Horse Racing | Guide to Online Horse Race Betting - HowToBet.com
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Online Horse Racing

Horse racing, just like most other sports, offers in-person wagering at tracks and online betting. There are many great sportsbooks to choose from when it comes to online horse racing, each offering their unique features and bonuses.

Almost all online sportsbooks also offer live streaming for the races you bet on, bringing the track to you. Another benefit of online horse racing is that you can take your time studying race programs and other important information. It's easier with the internet right at your fingertips.

Rules & Gameplay

Before betting on horse racing, there are a few essential components to understand. The first thing you want to do is look at what kind of race you are wagering on. There are many types including flat racing, maiden racing, harness racing, stakes racing, and more. At the same time, each race runs on a specific track and surface, such as turf or dirt, as well as a set distance, often one mile, 1 1/2 miles, or 1 1/16 miles.

Whichever race you decide to bet on, there will be a program with important information about the track and entrants. You will see each horse, post positions, odds, jockeys, past performances, equipment changes, weight, and much more information on this program. This is where you analyze how the horse did in a previous race and the morning-line odds.

After studying up on the horses and their previous performances, you will have to choose what kind of bet to place. There are many different wagering options in horse racing, each with its own level of complexity and earnings potential.

You have the option of making a "straight" wager or an "exotic" wager, with the later often offering a larger payout. Straight bets include Win, Place, and Show, while exotic bets include the Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, and Pick 5.

Top Horse Racing Bets

Here is a look at the top bets for horse racing:

  • Win

The Win bet is the most straightforward horse bet, only requiring you to select the winning horse.

  • Place

The Place bet requires your horse to finish first or second.

  • Show

The Show bet requires your horse to finish first, second, or third.

  • W/P/S

You can also choose to bet "across the board" with a Win, Place, Show, or W/P/S. This wager combines multiple into one for the chance at a greater return. If your horse finishes first, you receive the payouts for Win, Place, and Show.

If, on the other hand, the horse you chose finishes second, you receive the payouts for Place and Show. Provided that your horse finishes in third place, you only receive the payout for Show.

  • Exacta

The Exacta bet requires you to select the exact order of finish for the first- and second-place runners.

  • Trifecta

The Trifecta is perhaps the most popular exotic bet, mainly due to its high-earnings potential. It requires you to select the exact order of finish for the first-, second-, and third-place runners.

  • Superfecta

The Superfecta is hard to hit, but it often has a huge return. It requires you to select the first-, second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers in the exact order.

  • Pick 3,4,5,6

The Pick 3,4,5 or 6 requires you to select the winning horses for three, four, five, or six consecutive races.

When wagering on a horse race, you can also box your bets, which increases your chance of winning. However, the price of the bet is higher. Boxing a bet allows you to select more horses than the required, as well as all the combinations of your picks.

This means that, for example, if you box an Exacta bet, your horses can finish in any order for the first and second spots.

How the Contenders Work

While horse racing doesn't have teams like other traditional sports, each horse has connections that act as a team. For example, there are owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, etc. Each of these "team members" has specific functions and duties, and a winning horse requires strong connections.

Here is a look at the most important connections for a contender:

  • Owner

The horse's owner is often an indication of how good that horse is since many great Thoroughbred runners come from the same groups.

  • Trainer

The horse's trainer is arguably the most important connection. He or she is responsible for training the horse to run well in races and minimize stress and anxiety for the animal. Trainers are often the ones who make decisions on whether a horse will run or not.

  • Jockey

Racehorses often have regular jockeys, which are the riders on board for a race, but it can change with every race. A good jockey has built a relationship with the runner and can keep him or her steady, focused, and calm.

Strategy and Tactics

Before betting on horse racing, there are a few strategies and tactics to be aware of. You should not just choose the horses that look good on the surface, but you should consider multiple factors.

One way to go about it is to study each aspect of the horse, such as past performances, which jockey is aboard the runner, post position, speed figures, etc. Another option is to opt for one of the specific strategies that have been tried throughout the years.

Top Horse Race Betting Strategies

Here is a look at some of the top horse race betting strategies:

Recent Winners Strategy

The Recent Winners Strategy is one of the most straightforward tactics for betting on horse racing. After choosing which race to wager on, you look for any runners on the race form that have a recent victory.

If they did have a recent win, there is a higher likelihood that they will perform well. This strategy is relatively easy, but there are a few downsides. A recent winner often has lower odds, meaning you won't bring back as much money if you win, so it is a fairly safe approach.

Back the Beaten Favorite

This strategy relies on the public doubting a highly ranked horse after being beaten in a recent race. Following the loss, the bettors often wager against that horse in the next race, causing their odds to increase.

Even though a high-level runner lost a recent race, it does not always mean they will perform poorly next time out. This is the basis of the Back the Beaten Strategy. Bettors will place money on that horse believing that the loss was a one-off, and there is a high-earning potential due to the better odds.

The Statistical Lay

One of the most popular strategies for betting on horses is the Statistical Lay. This is a more complex approach to wagering against a runner. A lay bet is when the wagerer acts as the bookmaker and wagers against an outcome instead of on one.

