How To Bet On Horses

Horse Racing Betting Sites

For horse racing fans there's obviously nothing better than a day at the track. But at the same time, the top race tracks with the biggest races and best betting opportunities are spread far and wide around North America, and not every horse player has easy access to live racing.

This is where online racebook betting has changed the game. An online account with a racebook like Bovada, BetOnline or MyBookie - just to name a few - gives you the chance to bet at tracks across the United States and Canada. You get the track odds and all bet types such as straight wagers or exotics and daily doubles, but also the chance to boost your return on investment trough cash back promotions and site-specific bonuses.  

See below the top sportsbooks where you can wager online and choose the best one for you:

Once you've checked out all the online racebook reviews and found the right site for how you want to bet the races, you might want some basic info on how to bet so here are few general tips on handicapping horses. 

Check Past Performance Information

Typically every track's website will give you access to abbreviated past performance information on every race, or paid access (typically no more than $1 or $2) to full past performance information, but you can also find race entries and information on every horse in a particular race in free online databases such as Equibase.

The past performance information tells you everything you need to know for handicapping a race (although if you have the time, watching video of past races is a very handy tool) such as how the horse ran in previous races and what the competiton level for those races was.

What to Look For In Past Performance

  • Check the level of class the horse is running today, and if they are moving up to a tougher race or dropping to an easier one. A horse that has been consistently second or third in higher class races could be a strong contender if dropping down. 
  • Check if the horse has run previously at the track, at the distance and on the surface and how they have finished in those races. 
  • Check to see if the horse is consistently improving as far as the horse's speed figures or at least maintaining a consistant level. Beware of horses that have been running relatively low speeds that suddenly take a big jump. 
  • If the track is muddy or wet, check to see how the horse has previously run under those conditions, if at all. 

All of these points are key factors in comparing horses in a race and making handicapping decisions.

Once you have assessed the race, eliminate the horses you don't think have a chance of winning, and concentrate your handicaping and wagers on the rest. This is one of the most fundamental aspects of good race handicapping.

Horse Racing Odds Explained

By tradition, horse racing odds are set by the race tracks as fractional odds such as 5/2 or 4/1. The odds for every horse in every race at a certain track are first established by the track handicapper, and are known as the morning line (or ML) odds. 

These odds are typically set when the official entries are released for a race usually two or three days beforehand. They form the baseline for the odds in the race and are a quick and easy indication of the favorites and longshots in the race.

These odds will fluctuate once betting opens on a race as bets are made into the track's pari-mutual pool. However, it's very rare for a the odds to fluctuate so much that a big longshot becomes favorite, or vice-versa.

It's important to be aware that in North American racing, a bettor receives the final odds on the horse when the race starts, not the odds that were displayed when the bet is made. In other words, if you make a bet at 4/1, and the horse goes off and wins at 3/1, you receive a payout based on the 3/1 odds. Conversely, if the horse goes off at higher odds than you bet, you receive those odds. 

Types of Horse Race Bets

Win, Place and Show - that's first, second or third and these are the most common wagers. A single horse can be bet to finish in any or all of these positions. The odds you bet are based on the horse winning, so if the horse finishes in the Place or Show position, the payout will be less. 

If you bet "across the board" - for a horse to finish in any of the three positions - you collect the payout for all three if the horse wins. If the horse were to run second you collect just the Place and Show money, and if it runs third you only collect the Show payout. 

Many top handicappers will bet a horse to Win and Place but less often across the board. If you don't have confidence your pick can at least finish in the top two in the race, you may want to reconsider betting the horse at all. 

Exactas, Trifectas and Superfectas - In these bets you must pick the horses to finish first and second, first second and third, or first, second, third and fourth, in exact order. Since these are more difficult bets to win, the payouts for getting it right will be higher. You can use multiple combinations of horses in these bets, or "box" the bet to cover mutiple results using the same horses. The more horses used, the higher the cost of the bet.

Some tracks offer a Quinella bet, which is basically an Exacta box on two horses at one price. Quinellas pay out less than Exactas.

Daily Doubles, Pick3s, Pick4s - These are often referred to as "multiple race bets" in which you pick the winner in two, three or four races in a row.