With the possible exception of football, horse racing is the most popular virtual sport on the market with punters, even being shown within high street betting shops as well as on online platforms.
Online bookmakers therefore have invested a great deal in providing high-quality, lifelike visual representations of real horse races to make the experience as authentic as possible and that is something that comes in very handy when there happens to be a lack of real, live horse racing available.
Races are decided using a casino and slot style Random Number Generator, making them fair for all. Over the years the aesthetics have improved immeasurably within the virtual horse racing world, each race shown online being simply a computer-generated, shortened version of the real thing.
As with all virtual sports on which we can bet, there are plusses and minuses within the virtual horse racing world but either way it remains one of the most entertaining “sports” to bet on.
What Sort of Racing is Available?
Different software providers offer an array of race types to various online bookmakers, so what you get will depends on who you choose to bet with.
Typically, a good online bookie will have several choices. The best in the market offer quick racing options which refers to a very quick race on a supposed dirt surface taking place every single minute.
Their fictional turf courses offer a race every few minutes too while you’ll also find hurdle and steeplechase races and occasionally trotting. Whatever your choice of racing in the real world, you’ll find a computerised version of it available to bet on in the virtual horse racing world if you look around.
Are There Different Virtual Racecourses?
Indeed. As is the case with team names within virtual football, real racecourses have tight licencing agreements which prevent betting platforms from representing the name and the layout of their tracks for virtual betting purposes.
Instead, each provider and bookmaker has their own fictional race tracks which are realistic, visually pleasing and which offer up a pretty lifelike atmosphere along with showing very similar camera angles to those which we are used to when watching horse racing for real.
Instead of Goodwood, Ascot, Cheltenham or Newmarket then, you’ll probably find yourself betting at Hemptstead Plains, Britannia Way, Festival Downs or Victoria Park but it’s all good fun!
Bet Types on Offer in Virtual Horse Racing
How many markets are available on each race will again depend on your chosen bookmaker. Some only offer the fixed-odds win market plus perhaps a top 2 or top 3 finish, whereas some are much more comprehensive.
The bonus with virtual horse racing versus, say virtual football, is that there can be a difference in field sizes with some races having just ten starters and others having 15 or more. This means that, in a larger field race, even the favourite may be around 5/1 and any one of 15 or more horses could win, whereas in football there are only three basics results; home win, away win or draw and so prices are always limited.
At the better end of the virtual horse racing market, you may find all of these markets plus a few more:
- Win and Each-Way – all runners are displayed in the traditional fashion, with a fixed-odds price next to their name which will not change. You can choose to back each horse on the nose, or each-way
- Forecast – all runners are listed with their fixed odds, giving you the option to pick them to finish first, second or in any position. The reverse forecast will of course cost double
- Tricast – in the same fashion as above, you can choose three horses to finish first, second, third or in any order
- Top 2/3 – back your horse simply to finish in the first two or three home
Are There Still Dead-Heats in Virtual Horse Racing?
Dead-heats are rare in real horse racing, and even more so within virtual racing. As the races are decided by a Random Number Generator, the machine will always look to decide the race with a winner using the algorithm and so one horse should always win a virtual race, no matter how skinny the margin of victory.
Length and Frequency of Virtual Horse Races
Some online bookmakers offer one-minute bullet racing, each racing lasting only 20 seconds with one going off every minute of the day.
Generally though, each race on a virtual course lasts around 30-45 seconds on the flat and a minute over the jumps with a race scheduled every 3 minutes. You can bet on virtual horse racing 24/7, with no two races being the same given that the algorithms involved mean there are billions of potential results and SP’s, so you can bet on virtual horse racing as little or as often as you like.
As for the Virtual Grand National, it is run in real time with a race length of around nine minutes as the virtual field takes on the full 4¼-mile distance and every one of the thirty real life fences.
The Pros and Cons of Virtual Horse Race Betting
Even more so than with motor racing, tennis or football, virtual horse racing absolutely cannot be described as being anything like the real thing in any way other than visually.
Any good handicapper will tell you that, owing to the exponential variables involved, it takes years to learn how to make a profit backing horses and even then, the learning never stops as long as the sport keeps evolving.
That said, betting on virtual horse racing is far from all negative and as always in these scenarios, there are both plusses and negatives to taking part in this as a pastime.
Virtual Horse Racing Pros
- Speed and Continuity – unlike the real thing, virtual horse races are over in a flash and there is no weigh-in, meaning results are settled immediately. Also, there is no waiting for half an hour in between races as they go off essentially every minute of the day, seven days a week
- Unlimited Opportunity – every major betting platform online will offer virtual horse racing, and regularly. If this is your thing, you’ll simply never see a time when you are left without the opportunity to bet
- Random Number Generators – no matter how much money goes on one horse, bookmakers cannot change the price. RNG’s decide the result, so it remains fair for all much in the same way as they are used for slot games and the like
- Changeable Markets – whereas in football only three basic results are possible, in horse racing bookmakers can offer virtual races with anywhere between 8 and 16 runners. This means there can be an odds-on favourite, or they could even go 6/1 the field
- It Plugs a Gap – true, there’s no substitute for the real thing but watching and betting on virtual horse races is a good way to pass the time while there is no horse racing taking place in the real world
Virtual Horse Racing Cons
- Backers Have Less Control – in horse racing more than in any other sport, bettors use their knowledge and skill to pick bets based on hundreds of pieces of information. Betting on an event decided by a random number generator means having no control whatsoever over the result and thus no way of second-guessing what is about to happen
- Bigger Margins for the Bookmaker – this is a biggy; in a virtual horse race, the bookmaker may take a margin of 16% on an 8-runner race and going up on a sliding scale to as much as 25% on a 16-runner event, way more than what you’d see on a real life horse race
- Random Number Generators – yep, they make both lists. While RNG’s make the outcome fair for all, they also mean there is simply no way at all that you can predict the outcome of a race in any way, making it less appealing to proper sports bettors
- Temptation – the speed and frequency of virtual horse races means that, if you’re enjoying it, you may find it hard to stop as each and every race present the same opportunity to win or lose
What Else to Consider
If you’re thinking of getting involved in virtual horse racing, just keep in mind that it may very well quench your thirst for having a bet on your favourite sport, in a way, but it cannot be a substitute for the real thing.
Watching a real horse race is about so much more than having a bet, it’s about the breeding, the skill of the trainer and jockey and from the point of view of the punter, the knowledge needed to accurately predict the outcome of enough races to make a profit.
If what you’re after is a fair crack of the whip in the same way as online casino games or slots which offer a reasonable RTP, then virtual horse racing is a more entertaining way of passing the time and having a punt than watching reels move round and round constantly for sure!