In other words, the bet is on any of the other runners instead of betting on a winning horse. First, it's best to find a race with ten or more runners and then identify the three favorites and look at their odds.

Out of those three, runners who have odds between 2/1 and 4.8/1 are selected, and the one with the lowest odds has a lay bet placed against them. Statistics show that this should result in a profit of around 83% of the time, but the strategy is often only used for Group 1, Grade 1 races, as they offer more in-depth analysis and records. This allows for a weak favorite to be identified more easily.

History of the Sport

Horse racing is one of the oldest sports known to us, with its origins dating back to around 4500 BC. It was nomadic tribesmen of Central Asia, the same people who domesticated horses, who first put the sport into action.

Now, thousands of years later, it is one of the most popular sports throughout the world, with wagering taking place in many nations.

With modern horse racing beginning in the 12th century in England, with the nobility wagering in private, it wasn't until the 1700s when it became a professional sport.

That is when spectators began to wager on the events, and large purses were offered to attract the top horses. The sport spread rapidly, and in 1750 the Jockey Club was established. The Jockey Club is the central governing authority still regulating English racing today.

Horse Racing in the US

The first racetrack in the United States was built in 1665 in Long Island. Horse racing was a popular local sport before organized racing established itself after 1868. Throughout the next few decades, especially during the industrial expansion, horse racing and betting increased rapidly.

Because the sport was exploding and there was no governing authority, top track and stable owners met in New York in 1894 to establish an American Jockey Club, based on the English version.

However, the early 1900s saw a massive downturn for the sport as antigambling sentiment spread throughout the nation. The number of operating tracks in the country went from 314 in 1890 to just 25 in 1908. Ironically, the same year saw pari-mutuel betting offered on the Kentucky Derby, one of the most well-known horse races globally, and more tracks opened.

The sport went in and out of popularity until the 1970s when top names like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed brought more attention. These horses did this by winning the Triple Crown, which is one of the most prestigious titles in horse racing. It is given to horses that win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes in the same year.

The same falling in and out of popularity happened again and is where we are today, but it is still an extremely popular sport that draws massive crowds to top events each year. There are many ways to bet online and in tracks, live streams and major broadcasts on the networks, and entire festivals dedicated to the sport.

In the United States, it often attracts the most spectators among any sport. In 1989 alone, over 50 million people attended 8,000 race days in the U.S., with the total amount of bets hitting $9 billion.

Wall of Fame

There have been many great racehorses throughout the sport's history, and there is an extensive Hall of Fame. It is not just for racehorses either, but Hall of Fame jockeys, trainers, and owners.

Among all of the greats, there is one name that reigns above all others, and that is Secretariat. An American Thoroughbred racehorse, Secretariat is considered by many as the greatest runner in history. He is mostly known for his record-breaking victory in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, which he won by 31 lengths.

He was the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, largely responsible for jumpstarting interest in the sport once again. Secretariat was Horse of the Year at ages two and three, and he was nominated to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1974.

Some other names on the Hall of Fame include:

  • A.P. Indy
  • Affirmed
  • Alysheba
  • Gallant Man
  • Man o' War
  • Sir Barton
  • Tiznow
  • Zenyatta

Some of the Hall of Fame trainers include:

  • Steve Asmussen
  • Bob Baffert
  • William Mott
  • Roger Attfield
  • Thomas H. Voss

Distinctive Elements

Some of the most distinctive elements of horse racing are its simplicity and quickness. Compared to other sports that often have many rules and are drawn out for hours, horse racing is a simple Win, Place, Show sport, often lasting less than two minutes.

Because of this, horse racing is very welcoming to those who are just getting into sports betting. You can take one horse race, study a few aspects of the card, and begin betting right away. The rookie bettor will not get bored with the sport due to its fast running.

Horse Racing Statistics

Horse racing isn't so much focused on statistics as records and other indicators. A bettor will focus on career and yearly records for horses, jockeys, and trainers, as well as the course record for each. This can indicate how well they perform over a given track.

Distance is also critical when betting on horse races, with races covering various lengths including one mile, 1 1/8 miles, 1 1/16 miles, etc. This can significantly impact a runner, and it is a good indicator as to when the horse might tire or drop off.

Some other statistics and numbers in horse racing include previous market moves, race classes, and speed figures, which indicate how fast a horse ran in a race.

Popularity and Cultural Impact

Besides the U.S., horse racing culture is prominent in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, the Middle East, South America, and Australia. There are often major events like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup World Championships, which offer much more than racing. These significant events are broadcasted globally, and attendees often adhere to old traditions regarding attire, drinks, and other forms of entertainment.

About this author

Cole Paganelli author profile

Cole is really big into Major League Baseball, but really - the big four Pro US sports are his passion. Cole grew up a Yankees fan, but married a Red Sox fan. It's tough around the house during those big games, but his hatred for the Red Sox has waned a little. Cole has a goal of seeing every Major League Baseball Stadium before the end of 2022!

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