How To Bet On Horses

Are you struggling to make betting on the horses pay? Do you find it tough picking out those elusive winners?

This comprehensive guide on how to bet on horses successfully advises you towards more winning horse racing wagers. Find top quality tips plus betting advice, along with razor sharp horse racing insights.

Best US Horse Racing Betting Sites

Before diving in and signing up for a top US horse racing betting site, read the advice below to place your first informed wager. At PlayingLegal, only trusted, safe, and most importantly, legal gaming operators are recommended. Ultimately, when reviewing betting sites, remember that there are strengths and weaknesses of each operator. 

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Key Horse Racing Markets

Before beginning, a brief look at key horse racing markets to bet on is warranted. There is also an in-depth guide to horse racing bets for a more detailed explanation of the betting markets. For now, here is a general overview of horse racing bets. 

Basic Bets

  • Win: The horse you bet on has to win.
  • Place: Your horse has to finish either first or second.
  • Show: To collect this bet, your horse needs to finish first, second or third.
  • Across The Board: A wager that contains three separate bets on each of the three markets mentioned above.

Vertical Exotic Bets

  • Exacta/Quinella: Pick the first two finishers in the correct order (exacta) or any order (quinella).
  • Trifecta: Pick the first three finishers in a race in the exact finishing order.
  • Superfecta: Pick the first through fourth finishers in the correct order.

Horizontal Exotic Bets

  • Daily Double: Pick the winner of two successive races.
  • Pick 3/4/6: Back the winner of three, four, or six continuous races, usually at one meeting.
  • Parlays: Combine selections from any races, with all horses included to win for you to collect.

How to Bet On Horses Successfully?

The following sections are the crux of this guide. Truly, if you desire to learn how to bet on horses successfully, the following sections deserve your full attention. Pinpointed below are several different angles to improve your strike rate when betting on horse racing. Ranging from trainer and jockey form to handicapping, better horse racing betting tips and advice does not exist!

Trainer Form

A trainer is a person in charge of preparing a horse for the race. Trainers have the propensity to be streaky and drift in and out of form

Always check to observe how the trainer’s previous runners fared in the past two weeks. Without any wins or places and horses are running poorly, this is never a good sign. Thus, serious consideration needs to be made about lowering the stake or even passing over this particular bet. On the other hand, if horses are running well, then consider increasing your stake.

Jockey Form

A jockey steers the horse towards victory, and thus, confidence is of utmost importance for riders. Naturally, the more races won the more confidence. Notably, most trainers have a favorite rider when their fancy horses run a big race.

Look at the jockey's record when riding for that particular trainer. By previously riding various winners for the trainer, this is a good sign that big runs are expected from the horse. 

Look Back At Past Races

Namely, when considering placing a wager on a horse, you should look back at past races or past performances. Definitely, past races give you information of what kind of form the horse is in coming into this race.

A horse that finished well on the last start and moving up in trip could make a smart bet. Also, a horse showing early speed before fading may be a smart wager if the upcoming race is over a shorter distance. Finally, please note the track conditions for the upcoming race and how it suits your horse in the past, such as turf or dirt, fast or slow.

Starting Gate Stats

Starting gate position could massively influence the outcome of a race, especially races run over shorter distances. Markedly, a low starting gate is normally an advantage at the majority of racetracks.

Typically, Stall 1 is the closest to the rail. In general, horses drawn out wide are at a disadvantage unless they can ping the gates and tack across. Note that in races such as the Kentucky Derby, it is often advantageous to start from a mid to high draw, depending on the field's size. Thus, make sure to check on favored starting gates before placing a bet.

Kentucky Derby Starting Gate Stats

Gate NumberWinners
18 Winners
27 Winners
35 Winners
45 Winners
510 Winners
62 Winners
77 Winners
89 Winners
94 Winners
109 Winners
112 Winners
123 Winners
135 Winners
142 Winners
153 Winners
165 Winners
170 Winners
182 Winners
192 Winners
201 Winners

Racetrack Surface

By and large, an important factor to consider is the track surface. In flat racing, races run on two types of surface: turf and dirt.

The weather influences the ‘Going’ or condition of the track. When wet and raining, then the turf is ‘soft’ or ‘heavy,’ and dirt becomes ‘sloppy.’ In dry conditions, the turf going is ‘firm’ and dirt going is ‘fast.’

Certainly, some horses are soft ground turf specialists, while other horses hate turf and only run well on the dirt. Before placing a wager, check the ‘going’ to ensure that your horse handles well in similar track conditions and the performance will not be hindered by adverse conditions.

Race Distance

Generally speaking, most racehorses have a preferred or optimum trip distance. Overall, races run over various distances, from as short as 4 furlongs on the flat to as long as 3 miles over jumps, called steeplechases.

Look at the best performances a horse produced to determine what distance the runs came over when studying form. If the horse performed poorly over shorter or longer distances, only back the horse if it runs over a trip it has run well at before.

