Online Horse Betting Guide

Horse racing is an extremely popular and exciting sport which impresses with thousands of glorious races that occur around the world every year. The reason this sport is immensely popular is not only because of the incredible jockeys and horses which participate, but the fact millions of horse racing enthusiasts place a bet on the races to potentially make a sizable profit.

In this comprehensive horse race betting guide, we will walk you through the basics of placing a bet on a race, take a closer look at the legality of horse race betting from several regions across the globe, and will explain in detail how horse race betting works in an online environment. We will also provide valuable information on how you can uncover the best horse racing sites online, explain the difference between betting at the race track and betting online, and will take an in-depth look at how you can better understand the odds that are involved in horse race betting.

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We will also explain the different kinds of horse races you will come across at most online racebooks, the types of bets that you will need to use when placing a bet, how winnings are calculated after a race is completed, and complete our comprehensive guide by including the biggest horse racing events from around the world, along with an insightful FAQ section.

Once you’ve read through this guide, you should be able to easily locate an online racebook, place a bet with confidence and feel like a horse racing pro while doing so.

The Basics of Horse Race Betting

Anyone is capable of placing a bet on a horse race without knowing much about betting or horse racing. With that being said, we do believe its vital you understand a handful of basics before you decide to risk your own hard-earned money. We created this section in our guide for this very reason. It’s primarily aimed towards beginners and newcomers, but even horse betting experts are welcome to brush up on their knowledge.

We’ve already mentioned horse race betting is extremely easy to get started with, as the basics aren’t overly complicated. You will have the opportunity to learn about the more complex side of things as time goes on.

One of the first things you’ll need to realize is the different ways in which you can wager in horse racing.

This might come as a surprise, but there is a handful of options available here and the most common include:

  • Exchange Betting
  • Parimutuel / Tote betting
  • Fixed Odds Betting

All the options are explained further down in our comprehensive racing guide, along with the different types of horse racing wagers that you’ll need to be aware of before you place your first bet on a horse. Once you understand the ways in which you can bet on a horse and the types of horse racing wagers, you’ll have more than enough information to start making wagers. However, there are a few more key factors you can absorb before you search for an online racebook and place a bet.

It’s worth mentioning there’s no shortcut to be profitable or successful at horse race betting. We can offer advice which will definitely improve your chances of winning. However, we can’t provide guarantees you will be profitable.

Before we jump over to the types of horse racing wagers, let’s take a closer look at the legality of horse race betting in different regions of the world followed by how online horse racing works, how to locate an online racebook, and the differences between betting at a race track and betting online.

Is it Legal to Bet on Horses?

Horse racing can be seen as a global sport. It’s extremely popular in several regions across the globe, including Australia, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and even in Canada.

One of the first things you should understand is that legalities are different in various regions around the world.

For instance, horse racing in the United States is not the same as horse racing in the United Kingdom. The differences between the two are not that significant, but it’s still beneficial to understand them. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the sport in different regions around the world.

Horse Betting Laws in USA

Both greyhound and horse race betting are perfectly legal in most states across America. This is due to the fact that horse race betting was essentially exempt from the anti-gambling act which was placed on other forms of gambling back in 2006. However, there are several states that still prohibit online greyhound and horse race betting to this day. See our US horse betting guide.

Horse Betting Laws in Canada

In Canada, you are more than welcome to place a bet on a horse race when you use one of the licensed online sportsbooks or racebooks. Alternatively, you can visit one of the wide range of race tracks scattered across the country to place a bet. The online racebooks in Canada also host a vast selection of international horseracing events which take place around the year.

Horse Betting Laws in Australia

The 2001 Interactive Gambling Act in Australia was created to specifically regulate and restrict any online gambling activities in the country. This makes it illegal for on-shore and off-shore companies to provide online gambling services to residence in Australia. Fortunately, sports betting was exempt from this legislation, but only if an online bookmaker obtains a licence by the Australian government. This means horse race betting is accepted across the board with a licensed provider.

Horse Betting Laws in UK / Ireland

Horse racing is considered one of the most beloved and one of the oldest sports in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, it’s the second biggest spectator sport. It takes place throughout the year in various formats and attracts an abundance of attention, regardless of the standard. The popularity behind the sport is largely due to betting and would probably not exist without it. Read our UK horse betting guide.

How Does Online Horse Betting Work?

When it comes to the mechanics behind horse race betting online, it’s very straightforward. You will simply need to locate a reputable online sportsbetting site which offers horse race betting and register a new account. Once your account is registered, navigate to the cashier section, register your preferred payment method, and make a deposit.

Once your account is funded, you simply need to locate a horse race worth placing a bet on. Most of the online sportsbetting sites will come equipped with a list of race tracks where horse races are featured on the day. This will allow you to select a race track from several regions across the globe where you’ll be able to view the upcoming races. Most horse racing sites will also feature a list of upcoming races later in the day or even the following day.

