Updated: Oct 5th, 2022

Horse Racing Betting 2022

Horse racing has long been one of the most popular sports to bet on in the world, with races like the Kentucky Derby and the other Triple Crown races garnering plenty of attention from sportsbooks all over the internet. Our guide to horse racing betting online gives you tips you will need to know.
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Horse Racing Betting Tips

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How To Bet On Horse Racing

Back in the day, betting on horse races required a trip to the track, and that is still a fun way to spend a day. Now, off-track betting is readily available in most states. You can go to the TwinSpires.com online horse betting platform, the TVG website, or another legal online racebook and place wagers around the clock. The first step is to make your first deposit at a licensed horse betting site. The TwinSpires sportsbook bonus code for betting is no longr available as the bookie shut down. However, you are still able to bet on horses online. 

Before you reach into your pocket, you should do your research. You should examine the past performances so you can make informed choices. The Daily Racing Form has traditionally been the bible of horse racing, and there are alternative resources like Equibase, Track Master and Timeform US. You have to pay for these publications, but TwinSpires has free basic past performances if you make a bet. If you pay a small amount for one of the other resources, you get more information and expert picks and insight, so it is worth the modest investment.

Off track betting apps all use the same basic format for betting online. The home page is completely intuitive with a list of links that point to the different races that will be run at the tracks. When you click on a race that you want to bet, a list of the entries will appear on the screen.

There are horizontal bands lined up one under the other, and they contain a lot of information beyond the horse names and numbers. The morning line will appear next to the horse number at first, and the odds will be updated in real time. You will see the names of the horse’s sire and dam (mother). The trainer and the jockey will be listed, so you have the basic info sitting right in front of you. There are buttons for win bets, place bets, the show bet and exotic wagers.

When you're ready to place a bet, you pick the market from the menu that will be plainly visible. A slip will appear, and you select the runner or runners that you are wagering on. You fill in the amount you want to risk, and you click or tap the button to enter the bet.

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Types Of Horse Racing Wagers

There are several different markets beyond the classic win wager on one horse. They are broken up into two categories: the traditional vertical bets, and horizontal wagering. When you are betting on horses vertically, you are wagering on the outcome of a single race. Back in the day, the daily double was the only horizontal bet that was offered. When you play a double, you are betting on the outcome of two consecutive races. Now, there are wagers on the winners of multiple horse races in a row, including the Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 and Pick 6 bets.

Win, Place, Show

Win wagers are self-explanatory, and place and show bets are second and third, respectively. The minimum bet in these pools is $2, and you can bet up to $2500 at TwinSpires. We contacted TVG about its max limit, and they asked how much we wanted to bet and stated they would escalate the question. They also asked what race we were interested in and what bet type, which is telling. It would appear as though the TVG bet limit is flexible depending on the circumstances.

Exacta

Now we can move on to the exotic wagers. You pick the horses that will finish first and second in the exact order when you bet an exacta. If you make a straight exacta bet, you pick the one that will come in first and the one that will come in second. But what if the second horse you bet finishes first? That happens a lot, so people often play exacta boxes. This is actually two different bets. Let’s say that you like the 7 and the 9 horse. If you play a box, you are betting 7-9 in that order, and you also have a 9-7 exacta.

The minimum exacta is $1, so a $1 two horse exacta box would cost two dollars because you are essentially holding two $1 tickets. You can also box more than two horses, and the cost will go up. A three horse $1 exacta box will cost you $6, but you can use any base increment. If you play a $10 three horse exacta box, it will cost $60. There is no limit on the number of horses that you use in your box, but the cost for a huge box can be prohibitive. Even if you are willing to put up the cash, you can collect on an exacta and lose money.

There is also an exacta wheel. You take a horse to win the race, and you select a number of different horses to come in second. If you want to create a ticket with more than one horse on top, you can do so, but the price keeps going up.

Quinella

A quinella is like an exacta box rolled into a single bet. When you play a straight quinella with two horses and they are first and second, the exact order of finish is irrelevant. There are straight quinellas, quinella boxes and quinella wheels, and there is typically a $2 minimum.

This is one of the more customer-friendly exotic wagers. With an exacta box, you have to pay for two bets in an effort to get one winning ticket. A quinella is more efficient because you do not burn any money if you win. Most tracks do not offer quinellas for this reason.

On that subject, if you don’t see the same options at every track when you first get started, you may be confused. The horse betting sites are on the parimutuel systems of the respective tracks. Each track has its own betting options, and they set the minimum increment for each type of bet.

