In the world of horse racing, there are numerous different types of bet. Most casual punters will just bet on the day of the race, usually in the minutes building up to the event that they’re betting on getting underway. This is a perfectly fine and even quite sensible way to bet if you’re not a serious bettor, having its own benefits and positives. For the more serious punters, however, betting ante-post is the way forward.
Ante-post bets are those that are placed well in advance of a race being run, often even weeks or months ahead of the big day. There are risks that comes with this, including the fact that the horse that they’ve bet on might not take part in the race at all, meaning that they’ll lose their stake. The benefits often include longer odds, which is why they take the risk. When, then, is the best time to bet ante-post?
Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post Betting
A quick note about the Cheltenham Festival before we get into the best time to bet ante-post on horse racing in general. Most of the time ante-post bets do not come with concessions (e.g. non-runner no bet and best price guarantee) and this is one of the reasons why these bets are more risky.
The Cheltenham Festival is, however, a special event being the biggest jump racing festival in the world. This means bookies fall over each other trying to attract custom, both during the week of the festival and for advance bets.
This means you can actually get benefits such as non-runner no bet and best odds guaranteed well before the festival, with these deals appearing from early January onward (around 3 months before racing starts).
Therefore, if you are betting ante-post specifically on the Cheltenham Festival you can get far more benefits compared to typical ante-post bets, if you bet with the right bookie. Visit these pages to see sites with non-runner money back and best odds guaranteed ante-post for the Festival.
First things first, a quick explanation of ante-post betting (you can read more in depth about what ante-post bets are on our dedicated page). Ante-post might sound confusing, but it simply refers a bet that is placed in advance of a race day. Most bookmakers will consider bets placed before 9-10 am on the day before a race to be ante-post, applying the necessary rules to those wagers. If you’re not sure, make sure you check the top of the list of bets on a bookie’s site where it will usually display the words ‘ante-post’, ‘future races’, or similar.
While it’s not just horse racing as a sport where you can place an ante-post bet, horse racing is where the phrase comes from and the sport that it’s most commonly associated with. You could place an ante-post bet on the winner of the next Cheltenham Gold Cup the day after the race has taken place, for example, if a bookmaker is willing to offer the market. It just depends on whether or not you think that that is a good idea based on the fact anything could happen to that runner within a year (injury, poor form, retirement, etc.).
The Benefits Of Betting Ante-Post
There are numerous benefits to placing an ante-post bet, especially on bigger races. The most obvious and important is the fact that ante-post wagers will almost always have much longer odds for the favoured runners compared to bets placed closer to the day of the race. The reality is that a bookmaker will have no idea how good a horse is likely to perform well in advance of a race, so they price them up accordingly. Effectively the more in advance you bet the more risk you take and this is reflected in the odds.
The good news for punters is that this often means you’ll be able to get a much better price on a horse if you bet ante-post and the price comes in closer to the race. The more people bet on a horse in the hours before a race gets underway, the more bookmakers need to adjust their prices in order to mitigate for potential losses. This gives bettors a sweet-spot to aim for before the price drops too much.
Aside from the smug feeling that comes with getting ahead of the crowd on a particular horse, betting on a entry before it becomes a favourite can result in you claiming much more in winnings if it’s victorious than you’d have been able to get if betting on it at its Starting Price. Punters that make a living from betting will almost always bet ante-post for precisely this reason, knowing that longer odds will earn them more money.
Ante-Post Markets Offer More Differentials
We’re not talking small potatoes here, either. Bookies’ odds will usually not vary all that much when you look at their prices on the day of the race, given that they’ll all be looking at what each other are offering and trying not to be the standout. When it comes to ante-post markets, however, there will often be sweeping differences between the various bookmakers. If you can spot it and take advantage of it, you’ll benefit accordingly.
On the day the difference between one bookmaker and another might be that one is offering a horse at 3/1 where another one has them down at 7/2. A big difference if you’re betting a lot of money, sure, but hardly something to write home about for most people. Ante-post markets, meanwhile, might differ as much as one bookie offering 7/1 and another promising odds of 15/1 on the same horse.
That is a real difference and significant in terms of returns. It also means that punters taking advantage of that will be presented with genuine value on their bets, should they be able to get the larger price. In 2018, for example, you could have got a Starting Price for Total Recall of 7/1, whereas the ante-post price nearly a year before stood at 10/1. Not a huge difference, but big enough to offer decent value.
Another benefit of betting ante-post is your bets are not subject to rule 4 deductions. Rule 4 basically means if a horse is withdrawn on the day of the race then the odds for the other runners are ratcheted down based on the odds of the horse and the odds of the horse withdrawn. Rule 4 can apply to bets placed on the day of the race but not in advance.
