Ante-Post Horse Racing Betting: Does It Pay to Get Ahead?

When it comes to betting, horse racing has probably the most “unknowns” in the long term. For example, you can hazard a good guess today that football teams like Brazil, England, and France will be among the favourites for the 2026 World Cup. But could you even hazard a guess at who will be lining up for the Grand National in the same year?

We could go even further back and guess that most of us would have little idea of who will be favourite for the 2025 Grand National, or even the 2024 Melbourne Cup. Part of that, of course, is due to the idiosyncrasies of horse racing and the relatively short careers of horses, but the point still stands.

That said, the intricacies of long-term strategies in horse racing are interesting and can be valuable when used correctly. In fact, few strategies in sports betting offer the kind of opportunities of ante-post horse racing betting, but there are caveats – several of them, in fact.

More variables for ante-post betting

The first thing to note in ante-post horse betting is that you are essentially trying to bet against the market itself, not just the outcome of the race. If you are betting six months in advance, you are wagering that the price you have today is better than the one you will be offered on race day. That, of course, is straightforward, but there are several variables to factor in.

The period between placing your bet and race day throws up a period of jeopardy. The horse could get injured, enter a run of poor form, or some other contender could enter the fray. But that in itself is part of the strategy. You are weighing up a sense of risk versus reward, and the time elapsing between the bet and the race should be part of the calculation.

To give you an example, we could look at Galopin Des Champs. The Willie Mullins-trained horse was the ante-post favourite for the 2024 Gold Cup. During the summer of 2023, you could have backed the horse at around 3/1 with some bookmakers. Those odds fluctuated somewhat across the early jumps racing season. On Gold Cup Day, Galopin went off as the odds-on favourite, and duly obliged by winning a second successive Gold Cup.

Galopin Des Champs delivered

The Galopin Des Champs example is a standout one of when things go right with ante-post betting. Bettors were banking on the fact that Galopin Des Champs would both win the Gold Cup and impress enough during the season to see his odds shorten. It was textbook.

Of course, the “art” of ante-post betting can go a little further. The key to real success is spotting a real underrated talent that is going to come through the ranks and eventually star in one of the big races with ante-post betting markets. In 2021, some ante-post bettors lumped on Put the Kettle On, available at 66/1 to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase across the preceding winter. Put the Kettle did the business in the Champion Chase, winning ahead of the highly-fancied Chacun Pour Soi at odds of 17/2.

As mentioned, there are several caveats. An important one to consider is that most bookmakers don’t offer NRNB (non-runner no bet) until a few days before a major horse race. As such, if your ante-post selection misses the race, you won’t get your money back. That must be factored into the betting strategy, and it is one of the reasons that the odds will be more attractive ante-post.

Again, if we use the example of Galopin Des Champs, we can see that he is currently priced at 7/2 to win the 2025 Cheltenham Gold Cup. What will those odds look like in nine months? If all goes to plan, the odds will shorten as the horse will prove he is the best long-distance chaser of his generation? But if he gets injured, or Willie Mullins decides to use him elsewhere, then you will not get your stake back.

The key aspect for bettors is balance. You should be looking for value in the ante-post markets, trying to see something that others have missed. But you must accept that there is a trade-off for locating that value. Ante-post betting is both an art and a science, but you need an extra dash of luck, too. It’s not always for the faint-hearted, but when it works, you feel like the smuggest bettor around.

Related: Horse Racing Ground And Track Types – Full Guide

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