Trifecta

Now we are moving into the exotics that can pay some pretty big bucks. With a trifecta bet, you pick the three horses that will come in first, second, and third in the exact order. Once again, you can play trifecta wheels, partial wheels and trifecta boxes. Since it is difficult to pick the top three horses, these bets can sometimes pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars. At most tracks, the minimum trifecta increment is $0.50, but at some venues it is $1, and in Canada it is just $20.

Superfecta

When playing a superfecta, you pick the first four horses, and this is no easy task. Boxes and wheels are definitely going to be the way to go if you want to play superfectas. Since you are going to need a lot of combinations to have a legitimate chance, the minimum betting increment is just $0.10.

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Daily Double

As we have stated, you pick the winners in two consecutive races when you play a daily double. The minimum increment is either $1 or $2 depending on the policy of the track. You can pay more and select multiple horses to win each race if you want to increase your chances. A word of caution: playing four horses in one race and three in the next race may sound like a sure winner. But you have to be aware of low payoffs if favorites win, so you have to strike a delicate balance.

Pick 3

The Pick 3 is the same concept as the daily double but you have to pick the winners of three consecutive races. Since there is a greater difficulty level, the payouts are higher than daily double returns. The minimum Pick 3 bet is just $1 at most tracks.

Pick 4

With a couple of exceptions, Pick 4s are offered at every track at this point. As the number of legs increase, the potential returns get more and more juicy. The horizontal payouts are based on the odds of winning horses, so they are larger when longshots win unexpectedly. With regard to the strategy for the longer horizontals, you want to play a single horse in one race if you can. If you single a race, it will keep the price of the ticket affordable when you use multiple horses in the other legs.

Can you bet all the horses in every race? Answer is yes, but the total bet would cost over $600 for a $0.50 increment, even if there are no more than seven horses in any race in the sequence. In all likelihood, the Pick 4 will not pay that much. If big favorites win four straight legs, it may pay less than $20.

Pick 5

If you want to aim for a bigger payout, you can attempt to pick the winner in five consecutive horse races. The Pick 5 is another market that is based on a $0.50 minimum increment, but you can bet more if you choose to do so. At most tracks, the Pick 4 will start in the second race of a Pick 5 sequence. This placement gives you the ability to play the Pick 4 if you are knocked out of the Pick 5 after the first leg. It is especially important to use only one horse in one leg when you make these bets. And of course, you can simply choose to have overlapping action to maximize potential returns.

Pick 6

At most tracks, the Pick 6 is the ultimate bet that centers around consecutive races. When you try to pick the winner of this many races, you need as many entries as possible in each race. That’s easier said than done because it’s expensive to keep adding horses to your ticket.

It is made easier at tracks that have a $0.20 base Pick 6 wager. The old-school standard is $2, and this is still in place at some tracks, like Santa Anita in Southern California. Since it is extremely difficult to pick the winners of that many races, the payouts are significant. How much are we talking about? In 2017, a lucky bettor won $891,000 on $2 Pick 6 wager. Back in 2008, a 49-1 shot named Future Prospect crossed the finish line first in the last race at Churchill Downs, and the Pick 6 paid an incredible $1.127 million.

Pari-Mutuel Horse Betting

Pari-mutuel wagering pools are used for horse race betting. As we have explained, there are many separate markets. There is a different pool for each one, so there are different bundles of prize money available for the winners to split. Let’s say that you have three horses in an exacta box. Two of your three horses finish first and second, so you are a winner. You get your share of the money that is in the exacta pool after the track takes its cut.

This is not your only bet on that race. You also have a win bet, and you boxed the same three horses in the trifecta. Your win bet is correct, so you get a piece of the win pool, and there is yet another trifecta pool that you missed out on. So, the money that you collected was once in the pockets of other people that are contributing to the pools. In the end, you are not playing against the house – you are competing for the prize money with other bettors.

Horse Racing Odds and Probability

The morning line changes when people start betting into the win pool, and the odds to win the race are always prominently posted next to the horse numbers. When the odds go down, it means that a lot of people are supporting that horse, and vice versa. There are odds for every different pool, but they are not plainly displayed in fractional form. When you play the horses online, you can access a grid of the probable payouts for exactas, and it is updated as the odds change. Unfortunately, the odds for other exotic bets are not available.

Tracks are not trying to hide anything, but it is impossible to display that many combinations in a reasonable format. With regard to the odds for place and show bets, you can see the wagering pools, and this will give you some clues about the potential payouts.

