‘Ante Post’ is a term used in horse racing to refer to a betting market formed before the official final declaration stage. Nowadays in UK racing, the final declarations are made by 10AM the day before the race for National Hunt fixtures and 10AM two days before the race for the Flat.
Any bets placed before the final declaration stages are classed as an Ante Post bet and are subject to different rules. One of the key differences is the Non-Runner, No Bet rule. Bets placed Ante Post are made on the understanding that we do not know which horses will definitely line-up on the day and it’s a chance the punter must take.
Why do People Bet on Ante Post Markets?
The odds, or ‘prices’, are naturally higher in the Ante Post market and as such punters are willing to take the risk that their horse may not run, as they in theory have to stake less. Bets placed after the final declarations are subject to normal racing rules, i.e. if the horse does not run then it is officially a non-runner and the person placing the bet will get their stake back.
Those willing to take a chance on an Ante Post bet generally do so in order to receive a much bigger price. Ante Post markets are available across most bookmakers on all major races, individually or as part of racing festivals, and can vary much more than markets do on the day. This gives the punter a proper choice, i.e. on the day of the race a particular horse may trade as low as 2/1 or as high as 5/2, but there may be no bigger a difference than that. In the Ante Post market, a horse may be 8/1 with one bookmaker or 20/1 with another, meaning the punter feels like they are receiving real value when they shop around.
The earlier a gambler is willing to take a chance on a horse, the better value they will get. Some people, for example, make it a habit every autumn to take a chance on the following season’s Classic winners. In recent seasons, two-year-old horses trained by Aidan O’Brien which have won Group 2 or Group 1 races in Ireland, UK or France have routinely been inserted as favourites for the following season’s 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Oaks and Derby and are often well backed by the betting public as far ahead as seven months before the race.
This has been done to great effect in recent times by the betting public with horses such as Camelot, Gleneagles, Ruler Of The World and Australia well backed before the previous season had even ended and all went on to land UK Classics.
Laying Your Selections
Probably the biggest plus related to Ante Post betting these days is the ability to ‘lay’ the horse afterwards. Laying means, on a betting exchange, you can invite other people to back your horse.
So, a punter may back a horse Ante Post at 20/1 then, if they are no longer as sure of its chances, lay the horse at whatever price it has shortened to in order to theoretically guarantee a profit whatever the result.
The Dangers of Betting on Future Races
There are downsides to Ante Post betting however; the most obvious being that horses are not machines.
Loss of form, loss of confidence and of course illness and injury mean horses which look well placed to run a big race in a certain event may end up out of the fixture altogether.
Injuries can occur at any time to a horse and with their best interests at heart as an animal, not just an asset, owners and trainers will usually not hesitate to pull a horse out of a race at any time if things look dangerous.
Far better for them that the horse remains happy and healthy than be forced to run in unsuitable conditions.
But it’s not good news for your bet.
Handicap Rating Changes
Changes in racing weight can occur too. Take for example the Grand National which is a handicap race; despite the theory being that all horses will have an equal chance, it’s generally accepted that the more weight the horse is carrying the harder it will be to win.
Given that they jump 30 fences over a distance of four miles plus, it’s difficult even for the better horses to carry a large weight and still win. As a punter, you may fancy a horse’s chances Ante Post, believing there are plenty of other horses above it in the handicap and therefore meaning your horse may carry say, 10st 12lbs.
If enough of the better horses drop out, your horse will move up the handicap appropriately and therefore may end up carrying well over 11st which may scupper its chances altogether.
Even weather is a factor in Ante Post betting.
Watching a horse fly home to become a champion two-year-old in October on a beautiful, sunny autumn day may put you in mind of great classic winners of the past.
You decide to back it for the 2000 Guineas the following May in light of what you just saw, but then bad weather means the ground is soft on the big day.
Most horses run very differently in varying conditions, so the horse you saw flying home last season may do no better than plod through the mud this time at way below its best.
This is one of the risks you take with ante post betting.
Is it Worth Placing Ante Post Bets?
There are definitely pros and cons to Ante Post betting and there is no right or wrong answer as to whether to place an Ante Post bet or not. The decision must always be taken by the punter as to whether to place a bet early based on the individual circumstances of the runner and the race.