With Rachael Blackmore’s historic Gold Cup win on A Plus Tard fresh in your memory and the prospect of the Grand National on the horizon, you might be starting to daydream about winning big when checking out some Grand National odds.

Picking a winning bet isn’t as simple as opting for the horse in the best form or the jockey with the best track record at a particular event. In addition to those considerations, there are a whole host of variables that can and will derail your bet if you don’t take them into account.

Fortunately for you though, we’ve compiled a list of variables that can affect your horse racing betting. Read on to find out what they are.


One of the most important variables is a horse’s form. How has it fared in its last race? What about the five races before that? Horses go through peaks and troughs in form, much like humans, and can vary from unbeatable to un-runnable.

Before you place your bet take a look at the horse’s form. If it’s on a stinker, steer clear.

The Jockey

The horse is the single most important factor in any race. If the horse isn’t in good form or in top shape, it won’t win the race, regardless of who is riding it.

That said though, an elite jockey like Paul Townend can turn an average horse into a Championship winner.

The Trainer

They are often talked about by commentators and pundits, but all too often overlooked by regular betters. If you want a real insight into a horse’s potential in a certain race, take a look at the record of its trainer on that particular course.

Some trainers have a knack of readying horses to dominate at particular events or specific types of courses. Take Willie Mullins for example, the man responsible for an unmatched 73 winners at Cheltenham.

Type of Race

There are plenty of different variables in this category. Horse racing here and in Ireland is based on ability from Class 1-6. Horses from different classes compete in different races, for example, in flat racing horses from Classes 1-3 compete.

In these circumstances what bettors should do is look at individual horses and make a judgement call about whether they think they are in the right class as sometimes horses step up too soon or fall down the classes when they perhaps shouldn’t do.

In addition to Classes, other variables to look out for are race distance and race types. There are long-distance races, long-distance races with hurdles and flat speed tracks. To get the most out of your bet, analyse your horse’s capability on the type of race they are running in.

Track Conditions

The surface that the horses race on has a major bearing on the outcome of the race. You may have heard of Firm, Good to Firm, Good and Soft courses but there are other track conditions to look out for too.

There’s Heavy which is a real test of a horse’s stamina and a trainer’s ability to keep their horse pushing to the end.

There are All-Weather Going tracks that are made from artificial surfaces which can impact a horse’s speed.

There is also The GoingStick, introduced in 2007 as a way of measuring the amount of moisture in the ground before a race. If you want to be as scientific as possible, look out for the results of The GoingStick before placing your bets.

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The Odds

Of course, the odds! The fractions that the bookmakers come up with before a race takes place are also variables and knowing how to read them can help to save you a lot of money.

In the most basic terms, bookmakers offer the shortest odds on the horses most likely to win as a means of minimising their losses.

It’s not just a horse’s chances of victory that cause the odds to shorten though, odds can also be influenced by wagers. If for example you bet £100 on a 33-1 outsider and tell all of your friends to do the same, then the odds of that horse will dramatically shorten from 33-1 to around 3-1.

That’s because the bookmakers will see the extra money coming in and immediately shorten the odds to limit their liability if that horse does happen to win, something which has absolutely nothing to do with the horse’s real life chances.

One way to avoid all of this confusion is to look at the bookmaker’s starting prices and compare them against the current prices.


The final variable is that unquantifiable commodity – luck. It’s either completely absent or in abundance, but it never sticks around for too long!

The best way to deal with this variable is to recognise when it’s not on your side and refrain from betting for a while!