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Virtual Horse Racing Betting

Virtual horse race betting is offered at some casinos, and it is akin to a video slot machine theme. Some state lottery systems have virtual horse race terminals that are placed in retail locations like taverns and restaurants. There is no skill involved, so we cannot provide any strategy insight.

When you play these games, you are simply rolling the dice with the odds against you. One of the great things about handicapping actual horse races is the fact that your research can pay off. It is satisfying when you win a bet because of your research, so you may want to stick to real horse race betting.

Horse Racing Betting Tips

When you are handicapping, the goal is to identify overlays. You want to watch the odds and try to pinpoint a horse that provides good value because it is being overlooked. It may be a 10-1 shot that should be about 5-1 based on its own record without public bias. You can find overlays on your own using logical extrapolations, and you can compare the current odds to the morning line. A good angle is the performances in common races, and we will explain this through the use of a hypothetical scenario.

A horse in a race you are handicapping is the 2/1 favorite because he finished a close second in his last race. Another horse is 9/1, and he ran in the same race, but he came in fourth. However, he was only a half-length off the lead in a blanket finish, and he had a wide trip around the track.

With better luck, the horse that is now 9/1 may have actually beat the horse that is favored to win the current race. You should look for these openings when you are playing the horses.

What Affects Horse Racing Betting Strategies ?

Form: The past performances of a given horse will paint a picture of his capabilities and the trajectory of his form cycle. You may see a pattern of improvement that is indicative of another move forward in the near future. There are also declining form cycles, and some horses will be consistently predictable.

There are workout dates and times in the past performance publications. This data is especially important when you are handicapping first-time starters, and the works are key when a horse is coming back after a layoff.

Race Quality: Race quality is a very important factor when you place bets on horses. There are essentially three different types of races: claiming events, allowance races and stakes. Anyone that is registered can claim and purchase a horse that is running in a claimer race for the stated price.

This is the lowest level because people that own quality animals that can win large purses do not want to sell them. Allowance races are the next step up, and you cannot buy horses that are running in them. Stakes events are the really big races like the Breeders’ Cup and many others.

When you are handicapping low-level claimers, you are looking at a lot of runners that are simply not very good. You search for the lesser of evils, and this is an imperfect science to say the least. Plus, there can be cheating by insiders because the horses have no reputations that make them valuable.

On the other hand, when you are betting on a stakes race with a lot of money and prestige on the table, you can be sure that it will be honestly run. Good horses are more predictable, and the best jockeys ride them, so you can expect to get a competent ride.

Distance: Thoroughbred races typically range from five furlongs (five-eighths of a mile) to 1-1/2 miles or more. Some horses excel at sprint distances, others prefer a longer distance of ground.

Surface: A lot of people that are betting on the horses do not pay attention to the surface when the activity is new to them. If a horse can run well on grass, why would they have any trouble running on dirt or a synthetic surface?

In fact, very few horses can run equally well on both surfaces, and it has everything to do with the breeding. Stallions are chosen to be sires because they were good horses when they were running, and some with limited racing experience were finely bred in their own right.

A sire that was a champion in grass races covering a dam that was a turf runner will produce a horse that should run well on that surface. It’s in their blood, and there are others that were sired by stallions that ran well on dirt surfaces.

Trainer: Trainer records are posted on the wagering apps, and you can find them in past performance publications. This is another data point that some newcomers do not take seriously enough.

Owners want to win races, and a trainer with a good percentage is not just good at training. They train better horses because the owners feel as though they will get the most out of their stock.

When a trainer has a very low in percentage, they are not necessarily incompetent. They simply have not earned the trust of owners that have options when they are picking trainers. This is why you should steer clear of horses that are trained by low percentage conditioners.

Jockey: It’s always wise to check out a jockey’s win percentage during a meet. As with trainers, some jockeys win far more races than others. A positive jockey change from a horse’s previous race can be a winning angle.

A similar phenomenon applies to winning jockeys. Trainers make the jockey decisions, and the best riders get the best mounts. Sometimes a trainer/jockey combo at a certain track will have an extremely high win percentage, and this is something you should always look for when you are handicapping.

Draw: Post positions are drawn at random in thoroughbred racing and can make a significant difference in races with big fields. In longer races with a short run to the first turn, horses drawn to the far outside can lose significant ground and must cover more distance than horses drawn inside.

With most races decided by two lengths or less, that lost ground could mean the difference between winning and losing. Post position is less important in races with smaller fields.

Weight: Some horses are asked to carry more weight than others, determined by the horse's age, gender and conditions of the race. In handicap races, a racing secretary assigns weights to each horse to try and make the race as fair as possible.

