How To Trade Horse Racing In-Play

Today I want to look at how we can make regular profits from the in-play horse racing markets by following this very simple to use method. This is something I’ve been doing for many years, it forms part of my long term trading strategy because it works consistently.

However, as with any trading strategy, you will have winners and losers and you need to know how to manage your bank properly. You also need to have the resilience to keep going even if you hit a losing run. These basics of trading psychology apply no matter what method you are using, and I urge you to master the mental side of it before you begin to trade.

It’s been said before, but even the best method will lose money in the wrong hands. So sort your head out before you put your money down.

Benefits & Pitfalls Of In Play Horse Racing

If you work during the day or just don’t want to sit at your computer while the racing is on then you will be pleased to hear that with this method you can just set up your trade earlier then go out and leave it.

Alternatively, if you have a smart phone with internet capability, you can place your bets using a mobile app. Check to see whether your chosen bookmaker has a betting app that is compatible with your phone. Either way, the benefit is that you don’t actually have to be anywhere near your computer when the race is on.

As I mentioned earlier, the in-play horse racing markets are an absolute minefield. They are subject to huge volatility governed by what is happening in the race.

I cannot personally understand why people would want to bet on the in-play markets, yet clearly many do. In play volume is not as high as pre-race volume but it is certainly not insignificant.

So why might people bet on a horse race in-play?

  • Traders with an open position that they did not manage to close before the off may be looking to close out in-play rather than risk a large loss.
  • Traders expecting a horse to run a good race will back it before the off with the intention of laying at a lower price in-play if the horse runs well. This can be a very rewarding strategy and there is a great example here. But without a good system, this is doomed to failure.
  • Traders expecting a horse to be held up will lay before the off with the intention of backing at a higher price in-play if the horse is towards the rear.
  • Punters may be looking to back a “sure thing” in play by lumping their money on at short prices when it seems like a horse cannot lose.
  • Punters may be looking to buy some free money by laying at high prices when it seems a horse cannot win.
  • Punters who reckon they can “read” a race may be backing a horse they think is running well.

So there are a number of reasons why people participate in the in-play market, but for me none of them make much sense. Horse racing is, to say the least, unpredictable at the best of times.

I have seen enough horses lose after trading at ridiculously short odds in-play, and enough horses go on to win after trading at frighteningly high odds in-play to know that none of the above approaches will ever end in anything other than a loss long term.

However, there is a way in which we can take advantage of the volatile price activity in the in-play markets and that is the method I want to share with you here.

What we will be looking to do is create a guaranteed win by laying two or more horses at odds on (less than 2.0). If we can do this then we are guaranteed a profit.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • If I lay one horse for £5 at odds of say 1.7 and my bet is fully matched, I will make £5 if the horse does not win and I lose £3.50 if it does win.
  • If I lay two horses for £5 at odds of 1.7 and both bets are fully matched, I will make £5 on the horse that does not win, and I lose £3.50 on the one that does. Profit £1.50.
  • If I lay three horses for £5 at odds of 1.7 and all three bets are fully matched I will make £5 on each of the horses that do not win, and lose £3.50 on the one that does. Profit £6.50. And so on…

Now we know that punters will latch on to a horse in-play when it looks like it is going to win, but we also know the statistics show that racing is very unpredictable and in certain situations, often the horse that looked certain to win will be caught and overtaken before the line.

In order to get more than one bet matched at odds on, we need to find a race where we expect a very close finish, where there may be more than one horse in contention to win right up until the end.

Alternatively, we want a race where a horse that was enjoying a comfortable lead is likely to tire in the closing stages and be overtaken.

If we can find a race that fits these criteria, we can attempt to lay every single runner in the race at odds on.

We don’t expect to get them all matched of course, but we know that if we can get more than one matched we will make a profit. If we can get 3 or more matched then so much the better!

I have had several occasions where either close finishes or a succession of fallers have meant that 4 or 5 horses have traded at odds of under 2.0 so it can happen.

Well, you will be pleased to know that there are certain race courses where such finishes as we need occur far more often than they do elsewhere.

I have been collecting data on the in-play markets for quite some time and have compiled a list of races where we are very likely to get more than one horse trading at odds on at some point during a race.


Racecourse Rating Filters – Race Types / Distances / Runners
Ascot A 8 runners or more
Brighton A Distances of 1 mile or greater, 7 runners or more
Cheltenham A 7 runners or more
Great Leighs B Distances of 1 mile 2 furlongs or greater
Hamilton A All
Leicester B 8 runners or more
Newbury B Distances of 1 mile or greater
Towcester A All
Uttoxeter B All

As you can see I have given each racecourse a rating. Those rated A are the ones I have found to me most profitable long term with the highest success rates.

Those rated B are all profitable long term also, but either have a lower return or strike rate than the A rated courses.

You may wish to adjust your stakes according to the ratings or use level stakes, either way you will make a long term profit.

I have also included filters so for example at Ascot I only trade on races with 8 runners or more.

So I guess the question you are now asking is, what odds should I lay at? Unfortunately that is the only thing I cannot help you with and is something you need to decide for yourself.

The problem is that if I tell you exactly what odds to lay at then every single person who reads this manual will be attempting to get bets matched at the same odds. That will not help anybody to succeed.

Your best bet is to choose somewhere in-between, but once you have chosen be sure to stick to it for a while to see how it suits you over a period of races.


