In the UK horse racing is the second-most popular spectator sport in Great Britain, and the sport generates over £3.7 million annually for the UK's economy. Some racehorses – such as Red Rum and Desert Orchid – have become household names in the UK, as have some of the people who ride them professionally: Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori and Willie Carson, to name but three.
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Horse racing betting – a little bit of history …
Horse racing has been a pastime in the UK for almost two thousand years and horse racing betting has been intrinsically tied to the sport. The first horse races were thought organised by the occupying Roman army in around 200AD. The 'Sport of Kings' rose in popularity when James I began to race horses in Newmarket, in 1605.
Bookmaking on horse racing is almost as old as the sport itself. Gambling on horse racing was first legally permitted in 1845, but only at racetracks. As this was virtually the only form of bookmaking legal in the UK, horse racing became an extremely popular sport and betting on horse racing a past-time for many a follow of the sport.
In 1961 the UK government legalised bookmaking away from race courses, and thousands of bookmakers sprang up virtually overnight. The largest gambling companies such as Coral, William Hill and Ladbrokes became massive businesses. When the internet came along, these companies and others began to explore the possibility of offering their bookmaking services online.
Horse racing of course became an integral part of these offered services, and pretty swiftly the world wide web was awash with horse racing betting sites. In the UK, the race that generates the most amount of interest is the Grand National. In fact the annual running of the Grand National is a British institution. Many people only place a single horse racing bet – and maybe even one single sporting bet – per year, and that's on a 'flutter' on the Grand National, or they buy a ticket in their company's sweepstake.
One of the key factors in horse racing betting has always been the Each-Way bet that would pay out bettors a fraction of the odds that they would bet on (generally 1/4) if their chosen horse would 'place' i.e. finish in the top three or four depending on the number of runners.
The Grand National was initially run in 1839. The first Grand National was run at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, and the race has been held there ever since. The only years the Grand National was not run was between 1916 and 1918, when Aintree could not be used. Alternative races were held at Gatwick racecourse (the land of which is now part of London Gatwick Airport) but these events are not regarded as 'true' Grand Nationals.
The first horse to win the Grand National was called Lottery, ridden by Jem Mason and trained by George Dockeray. The first horse to retain the Grand National was called Abd-El-Kader, winning in 1850 and 1851.
Red Rum was the first horse to complete three wins of the Grand National, winning in 1973, 1974 and 1977. Red Rum became a horse racing legend and is considered one of the best jumpers in history, having not fallen once in the one hundred races in which he ran. Of those one hundred, Red Rum won twenty-four, came second in fifteen, third in twenty-three and was unplaced in thirty-eight. Red Rum was all set to attempt a fourth win in 1978 but suffered a hairline fracture the day before the race and was retired. He became a media favourite – even switching on the Blackpool Illuminations in 1977 – before passing away aged thirty in 1995. Red Rum is buried at the winning post at Aintree.
One of the most controversial moments in horse racing history occurred at the Grand National in 1993 when the race was declared void following a false start. Despite declaring a false start, a lack of communication meant that many jockeys were unaware that the start had been declared void. Seven horses ran the entire race, but the event was voided and not re-run.
While the Grand National is a steeplechase race (a race with fences), the 'Derby' held at Epsom racecourse is considered the greatest flat race in the world. It was first run in 1780, and has been run at Epsom every year aside from during both World Wars. Perhaps the most famous winner of the Derby was Shergar, who won by a record ten lengths in 1981. In 1983 Shergar was stolen by masked gunmen from Ballymany Stud in Ireland, and was never recovered.
Of course horse racing and horse racing betting is not just about the horses – the riders play a huge part in events as well. Many jockeys have become household names, such as Lester Piggott, Willie Carson, Frankie Dettori, Bill Shoemaker, Tony McCoy and John Francome. Piggott in particular had a remarkable career, winning his first race at the age of twelve, and continuing to ride until he was sixty.
Although not well-known in the UK, the most prolific jockey in history is thought to be Laffit Pincay. In a forty-year career Pincay rode an amazing nine and a half thousand winners, including one win in the US's most prestigious race, the Kentucky Derby. During his career Panama-born Pincay won virtually every major race on the US calendar.
Horse racing betting – how to bet
When you use one of the countless horse racing betting sites that are available, there are several ways that you can place a bet.
Virtually every online sports book doubles as a horse racing betting site, and you will find all the daily UK racing listings available for each race meeting. Some sites will also list race meetings that are taking place abroad, and famous overseas races – such as the Kentucky Derby – are always covered.
The easiest bet to place is of course to bet on a horse to win a race. You can bet 'on the nose' (to win outright) or 'each way'. If you bet 'each way' half of your stake goes towards the win, and half goes towards your horse being placed (finishing in the first few places, as decreed by the bookmakers depending on the size of the field). There are numerous horse betting tips websites such as SBAT which provide daily picks - especially useful with Cheltenham coming up.
You can also place doubles, triples, accumulators, tricasts (predicting the first three horses to finish in the correct order), or place bets (wagering on the horse to finish either first or second). In fact there are dozens of possible bets open to you at all horse racing betting sites.
We're here at latestbettingsites.co.uk to help you to to decide which are the most worthy horse racing betting sites when it comes to spending your gambling pennies.