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Introduction to Horse Racing Betting

Horse Racing BettingThe first evidence of horse domestication dates back to 4500 BC in Central Asia. According to most disclosed evidence, horses were originally only ridden and later started being used to tow chariots and other vehicles. Horse racing very likely became a part of people’s daily lives from the very beginning, although there is no unequivocal information about this.

What is specific about the sport nowadays is that this is one of the few disciplines where the prevailing number of spectators are punters at the same time, i.e. negligible is the number of people who watch horse racing purely because of their admiration of the sport. Most fans really like betting because it raises their adrenaline and makes races so exciting. It would not be so interesting and fun if there is no specific horse whose performance to eagerly watch for the possibility of gaining some profit.

Sportingpedia is the platform that will flawlessly guide you through the world of horseracing. From understanding betting odds to reading racecards and building the right strategy, this is the place to start your online horse racing betting. We know the subject can be quite confusing for novices and inexperienced betting enthusiasts, so keep on reading and find the answers to all questions that can come to your mind and then easily start your horse racing betting adventure. In the beginning, we will present some basic information about the sport itself and then we will proceed to betting on horses. In addition, you will have the opportunity to read useful betting tips that will help you have a pleasant and profitable betting experience.

Basics of Online Horse Racing Betting

asics of Online Horse Racing BettingAlthough on-track betting seems to enjoy everlasting popularity, the easiness provided by present-day online sportsbooks leads to more and more punters who prefer placing their bets over the Internet. Thanks to the abundance of betting platforms, betting enthusiasts can wager on a wide variety of horse racing events being conducted all over the world. Modern technologies enable sports betting, which is in no way limited by time, place, or device. While you do not have to be an expert in a sport to enjoy good winnings from your bets, you certainly need to know the specifics of the different types of bets you can place and what do the various odds formats that can be seen at online bookmakers mean.

Methods of Horse Racing Betting Explained

Methods of Horse Racing Betting Explainedhe first thing you need to learn before you start wagering on horse racing is what the various ways of betting are. Please, note that we do not mean the different bet types (these will be further explained) but the three main betting methods available today.

Fixed-odds betting

Undoubtedly, this is the most popular way of betting on horses performed by thousands of punters around the globe. Generally speaking, it represents placing a bet at odds preliminarily stated by a certain bookmaker. If it turns out that your prediction is correct, you will enjoy a payout calculated in accordance with the amount of your stake and the particular betting odds for that event. Logically, if the bet is not successful, you lose your stake. As with other sports available throughout the different online betting platforms, odds are displayed in three main odd formats – fractional, decimal, and American. Except that each of them is more popular in a separate region of the world, the formats come with some specifics you need to know well.

Referred also as UK odds, British odds, or traditional odds, the fractionals show what profit your stake will bring in case of a successful prediction. The first number indicates how many units you would eventually win, while the second shows how many units you need to risk in order to win that much. Let’s take a look at an example with three different fractional betting odds.

Fractional Betting Odds
5/15 units for every 1 unit wagered plus the original stake
9/29 units for every 2 units wagered plus the original stake
1/41 unit for every 4 units wagered plus the original stake

By looking at the odds one can see if the particular horse is considered a favorite or not. If the first number of the fractional betting odds is smaller than the second, this means you are betting on the odds-on favorite and your potential return will be at a smaller amount than your original bet. Do not 100% equate betting odds and likelihood of winning since odds express the interest of betting aficionados rather than predictions based on in-depth research, i.e. the more punters bet on a particular horse, the lower its odds will be. Although there is some relation between these two aspects, you will become a successful bettor the moment you learn how to notice gaps between public opinion and reality.

As you see, it is quite simple to calculate your profit using fractional betting odds but it is even easier with decimals since all you have to do is multiply your stake by the odds number. In other words, the horse racing decimal odds format shows the total payout – if you wager $15 at odds of 2.5, the sum you will receive is $37.5 (net profit of $22.5). Even money odds are presented as 2.0 and if this is the case, a successful $15 bet will result in а $30 payout (the winnings + the original stake).

Since the US is among the top horse racing countries, there are lots of punters who are used to and prefer the American odds format. It is quite different from the other two options and that is why there are very few bettors outside the region who choose it. It is true that moneyline odds seem complicated at first sight, but once you get to understand them, they appear to be easy to operate with. American odds come either with a plus or a minus in front of the number. Negative number odds are given to the favorites and indicate how much you need to wager to win $100. Positives, on the other hand, indicate you are betting on an underdog and give information on how much you will get for every $100 staked.

Pari-mutuel Betting

The term pari-mutuel betting originates from France and can be translated as “to wager amongst ourselves”. Odds here are not fixed and punters are not wagering against a bookmaker. It sounds quite strange, doesn’t it? All bets placed on a particular horse go to a pool for the race so the size of your eventual winning remains unknown until the last moment. When the event is over, the pool is divided among all bettors who have made correct predictions, in conformity with the relevant stake size, of course. Due to the specific character of pari-mutuel betting, winnings range between sums smaller than the original stake and mind-blowing amounts.

