your results and reduce the time it takes you to reach success. In short, just don't be a slob! If you have dreams of one day becoming a professional racing trader, maybe a good start would be to focus on cracking the "professional" part! 😉
I never had much patience for anything, until I saw how my 'hurry' to master certain racing trading methods actually prevented me doing so.
It took me a long while to realise this, and I only did thanks to a comment from another successful racing trader who kindly pointed out:
'Your urgency is killing your progress. Take a breath, let the market tell you what it's doing'.
That was one of the biggest golden nuggets I ever received, even though it was just a passing comment. Thankfully I listened to it, and acted on it. The difference was incredible.
Trading before the off is probably the most obvious area of racing trading where patience is absolutely essential. That goes both in relation to being patient with your own progress or success, but equally so in relation to each and every trade.
Don't be in a hurry. This stuff comes in its own time, so let it take however long it takes. That way, believe it or not, I can almost guarantee it will happen faster.
By far the most common reason for people giving up is, plainly and simply, a lack of drive and determination to push on through the hard patches.
And there will be many, especially if pre race trading is your chosen angle.
I am not just talking about the muppets who sometimes email me asking how to master the markets, by next month! I am talking about much more serious people who think they are committed, but only find out after a few months of struggling, that this stuff really doesn't come naturally for many many months. Not for most people anyway.
Be prepared for an extremely challenging journey. One which will have its fair share of knocks, but one that's also filled with many small wins which, one after another, rack up like steps in a stair case, gradually taking you closer and closer to your goal.
Be patient and stick around, I can assure you success in racing trading is well worth the wait.
You don't need a whole lot of 'stuff' to trade horses on Betfair, but there are a few essential items:
No, you don't need a super-computer, or even a 'gaming' computer, just a half decent laptop or desktop which is fairly up to date in both software and hardware.
My advice, especially for those on a budget, is to find an 'ex-business' used machine on Fleabay, Dell are a good choice, especially the Inspiron (Desktop) and Latitude (Laptop) models.
There are excellent bargains to be had on these machines, and they are nearly always in great condition and with a few months warranty to check it all over after purchase.
High Speed Internet
Again you don't need 'bleeding-edge' levels of bandwidth and speed, but you do need a 100% solid connection which doesn't disconnect regularly, and does have at least reasonable speeds.
This is less of an issue these days, as most people have connections capable of livestreaming full HD videos. That's more than sufficient bandwidth for the Betfair API to keep your trading screen up to date every 200 milliseconds or so!
Betfair Trading Software
You can't do this stuff in a web browser. Well, actually you can with the Lay All strategy, but that's the only exception.
I won't go into detail here as I have a detailed article on the subject, so if you don't have any software installed as yet, please see my racing trading software review.
Live Racing Feed
It is possible to trade without live horse racing coverage, but I wouldn't advise you to.
You need live video of racing events so that you can see what's going on and hear whatever the commentators are saying about each runner/jockey. This is worth its weight in gold.
If you're on a tight budget then you can make do with Betfair's own feed, but I would suggest paying for a subscription to live racing coverage.
This subject is covered fully in my pre-race strategies article.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
I may laugh about it now, but my 'journey' was the only one I could have had, so I don't mind admitting it.
I was a real idiot at times, especially in the early days. Having a nasty gambling habit from childhood didn't help the situation!
Here are four of the most common mistakes I find learner traders suffer from:
I was a 'master' of this one!
Next thing you see it go again a few ticks in the same direction. That 'little voice' over your shoulder says:
"You got out too early, this move has much further to go, don't miss the rest of it!"
And just like that I'd be clicking wildly on the ladder, with zero thought to the 'reasons' for the trade (something I preach heavily about in my ebooks), and without even thinking about what I am risking, and for what possible return.
Before I know it, my green has gone, and I'm now chasing ticks to get out without suffering a loss.
Anyone who has tried to learn pre-race trading knows exactly what I am talking about: Over-Trading.
Treat every click as a trading decision, requiring a full thought-process and carefully-considered plan.
This is closely related to the somewhat fascinating subject of the 'Sunk Cost Fallacy'.
Chasing losses is probably the most common mistake all new traders make. It's just human nature, but it needs to be controlled as you won't succeed until/unless you can stop this awful habit we all seem to have, albeit in varying quantities.
Learning to take a loss is a related skill which will help avoid the urge to 'recoup' lost money.
Trading wouldn't exist without both the risk and the reality of losses. So when you get one, try to think of it as paying off a small business-related expense, and proceed as if it never happened.
You don't get angry when you fill up your car to go to work do you? (Ok, these days maybe you do!). It's just a known and accepted cost of going anywhere, it's 'routine'. Well in trading, losses are exactly the same. And the sooner you think and act like that, the better.
Remember: Losses make trading possible. I could argue that you should actually celebrate them!
This applies both to your trading abilities and your financial profit targets.
Having run this site for over ten years, I have seen my fair share of people's expectations. Many are very reasonable and approach it exactly how I think you should. But many also don't.
Aside from the obvious lack of respect for the markets, not to mention the challenging task they claim to be ready to undertake, having such unrealistic expectations serves to almost guarantee disappointment from the outset.
That's not a good way to begin any new career.
There are very few trading strategies that can quickly bring someone regular profits without significant 'drawdown', especially while learning the ropes.
More to the point, what you're undertaking here is not just 'racing trading', it's a whole new business which can ultimately transform your life, especially if you aren't too keen on your current employment!
Give it, and the markets, the respect they deserve. Give your future success, happiness, and independence, the respect they deserve too! Take your time, learn your craft carefully, patiently and dilligently. Trust me, it's worth it.
Finally, don't be a Lemming!
If you're already trading the pre-off racing markets, you will likely know what I am talking about. For the rest of you, I am referring to the act of 'jumping on the bandwagon', especially in relation to horse racing price trends.
When you see a horse shortening in price, especially when it's doing so very rapidly, do not blindly follow the money!
I underlined 'blindly' for a reason. There are times when following big money is actually the right thing to do, but that can only be known after a lot of experience in the racing markets.
And even then, you still don't do it blindly, as you will quickly work out why the move is happening, and only then is it safe to 'follow' it.
You should always have your own reasons for any trade. You wouldn't bet on a horse just because some stranger you've never met was backing it, would you?! (If so, please don't ever go in a betting shop!)
Your trades need your reasons.
If you can spot a move, and understand the underlying causes, trade it by all means.
But if you see a move and have have no idea why it's happening, not only should you not trade it, you should avoid it like a bear trap because that's precisely what it is.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is Racing Trading Easy?
Most people find horse racing trading more difficult to master than most types of sports trading. But there are some much easier 'beginner-friendly' strategies to get you started in horse racing.
What's The Most Profitable Horse Racing System?
What's The Best Horse Racing Strategy For Beginners?
How Do I Learn To Trade Horse Racing For A Living?
You should start by learning the basic principles of Betfair trading. Then you should learn about horse racing generally, and then put the two together with some good beginner strategies.