Every day in the UK there are a number of horse racing and greyhound meetings taking place for you to bet on. Both sports have a great tradition in this country and have been, for a number of years, two of the core betting products.

Here is a look at the differences between the two sports and at what you can bet on in each of them if you are new to either horse racing or greyhounds.

Betting Opportunities

There are number of betting opportunities available in horse racing and greyhounds other than just who will win the race.

In horse racing you can bet on one horse beating another in a match bet, the exact order of first-second and first-second-third, known as forecasts and tricasts respectively, and multiple bets which take place across a number of races.

In greyhound racing, many of the same bets are available as they are in horse racing. One of the most popular bets in dog racing is a combination forecast or tricast.

This is where selections are permed together - you have a better chance of winning, however, your total stake is much more than just a single line.



A jockey’s silk colours in horse racing will represent the owner of a horse.

You will most likely be familiar with the colours of the leading operations, however, they are always published in the race card so you can identify the horse you have bet on in a race.

In greyhounds, the colours of traps 1-6 never change. Once you know the trap number of your dog, you will know which colours to look out for.



One of the biggest differences, other than the type of animals in the two sports, is the course in which the runners race upon.

In horse racing, the track is much bigger, as the distance used is further - in some cases the participants race over four miles and two furlongs.

A greyhound track is an oval shape and each course is very similar in distance. The surface is made of sand to make it as safe as possible for the runners. There are 22 registered greyhound tracks in the UK today.

The majority of horse racing courses are turf, however, there are some all-weather tracks in which fibre sand is used.

This particular surface allows the course to hold meetings all year round, which is particularly useful during winter when temperatures drop and the turf tracks freeze over.


Flat and Jumps

In horse racing, there are two different types of racing: flat and National Hunt. These are both very popular in their own right.

The flat season typically runs from April to October in the UK, while the jumps season takes centre stage from October through to April. Both of these codes hold their own leading meetings.

The Cheltenham Festival is by far the biggest in jumps racing and takes place annually in March, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup being the blue riband event of the week, won by Native River in 2018 who is 6/1 to prevail again in 2019.

Meanwhile, Royal Ascot is arguably the most prestigious week of the year in flat racing and that takes place in mid-June.

Although there are some hurdle races in greyhounds, the majority of the action is on the flat. Some dogs will run in both flat and hurdles competitions, therefore, there isn’t a clear distinction in the code like in horse racing.



Both sports use a grading system to determine the class of the race which is taking place. In horse racing, the highest level a horse can reach is Group One.

These contests involve the very best horses in that division. Many trainers will send their horses around the world in pursuit of these races and prize money.

On a day-to-day basis though, you will see lots of handicap contests in which the runners are closely matched on their official rating.

The handicapper will give the better horses a higher weight in order to give each runner an equal chance of winning.

In greyhound racing, the highest level the dogs can enter is Open racing. For all the major competitions in the sport such as the Derby, where Dorotas Wildcat is 5/1 favourite for the 2018 renewal, an entry fee is required from the owner of the dog for it to take part.

The majority of the greyhound racing which you see will be graded action. A dog will move up and down the grading system depending on its results.

The highest grade is A1 at a particular track, while it can go all the way down to A12 if a dog is struggling for results and time.


Number of runners

In the UK, greyhound races feature six dogs unless there is a non-runner on the day and there is no time to add a reserve. In Australia, eight-runner races are more common, as they use wider tracks for their dogs to get round.

Horse racing is completely different; there can be a minimum of two runners in a race or as many as 40 as there are for the Grand National at Aintree.

The betting obviously changes when there are lots of runners in a race, as it becomes more competitive for punters to bet on.

It is also significant for each-way bets as, when there are 16 or more runners in a handicap, the bookmakers pay four places. In greyhound racing, each-way punters have two places for their dog to finish in, in order to be paid out a return.


Starting Stalls

In flat racing in horse racing, starting stalls are used to make it as fair as possible at the beginning of a race. This is particularly important in sprint races, as none of the runners can gain an unfair advantage over their rivals.

The position on the track of these starting stalls is different from one track to another, however, the details will always be published in the race card before the contest.

In jumps racing, a tape is issued across the track and a starter will let the horses go. This is because National Hunt races are over two miles or longer, therefore, there can be no advantage gained by some horses being at the front of the line or at the back.

In greyhound racing, starting traps are also used. The greyhounds are placed into the traps by their handlers and once the hare passes the traps, the lids are opened and the runners are then on the move.



The time of a horse race and greyhound contest obviously depends on the distance the runners are travelling. A standard greyhound race will finish much quicker than any horse race as they cover 500 metres in the region of 30 seconds.

In the 2017 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, in what is one of the fastest horse races around the world, the winner Lady Aurelia finished with a time of 57.45 seconds. The American returns again this year and is 7/2 to defend her crown.

When at full speed, a horse will travel much quicker than a dog, however, in long-distance races, the jockeys will ensure their mounts travel at a low cruising speed to ensure they see out the full distance, otherwise, they will struggle to get home.

Good luck the next time you are placing a bet on horse racing or greyhounds and enjoy the thrill of the contest you are having a punt on.


*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

About the Author

The 888sport blog, based at 888 Towers in the heart of London, employs an army of betting and tipping experts for your daily punting pleasure, as well as an irreverent, and occasionally opinionated, look at the absolute madness that is the world of sport.