  • To start, select a race track, along with a horse race. You will be provided with a list of jockeys and their horses along with the current odds.
  • From here, you will need to select a horse, or multiple horses, you wish to place a bet on along with the type of wager you wish to place.
  • Once your bet is made, your selection will be added to your betting slip.
  • After you entered the amount you want to bet, simply click on confirm to automatically place your bet.

Should you be lucky enough and win your bet, your account will be credited with your winning automatically after the race has ended. You are then more than welcome to re-visit the cashier section to make a cash-in request. Alternatively, you can use your profits to make more bets on the site.

What are the Best Horse Racing Sites?

With so many sportsbetting sites claiming to provide the best online experience when it comes to horse race betting, it’s nearly impossible to know the rogue sites from the legit ones. Therefore, prior to signing up for a new account, you will need to keep a few things in mind, especially if you are searching for a reputable horse betting site. You will need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the online sportsbook offer a decent welcome package?
  • Is there a decent race selection?
  • Is live streaming capabilities offered on the site?
  • Can I bet on my mobile device?
  • Are the odds competitive?
  • Are there any additional features for added convenience?

Each of the above-mentioned questions will have a significant impact on your decision when it comes to choosing the best horse racing site. Odds are a vital part of choosing a horse racing site as it represents the value you will get from placing a bet. Although you’ll never find a site offering odds of 100%, most reputable operators can give you around 90% value. It’s also beneficial when live streaming is available on the site as you’ll have the opportunity to watch the action unfold without having to rush to a local racetrack or your local sports bar.

If you are interested in claiming a bonus on your initial deposit, ensure you find a site which impresses with a fantastic welcome package. However, also ensure you read the fine print, as there are several offers that come with ridiculous playthrough requirements. It’s also handy to check the promotions aimed towards existing players to see if the site will reward you for being a loyal customer. Another important aspect of choosing a horse racing site is to ensure you have the best coverage when it comes to international racing events. The more horse racing coverage a site offers, the better!

Lastly, we also recommend that you check if the site offers mobile betting opportunities, as this will come in handy when you least expect it, along with additional features to make your online betting experience more enjoyable, such as news articles on upcoming races, betting tips, a dedicated mobile app, etc.

Betting on Horses Offline vs Online

Thanks to the inception of the internet, you can easily perform a wide range of tasks with a click of a button. This has also allowed bettors to place a bet in the comfort of their own home as opposed to taking a trip to their local sports betting shop or racetrack. Horse race betting is now possible on a desktop computer or through handheld device on your way to work. While most prefer the convenient and modern approach, there are still loads of gamblers that hold onto tradition and visit their local betting shops to maintain the relationship.

The advantages and disadvantages of horse race betting in an online environment instead of in-store essentially boils down to a player’s personal preference. Some enjoy the social feeling that comes with visiting a betting shop, while others are more disposed to the peace and quiet of betting from home. Some like claiming their winnings at a shop without having to wait for hours or days, while others don’t mind receiving their fund online after a couple of days.

Whether you bet online or visit a local betting shop, you have the ability to do both, which makes it a flexible and convenient way to never miss a single bet. At the end of the day, it’s up to you and how you wish to place a bet.

Understanding the Odds

Odds are basically the mathematical representation of how probable an outcome is from occurring. When it comes to horse race betting, it’s essentially how probable a horse is from winning the race. Furthermore, you are also informed how much money you’ll win if your wager wins. So, once you understand horse racing odds, you should be able to determine the value after a quick glance at the upcoming races. This will give you insight into your overall chances of winning followed by how much you will stand to win from the race.

You will come across two ways in which odds are displayed at online racebooks, including the fractional system and the decimal system. The fractional system is far more traditional, while the decimal system is more recent.

Fractional Odds

You will always find fractional odds displayed as 4/1 or even 4-1. Think of odds as maths. For instance, should you wish to use fractional odds in a race, you can read it as follows:

  • 4/1 – For every $1 you bet, you will receive $4 if you win (along with your initial bet)
  • 7/2 – For every $2 you bet, you will receive $7 if you win (along with your initial bet)
  • 9/4 – For every $4 you bet, you will receive $9 if you win (along with your initial bet)

Should you come across fractional odds that are displayed the other way around, such as 2/7, it illustrates that the horse in question is a favourite to win the upcoming race. For instance:

  • 1/4 – For every $4 you bet, you will receive $1 if you win (along with your initial bet)
  • 1/2 – For every $2 you bet, you will receive $1 if you win (along with your initial bet)

Decimal Odds

You will always find decimal odds displayed as 5.00. When you see these odds, you will simply need to multiply the decimal number by your bet amount to calculate the potential profit you can make if you win from your bet. Decimal odds basically represent the money you’ll win from your bet where your initial wager is also included in the displayed number.

