How to Bet on Horse Racing

Horse Racing is a sport that dates back to way before there were any sportsbooks or bookmakers. It’s been said that horse racing events had taken place as early as the Greek Olympics back in 648 BC. Horse racing works a bit differently than most sports when it comes to betting on it. Gambling is a huge part of horse racing, and back in 2008 had generated a market world-wide which was worth about $115 billion. Horse racing in the United States started back in 1665, and there are currently horse racing tracks all across the United States. There are four main horse racing events that take place each year, the first one is the Triple Crown, which consists of three races, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. The other event is a one day event called the Breeders’ Cup. While there aren’t a large number of big events for horse racing, it’s still considered to be one of the largest betting sports in the United States. Horse racing betting is a type of sport that can be studied thoroughly and has multiple different betting options on each specific race.

Horse Racing Odds and Betting Types

With so many different betting types for horse racing betting, it can be tough to place a bet if you aren’t experienced, so this should break it down for you and make it a bit easier. The most common type of bet is a straight bet. Basically you pick one horse out of the field and place your bet solely on that horse to win with it’s given odds. So if your horse is +200 to win, and wins the race, you’ll make a $200 profit for every $100 that you bet. Another type of common bet is the “place” bet, this means that you will win if your horse finishes either first or second in the race. The odds on a place bet aren’t as good as a straight bet of course, because you have an additional way to win your bet. The same deal goes for “show” bets, which means that you will win your bet if the horse you bet on finishes first, second, or third; but the odds won’t be nearly as high as a straight bet or place bet.

A combination bet is another popular betting option. A combination bet in horse racing betting will consist of you typically bet a horse “across the board”, which means that you are basically betting on him to Win, Place, and Show. If the horse ends up winning, you will win all three bets. If the horse finishes second, you win the bets for placing and showing, and if the horse was to come in third, you will only collect on the show bet. This is essentially a combination of three bets, so a $5 bet “across the board”, will end up costing you a total of $15.

Another common type of horse racing bet is an Exacta. An Exacta is a combination of predicting the winning horse and the second place horse, but it MUST be in that order. This bet will give you excellent odds, but can be a hard bet to hit. A Quinella is very similar to an Exacta bet. In both bets you must pick the top two horses, but in a Quinella the bettor just has to pick the horses that will finish in the top two; but does not have to pick which one of the two will actually win the race. This bet is much easier to win than an Exacta, so it pays less than one. The Trifecta bet is basically the exact same as an Exacta bet, except for that you must pick the finish of the top three horses, in order. A Trifecta is one of the harder bets to win in horse racing betting, but will give excellent odds as well. The last type of bet that is similar to the previous ones, is the Superfecta. The Superfecta is the single hardest single-race exotic bet, and requires you to pick the top four finishers, in specific order once again. It’s one of the hardest bets, which also means it’s the highest odds offered as well.

Types of Horse Racing Bets

Horse race betting at US racetracks is performed via the Pari-mutuel system of “pool” betting. For each type of bet, the stakes are pooled together and after deductions for expenses, taxes and prize money, the pool is shared amongst the winning tickets.

Straight Bets

These are the simplest, most popular bets, especially amongst newcomers to horse race betting. They involve a single nominated runner (race card numbers are generally used in preference to horses` names) in one race.


A “win” bet is the easiest to understand, requiring a backer to forecast the race winner.


A “place” bet is easier to win, but the payout is less, as the nominated horse must finish first or second.


Wagering for a “show” requires successful selection of a runner finishing in the first 3.

Win, Place, and Show Bets

These are going to be the most popular and standard types of bets that you’ll probably place on horse racing. They are the most basic types of bets as well, and the “win” bet is pretty self-explanatory. As far as the place bet goes, this means that you are taking a specific horse to finish in either first or second place, and obviously the odds won’t pay out as well for betting on this. Showing means that the horse finishes in first, second, or third, and since this bet is a good bit easier, will feature odds that won’t pay out as well as the first two.

Across the Board

Betting “across” or “across the board” means to stake equal sums on a horse to win, place and show, so will cost 3 times the unit stake.

Most tracks accept straight bets to a stake of $2+.

