Laying Horses

What you should think about before you start laying horses. How to make a lay and where to make it

Laying Horses

Bookie Price And Exchange Prices

It is always important to remember that prices on exchanges are invariably bigger than those available at the traditional bookmakers. This has to be the case to get punters to bet on the exchanges rather than the bookies. Anyone who is laying bets on exchanges is going to have to lay the bets at over the odds available elsewhere so it is important to keep value in mind.

If the bookies are 9/4 about a favourite in a particular race the price on Betfair is likely to be around the 5/2 mark.

Laying In Running

One type of laying that is available on the exchanges is laying in running. This means looking to lay horses whilst they are taking part in their races. It is a somewhat specialist skill as the layer will need to have a good understanding of the way horses travel, what can lead to them getting blocked in and a good understanding of pace. It is also important to have a great knowledge of the form book as horses that appear to be going well but find little under pressure are an in running punter's dream.

Things to learn before laying horses

  • Understand pace if you are laying in running
  • Learn how different horses travel
  • Study market movements
  • Understand ante post markets as they can be layers gold mines
  • Identify reasons to oppose horses


A layer on an exchange can simply make money by laying horses that are later going to be trading at a bigger price. Once the layer has got themselves into a position where they will profit if a horse is beaten, they can then back the same horse at bigger odds (if the market allows it) without needing to deposit further cash based on the position they have already achieved. The amount of profit that can be locked in will depend on the original stake and how big the drift in the horse's price has been.

Predicting which horses are going to contract in price and which are going to drift is often difficult. There are however, some horses that always seem to drift in the betting and there are also horses that have not run for a while that drift because of question marks over their fitness. Other reasons horses drift include being unproven in the conditions of the race (ground or trip) or simply due to the strength of other horses in the same race.

OLBG member Nors is a big fan of trading and he has written a blog called Betfair HorseTrading and that is a great read for anyone wanting to learn more. Nors also has an approach to trading horses just before the off and you can read more about that here.

Trading For A Free Bet

You find a horse that you expect to be gambled on during the day and hence you expect its price will shorten.


You have £100 on at 8/1 in the morning (Bet 1)

An hour before the off the horse is trading at 5/1.

You can lay off your £100 stake at odds of 5/1 (Bet 2)

If the horse loses:

Bet 1 loses => you lose 100

Bet 2 wins => you win 100 (the amount of stakes you layed)

You break even overall

If the horse wins:

Bet 1 wins => you win 800

Bet 2 loses => you lose 500 (the amount you had to pay out laying 100 @ 5/1)

You win 300 overall

So essentially what you have created is a situation where you win 300 if the horse wins but lose nothing if it loses - essentially a free bet!

Ante Post

Ante post betting is often a layer's paradise because a horse has to simply not run for the layer to win the bet. There is always the chance that a horse will be laid at a much bigger price than it will be on the day so ante post laying has to be done with plenty of consideration.

Trainers will often state that horses won't run in races if the ground turns a certain way and the bigger trainers often have several choices for what horse they run in a given ante post race. Correctly predicting how the ground may ride on the day of the race or working out a trainer's plans for a race can be very profitable. Even if the layer gets things wrong about whether or not the horse will participate, the horse still has to win for the layer to make a loss.

Simple Laying Of Losers

Many layers simply lay horses they do not think are going to win. It can be the simplest form of laying and very profitable if done correctly. There has to be a reason to oppose the horse that is being laid but in racing there are many factors that can count against a horse and if one or more of those factors is not in place then it can be the difference between a horse winning by a wide margin and being beaten by a wide margin.

Reasons To Oppose


Sometimes a horse will simply be trading at a price that does not truly represent its chances in the race. The lower the price relative to its chances the better the value for the punter who is laying it. Laying all short priced horses is not a guaranteed route to profit, as is the case for laying all favourites. Each horse needs to have its relative chances and odds evaluated before a logical decision is made.


However good a horse is, some just cannot go an inch in certain types of ground. Breeding will suggest what type of ground a horse is likely to enjoy but nothing is set in stone with breeding. A horse that previously struggled in a certain type of ground that is meeting that ground again after showing improved form back on their favoured surface is often a good lay.


When a horse runs at a new distance for the first time they are always running in unknown territory. Previous races can suggest a step up or down in trip might bring about improvement in the horse but it is never guaranteed. Again, breeding is likely to suggest what sort of trip is going to be suitable but there are no guarantees. Going against the grain in opposing something that many others think is going to improve can often be profitable for layers if the price is short enough.

Quirky Horses

Some horses seem to struggle to get their head in front whatever the opposition. A horse with a string of second places next to its name could be described as consistent but might also be considered a 'quirky' sort or even a 'dog'. Horses that find little under pressure or don't do anything when hitting the front can often be artificially short prices when dropping in class and many layers will be willing to take them on whatever the opposition.


Some horses are better suited by different types of course. Key considerations are:

  • Whether the bends are left or right handed.
  • The length of the final straight - some horses need a longer straight to get going.
  • The sharpness of the turns & hills - courses like Chester and Brighton have particularly sharp turns and courses like Epsom and Lingfield have lots more undulations than many courses.

Of course you are not just looking that this from the perspective of the horse you are laying but also the other horses. Maybe one of the other horses has a particularly good record at this track but runs badly elsewhere.

Time Since Last Run

The ideal time between runs can vary by horse and often the distance it runs over and the length of the campaign can be a factor. 21 days is often cited as a good length of time between races. Very short periods since the last race often create more uncertainty about a horse, as do very long periods which bring into question the horses fitness.

Class Of Race

If a horse is now attempting a higher class of race than it has encountered before then even if it has won a lot of lower grade races this can seriously reduce its chances of success yet quite often the fact that it has won a lot in lower grades will make it quite a short price

Just Poor Value

The beauty of laying is that if you think a horse is very poor value from a backing perspective then this could make it great value for laying.

How An Approach To Laying Might Be Different To Backing

Davidg3907 shared his thoughts on the OLBG forum about how differently a punter might look at a race if he was looking to lay a horse compared to how he might look at it when looking to back a horse:

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There is possibly a major difference between selecting horses with a view to BACKING or LAYING.

When looking for a horse to back, it is generally the custom to check all or at least most of the runners to some degree. Only then will value be sought.

When looking for a horse to Lay, (apart from if using any form of systematic selection process) I tend to start by surveying the sharp end of the market and then try to match the horse to the price rather than the other way round. If I don't fancy laying a horse at the price available I simply move on, there are more shorties waiting to be laid.

As far as racing is concerned I also consider tissues to be of more practical use when backing. Tissues on a football match are a different matter as you may still be prepared to Lay any outcome.

In a field of 8 horses one is in theory prepared to back anything substantially over the tissue price.

The same does not necessarily apply when laying horses. Just because the tissue says you think it should be a 12/1 chance there will not necessarily be a rush to Lay it at 8/1 on Betfair even though the odds theoretically show value.

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