In the United Kingdom, horse racing is a hugely popular spectator sport with over six million racegoers attending meetings up and down the country throughout the year. Horseracing takes place under two codes, known as Flat racing and Jump or “National Hunt” racing. The Flat season traditionally lasts from April to October and includes the five “Classic” races, the 1,000 Guineas, the 2,000 Guineas, the Oaks, the Derby and the St. Leger. The National Hunt season, on the other hand, traditionally lasts from October to April and includes the Cheltenham Festival, in March, and the Aintree Grand National Festival, in April.
Of course, much of the attraction of horseracing is its association with gambling. Horseracing has been synonymous with gambling since before the formation of the Jockey Club in the middle of the 18th century, with betting on match races, contested by just two horses, a popular pastime among the landed gentry. The legalisation of off-course betting, in 1961, led to the advent of the High Street betting shop and dramatically increased betting turnover. The economic downturn and credit crunch have inevitably had an effect on betting turnover on and off the course, but the thrill of backing a winner remains.
Some horseracing punters are always on the lookout for a “silver bullet” or, in other words, a system that will allow them to confidently and accurately predict the winner of any race they examine. Experienced punters recognise that no such system exists, regardless of what some systems vendors may claim, and the key to successful punting is good, honest hard work. Consistently finding winners requires delving into the past performances of most, or all, the runners in a race and is, by definition, a time-consuming process. Horseracing ratings, such as those published by Timeform or in the Racing Post, can be helpful, but they still need to be interpreted in relation to the prevailing conditions.
Betting on horse racing is very popular in the United Kingdom, but profitable betting requires detailed knowledge of each horse as well, of course, as luck in running. This is especially true during major horseracing events, such as the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot.