Horse racing gives access to dozens of races on an almost daily basis from around the world, making it one of the most popular sports to bet on in the US. On this page, we’re going to look at how to bet on horse racing and include information that covers horse racing betting strategy, bet types, notable races to bet on, and the best horse racing betting sites.
How to Bet on Horse Racing
Access to horse racing is relatively limited in the US. Not all the major betting sites have a racebook that is currently live, so the market, in terms of choice, is a little more limited than most sports. However, the sites that do have access are exceptional at what they do.
You need to start by picking a meeting or race that you want to bet on. The number of races you can choose generally isn’t limited to the US, but also includes the UK, South Africa, Canada, and the Middle East, amongst others.
Once you’ve picked your race, you then need to pick the horse you want to bet on. You need to apply research to your bets, and we’ve included an extensive betting strategy section that will help you to do this.
Then it’s a case of choosing the amount you want to bet at the odds you think offer value.
There are dozens of bet types that we’ll address later, but if you’re new, it’s best to start with the win or place market, as other bet types (eg exotics) can be a little confusing at first.
Following on from how to bet on horse racing, we’ve included a real-world example to highlight how it might look. Our example is taken from bet365 and is from a race at Monmouth Park.
The image above includes a typical example of a race card. It has information such as the number of the horse, the name, trainer, jockey, weight, age, form, and odds.
It’s worth noting that in US horse racing, betting is carried out using parimutuel betting markets. This is essentially pool betting, where you are paid based on dividends of the number of people who have also wagered on the horse and then your stake.
In our example, you can see that there are odds attached. Some betting sites will include these, and this is known as the Morning Line. It’s basically a rough guide as to what the odds of the horse are going to be, but you won’t know the exact payout until the race has finished and all bets counted.
Let’s assume that we want to bet on the favorite for the race, which is horse number two, Ziggy Mon. The horse is priced at +200 which means that for every $100 wagered, we get $200 in profit.
Step-by-Step Guide to Placing a Horse Racing Bet
In this part of our guide on how to bet on horse races, we’ve included a step-by-step guide using Twin Spires racebook as our example. The process may differ slightly, depending on which betting site you’re using, but for the most part, it will be the same and quickly highlights how to place a bet on horse racing.
1. Open an Account and Make a Deposit
To place a bet, you first need an account. You can click on the “Join Now” button at the top of the page to get started. Once your account is live, you will need to log in, head to the cashier, and make a deposit. At this point, you’re ready to go.
2. Choose the Race You Want to Bet On
You can use the menu section to choose between the races that are upcoming and the ones that you want to bet on. Twin Spires has a “Today’s Races” section that will list all the featured and upcoming races for the day, as well as the time it starts or the MTP (Minutes to Post) for each race.
The racecard includes a ton of information for the race and it’s here that you’re able to jump between betting markets and choose the stake for your bet. If you’re new, take a little time to familiarize yourself with what all the acronyms mean and how the functions work.
4. Pick Your Horse
You now need to make your pick and to do so, click the button next to the horse that you want to bet on. In this example, you can see that we’ve picked Kelsey’s Gal, who has odds 5/1 (+500). We simply click the button next to the odds and this will move the bet into our bet slip.
5. Place Your Bet
The pick will go straight into the bet slip and it’s here that you need to confirm and place your bet. You can’t adjust the stake in the bet slip, you need to do this in the menu section above the race card. You can see that our stake for this is $1, but you can choose any stake you like by clicking on “Other” which will carry across into the bet slip.
Confirm the selection and click on “Submit Bet”. Once confirmed you can check on live bets within the bet slip under “My Bets” or you can use your account to see open bets.
Don’t forget, the odds that you see on the racecard should be used as a guide. It’s pretty accurate, but the final payout will be made once the race has been run and bets have been counted. This how to place a horse bet.
Types of Bets
One of the features of modern-day horse racing is the range of bets you can place. As we show you how to bet on a horse race, we’ve included a summary of the different bet types you can access below.
A win bet is one of the simplest and most common types of bets in horse racing. With a win bet, you are betting on a particular horse to win the race. If your chosen horse finishes in first place, your bet is successful, and you receive a payout based on the horse’s odds.
For example, let’s say there’s a race featuring several horses, including Horse A, Horse B, and Horse C. Each horse is assigned odds by the bookmaker.
- Horse A has odds of 5/1 (or +500 in American odds).
- Horse B has odds of 2/1 (or +200 in American odds).
- Horse C has odds of 7/2 (or +350 in American odds).
If you place a $10 win bet on Horse B, and Horse B wins the race, you will receive a payout based on the odds. So, as the odds are +200, this means that for every $100 wagered, you make $200 in profit.
A place bet is a wager where you select a horse to finish in the top positions of a race, typically first, second, or third, depending on the number of runners and specific place terms.
If your chosen horse finishes in one of the specified positions, regardless of whether it wins or not, your bet is successful.
Place bets offer a higher likelihood of winning compared to win bets but generally come with lower odds and payouts. It’s a popular bet type for those seeking a more conservative approach or when there’s uncertainty about a horse winning outright.
A show bet is where you select a horse to finish in the top three positions of a race. Payouts are the same regardless of the position, meaning that you get the same return if the horses finish first, second or third.
Show bets differ from place bets in that it pays the top three regardless of the field size, whereas a place bet can be more flexible as more or fewer runners are added.
For example, if a race like the Grand National can have up to 40 runners, the place bet can pay as many as six places with some sportsbooks, whereas the show bet will always be fixed at three, regardless of whether there are five or 40 runners.
Across the Board
Across the board refers to placing three different bets on a single horse to win, place, and show. It is essentially a combination of three bets: a win bet, a place bet, and a show bet.
Here are the bets included:
- Win Bet: You bet on your chosen horse to win the race. If the horse finishes in first place, you win the win bet.
- Place Bet: You bet on your chosen horse to finish in one of the top positions, typically first or second. If the horse finishes in either of these positions, you win the place bet.
- Show Bet: You bet on your chosen horse to finish in one of the top three positions. If the horse finishes in any of these positions, you win the show bet.
By placing an across the board (ATB) bet, you cover all three outcomes and have the potential to win all three bets if your horse performs well. However, it’s important to note that the stake for each bet will be multiplied by three, as you are essentially placing three separate bets. So, if you were to place a $10 ATB bet, your total stake would be $30.
An exacta bet is an exotic wager where you predict the horses that will finish in first and second place in the correct order. It’s a tough bet to win but can come with huge odds and can pay massive profits for a relatively small wager.
Alternatively, you can place an “exacta box” bet. This allows you to choose two horses without specifying the order of their finish. This bet increases your chances of winning but also requires a higher stake as it covers all possible finishing order combinations.
A trifecta is an extension of an exacta but instead of picking two horses in the correct order, you need to extend this to three. Like an exacta, you’re able to create a box bet where you choose three horses that cover all possible combinations. Your stake will bet per line as you cover all combinations.
Superfecta is yet another extension of exacta and trifecta, but this time you need to predict the correct order of the first four horses in a race. The difficulty of this bet is incredibly high, even in smaller-field races, but you can bet smaller amounts than most markets, with a minimum bet starting at just 10c for this bet type.
The hi-5 bet requires bettors to predict the correct order of the first five horses in the race. It’s the rarest of the exotic horse racing bets and many betting sites cover this bet.
The daily double is a popular bet in horse racing where bettors aim to correctly predict the winners of two consecutive races. It requires selecting the winning horse in each of the two designated races, typically the first two races of the day or two specific races on the race card.
Pick 3, 4, 5, and 6 bets extend from the daily double market. For this bet, you need to choose the winner of three, four, five, and six consecutive races. These are separate bets, but you must make your picks before the start of the first race and let them run through as each one finishes.
A lot of these cards are linked to single-race meetings, where you work through as many races as you want and try to pick the winner of each. With online betting it’s possible to mix and match, meaning that you can pick winners from races across different meetings.
Horse Racing Betting Strategy
We wanted to look at how to bet on horse racing and win, and to do so we’ve included a section on horse racing betting strategy. Use the information below and apply this to your bets which will in turn, allow you to win more from horse racing betting online.
- Value Betting – Value betting involves identifying horses whose odds offer better value than their actual chances of winning. By carefully analyzing the probabilities and comparing them with the odds offered by bookmakers, you can identify horses with higher potential payouts and place bets on them.
- Dutching – Dutching is a strategy where you bet on multiple horses in a race to increase your chances of winning. By allocating your stake across multiple selections based on their respective probabilities, you can ensure a return regardless of which horse wins, although the potential payout may be lower than a single win-bet.
- Form Analysis – Studying a horse’s recent form and past performances can provide valuable insights into its ability and chances of success. Assess factors such as recent race results, performance on different track conditions, distance suitability, jockey and trainer performance, and any notable patterns or trends.
- Line Shopping – Line shopping involves comparing the odds offered by different bookmakers to find the best possible price for your desired bet. Different bookmakers may offer slightly different odds, and finding the most favorable odds can significantly impact your potential returns over the long term.
- Following In-Form Trainers – Trainers play a crucial role in a horse’s performance. Keeping track of trainers who are in good form can be a useful strategy. Look for trainers with a track record of success, recent wins, and consistent performance. When their horses are entered in races, it may indicate a higher chance of success and provide betting opportunities.
Top US Races to Bet On
Our guide on how to bet on horse races for beginners is going to look at some of the best US-based races that you can bet on. These are seen as the highlights in the racing calendar and will generate huge revenue for both track-side and online bookmakers.