When choosing the odds to lay the field in-play, you need to make a decision based upon your own preferences and trading style.

If you choose a higher figure such as 1.90 you will find you have a very high strike rate, however the times when you do lose by only getting one horse matched, you will lose more.

If you go for a lower figure such as 1.2 you won’t have as high a strike rate, but your losses will be very small.

Example Trade

I will now show you how to go about setting up the trade. As I mentioned before, one of the best things about this technique is that you don’t actually have to be around when the race is on.

In this example I will be setting up a trade for the 2:30 race at Towcester. From the previous table we can see that there are no filters to consider at Towcester, as all types of race, distances and field sizes will prove to be profitable long term.

For the purposes of this example I will be attempting to lay as many horses as possible at odds of 1.45 for a backer’s stake of £10. If I get just one bet matched I will lose £4.50 but if I get more than 1 I will guarantee myself a profit.

Please bear in mind I do NOT recommend that you choose these exact odds, because if too many people choose the same price you will have trouble getting your bets matched. This is for demonstration purposes only.

Choose higher odds for a better strike rate with higher but less frequent losses. Choose lower odds for a more modest strike rate but smaller losses. Either way you will make a long term profit, it just depends which scenario best suits your mentality.

I will be going out for the afternoon so I am setting up this trade during my lunch break. Having navigated to the win market using “Horse Racing – Today’s Card” I click the “Lay All” button on the Place Bets tab to the right.

lay the field on betfair

Next I need to enter my odds and stake for each horse in the place bets tab.

Rather than type each one in individually, why not use the keyboard shortcuts to copy (Ctrl+C) and paste (Ctrl+V) the values into each box.

Because I have the “what if” option selected, the market window shows me the profit I would make if I got every single one of these bets matched.

Whilst I do expect the race to be close at Towcester in order to give me a profit, I think getting every horse traded at 1.45 is a little optimistic – so just ignore this figure.

place lay bet on every horse

Once I have pasted my odds and stake into the relevant boxes for each of the runners, I click the “Place Bets” button on the bottom right.

Once you have clicked the “Place Bets” button DO NOT click on the “Go To My Bets” button which will appear next in exactly the same place.

If you do that then the process will take longer than it needs to.


Instead, look up to the top of the Place Bets tab and you will see that three checkboxes have now appeared after the words “At In-Play”.

You will notice that the “Cancel” check box is selected by default. Change this to “Keep”. This is demonstrated on the following screen shot.

If you forget to do this step and click “Go To My Bets” by accident you will have to set each bet to “Keep” in play individually, so be careful not to be too trigger happy with your mouse clicks.

When you have changed the In-Play option to “Keep” then click on the “Save Changes” button on the bottom right.

choose to keep all bets in play

The Place Bets tab will now show that all of your bets have been set to “Keep at In-Play”.

What this means is that if your orders are unmatched at the start of the race (and we would assume they will be as all runners are trading way above this price” then your bets will be rolled over into the in-play market and left for the in play punters to match as they look to chase the prices of the horse they think will win.

This is great news for us because our job is now done. We can go out and leave our bets as they are, and come back later on to find out how we got on.

As it happened I did get back before the race ended and so was able to take a screen shot showing how we got on.

As you can see, High Jack ended up winning the race and the price obviously traded through my order as he looked more likely to win meaning it was fully matched.

guaranteed profit when more than one bet is matched

However, at some point in the race it seemed to some punters as though “Once” would win, as that order was fully matched as well.

It just goes to show that short odds bets don’t always win, and at least one punter was left out of pocket as the horse was overtaken.

Good news for me though, as getting two bets matched at 1.45 meant I was guaranteed a profit of £5.50 before commission.

In this case, the most I could have lost was £4.50 meaning I made a return on investment of around 120% for just a couple of minutes work.


Trade Summary
Laid all horses in the race for £10 at odds of 1.45

Matched £10 on High Jack at 1.45

Matched £10 on Once at 1.45

Maximum loss if only one bet matched = -£4.50

Gross profit/loss if High Jack wins = +£5.50

Gross profit/loss if Once wins = +£5.50

Gross profit/loss if any other horse wins = +£20


Result: High Jack wins.

Gross Profit: £5.50

Return on Investment: 120%


Again I am using small stakes here to demonstrate to you that you do not need a large bank in order to start trading.

In fact, well over two thousand pounds was matched on “Once” at odds on prices, meaning I could have used much larger stakes than I did and still had no problem getting my orders matched.

There are a couple of things to be aware of when using this technique. Firstly – do not bet on a race if the favourite is likely to be odds on before the race starts.

You need the field to be competitive, so if there is a horse that is trading close to your in-play order price before the race begins it implies a greater than 50% chance of this horse going on to win. Avoiding races with an odds on favourite will increase your strike rate

Secondly – reduction factors. Be aware that if a non runner is declared at any point after the market has opened, all bets are reduced by a certain percentage to account for the fact that the field is now smaller.

The percentage depends on what price the non runner was trading at and may be zero, but in some cases your unmatched bets may be affected. All that will happen is that the odds of your unmatched bets will be reduced.

Your potential liability will only reduce, it cannot increase, but if you do notice that your bets were matched at smaller odds than you were expecting then this will be the reason why.

But as I said at the start, stick with this method and it will pay off over time. When things like this happen, you’re laughing all the way to the bank….