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How to bet on horses

• Betting
• Horse racing
• Sports Betting

How To Bet On Horses

Betting on horses seems simple, but there is a lot of preparation that should happen before placing a wager. There are many different types of wagers, all with their own level of complexity and payout potential.

Betting on horses can be one of the most exciting ways to bet on sports, each second of a race is crucial. By knowing how to bet on horses, you will be ready to take part in some of the greatest events in sports.

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How to Place a Bet on Horse Racing

The first step to learning how to bet on horse racing, regardless if it is a local or the Kentucky Derby, is learning how to actually place a wager. Whether you choose an online platform, which will be discussed below, or place a bet in person at a track, you need to know the same things. 

Here are the different steps to placing a bet. 

  1. State/select the name of the racetrack
  2. State/select the race number you are betting on
  3. State/select the amount of your bet
  4. State/select the type of wager
  5. State/select the number of your horses

That is all there is to placing a wager, which is the easiest part of horse race betting.

Where to Bet on Horses

Now that you know how to place a wager, you have to figure out where you will actually do it at. There are two places where this will happen: at the track or an online platform. Most tracks have both an in-person window and electronic machines where you can place your bet. 

TVG

TVG is best known for their role in putting horse racing on TV, but they also offer an online platform for betting. TVG offers expert picks, predictions, and analysis. They offer live streaming of the races, and you can bet through their website or app.

TwinSpires

TwinSpires is often considered the most trustworthy and popular online betting platform for horse racing. They are the official betting partner of the Kentucky Derby and offer wagering through the browser, a mobile-optimized site, or their TwinSpires betting app. They also offer the ability to bet on many different tracks as well as livestreams for each one.

Bet America

Bet America is another popular option for betting on horse racing. They offer a wide range of betting options and tracks, and wagering can be done through the browser or IOS.

Betting Tools

There are various betting tools that you want to take a look at before wagering on a race. When learning how to bet on horse racing, this is one of the most important aspects. 

The top tool that you will likely use is the racetrack program. This has important information about things like past performances and wins for horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners. It depends on whether you are betting in-person or using online platforms, but you will likely have to pay a few dollars for the program. 

The Daily Racing Form (DRF) provides the past performances of all the horses running on the day’s programs. It also includes informative articles and handicapping. This will also cost a few dollars.

Types of Horse Bets

The most important part of learning how to bet on horses is knowing the different types of bets. There is a wide range of possible wagers, each with their own level of difficulty and earnings potential. 

There are two main categories of horse bets: straight wagers and exotic wagers.

Straight Wagers (Win, Place, Show)

Straight wagers are what many novice bettors will start with when learning how to make a bet on horse racing. You can view them as simple wagers, and they include the Win, Place, and Show bets. The minimum bet is normally $2, but it depends on the specific track. 

WinThe Win bet is self-explanatory; it requires you to select the winning horse of a race. 
PlaceThe Place bet requires your horse to finish first or second. 
ShowThe Show bet requires your horse to finish first, second, or third. 

Win, Place, Show: You can also make an “across the board” bet, or a Win, Place, Show bet. This wager combines multiple bets into one for a chance at a greater return. 

If your horse finishes first, you receive the Win, Place, and Show payouts. If your horse finishes second, you receive the Place and Show payouts. If your horse finishes third, you only receive the Show payout.

Exotic Bets (Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Daily Double, Pick 3/4/5/6)

Exotic bets, or non-straight wagers, are more complex, and the payouts can be a lot bigger. Some of the most popular exotic wagers are the Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Daily Double, and Pick 3/4/5/6.

Exacta: A Exacta bet requires you to select the exact order of finish of the first- and second-place horses. 

Trifecta: A Trifecta bet requires you to select the exact order of finish of the first-, second-, and third-place horses. 

Superfecta: A Superfecta bet has the potential of returning really large winnings. It requires you to select the exact order of finish of the first-, second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers. 

Daily Double: A Daily Double bet requires you to select which two horses will win two consecutive races.
Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6: These wagers require you to select the winning horses for three, four, five, or six consecutive races.

