This method of betting has significantly increased in popularity in the last few years and is more akin to buying and selling shares on a stock market. The best way to try to explain spread betting is to look at some of the bets that are on offer.
If you bet on the favourites index you are betting on the number of favourites that will win at a particular meeting. Favourites are awarded points for where they finish in a race. A winning favourite will pick up 25 points, a favourite that is place second 10 points and a favourite coming third will earn five points.
The spread betting company will quote the number of points that they except all the favourites at a particular meeting to amass. If there are a number of hot favourites then the quote will be high. If the favourites look beatable then the quote will be low. It is then up to you to determine if you think the quote is on the high or low side. For example if the quote is 55-59 and you think that most of the favourites will do very well and therefore they will pick up more than 59 points then you "buy" the index. If you think they won't pick up that number of points then you will "sell" the index. You bet in pounds per point, i.e. £5 for every point. So at the end of racing, if you had bought the index at 59 and bet five pounds per point and the favourites had amassed 70 points then your profit is 11 * 5 = £55. If on the other hand you had sold the index at 55 you will have made a loss of £75 (15 points * £5).
The jockey index works in the same way as the favourites index with the spread betting company quoting a spread for a jockey. You then need to decide whether or not you think that the jockey will have a better day then expected or not.
The winning distance index is slightly different, but only in the way that the points are counted. Points are awarded as follows:
Short Head = 0.1 of a length
Head = 0.2 of a length
Neck = 0.3 of a length
Half a length = 0.5 of a length
3/4 of a length = 0.75 of a length
For all distances of a length and over one point per length is awarded.
In this market whole points are divided into tenths. If you 'go high' (buy) with £10 a point then it will be £1 a tenth.
At the end of the meeting all winning distances are accumulated and compared against the index.
As you can see, spread betting is very different to standard betting and offers a variety of different bets. If you haven't tried spread betting before then you need to proceed with caution. Unlike standard betting you don't know how much you are going to lose when you place the bet and you could be in for an unpleasant surprise later.