Horse Racing Betting

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Welcome to your comprehensive horse racing betting guide! Horse racing betting is very popular around the world and has long been one of America’s top sports betting options. Horse racing betting enthusiasts can see the results of their wager within minutes and the typical horse track will offer 10 or more races on a daily card. In America, the Triple Crown races -- the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes -- are the most popular horse racing betting events, along with the Breeders' Cup.

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Horse Racing Betting Tips


How to Bet on Horse Racing

Horse racing betting has many different markets to play at top New Jersey sportsbooks and top Pennsylvania sportsbooks, and hundreds of different bets. Listed below are the most popular horse racing betting markets, but there are plenty more.

Win Bet

The standard horse racing wager is a win bet. Simply pick a horse you think will win and place a stake on it. If your pick wins, you win a multiple of your stake. For instance, if you bet on a horse that goes off at 2/1 and it wins, based on a $2 wager (the most common betting unit) you’d come away with $6 – your original bet plus $4. Place bets (for a horse to finish first or second) and show bets (for any spot in the top three) are also popular but, because they are easier to get right, don’t pay out as much as win bets. For instance, in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, 65/1 shot Country House paid out $132.40 to win, $56.60 to place and $24.60 to show. Again, those were based on $2 bets.

Exactas and Quinellas

An exacta bet pays out if you correctly predict the top two horses in the exact order. A quinella bet is really a "boxed" exacta bet, meaning you win the bet if you get the top two correct in any order.

Trifectas

With a trifecta bet, you’re picking the top three in the exact order. Just like exacta bets, you can box a trifecta bet, meaning you’re betting on the top three in any order. Of course betting the exact order and getting it right is more lucrative.

Superfectas

A superfecta bet applies the same principles as exacta and trifecta bets, except you’re betting on the top four horses in order. It is very difficult to get right but can be a handsome payout: The suprerfecta payout in the 2019 Kentucky Derby was $51,400.10, and that was on a $1 bet. It is common to only place $1 on trifecta and superfecta wagers.

Pick 6s and Daily Doubles

The Pick 6 bet is a parlay, which means trying to pick the winners of six consecutive races on a card. The Daily Double is a very common form of parlay wager in which the bettor tries to pick the winner in two consecutive races.


Horse Racing Betting FAQs


What Affects Horse Racing Betting Strategy?

Horse racing betting strategy is affected by a variety of factors. The most casual horse racing bettors choose bets based on a horse’s name they like, or the colors the jockey wears, or the number the horse is set to carry in the race. But for those that bet on horse racing based on knowledge, the following is taken into account:

Form

Studying the form of a horse should be the first priority for bettors before wagering on horse racing. A horse’s form is its previous racing results; it shows how many times the horse has run, where it has raced, where it has finished, and which jockey was riding, among many other details that factor into your horse racing betting decisions.

Distance

Horses generally have a preferred distance or range of distances. Younger horses tend to race over shorter distances, then stretch out as they mature. As horses age, trainers may test them out over longer or shorter distances, to see if physical changes have made them better suited to a different race trip. You can find out how a horse handles, or may handle, the distance of the race by looking at the previous form.

Type of Ground

Horse races are run on turf, dirt, sand, and synthetic surfaces (like rubber and silicone). Weather can vary the consistency of all these surfaces, but none more so than turf. The surface is most variable for turf races, with a range from firm (hard, dry) ground all the way through to heavy (deep, saturated) ground. Few horses run well on extremes, but many perform on a variety of surfaces. Others have distinct preferences that often gives them a big advantage on that favored type of ground.

Trainer

The trainer, as the job title suggests, trains horse. They make daily exercise plans and plot racing schedules. Some trainers are particularly good at handling a particular type of horse – whether it’s an age group like 2-year-olds or specialists at a specific like sprinters – and some are good at targeting particular races, or types of races. Many trainers have specialties, and if you can figure out which trainers excel at which specialties, that can be an advantage.

Jockey

Like trainers, jockeys can have specialties. They might be able to ride a type of horse very well, maybe one that likes to race from the front, or from the back. They could be particularly good at one track or have a notable partnership with an owner or a trainer that always seems to produce winners. Many horse racing betting sites show you a jockey’s form, so you can find out what their success rates are at different courses or types of races.

Draw

Races start from stalls, or gates. Each horse has its own stall so all horses start from a level line at the exact same time. The draw becomes more important the shorter the race is or the tighter the circuit is.

