Horses have some serious history, with the first “horse-like” animals dating back some 55 million years, before even Willy Carson was born. Much as I’d love to cover the full, detailed history of equine advancement that would be a little irrelevant to our needs.

Don’t know your bumpers from your jumpers, your bays from your greys, or your fillies from your colts? You’ve come to the right place. Read on for our beginners guide to horse racing.

You may have seen in the paper or heard on the TV or radio races referred to as Grade 1, Class 6, or even more confusingly, Grade 3, Class 1. If you’re confused by this and looking to know what this racing jargon means, you’re in the right place, so read on.

To the uninitiated, betting on the horses may seem to be a complex cross between rocket science and brain surgery, with the added peril that it can make you penniless. However, armed with a few very basic bits of information – to be found here, handily – you can navigate your way through this seeming minefield to safety and, hopefully, find yourself a net win on the other side. Check out the basics below, open a betting account or two and have a few small practice bets: before you know it you’ll be an expert.

There are enough well known aphorisms with regard the difficulty of betting in general to make a beginner think it’s an exercise in futility. “You never see a bookie riding a bike” and “the only dead certs are in the grave” were two of my granddad’s favourites, whilst “it’s a mug’s game” is one favoured by disapproving relatives everywhere.

Everyone knows the Grand National is a massive race, and most have heard of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and one or two others. But read on for a selection of the biggest flat and National Hunt races in the horse racing calendar in the UK and Ireland.

Totepool betting differs from normal betting in that the odds are not fixed but depend on the amount of money wagered and the number of people who backed the winning horse. This type of bet is known as parimutuel betting and the total amount bet on the race is divided between the winners after the operator’s fees are taken.

Do you get confused when racing correspondents start going on about the bumpers, the hurdles, the steeplechases and suchlike on the TV and radio? If not, great. If so, read on for our quick guide to the types of horse race you might encounter if you scratch the surface of the world of the Sport of Kings.