Kentucky Horse Racing

The “Bluegrass State” is one of the epicenters of American Thoroughbred racing, hosting some of the biggest events like the Kentucky Derby. The state is home to some of the world’s top tracks, and it is also the best state when it comes to the Thoroughbred breeding industry.

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Introduction to Online Kentucky Horse Racing

Kentucky is one of the most popular states when it comes to betting online on horse racing, partly due to the strict in-person gambling laws. Since the state hosts many of the top racing events like the Kentucky Derby, bettors from all over the world join in on the action.

Let’s look at one of the fundamental components of KY online horse racing betting: the sportsbook. 

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best online sportsbook: 

  • Race/Track Selections: The first thing you want to look at when choosing an online sportsbook for KY horse racing is race and track selections. The best online sportsbooks will offer a wide range of track options within the state of Kentucky. You can find more options for other race tracks in the country.
  • Wager Options: After choosing an online sportsbook, the track you want to bet on, and the race, you want to look at the wager options offered. You should be able to choose the most popular wagers for Kentucky horse racing, such as W/P/S, Exacta, Trifecta, and Superfecta.
  • Bonuses and Sign-up Offers: A major advantage of betting online on horses is that you can receive terrific bonuses and sign-up offers. You want to shop around for the best offers among the sportsbooks to ensure you start winning right away.
  • Live Streaming/Replays: After all of the KY horse racing bets are put in place, you want to ensure that you have access to live streaming and replays. The best online sportsbooks will offer both live streamings as well as replays for all the top Kentucky horse racing tracks.

Facts about Kentucky Horse Racing

Type of Betting Allowed:On-site, off-track, online betting.
Notable Horse Tracks:Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Clark Handicap, Blue Grass Stakes, Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes, Gardenia Stakes
Gambling Age:18 for pari-mutuel betting.
Authority:Kentucky Horse Racing Commission

How to Read a Horse Racing Program

If online sportsbooks are the foundation of online horse race betting, the race program is the foundation of all horse race betting. It is one of the most valuable tools a bettor has when analyzing races and making picks. Moreover, it provides you with everything needed about each horse in a race.

When you first open a horse racing program, it can seem confusing, but it is easy to understand in just a short amount of time.

The first step is buying a program for the KY horse racing track that you plan to wager on. There are both physical programs at the track and online versions. One of the top horse racing programs of the year comes from the Derby.

Information on a Horse Racing Program

Let’s take a look at some of the most important information on a KY horse racing program:

  • Horse Details: The program will contain multiple rows of information about the horse. This includes the post position, name, jockey, owner, trainer, and breeder. Other important information in this section includes the horse’s age and pedigree, current year and career records, and what tracks it has run on. This is where you will also find the horse’s morning-line odds, which identify the favorite, second-choice, longshot, and so on.
  • Workouts: Once you become a more advanced KY horse racing bettor, you begin to look at a horse’s workouts. This provides insight into how a runner is performing leading up to a race. You will often encounter the term “breezing”. This means the horse is demonstrating a solid running performance with minimal interference from the jockey.
  • Past Performances: This section is also for the more experienced KY horse racing bettor, but it offers a lot of valuable and detailed data. The past performances section provides insight into a horse’s previous races. You can find information such as the date, track, distance, track conditions, fractional times, finishing position, odds, jockey, top three finishers of the race, and a written description.

Straight Horse Racing Bets

KY horse racing, and horse racing all around the United States, mostly features the same types of bets. Depending on which online sportsbooks you choose, you might find some slight variations. But for the most part, you can break horse racing bets down into straight and exotic wagers.

There are a few key factors that separate straight bets from exotic bets, with the most notable being the level of complexity. Straight wagers are much more simple than exotic, and they only require you to select one runner. 

Here is a look at the most common straight bets offered in KY horse racing:

  • Win, Place, and Show: Each of these bets requires you to select one horse. What separates them is where that horse must finish, and each one offers a different payout potential. For a horse to win, it must finish first; for a horse to place, it must finish second; and for a horse to show, it must finish third.
  • Across the Board: This bet costs slightly more than the others, but it offers you more combinations. All it does is combine the other three. So if your horse finishes first, you receive the payouts for all three combined if it finishes second, you receive payouts for Place and Show; and if it finishes third, you receive the Show payout. 

Exotic Horse Racing Bets

Exotic horse racing bets are more complex, expensive, and harder to hit, but they often offer much greater payouts than straight wagers. 

These exotic bets can be easily broken down into two categories: single horse races and multiple horse races. 

Exotic bets for single horse races take place during just one outing, and they include: 

  • Exacta: You are required to select two horses and their exact order of finish in the first two spots. If you box an Exacta, the two horses can finish in either order as long as it is first and second.
  • Trifecta: You need to select three horses and their exact order of finish in the top three spots. If you box a Trifecta, the three horses can finish in any order as long as it is first, second, and third.
  • Superfecta: You need to select four horses and their exact order of finish in the top four spots. If you box a Superfecta, the four horses can finish in any order as long as it is first, second, third, and fourth. This bet often offers huge payouts.

Exotic bets for multiple horse races require you to spread out your wager over the course of many outings, and they include:

  • Daily Double: This wager takes place over two races. You need to select two consecutive winners.
  • Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6: These wagers take place over multiple races, with the exact number depending on the one indicated in the bet. You must select three, four, five, or six winners in consecutive races.

Kentucky Horse Racing

The state of Kentucky has stricter laws when it comes to gambling, despite others beginning to relax state gaming statutes. Kentucky has no full-fledged casinos, and only charitable games are permitted. However, Kentucky’s gambling laws still leave room for horse race betting. 