Other Exotic Bets

So-called “exotic” bets are more complicated combination bets. Their attraction lies in the fact that large payouts are possible for a relatively small outlay. Some involve combinations of horses within a single race, whilst others combine horses in different races on the card. In the former group are bets such as the Quinella, Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta. The Quinella and Exacta are similar, both requiring correct forecasting of the first two finishers in a given race, although the Exacta requires their order to be nominated, too.

Quinella and Exactas

These are two types of horse racing bets that are definitely great options. You are going to be picking two horses to finish in the top two of a race. They both mean this, but the difference between the two is that betting on a quinella means that you are choosing two horses to finish in the top two with the exact finish of the two horses not mattering. If you get the two horses right, then you win your bet. Exacta bets mean you have to be “exact” with the order of the horses. So you’ll pick two horses, and say that option one must finish in second, and option two must finish in first. If they finish in this order then you win the bet and get quite a nice payout.

Trifecta and Superfectas

Two other great options that have some big payouts are these two options above. They are definitely the toughest of the two to hit though, and you are going to be choosing the exact finishes of horses involved in the race. The idea behind trifecta bets are that you will choose the horses who are going to finish in the top three, and you must have the exact order spot on in order to win. The superfecta on the other side is the exact same thing, but you have to add a fourth horse and select the top four finishing horses in the exact order. These are obviously much harder bets to hit, so the payout can be quite huge if you are able to pull out a winning wager.

Winners of Nominated Races on Same Card

The other group of exotic bets require backers to select the winners of nominated races on the same card. Amongst these, the Daily Double and Late Double prove especially popular, the former requiring the selection of the winners of the first 2 races and the latter the winners of the last 2 races on the card. Similar bets are the “Pick 3” or “Treble” requiring selection of 3 consecutive race winners and the “Pick 6,” which requires the backer to select all 6 winners on the card. There are however, consolation payments for those picking 5 from 6 winners. At most tracks, the minimum bet on “exotics” is $1, although permutations with a unit stake of as little as 10¢ are generally accepted, if the total wagered exceeds $1.

As long as stakes are kept to a sensible (and easily affordable) level, a day at the races can be great fun. There is no thrill to rival your horse, complete with jockey sporting multi-coloured tunic and riding hat silks, hurtling down the stretch to lead home a large field of rivals.

Horse Racing Major Events to Bet On

As previously mentioned, there are four main horse racing events that happen each year. The biggest is of course the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown consists of three races ran over a five week span which starts on the first Saturday in May. In order for a horse to win the Triple Crown, it must win all three events, which has only been done by 11 horses in the past. The first race of the three is the Kentucky Derby, which takes place at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. It’s considered “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”, and is ran in May. The next race is the Preakness Stakes, which takes place two weeks later at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The third and final leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes, which takes place three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. The Belmont Stakes is held in Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

The fourth main horse race is the Breeders’ Cup, which is a one-day event. The Breeders’ Cup is held at a different location each year, all of which have been in the United States aside from in 1996, when it was held at Woodbine Racetrack in Canada. The Breeders’ Cup draws top race horses from all across the world, and has been run since back in 1984. There are currently eight races for the Breeders’ Cup card, and the order of the first six races vary by year; with the Turf and Classic races consistently the last two races.

Horse Racing Betting Tips and Betting Strategy

Saying that horse racing betting can be overwhelming is an understatement. There are so many options for horse race betting, that you have to be careful as to how you approach it. The first tip for betting horse races, is to start with either a place or show bet, or a combination bet that will pay if your horse finishes anywhere in top three.. As you learn more and more about horse race betting, expand a bit, and move to the larger bets. Straight bets can be some of the toughest bets to win, because upsets in horse racing do happen quite a bit. Research in horse racing may be bigger than in any other sport. Certain horses do better on certain length tracks, or types of tracks; which is something you should definitely research before placing your bet. You may like one horse on a certain length track because they’ve done fairly well, but another horse in the field may be dominant on that length track. Always fully research not just one horse, but the entire field. The last tip is to make sure that you don’t get too crazy with your bets. A Trifecta or Superfecta bet may have incredible odds, but they are very tough bets to win, especially if you don’t know much about the field or don’t see a few horses that stand out above the rest.