Boxing Bets

When betting on horses, you also have the option to box your bets. By boxing exotic wagers, you have an increased chance of winning. A box bet is when you select more horses than the bet calls for, and it also allows you to play all combinations of your picks. 

For example, an Exacta Box requires your horses to still finish first and second, but it can be in any order. You no longer need to select the exact order of finish. The downside to boxing a bet is that it multiplies the cost of your wager.

Horse Betting Strategies

When learning how to bet on horses, you should become familiar with some of the top betting strategies. These are not necessary to begin wagering, but they can increase your chances of winning.

Recent Winners Strategy

The Recent Winners Strategy is a self-explanatory approach to horse race betting. After choosing which race to bet on, you will look at the race form and see if any of the runners have a recent victory. 

According to this strategy, if they did have a recent win, they are more likely to perform well. This is a relatively easy strategy, but the recent winner often has lower odds, making this bet safe and with low earnings potential.

Back the Beaten Favorite

This strategy relies on the public’s doubt after a highly ranked horse is beaten in a race. After the loss, betting often goes against the horse in the next race, which causes the runner’s odds to increase. 

Even though the top-tier horse lost a race, it doesn’t necessarily mean the same will be true for the next race. Because of this, some bettors decide to put money on that horse, hoping that the loss was just a one-off. The horse will likely have better odds than usual, so this strategy can result in nice winnings.

The Statistical Lay

The Statistical Lay is one of the most popular strategies for betting on horses. This complex approach is the bettor wagering against a runner. 

A Lay bet is when the bettor acts as the bookmaker and wagers against an outcome rather than on one. This means that instead of betting on a horse to win, you will be betting on any of the other runners. 

The first step is to find a race with 10 or more runners, and you will then identify the three favorites and look at their odds. Out of the top three favorites, you will then select runners that have odds somewhere between 3.0 (2/1) and 5.8 (4.8/1). You will lay against the one with the lowest odds. 

According to statistics, this should result in a profit about 83% of the time. 

This strategy is normally only recommended for Group 1, Grade 1 races. These races often have more in-depth records and analysis, which allows for a weak favorite to be more easily identified. 

These are just some of the top betting strategies for horse racing, but there are many more that can be learned.

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How to Bet on Horses FAQ

How do the odds work in horse racing and wagering?
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Horse racing odds are calculated by a Pari-Mutuel System, which means that the odds are determined by how the people are wagering. They depend on the amount bet on a horse compared to how much is being put on other runners in the field. The odds will be less profitable as more people bet on a specific horse.

Odds in horse racing are constantly changing, so it is important to pay attention right up to the race. They will close before the race runs, but there is plenty of time for scratches and other issues that can lead to a drastic change quickly.

How are payouts calculated in horse racing?
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Payouts are always based on a $2 wager. To find out what the final payout will be, you need to multiply the odds times $2 and then add the $2 wager back on.

For example, horse #4 is 5-1, so 5 X $2 = $10 + $2 = $12 payout. Most tracks and platforms have charts that you can use to figure out the payouts for many of the wagers, including Exactas. Payouts for wagers like the Trifecta are done by dividing the pool of money from the community bet.

Should I bet on big or small tracks?
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Big tracks often include horses, trainers, and owners that you can get a lot of information about. However, you will be going up against other bettors who are very experienced.

Smaller and less popular tracks provide you with the chance to test your abilities without going up against the big bettors. In many cases, the odds are more reliable at smaller tracks since there are not so many bettors.

What are the top horse races?
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The biggest horse racing event in the world is the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown is three races, and it includes the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

There will be a lot of information about the horses, trainers, and owners involved in these races. Other major horse races include the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Dubai World Cup.

Image Credits: ANDY LYONS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

About this author

Ayden Fahlstrom author profile

Ayden loves sports. There is no doubt about that. He is a walking calendar when it comes to the latest events in sports. He has grown into the passion of writing about them, and settled into his role as a writer after many freelancing jobs. He can write about any sport out there! This is the guy!

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