Exchange Betting

We are putting an end to this section of our horse racing betting guide with another popular wagering form – exchange betting. Betting exchanges are an alternative to the conventional online sportsbooks and differ in that they enable betting enthusiasts to set odds themselves and wager against each other. Punters are divided into two categories, those who back a horse and those who lay a horse. To back a bet means you wager on the eventual race outcome, i.e. the winner, while when you lay a bet you bet that a certain competitor will not win. The second option is preferred mainly by inexperienced punters since it is much safer but of course, its odds are not that high paying.

Main Horse Racing Wagers

Main Horse Racing WagersThe relevantly complex nature of horse racing provides for the availability of multiple betting markets that far surpass the straight Win bet. Each of the wagers features different betting odds and payouts, and it is important to acquaint yourself with all the options at your disposal, especially if you plan to gain notable income from betting on horses. In the selection below, we have tried to briefly tell you what the aspects of each bet are and how likely you are to make a correct prediction.

Traditional bets

Even if you are a complete rookie you should have no major difficulties placing any of the three straight horse racing bets – a win bet, a place bet, and a show bet. However, we will outline each of them in a few words to make sure your wagers will be based on an informed decision. Not much explanation is needed regarding the Win Bet. Those who decide to place such a wager have to predict which exact horse will finish at the first position. If the competitor you have selected wins the race, you will receive a payout calculated according to the odds and the amount of your stake. If this sounds too risky for you and you are still not that confident in the correctness of your predictions, you may try the Place Bet which comes with greater flexibility and chances of guessing. Here your bet is considered successful if the selected horse finishes the race either on the first or second place. The lower level of risk leads to a smaller profit, but it is a great opportunity to see how the land lies before you proceed with the more lucrative but perilous betting markets. It can safely be said that the Show Bet is a variant of the place bet since the only difference is it covers the third place as well.

There is also the so-called Across-the-Board Bet which simply represents a combination of the three straight horse racing bet types. With this wager type, you must stake equal amounts on the same horse to win, place, or show in a certain race. Few betting enthusiasts like it because it is quite expensive to place while the eventual payout does not look tempting enough.

Across-The-Board Bet
Position at the end of the racePayout
1stWin + Place + Show
2ndPlace + Show

Exotic Bets

Exotic bets are an extremely popular set of horse racing bets, which inevitably include a component according to which the bet must cover multiple horses. This can happen within the same race (exacta, trifecta, superfecta) or during several horse racing events (Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4, etc.). Despite the considerable difficulty in predicting complex outcomes, exotic bets are of great interest because punters can win significant amounts in a short period of time.

One of the most profitable bet types is Exacta which requires you not only to predict which two horses will finish in the first two places but also their exact order. Such a bet requires in-depth knowledge of horse racing and strict monitoring of the performance of key horses and jockeys. That is why the Exacta bet is practiced mainly by very experienced punters who like to face challenges that would be difficult for novices to overcome. However, Exacta is not the most profitable type of exotic horse racing bet. Trifecta and Superfecta cover the top three and four horses, respectively, and are extremely difficult to place right. In both cases, the betting enthusiast has to predict the exact order of horses crossing the finish line.

We continue our review with the Daily Double where you have to predict the winners of two consecutive races. In the beginning, when this betting market was first introduced, it only covered the first two races on a track while nowadays punters can wager on any two races that come immediately one after the other. The idea behind the Pick 3, Pick 4, and so on bets is pretty much the same – the number in the name of the bet shows how many winners of consecutive competitions you have to correctly predict.

So far, we explained what the main and most common types of horse racing bets are. However, the variety of betting markets is not limited to them and you can find online bookmakers that allow you to place matchups, prop bets, lays, accumulators, and some others.

Kinds of Horse Races Explained

Kinds of Horse Races ExplainedHorse racing is divided into four main types – flat racing, steeplechase, harness racing, and endurance racing. Some of them focus on speed, while others emphasize on stamina or specific skills. Also, some races involve only specific horse breeds or horses that compete at a certain level. It is in your best interest to know what all the specific terms mean before you place your bet, as some types of horse racing are worth your time much more than others.

Flat Racing

The most famous type of horse racing is undoubtedly flat racing, in which only thoroughbred horses are usually involved, competing on a leveled surface. There are major events in different parts of the world which indicates their universal character. In the United States, these are Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes (the Triple Crown) while the UK hosts King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Derby, the Oaks, and many others.

The interest of horse racing fans in thoroughbreds reaches peak levels when the animals get to three years of age or more. It is then that the horses achieve physical maturity and, accordingly, good results on the track. In addition, at this time they meet the conditions for participation in the most expensive and prestigious competitions in the world. The main human figures in this field are the jockey who controls the horse during the race, the trainer who is responsible for feeding and training, and the owner who fully bears the costs of the competitor’s upkeep. Let’s not forget the breeders, whose responsibility is to match the right stallions and mares, so that purebred racehorses with excellent qualities can be born.