Top Tips for Horse Racing Betting

While the previous advice focused on more successfully betting on horses, the focus turns now to more general top tips. In summary, these tips encompass finding the best odds, making use of handicapping tools, and staying disciplined.

By combining these tips with the other valuable nuggets of information, anyone can make betting on horse racing payout!

Find the Best Odds

Get the most bang for your buck, ensure you receive the best odds. Ultimately, returns for exotics bets are calculated via parimutuel. Thus, you cannot calculate the win until the race is over. 

However, placing pre-race win, place, show, or across the board bets makes it possible to take a price. Therefore, odds can vary depending on the racebook. For this reason, take time to shop around for the best odds.

Use Handicapping Tools

Horse racing betting sites provide useful handicapping tools or resources to help you on the journey to win more horse racing bets. The caveat to obtaining access to handicapping resources is placing a wager of a set amount. Otherwise, the general rule is to pay to use these tools. 

Some punters prefer speed ratings. Also, Brisnet’s Prime Power is another popular horse racing handicapping tool whose class ratings are quite useful.

Stay Disciplined

Ultimately, a horse betting site lists all the upcoming races, especially when you first log in. Daily, hundreds of races run not just in the US but worldwide. Thus, do not let the temptation of backing too many horses in multiple races derail you from responsible gambling. 

The key to making a solid and consistent profit is choosing wagers wisely. Stay disciplined, only bet on horses you really fancy, and stick to the markets that you know best.

Keep Bets Simple

As a newcomer to horse racing betting, do not be lured by the prospect of a massive win by wagering small stakes on exotic bets. Give yourself a fighting chance of gaining modest returns, stick to single win, place, or show bets. 

Exotic bets are great in the correct circumstances. However, these bet types are much more difficult to win and best left to experienced bettors. 

How To Open A Horse Betting Account Online

All things considered, use the top list of horse racing betting sites for safe and legal recommendations. To open an account, use your legal name, address, date of birth, and social security number (SSN). Note that your SSN is a requirement for many state racing commissions and used to verify your identity plus prevent underage gambling. 

Finally, make sure to take advantage of any welcome offers and sign up bonuses that are available. As a reminder, do not forget to check if a promo code is or required; check PlayingLegal's in-depth reviews for more information.

Make a Deposit or Withdrawal

After opening your account, you need to deposit funds before starting to place real money wagers. Before signing up, check what payment methods are available as different operators may offer different methods. 

Accordingly, most online horse betting sites accept deposits via major credit and debit cards or bank transfers. Check the terms and conditions for any applicable deposit fees. Overall, withdrawal methods are more limited, and fees may also apply.