Weight isn’t as significant a handicapping factor as it once was, but when one horse is carrying an extra five pounds, it can make a difference.

Which Horse Breeds To Bet On

Horse racing genres are broken up by breed, and there are three different breeds that are distinct from one another in United States racing.

Thoroughbreds

The thoroughbred breed is by far the most dominant in American racing and racing around the world. As we have explained, there are specialists that race on certain surfaces, and there are races that are restricted by gender. Generally speaking, colts and older male horses are faster than fillies and mares, and male horses have more stamina.

Quarter Horses

Quarter horses are bred to run short distances of a quarter mile or less. There are fewer quarter horse meets, but quarter horse racing is relatively popular. Los Alamitos in California, Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico, and Remington Park in Oklahoma are some of the notable quarter horse tracks.

Standardbreds

Standardbreds run in harness races, and they pull carriages that are called “sulkies.” The drivers do not have to be extremely light like jockeys. These horses are trained to either trot or pace, and these are two slightly different gaits. The highest quality standardbred races are run at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

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Key Horse Racing Terms and What They Mean

Blinkers/Blinders: Eye cups, usually attached to a cloth or nylon hood, that prevent a horse from looking around. Blinkers can prevent horses from becoming distracted and keep them more focused on the task at hand.

Furlong: One-eighth of a mile. Six-furlong races, the most common race distance, are three-quarters of a mile. Eight furlongs is a mile.

Colt: A male horse from age 2 through 4.

Filly: A female horse through age 4.

Gelding: A male horse that has been castrated. Horses are generally gelded because of poor, unruly or mean behavior that interferes with their training or racing. The most well-bred horses are often not gelded due to their potential stallion value.

Grade: The best thoroughbred stakes races in North America receive a grade. Grade I events are the top races for the most elite horses. Grade II races are a step below Grade I. Grade III races are a step below Grade II. The lowest level of stakes races are ungraded.

Handicap: A race in which weights are assigned to each horse by the racing secretary in an effort to make the race as competitive as possible. The more accomplished horses are assigned to carry more weight.

Post Position: The position inside the starting gate for each horse.

Simulcast: Broadcast of a race from another track. Simulcast racing allow patrons at one track to bet on live races from other tracks across the country and around the world.

Horse betting apps

As we touched upon in the opening, the TwinSpires that is associated with Churchill Downs. TVG is very well-regarded, and the company has a television network that is offered through cable and satellite providers, and you can stream the channel.

Races are broadcast from certain tracks, and there are on-air personalities that provide analyses of the races. They carry events from all over the United States, but they do not stop there. You can watch other races including Canadian and European cards, Japanese racing events, racing from Australia and Dubai racing.

Horse Races In The U.S.

The big stakes races are typically held on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. There are stakes races run all around the country each weekend, so there are hundreds of total American stakes events each year. Some of them are graded, and these races attract the best of the best.

On the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby kicks off the Triple Crown series. The Preakness comes two weeks later, and after a three-week hiatus, the Belmont Stakes is the third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the most famous horse race of them all. When the crowd breaks into the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home,” it is hard for many people to hold back at least a few tears.

This one is a little more significant than the next two races because every Derby winner is remembered forever. The other two races are important, but it’s not quite the same.

You can head over to our Kentucky Derby betting page to get more information about this venerable tradition.

Preakness Stakes

A colt named Preakness was the winner of the Dinner Party Stakes on the first day of racing at brand-new Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. This was back in 1870, and the inaugural Preakness Stakes was run three years later.

If the Derby winner conquers the field in the Preakness, the Triple Crown will hang in the balance going forward. You can head over to our Preakness betting page to get more insight into the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.

Belmont Stakes

When the Triple Crown is on the line going into the Belmont Stakes, the excitement is at a fever pitch. People that are not really big fans are still interested, but it can be anticlimactic if the Kentucky Derby winner did not take the Preakness.

Regardless of the circumstances, this is one of the most important events for three-year-old thoroughbreds. You can learn everything you need to know about this American tradition if you visit our Belmont Stakes betting page.

Breeders Cup

The Breeders’ Cup is a series of races that are run on the first Friday and Saturday in November. It is the culmination of the annual campaigns for the very best horses on the planet. There are 14 different graded stakes events, so there is a lot of money to be made betting on the Breeders’ Cup.

We show you how to get your share of it on our Breeders’ Cup betting page , and you should definitely check it out before the next installment.

Where Can You Bet On Horse Races Online In The US?