Weight

The weight listed beside a horse in a race card is the accumulative weight of the jockey, saddle, and weight cloth. What weight a horse carries is determined in different ways: In handicap races, horses who have achieved the best results carry the most weight. Each horse has a handicap rating, listed in pounds, and that is used to calculate how much weight they should carry in relation to another. For example: a horse rated 110 would carry two pounds more than a horse rated 108.

In most non-handicap races, horses either carry the same weight, with allowances for younger horses, or females, or based on recent wins. For example: Race conditions may dictate that a horse who has won a race this year will carry a seven-pound penalty compared to horses that haven’t. To factor this into your horse racing betting strategy, decide whether the horse can overcome – or capitalize on – whatever weight has been allotted.


What Are The Best Horse Races To Bet On?

Horse racing is a global sport, with betting opportunities all year round in countries. But our focus here is mostly on the best races in America (with one exception) so here are some of the best horse races to bet on.

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby, or the Run for the Roses, is America’s most famous horse race. Run over 1-1/4 miles, it is the first race in the Triple Crown. Held the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Derby brings together the top 3-year-old horses in America as well as frequent international entries. It’s usually the most crowded major race, too – the field is capped at 20 entries and that many horses usually run. So the draw is perhaps more important here than at any other race of this length and it is worth paying attention to for horse racing betting strategy.

Preakness Stakes

The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. It comes two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and is the shortest Triple Crown race at 1-3/16 miles. Trainers often save their best sprinting horses for this race because it’s their best chance to win, not only because the distance favors those horses but because horses which ran the Kentucky Derby won’t be as fresh. This trend is worth remembering for horse racing bettors but this is far from an absolute – eight times in 20 years from 2000-19, the Kentucky Derby winner went on to capture the Preakness as well.

Belmont Stakes

The final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York, is the longest – at 1-1/2 miles – and oldest of the Triple Crown events. Just as horse racing bettors need to keep an eye on speed horses at the Preakness, they need to know which horses can go the distance at the Belmont, also known as The Test of the Champion. Another key factor to watch for is a well-rested horse. In 20 Belmont Stakes from 2000-19, nine winners ran in the Kentucky Derby but skipped the Preakness, and seven winners didn’t run in either of the previous two Triple Crown legs. Five of those fresher horses denied a Triple Crown bid by horses which had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. In that span, just two horses – American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018) – won all three Triple Crown races.

Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the culmination of a two-day Breeders’ Cup program featuring races with a variety of distances, surfaces and age ranges. Unlike the Triple Crown races, which are only for 3-year-olds, the Breeders’ Cup Classic is open to horses of any age. The only horse to complete the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing by winning all three Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup Classic was American Pharoah in 2015. Also unique to the Breeders’ Cup is that it is not held at the same track every year; it rotates among several facilities. With a purse of $6 million, the Classic it’s one of the world’s richest races, drawing huge global interest. Those who enjoy horse racing betting online would do well to study some of the international entries, not only for the Classic but for all of the undercard races.

Pegasus World Cup

Named after the mythical flying horse, the Pegasus World Cup is the richest horse race in the world, with a purse of $12 million for its first running, which took place on Jan. 28, 2017 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. The event has garnered a massive amount of interest in the betting world due to its extremely high stakes, with a position at the gate costing a whopping $1 million.

Dubai World Cup

Held on the last Saturday in March, this event is the feature race of Dubai World Cup Night and the entire Dubai World Cup Carnival. It carried a prize purse of $10 million from 2010-18 and was the world’s richest horse race until the Pegasus World Cup surpassed it in 2017. Then in 2019 the Dubai World Cup bumped up its purse to $12 million, taking back the title of world’s richest race. Run over 1-1/4 miles at Meydan Racecourse, the race attracts an international field and has remained incredibly popular with horse racing bettors since its inauguration in 1996.


Recent Triple Crown Race Winners (With Odds)

YearKentucky DerbyPreakness StakesBelmont Stakes
2019Country House (65/1)War of Will (6/1)Sir Winston (10/1)
2018Justify (3/1)Justify (2/5)Justify (4/5)
2017Always Dreaming (5/1)Cloud Computing (13/1)Tapwrit (5/1)
2016Nyquist (5/2)Exaggerator (3/1)Creator (16/1)
2015American Pharoah (3/1) American Pharoah (1/1) American Pharoah (3/4)
2014California Chrome (5/2) California Chrome (1/2)Tonalist (9/1)

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