Horse Racing Terms And Glossary

AbandonedA meeting that is canceled or called off.
AcceptorA term that describes an official starter horse in a race.
AllowanceCertain horses carry less weight in a race, known as weight allowance.
Ante-PostAlso a futures bet, placed in advance of final declarations.
BackwardTo describe a horse that needs more time to strengthen up and develop physically.
BankerTerm to describe best bet of the day.
Barrier DrawThis draw determines which starting gate is allocated to each runner.
BatUsed by commentators to describe a jockey's whip.
Betting RingPhysical location on racetrack to accept bets.
BitThe piece of metal (usually steel) that is part of the bridle and sits in the horse's mouth.
On the BitUsually used to describe a horse in a race, means traveling strongly.
BlinkersAid used by trainers to restrict horse's vision and help concentration.
Boxed InUsed by race commentators to describe a horse's lack of room and no clear run.
BridleThis piece of gear with bit and reins attached, is used to help control the horse.
Brought Down A horse hampered by another horse and loses the jockey through no fault of their own.
Bull RingUsed to describe short racetracks that are less than 1 mile in circumference.
ChaseA shortened version of steeplechase, a race run over fences.
Claimer (jockey) Inexperienced jockeys ‘claim’ weight allowance until ridden certain amount of winners.
Claimer (race)An auction race where any of the runners can be bought for a predetermined price after the race.
ConnectionsA term used by bettors to describe the owners and trainers connected to a horse.
Dead-HeatTwo horses who cross the line at the exact same time is called a ‘dead-heat.'
EquibaseThe industry owned database of past performances and racing records.
FenceThe obstacles that are jumped during steeplechase races.
FormA term used when describing a horse’s previous performances.
Furlong1/8 of a mile or 201 meters.
GoingThe condition of the racetrack such as firm turf or sloppy dirt.
HandicapA race where horses carry a certain amount of weight depending on their ability and handicap rating.
HandicapperThe official who gives horses a handicap rating based on their last run.
HoodAnother aid used by trainers that covers the horse’s ears and also restricts vision.
HurdlesSmaller obstacles used in jump races compared to fences in steeplechases.
JuvenileIn flat racing,a juvenile is a 2 year old horse. In jump racing, a 3 year old is described as a juvenile.
Length This is the word used to describe the length of the horse from the tip of its nose to its tail or used in race results.
MaidenA horse that has not won a race.
NAPAn abbreviation of Napoleon used by tipsters to describe their best bet of the day.
Nickel Slang for a $500 bet.
Non-RunnerA horse withdrawn from a race after being declared.
NoseThe minimum distance that a horse can win a race.
NodA horse who wins in a close photo finish or to have won on ‘the nod.'
ObjectionConnections can lodge an objection to stewards if horse suffered interference during a race to get result altered.
OddsRacebook sets the odds, reflecting chances of horse winning a race.
Odds on To describe a horse, usually a favorite, that is shorter than even money.
Off The BoardUsed to describe pari-mutuel outsiders that are 100-1 or bigger.
On The Nose Betting on a horse to win the race.
OutsiderA horse with an outside chance of reaching the frame in a race.
PacesetterA front-runner horse that sets the early pace in a race.
Photo FinishUsed to determine the winner of a race when too close to call with the naked eye.
Post TimeThe starting time of a race.
Pull UpDue to injury or fatigue the jockey pulls the horse up and it does not complete the race.
Rail Runner A horse that likes to be close to the inside rail throughout a race.
ScopeA horse with the size and potential to improve over time.
SellerA race where the victor is sold by auction straight after the race.
SilksColors worn by a jockey during a race. Every owner has their own distinct set of silks.
SloppyWhen a dirt track is very wet on top.
SprintAny race run over a distance shorter than a mile.
Stakes Race Any Listed, Grade 3, Grade 2 or Grade 1 race.
Starting Stalls Mechanically operated gates that ensure horses all start the race at the same time.
StayerA horse best over longer distances, usually 12 furlongs or longer.
SteeplechaseA race where horses jump over fences.
StewardsOfficials at a track that ensure adherence to rules, often hold inquiries after a race for interference.
Stick The jockey’s whip, also described as a bat.
TipsterA person who gives tips on which horse is likely to win.
Track Condition The prevailing conditions on the day of a race such as sloppy, wet or firm.
Triple Crown Consists of Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
TrottingA term used to describe harness racing.
Weight-For-AgeWeight allowance given to younger horses competing against older horses.
WireThe finishing line or winning post at a racetrack.

There's No Golden Secret to Success in Horse Racing Betting

Whether you bet on horse racing online, or you do it at the racetrack, if you follow the advice provided on this page you will be more successful. Some of them are conventional and very straightforward. However, the majority of horse racing bettors forget about them in the long run. It's good to revisit them once in a while and make sure you're not hurting your odds of winning.

If you're on a winning spree, try to analyze what you're doing right, and keep doing it! On the other hand, if you're struggling, go through this page again and again, until you improve your peformance.

Horse Racing Betting Guide FAQs

How do you bet on a horse successfully?

If you desire to bet on horses successfully, it requires discipline, studying form, and choosing markets wisely. There is no hard and fast way to guarantee success from betting on the horses. However, as you gain more experience, the process becomes easier to make a solid and steady profit.

What is the most profitable bet in horse racing?

A variety of different markets exist in horse racing. For example, exotic bets like trifectas and superfectas have the potential to produce the biggest profits. However, these are complicated wagers to land. Single win, place, and show wagers are the most traditional bet types and the path with the lowest variance for a long term profit from betting on horse racing.

How do I win a bet every time?

In all betting, not just horse racing betting, there is no guarantee that every bet wins. Losing is part and parcel of betting on horse racing. When you do back losers, learn from your mistakes. Our top horse racing betting tips are worthy of reading to minimize the amount of losing wagers placed.

Which horse number wins the most?

Generally speaking, horses that start from low starting gates have the best chance of winning the most races. However, this is not a certainty. Some tracks and races are more favorable towards horses that are drawn middle or high. When you open a horse betting account, do not blindly back a horse because of the number. Judge each race separately on its own merits and take draw biases into account.

How often does the favorite horse win?

Overall, the favorite does not win as many races as one would expect. Statistics determine that the betting favorite wins approximately 33% of all races. Therefore, racebooks are not infallible. Do not be afraid to occasionally take a chance on an outsider (check the glossary for explanation), especially if you believe that the favorite is beatable.

How do horse racing odds work?

Horse racing odds determine the amount of money won if your wager wins. Fractional and decimal odds are sometimes used, but most top horse betting sites display odds in the American format. The odds shown are the amount required to win $100 for favorites. Also, the odds for outsiders indicate the amount you win if the bet is for $100.

How many horses have won the Triple Crown?

Only thirteen horses hold the distinction and honor of horse racing's most prestigious title, the Triple Crown. The three races that comprise the Triple Crown are the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Preakness Stakes. Notably, the last horse to win all three races was Justify in 2018.