How to bet on horse racing

Horse racing has a long history in American sports. Though most states are only just now legalizing and regulating sports betting (thanks to the Supreme Court repeal of PASPA in May 2018), sports betting at Horse Racing tracks has long been permitted.

The Triple Crown is one of the biggest betting events of the year, with three high profile races starting with the Kentucky Derby, then the Preakness Stakes, and finishing with Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

How do you get in on the Triple Crown action, or even just horse racing bets in general? Well, the first step is to read this guide with full descriptions of the types of horse racing bets you can make and the types of horse racing events. Check out our general guide on how to read odds too.

Horse race betting guide

Types of online horse racing bets

Online bettors usually have the same options for betting as people the tracks in-person. (Some sites, however, may not give users the access to every type of bet. Check your options and read our reviews to find a bookmaker that suits your needs.)
Here are the basic types of bets you can make for online horse racing gambling:

Select to Win
When you place a Select to Win bet, you are simply calling the winning horse of the race. This is the most common type of horse racing bet, by far, and the payoff of the bet is in the medium range, with odds higher than Place and Show bets.

Show
Show bets only require that you pick a horse that places top 3 in the race. Since it is much easier to call a horse that finishes in the top three, the odds are on the lower side.

Place
When it comes to place bets, your horse must finish the race in either 1st or 2nd place for you to win. The odds for a Place bet are higher than a Show bet but lower than a Select To Win bet.

Exacta
Exacta bets require that you choose the 1st and 2nd place finishers in exact order of their finish. If you pick the two top horses in reverse order, your bet will still lose. The odds on Exacta bets are much higher than Show, Place, and Select bets.

Trifecta
With Trifecta bets, you pick the top three finishers of a race in correct order. Due to the relatively low chance of picking the top three winners, the odds on trifecta bets are extremely high.

Daily Double
Daily Doubles are special bets that give you the chance to choose the winner of two consecutive races at a track. These bets are not available for all races. Daily double bets are similar to betting on a parlay bet between two Select to Win bets.

Pick 6
With Pick 6 bets, bettors must try to select the winners of six consecutive races. Because of the extreme difficulty to pick six straight winners consecutively, a successful wager gives HUGE payouts- sometimes worth millions of dollars. Read about this Texas woman that won $1.2 million on a Pick 5 bet.

Thoroughbred and harness racing

There are two main types of horse racing to bet on, thoroughbred races and harness racing. Within thoroughbred racing, there are two further subcategories called flat racing and “jump” or steeplechasing. Don’t worry, we’ll explain them all here.

Thoroughbred horse racing

This is what most people picture when thinking of horse racing. A jockey on the back of a horse going around a dirt track. The Triple Crown is run with thoroughbred horses. The racing distances range from 2 furlongs (402 meters or about once around an outdoor running track) up to 3 miles. Shorter distances are to see how fast a jockey can push a horse while the long ones are a test of stamina and the ability of a jockey to control a horse. The shorter distances are better suited for flat racing while jump or steeplechase races tend to be a bit longer.

Flat horse racing

The simplest and the most popular type of horse racing in the US. Just a jockey on a horse going around a track with no obstacles in the way. These races are built for speed. The fastest horses can complete a 1-mile race in a little over 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Jump and Steeplechase racing

More popular in Britain than in the US, although it still has a presence here. Jockeys race horses through a track with obstacles. Usually, they’re hurdles (neatly trimmed bushes and hedges) and ditches filled with water. It’s similar to the steeplechase that you sometimes see runners doing when watching the Olympics. Steeplechase horse racing is much more controlled and measured. The jockeys are technical specialists and great a managing the horses they ride.

Jump race for horses

Harness racing

In this type of horse race, horses pull a two-wheeled cart occupied by the jockey. The cart is called a sulky. Harness racing can be done at a trot or a pace (two distinct types of running that horses can do). Harness racing also involves a lot of control on the part of the jockey. Not only do they have to keep their horse running with the correct gait, they have to control their own cart and watch out for the competition. Crashes can spectacular because of the extra equipment and sometimes result in serious injury.

Horse racing resources at online bookies

At online horse racing bookies, you get access to more than just odds and different types of bets. You find that most major horse racing bookies in the US provide a large range of resources such as handicapping, past results and replays, predictions, and even live streams.

Use these resources to the fullest to gain an advantage when placing your bets. Make informed bets if you want to win and don’t just rely on your intuition.

Live streaming

The live stream of horse races, in particular, can be one of your most important assets. It’s great for assessing track conditions. For example, if you know that a particular favorite tends to underperform in rainy, sloppy conditions, you just might be able to capitalize on some great odds by betting on an underdog.

You can usually get access to live streams as long as you have money in a sports betting account. All the big races are shown but you can also find many smaller venues that live stream to sports betting sites as well.

Handicapping

Handicapping in horse racing means that horses of different skill levels will compete in a single race. What bookmakers do is give certain horses different weights so that the likelihood of any horse winning is the same. Faster horses get bigger weights to make it more even against the slower horses, for example. As far as betting on handicapped horse races is concerned, the skill comes in knowing which horse will overcome their handicap. These types of odds options are great for bettors that follow horse racing closely.

Mobile horse race betting

Most online horse racing bookies in the US provide access to odds via a browser-based client and through a mobile app. Mobile apps have the same functionalities as browser-based clients including quick deposits, live streams, and mobile registration. You can download mobile apps via the iTunes or Google Play stores based on the operating system your mobile device uses. Mobile betting is very useful to bettors who are constantly on the go and enjoy betting and watching their favorite horses from the road.

Horse racing with mobile bets

Online horse race betting registration

Now that you’ve had a crash course on your horse race betting options, you can open a horse race betting account. (Check our bookie reviews to see what’s available in your state, including special bonuses and promo codes). Use this quick registration guide to ensure you get your account up and running without any issues:

  1. Visit the bookie’s website and click on the Sign-Up button, usually at the top right of the page.
  2. Fill out your personal details like Full name, Phone Number, Email Address, Birthdate, Mailing Address, and the last 4 digits of your SSN in the registration form that pops up.
  3. Create a unique Username and Password for you betting account (write these down).
  4. Look for a “Promo Code” field and check US-Bookies for relevant bonuses.
  5. Complete the registration process by reading the relevant Terms & Conditions and pressing Register.
  6. Use customer support if you run into any issues. Email, phone, and live chat are popular support options.