How to Bet on Horse Racing for USA Bettors

How to Bet on Horse Racing

Have you ever wondered how to bet on horse racing online but didn’t know where to start?

Lucky for you, we’ve compiled this how-to guide on the following topics related to betting on horse races:
  1. How to place bets on horses
  2. How the odds work in horse racing
  3. Different types of horse racing bets
  4. Types of horse races 
  5. Explanation of speed figures 

Below, we’ll explore what you need to do to get started betting on horse races, share a tutorial to help you, and give tips on placing bets.

We’ll also discuss some of the popular betting sites you might visit along the way that have excellent selections of markets for horse racing events.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

How to Bet on Horse Racing – What You’re Going To Need

Getting started with betting on horse racing doesn’t require a lot of tools, other than the information you need to start an online account at a horse racing betting site.

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Offshore betting sites such as Bovada, BetNow, MyBookie, Xbet, and Wagerweb all support horse racing betting.

When you go to join a betting site that has a racebook, make sure that you have the following on hand so that you can verify your identity, register, deposit, and start wagering:

  • A stable, secure Internet connection
  • A mobile device or PC/Mac that can connect to the Internet
  • Personal information including address, email address, full name, date of birth, and phone number
  • A valid banking method for the sportsbook you’re joining (many accept cryptocurrencies, cards, e-wallets, prepaid cards, etc.)
  • A valid ID or another way to verify your identity and age
  • A bankroll (money designated for betting purposes) that’s at least large enough to meet the minimum deposit rule at your sportsbook

Video Tutorial

The following tutorial video provides some extra tips and explanations on how to start betting on horse racing events as a beginner.

How Do You Place A Bet On A Horse?

First off, let’s start by going over the process of betting on a horse.

The way you place a bet depends entirely on the type of horse racing bet you want to make, and we’ll discuss the different options later on.
 But for now, know that placing a bet is as simple as ensuring that your account is funded and you’ve selected a market. 
  • Fund your account by visiting the site’s cashier and making a “deposit” large enough to cover the wager you want to make.
  • Once you’ve done so, you can browse bets by looking through the markets in the “racebook” or “horse racing” section of the betting site.

Choose from exotic bets, place bets, win bets, etc.

If you’re betting on a single horse, you want to make a traditional wager.

These include “show”, “place”, “win”, and “across the board” bets.

If you’re betting on multiple horses, though, you would do a multi-horse wager such as exactas, trifectas, superfectas, etc.

Simply select the market you want, select the “wager” option, enter the amount you want to wager on the horse(s) of your choice, and confirm.


Keep in mind that a betting site will have dozens to hundreds of markets going on at a given time for horse racing events.

It’s good to browse the odds and read up on horse racing betting blogs before you decide on your picks.

Furthermore, make use of the betting site’s “bet slip” if they have that feature.

This virtual ticket will track all of your ongoing and settled wagers so that you can monitor your bankroll and debts.

How Do Odds Work In Horse Racing?

Understanding the odds in horse racing can get a little bit complicated.

Simply put, the “odds” are the return you would expect to receive if you win (the horse you bet on meets the outcome you predict it to).

However, there are a few key things you should know about horse racing odds that will help you greatly in getting started:

  • Horse racing odds are usually in fractional odds (i.e. 3-1, or the amount of profit on the line to the amount invested)
  • Horse racing also has “morning-line odds” (aka: odds that the bookmakers set before betting begins, these are based on predictions for each competing horse in a race)
  • Morning-line odds are subject to change before a race is over and are not the “final odds”
  • Horse racing odds represent the probability that a horse will win a given race based on the public’s betting behavior up to that point in time
  • Overlay and underlay relate to horses whose odds of winning are greater/less than “fair value” (these are good/bad odds)
  • Odds get more complicated with exotic horse racing wagers


Keep in mind that if you’re a beginner horse racing bettor, it’s best to stick with traditional wagers and avoid exotics at first.

The odds are easier to understand and get used to with win, show, and place bets.

You should also stick with fractional odds display preferences if given the choice until you get the hang of other odds formats.

What Are The Different Types Of Horse Racing Bets?

When you’re just beginning as a horse racing bettor, you really just need to focus on two types of wagering – straight/traditional and exotic.

There are also wheeled bets and futures, but you can worry about those once you have some experience under your belt.

Straight/Traditional Bets

Traditional bets are similar to lines in sports betting and include:

  • Win bets – you win the bet if you correctly select and bet on the horse that ends up winning the race
  • Place bets – same as a win bet, but in this one, you need to select and bet on a horse that finishes in first or second place
  • Show bets – same as a place bet, but in this one, you need to select and bet on a horse that finishes in first, second, or third place

Exotic Bets

Exotic bets are slightly more complicated because they involve bets on more than one horse or more than one horse race.

These are similar to parlays in sports betting and include:

  • Trifecta – you win if you correctly select the first, second, and third horses to finish the race, in the correct order
  • Exacta – you win if you correctly select the first and second horses to finish the race, in the correct order
  • Superfecta – you win if you correctly select the first, second, third, and fourth horses to finish the race, in the correct order
  • Quinella – you win if you correctly select the first and second finishers in the race (order doesn’t matter as it does with exacta bets)
  • Daily double – you win if you correctly select the winner of two consecutive races
  • Pick 3 – same as daily double but you must select the winner of three consecutive races
  • Pick 4 – same as Pick 3 but you must select the winner of four consecutive races
  • Pick 5 – same as Pick 4 but you must select the winner of five consecutive races
  • Pick 6 – same as Pick 5 but you must select the winner of six consecutive races
  • Horizontal exotic – you win if you correctly select the winner of consecutive races before the first race in the series starts

As you might guess, the Pick bets get increasingly more difficult to win as they increase.

The same goes for the exotic exacta/trifecta/superfecta bets.

What Types Of Horse Races Are There?

  • Claiming races – these are races where any horse involved can get bought for a pre-set price
  • Steeplechase – high obstacle races
  • Distaff races – races involving female horses
  • Allowance races – a race in which none of the horses are for sale, where the secretary has set certain conditions regulating the weight each horse must carry
  • Baby races – races for horses that are 2 years old
  • Match races – a one-on-one race
  • Classic races – traditionally important races, such as the Kentucky Derby races
  • Condition races – races that have conditions that limit the class of the horses
  • Derbies – stakes races involving 3-year-old horses
  • Walkover races – races that end up with one starter horse that only gallops the track
  • Sprint races – races under 1 mile long
  • Graded races – select North American stakes races of Grade I/II/III
  • Group races – European graded races
  • Handicap races – races where weights are added to horses to make their performance more “equal”
  • Invitational races – stakes races that horses must get invited to
  • Maiden races – races for horses that haven’t won a race before
  • Oaks – stakes races for 3-year-old fillies
  • Hurdle races – races where horses must hurdle over obstacles
  • Overnight races – races for which the entries close hours before it starts
  • Route races – races that reach or exceed 1 mile
  • Starter races – handicap/allowance races for horses that have started for a certain claiming price or less

What Are Speed Figures?

Finally, be aware of speed figures, which are rating figures for horse performance.

These figures are based on the type of track the race is set on, the race distance, the horse’s time, the competitors, and other conditions.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, our guide has cleared up the specifics of how to bet on horse racing, including exotic vs traditional bets, speed figures, race types, and more.

Make sure that you study and understand the odds before you join a racebook and start wagering. Good luck!

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