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You can bet on horse races online in most of the states in the union, and many of them also allow online sportsbooks. The NJ sports betting handle has passed Nevada for the number one spot. New Yorkers can bet on the Belmont and other exciting sporting events at the NY sports betting sites.

Maryland sports betting is about to be legal as well, so the Triple Crown states offer wagering action on multiple levels. At the time of this writing, legal sports bets are being made in 28 states, and several others are moving toward legalization.

How We Review Horse Racing Betting Sites

Our staff members and reviewers sign up for accounts at these betting sites and they test drive the sites. We share our honest impressions based on the experiences that we have had on these sites. Online horse betting is a competitive business, so operators offer a variety of bonus offers to sign up new players and keep existing ones. They include first deposit matches, risk-free first bet offers and conditional money-back wagers. 

Our reviewers identify the most generous offers, and we pass the information along. Some sites are more user-friendly and responsive than others. We test the speed and software of every site we review and consider the variety of deposit and withdrawal methods that are available.

FAQ


Yes, if you live in a state that has legalized online betting for horse racing. Unlike in Europe where futures betting is popular, online horse racing betting in the United States is limited to pari-mutuel betting at this time.

Pari-mutuel betting is a system in which bettors essentially wager against each other, all pooling their money together. Winning bets are paid out after the track subtracts the money for expenses (sometimes called the takeout) whether the bettor is in person or watching from a remote facility (often another track which shows race simulcasts).

Pari-mutuel odds are calculated in an automated manner, but sportsbooks use fixed odds. They set opening lines, and they adjust them in an effort to balance the action. They want to take the same amount of money on both sides of the bets.

To explain through the use of an example, the standard vigorish on a football point spread is 10 percent. You have to wager $110 to win $100 on either side. Let’s assume the Packers are playing the Cowboys, and you bet $110 on the Packers. Your friend bets the same amount on the Cowboys.

Before the game starts, the bookmaker is holding $220. Your Packers cover the spread, and you win $100, and you get your original $110 bet back. The sportsbook paid out $210, but they were holding $220, so they get to keep the $10 profit.

If your friend does not make the bet, they lose $100. Obviously, they are taking thousands of bets so the equation is complicated, but this is the basic principle.

A racetrack does not have to balance the action to get its share, and this is the difference between pari-mutuel wagering and fixed odds betting.

There are well over 100 horse racing tracks in the United States.

The biggest horse racing events occur during the summer through the first week in November when the Breeders’ Cup is held. There are exceptions in California and Florida because of the warm winter weather. The Pegasus World Cup is the richest horse race in America, and it takes place in January

The best horse betting site is the one that provides you with the greatest comfort level, offers all the tracks you want to bet on, and offers the most lucrative online bonuses and promotions. Gambling.com’s top-rated horse racing betting sites are listed above.

This is a matter of opinion, but we prefer the Pick 4 for a number of reasons. Yes, you have to pick winners in multiple races, but picking four straight races is not an impossible task.

You can craft an affordable ticket that includes multiple horses in most legs. The payouts can be over a thousand dollars if there are some long shots, and there are decent returns even if moderate favorites win the legs.

That depends on your objective and the odds on the horse that you are considering. A place or show bet on the favorite is likely to win, but the return may be $0.40 on a $2 bet. Most people would say that kind of return is not worth the risk.

On the other hand, a place or show wager on a longshot can pay quite a bit. You can actually make across-the-board bets, and this is a bet to win, place and show. When you do this, you can take down a good score if the horse wins because you would collect all three bets.

If they come in second or third, you will make some type of profit on these bets, and this will offset the losing bet. A lot of people like to play across the board because it is a relatively safe wager.

It depends on the odds of a horse in the place pool. This pool is separate from the win pool, but the odds to win will give you a general idea of what to expect. If a horse that is 20/1 comes in second, it will usually pay about $13 depending on the odds of the winner.

Why does the winner’s odds have anything to do with it? A place wager that is made on the horse that wins the race will be a winning bet. As a result, if you win a place bet on a 20/1 shot, you have to split the pool with a lot of people if a favorite wins the race.

If another 20-1 shot is the winner, there will be fewer people getting a share of the place pool. This is why you should root for a longshot to win the race if you have a place ticket.

Any site that is above board and licensed to conduct business in your state is going to be safe.

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Contributors

Contributors

Hi, I'm Gary Garry

"Gary Patrick Garry started out in the sports gaming field working for a major sports service in Las Vegas over three decades ago. He has written for a number of different gambling sites over recent years, and he is a regular Gambling.com contributor."

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