The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious and iconic horse racing events held annually in the United States. It takes place at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the first leg of the Triple Crown series, followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
The race is run on a dirt track and covers a distance of 1 1/4 miles (approximately 2km). It showcases some of the best three-year-old Thoroughbred racehorses competing for the coveted title. It’s known for its rich history, vibrant traditions, and the “Run for the Roses” theme, symbolized by the garland of roses presented to the winning horse.
It’s estimated that over $400 million is wagered on the race each year, making it one of the highest-grossing betting events in horse racing. The large field size, competitive nature of the race, and the allure of potential big payouts make the Kentucky Derby a thrilling betting opportunity for horse racing enthusiasts and casual bettors alike.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the pinnacle race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, held annually in the United States. It is a prestigious Grade 1 race that attracts some of the best Thoroughbred racehorses from around the world.
The race is typically contested on a dirt track and covers a distance of 1 1/4 miles (approximately 2km). It serves as the climactic finale of the two-day Breeders’ Cup event, held at various racetracks across North America.
Pegasus World Cup
The Pegasus World Cup is a relatively new and highly lucrative Thoroughbred horse racing event that takes place annually at Gulfstream Park, Florida. It was first held in 2017 and quickly gained prominence due to its substantial purse and star-studded field.
It features two races: the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. The Pegasus World Cup Invitational is run on a dirt track and covers 1 1/8 miles (approximately 1.8km). It is known for its enormous $3 million purse, making it one of the richest horse races in the world.
The Preakness Stakes is an annual Thoroughbred horse race that is part of the American Triple Crown series. It is held on the third Saturday in May, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes. The race takes place at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, covering a distance of 1 3/16 miles.
As the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes carries immense prestige and serves as a highly anticipated race. It attracts top three-year-old Thoroughbreds from around the country, including horses that have previously competed in the Kentucky Derby and those aiming to contend in the subsequent Belmont Stakes.
The Belmont Stakes is commonly referred to as the “Test of the Champion” due to its demanding distance and the challenge it presents to horses. It is the third and final leg of the American Triple Crown series, following the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes taking place at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Top Global Races to Bet On
Horse racing is a global sport and there’s a plethora of races that are hosted outside of the US that has just as much, if not more, in terms of following. As part of our guide on how to bet on horses, we’ve highlighted some of these below.
Ascot Gold Cup
The Ascot Gold Cup is held during the Royal Ascot meeting at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, England. It is one of the most prestigious long-distance races in the world. The race covers a distance of two miles and four furlongs and is open to horses aged four years and older.
Dubai World Cup
The Dubai World Cup is an international horse racing event held annually in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is one of the richest horse races in the world and serves as the culmination of the Dubai World Cup Carnival.
The race takes place at the Meydan Racecourse, a state-of-the-art facility designed to host world-class racing and attracts elite horses, trainers, jockeys, and owners from around the globe, competing for a substantial purse. It has become a symbol of Dubai’s rise in the racing world and offers a thrilling spectacle, blending sport, entertainment, and luxury in an extravagant setting.
Prix De l’Arc De Triomphe
The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, held annually in France is considered one of the most important and iconic races in the world. The race takes place at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris and is run over a distance of 2,400 meters (approximately 1.5 miles) for horses aged three years and older. It has a rich history, dating back to its inaugural running in 1920, and is known for its competitive field, thrilling finishes, and significant international prestige.
The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most famous and prestigious horse race, held annually at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. It is known as “the race that stops a nation” due to its immense popularity and national significance. The race is run over a distance of 3,200 meters (approximately two miles) and has a rich history dating back to 1861.
The Epsom Derby, often referred to as “the Derby,” is held annually at Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, England. It is one of the most iconic flat races in the world and is considered the premier classic race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds in the United Kingdom. The Derby covers a distance of one mile, four furlongs, and six yards and is a true highlight of the British racing calendar.
The Grand National is a renowned steeplechase horse race held annually at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England. It is considered one of the most challenging jump races in the world and covers a distance of about four miles and 514 yards (approximately 6.9km) over 30 demanding fences.
The race is famous for its unpredictable nature, often producing thrilling finishes and capturing the attention of a wide audience. The Grand National is steeped in tradition and remains an iconic event in the world of horse racing.
Pros and Cons of Horse Racing Betting
As part of our guide on how to bet on horse racing online, we wanted to highlight some pros and cons of betting on the sport.
- Dozens of daily races to bet on, 365 days of the year
- Wide range of race types, from flats to jumps, and turf to dirt
- Lots of horse racing betting tips are accessible online
- Lots of promotions linked to horse racing, such as bet boosts and parlay insurance
- Wide range of traditional and exotic bet types
- A competitive betting marketplace means that betting lines can fluctuate from site to site
- Not accessible in a wide range of online betting sites (currently)
- Standard of races can vary massively in terms of quality
- Horse racing is a notoriously unpredictable sport outside of the elite races
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