More specifically, horse running, trotting, and pacing races, as well as harness races, are legal. The only form of wagering allowed is pari-mutuel betting. The state also has strict regulations regarding the process of entering horses into races. In fact, there are specific funds set aside for track and race improvement.

Because of these reasons, KY online horse racing betting is popular. Many people from all over the country bet on the races that consistently run in the state. The state hosts the following top events:

  • Kentucky Derby
  • Kentucky Oaks
  • Clark Handicap
  • Blue Grass Stakes
  • Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes
  • Gardenia Stakes. 

Despite the strict laws regarding Kentucky gambling, there has been a strong push recently. This is in an effort to join other states with more relaxed laws. In January 2021, sports wagering legislation was introduced to allow the state’s horse racing tracks to receive licenses to host sports wagering. 

That legislation came after a rough end to 2020 when the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the Exacta Systems machine was not a permitted type of pari-mutuel wagering in the state. These machines are used at tracks like Keeneland, Red Mile, Kentucky Downs, and Ellis Park, and they are a major source of funding. 

Online vs. On-track Betting

Even with the rapid rise in popularity of online horse race betting and gambling restrictions in the state, Kentucky is still one of the top states in the world when it comes to on-track betting. This is partly due to the Kentucky Derby, which is one of the world’s top sporting events that take place in Lexington, Kentucky, each May. 

Besides the Derby, the Kentucky horse racing tracks also host other major races that you can bet on at the track. 

If you decide to bet at the track, there are both pros and cons. You get to be part of an exciting atmosphere during the running, but you often sacrifice some of the comfort offered by online sportsbooks. For example, on-track betting requires you to bet on either a machine or at a booth, which can often take time due to long lines and other factors. It is also often hard to see the actual running since the other side of the track can be far out of view. 

By betting on KY horse racing online, you can choose various tracks from around the state. You also have more time to study the races closely since live streaming gives you a clear image of the race from start to finish. Besides all of that, online sportsbooks offer many terrific offers that tracks can’t keep up with. 

Where to Watch the Horse Races

You have two main options when it comes to watching the races: at the track or online. While the track can be exciting if you are there in person, watching the races online is more accessible. 

The biggest advantage to watching horse racing online is the ability to utilize live streaming and replays. The top online sportsbooks offer live streams, which allow you to clearly see which horses cross the line first. By using a KY horse racing live stream, you also get to listen to the announcers detail each moment. 

The other major component to watching KY horse racing online is that you can access replays shortly after. Replays enable you to analyze a race even further, which leads you to develop a stronger betting strategy. 

Horse Betting Terms Explained

Whether you are reading a horse racing program, listening to the announcers, or placing a wager, you are going to be presented with many terms. These might seem unfamiliar this is because KY horse racing involves many different components. These are the horse, the track, the connections, and also many terms.

Take a look at the following terms that describe many aspects of KY horse racing, starting with race types: 

  • Graded Stakes: KY horse racing is famous for its world-class events. If you ever see the label (G1), (G2), or (G3) next to a race’s name, it indicates which grade level it is. Grade 1 is the most prestigious race, often hosting the best sprinters in that year’s campaign.
  • Allowance, Claiming, Optional Claiming, Maiden: Many different terms describe a non-stakes race. An allowance race has special conditions that the horses must meet. A claiming race requires the runners to be offered at sale prior to running, and an optional claiming race is a mix between the two. A maiden race is for horses that have never won. 
  • Turf, Dirt, Synthetic: Each racing surface has a different label. The most common is turf, which is a track made of grass, and dirt is rougher on a horse’s body. A synthetic track can hold up to harsher weather conditions. 
  • Colt/Filly: The two most common types of horses you will see. A colt is an uncastrated male horse that is 4-years-old or younger, while a filly is a female horse that is 4-years-old or younger. 
  • Gelding/Mare: Two more terms describing the horse. A gelding is a castrated male horse, while a mare is a female horse that is 5-years-old or older. 

Horse Racing Tracks in Kentucky

The state of Kentucky has some of the world’s most well-known race tracks. 

Here are some of the top KY horse racing tracks:

  • Churchill Downs: One of the most famous horse racing tracks, Churchill Downs located in Louisville. It hosts the Kentucky Derby, which is the first leg of the American Triple Crown series and one of the most betted-on sporting events in the world. 
  • Keeneland Race Course: Keeneland is located in Lexington and is known for having annual sales of Thoroughbreds. The track also offers an impressive fall meet in October and a spring meeting in April. Some of Keeneland’s top races include the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1), the Blue Grass Stakes (G1), and the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). 
  • Kentucky Downs: Kentucky Downs is one 5/16ths-mile course with small rises, and one end is wider than the other. These features make it the only European style track in the country. Kentucky Downs hosts the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3).
  • Ellis Park: Hosting a summer meet from early July to the first of September, Ellis Park’s feature race is the Gardenia Stakes (G3). 
  • Turfway Park: The first track in North America to install a synthetic polytrack surface. Turfway hosts the Spiral Stakes, which has produced multiple Triple Crown contenders.

Kentucky Horse Racing FAQs

What are the top races in Kentucky?
KY horse racing tracks offer some of the most anticipated horse races on the calendar. Some of the top events are the Kentucky Derby, Jenny Wiley Stakes, Blue Grass Stakes, and Kentucky Turf Cup.
Is horse race betting legal in Kentucky?
Horse racing betting is legal in Kentucky, but there are more restrictions compared to other states. The only form of horse race betting in Kentucky that is permitted is pari-mutuel racing, and there have been pushes in the past to limit forms of wagering at the tracks. Kentucky is the epicenter of many gambling law battles, so always look out for the latest news.
Who regulates horse racing in Kentucky?
The horse racing industry in Kentucky is regulated by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC), which is an independent agency of state government.
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