The race track does not have any obstacles on it, the surface is usually turf or dirt and some newer racetracks have a synthetic surface. In general, the length of such races is between 1 and 3 miles. Flat horse races are conditionally divided into two subcategories – conditions racing and handicap racing. The first is related to different distinctive elements like age or sex for example. The specificity of handicap races comes from the fact that horses considered better than the others are required to carry more weight. Thus, chances of winning are more balanced which is a real challenge to betting enthusiasts.


This discipline has several designations primarily used in different regions where horse racing is popular – jump racing, hunt racing, hurdles, etc. The popularity of steeplechases is not as widespread as the one of flat races but in countries like the UK, Ireland, and France it is quite impressive. As the name suggests, horses must jump over different obstacles throughout the race. These can be fences, open ditches, water jumps, and others. A great part of the horses competing in this category of races are at a relatively old age since here techniques and experience are of utmost importance.

Endurance racing

This category of horse racing requires horses to have different qualities from those already described since the focus is on stamina and longevity on the track. Although speed is always a factor to keep an eye on, horse racing fans and avid punters are more interested in the ability of horses to withstand heavy physical exertion and perform well on long distances. Endurance rides can be conducted at any distance but usually do not exceed 160 km for a one-day race.

Endurance horse racing cannot boast of immense popularity since it is very exhausting for both horses and jockeys. Moreover, its long duration is not considered attractive by most punters, so the registered bets are much less than those for flat races and steeplechases.

Harness Racing

Although harness racing does not have the jockey superstars and prestige of other types of horse races, it comes with remarkable history and attracts both viewers’ interest and punters’ real-money bets. Here horses are pulling a cart known also as a bike, which has a sitting driver in it. Of particular importance is the gait, i.e. the way standardbred horses (pacers or trotters) move across the race track.

When the front and back legs of the horse move simultaneously, meaning the right front and back legs move forward at the same time, this is called a pacing gait. For greater security, horses wear hobbles connecting the legs on each side. On the other hand, when the horse’s legs alternate on both sides, it is a trotter gait and no hobbles are needed. Depending on their speed, horses are divided into different classes within each of the gaits. Competitors are allowed to move up and down between the classes but never across the two gaits.

Horse Racing Betting Tips

Horse Racing Betting TipsA profitable and long-lasting experience with horse racing betting is impossible without creating and following the right strategy. If over time, you find some gaps and vulnerabilities, you can always make amendments and in the end, establish a betting style that you feel comfortable with.

There is not such a thing as a universal horse racing betting strategy that works for everybody simply because there is a variety of significantly differing types of races and hardly any betting enthusiast could embrace them all. And you do not really need one as there are so many ways to become a successful punter. However, there are some basic horse racing betting tips that if followed, will certainly help you get the most out of your favorite pastime.

If you have read our guide so far you are already cottoning on to how exciting and challenging horse racing can be. There is such an abundance of information that we are really surprised how many people just do not take advantage of it. Do not be like those “punters” and do your homework before placing any bets. Even a quick glance at the racing program can contribute to better chances of winning, and it’s just a drop in the ocean of opportunities you have.

The usual racecard contains loads of useful information such as type of the race, exact number and names of competitors, runners’ past form, betting odds, type and condition of the track, etc. Make your own research about the horse you are planning to bet on, compare it with the officially available data, and only then proceed to wagering. Remember, there is no unnecessary information, you never know which factor will tilt the scale, so the more data you have, the better. When reading the statistics of a particular competitor, we advise you to focus on its performance on that particular track or at least tracks with similar characteristics because race duration and track surface have a strong impact on the final outcome.

It is a good idea to set up betting accounts with several trusted online bookmakers as this will enable you to shop for the best betting odds for a particular horse racing event. It is not unusual for one horse’s odds to differ across different sportsbooks be it due to dissimilar analyses or some kind of a short-term promotion. This is not applicable only to pari-mutuel betting since it is not bookmakers who determine the odds and you do not know the size of the race pool before the event comes to an end. Looking for better betting odds may seem not to be worth your time as you can only add a dollar or two to your payout. However, if you look at things in terms of betting in the long run, you will see how these small sums quickly build up.

We all know that there are so many horse racing events you can bet on every day. It is also true that betting on more races increases your chances of winning, but please do not try to bet on each one you come across as you will soon let the fun escape from your betting activity. A reasonable approach is to focus on one type of race and thus gain in-depth knowledge that will help you make more correct predictions.


ConclusionEven though this introductory section of the present horse racing betting guide may seem bursting at the seams with information, it actually only outlines the basic aspects of this tremendous sport. If you do not want to remain just a casual online bettor but aim higher and plan to become a victorious punter, you should not stop here but keep on reading and expand your knowledge in the subject. In the following articles, we discuss in detail the elements of different types of betting markets and share our recommendations for having a profitable betting experience.