Laying Your Bet
Another major advantage of ante-post betting compared to betting on the day is that betting ante-post gives you enough time to lay your bet. Laying, in case you’re not sure, means placing a bet on a betting exchange that essentially says you don’t think your horse will win. You’d be able to back a horse at, say, 20/1 and then take bets from other people against your horse winning.
The advantage of this is that you can basically guarantee yourself a profit if you’re able to get a good price on the exchange. Because exchange betting basically cuts out the middleman and allows you to ‘play’ the part of the bookmaker, you can choose the price that you’ll offer other bettors on your horse. It’s not a foolproof system, but you wouldn’t even be able to do it with bets placed on the day of the race.
The Downside Of Betting Ante-Post
Whilst there are plenty of upsides of placing a bet on the ante-post market, there are also a number of downsides. The reason why the odds are so much better when betting ante-post than not is that you are taking a risk with your bet. It is essentially the definition of a ‘risk-reward’ strategy, with the potential reward being a larger payout than if you didn’t bet ante-post but the risk being losing your money altogether.
Ante-post bets are placed well in advance of declarations for a race having been made, meaning that you always run the risk that your chosen horse will not actually take part in the race that you’ve bet on it in. If this happens, you will lose your stake money in line with the bookmaker’s terms and conditions. There are numerous reasons why an owner or trainer might decide to pull a horse out of a race, but if they do then you lose.
Perhaps the horse has picked up an injury in training or during a previous race. Maybe they’re not running very confidently and a trainer decides that getting it to run in such a big race would be a mistake. The trainer may even decide to enter that runner into a completely different race.
Whatever the reasoning behind the decision to not run the horse in the race, the result for you is the same: bye bye stake money. The only time this doesn’t happen is if the horse isn’t offered a place by the race organisers.
Whether the weather is good or whether the weather is bad, it can have an effect on the horse’s chances of winning a race. Obviously there’s absolutely no way to know what the weather will be like on a race day if you’re placing your wager months in advance, so you run the risk of placing a bet on a horse that is brilliant when the Going is Good only to find out that it’s Heavy on the day of the race itself.
One of the key things that the best bettors do is have knowledge of which Going a horse tends to favour. You can then think about that when you’re looking at your ante-post markets, bearing in mind what the weather is likely to be when the race takes place. This is another aspect of the risk involved in ante-post betting and one that you can’t do anything about, but you’ll still need to bear it in mind.
Is the race that you’re betting on a handicap event? If so then there’s a big chance that the rating of your horse might change by the time that the event comes around. Though handicap races are intended to ensure that each horse has an equal chance of winning the event, most of the time the more weight a horse has to carry the less of a chance it has to win. The weight amount can change ahead of the race, which alters your bet.
The weights assigned to horses depend on their ability, so when you place your bet you might think that your horse is middling in the field and therefore not have to carry much weight. The problem arises when other horses drop out of the race for one reason or another as the race approaches. When that happens, your horse can move up the rankings and suddenly have to carry more weight than you might have been expecting.
If that is the case, you’re obviously in a position where a solid ante-post bet placed at the time can look a lot riskier as the race comes closer. The fact that you’ve placed the bet ante-post means that you won’t be able to Cash Out or anything like that, meaning that you’ll just have to let it ride and hope that the horse that you’ve bet on is good enough to cope with the extra weight that it’s had to carry.
Getting Your Timing Right
Betting ante-post is always a tricky thing to do because of the risk-reward factor of the bet type. You can opt to place your bet well in advance of the race and then attempt to mitigate any losses by turning to the exchange, but even that comes with risks. The best thing that you can do is try to get your timing spot on when choosing when to place your wager, which is easier with the big races.
When betting ante-post on the likes of the Grand National or the Gold Cup during the Cheltenham Festival, there is a sweet spot that you’ll want to aim for. For the biggest horse races in the country, bookmakers will make offers in advance of the race. Usually this will include the likes of Non-Runner No Bet offers, which will see your stake money refunded to you in the event that your chosen horse ends up being a non-runner.
The problem is that these offers don’t usually apply to bets placed ante-post. You have to leave placing your bet for as long as possible to get to the point that your favourite bookie has added the offer, meaning that you can place a bet ahead of the race but still take advantage of any offers they’re promoting. The price on your horse will be shorter than if you’d bet months in advance, but almost certainly longer than the Starting Price.
Other offers like Best Odds Guarantees don’t tend to be in place for ante-post bets, either. Again, waiting until nearer the race might see this situation change if you’re willing to shop from one bookmaker to another, so it’s always worth playing chicken with them to see if you can get the best of both worlds. Taking advantage of the longer odds offered by an ante-post bet and the promotions promised by bookies is the dream scenario.
Ultimately, it comes down to your own situation. You might be happy to risk your stake in return for longer odds, or you might think that it makes more sense to have shorter odds but know that you’ll get your stake money back if the horse that you’ve bet on ends up not taking part in the race. It’s very much a personal preference thing, but make sure that you weigh up all considerations before placing your wager.