For instance, if you make an even money wager (a wager where the reward will be equal to your bet) it will be displayed as 2.0.

This means your $1 bet is included with your potential $1 profit in the odds. A fractional odd of 6/1, where you’ll receive $6 for every $1 your bet, will be displayed as 7.0 when it comes to decimal odds.

If you want to calculate the potential return with decimal odds, simply subtract 1 from the displayed number and times the remainder by your bet.

If you have decimal odds of 12.0 along with a $1 bet: 12 – 1 = 11. You will then need to multiply 11 x 1 which gives you a return of $11. Should you make a $10 bet, you will potentially see a return of $110.

Types of Horse Races

Whether it’s in the National Hunt or on the flat, we are definitely treated to a wide variety of horse racing events on a regular basis. From cross country races to maidens, each type of horse racing event can take place over a wide range of distances and if you are placing a bet on a race, it’s crucial that you understand each type of horse racing event before placing a wager.

National Hunt Racing

National Hunt racing consists of all horse racing events that are contested over steeplechase fences and hurdles. This is far less popular than flat racing, with Ireland and the UK hosting most of these horse races. Horses are required to jump over several obstacles, either fences or hurdles, before finishing a race. These races are usually contested by less experienced and younger horses before making the transition to Chase races.

Types of National Hunt Races

You will essentially come across three disciplines in National Hunt/Jump races, including:

  • Hurdles Races – These races feature the smallest obstacles for horses to jump over.
  • Steeplechase Races – These races feature larger obstacles that are far more difficult to jump over.
  • National Hunt Flat Races – These races don’t feature any obstacles and are used as a starting point for horses that are young or without any experience.

Within each of these types of races, you will come across a variety of specific horse races, including:

  • Maiden Races – These races are designed for horses that have not won a race as of yet.
  • Juvenile Races – These races are designed for horses that are two year old horses only.
  • Novice Races – These races are for horses that have only managed to win one race.
  • Handicap Races – In these races, weight is allocated by the handicapper, giving all runners an equal opportunity to win.
  • Graded Races – These horse races are considered top level and don’t have any restrictions other than gender and age of the horses.
  • Cross Country Races – These racers involve several unique types of obstacles that horses need to jump over during the race.
  • Hunter Chase Races – This is a special race category that is only available to horses that have a hunter certificate. This can only be awarded to horses that have managed to hunt 4 days prior to the start of the season in January.

Flat Racing

Flat racing occurs on flat surfaces over a predetermined distance and is far more popular than horse racing with obstacles. It’s also considered more lucrative than National Hunt racing due to the fact that it encompasses more prize money. You will find less horse races in the flat racing category as there aren’t three disciplines in flat racing as there are in National Hunt racing.

Types of Flat Races

  • Maiden Races – These races are only for horses that haven’t won a race yet.
  • Novice Races – These are specifically designed for horses that have only managed to win a single race so far.
  • Claiming/Selling Races – These races are designed for the winners to be auctioned or sold after the race occurred. This can also include other runners that participated.
  • Handicap Races – Each horse receives a rating which is used to set weights by the handicapper. This gives each horse an equal chance of winning.
  • Nursery Races – A horse race exclusively designed for 2 year old horses.
  • Group Races – This is similar to Graded racers and are considered the top level races specifically designed for the best horses. You will find Group 1, 2, and 3, where Group 1 represents the best horses in the world.

How to Bet on Horse Races

You will find that most racetracks and online sportsbooks come equipped with traditional horse racing bets and exotic horse racing bets. Below, you will find all wagers that fall under each of these categories.

Traditional Horse Racing Bets

These bets are also referred to as straight bets and are considered the most popular and straightforward bets when it comes to horse race betting. The only complicated thing about these bets is that they differ from one part of the world to the next. The list of traditional bets include:

  • Win Bet – This is an incredibly simple bet as you merely need to pick a horse that you predict will win the race.
  • Place Bet – This is a bet on a selection to finish within ‘the places’. The positions covered will depend on the number of runners and the type of race. In the US, this bet will only cover the first two positions.
  • Show Bet – This is similar to a place bet, but will cover the top 3 positions.
  • Across the Board – This bet combines 3 wagers in one bet, including a show bet, place bet, and win bet on a single selection.
  • Each-way Bet – This bet combines a place bet and win bet.

Exotic Horse Racing Bets

These bets are considered far more advanced than straight bets and are more difficult to get right as well. The reason they remain popular among bettors is the fact that they come with lucrative payout potential. The range of exotic bets include:

  • Exacta – This bet involves two horses that need to finish in the top 2 positions. For your bet to win, you have to get both horses correct and in the right order.
  • Quinella – This bet is similar to an Exacta, but here you merely need to predict which 2 horses will finish in the top 2 positions. They don’t have to be in the right order.
  • Trifecta – With this bet you need to predict the top 3 horses and they need to be in the right order as well.
  • Superfecta – With this bet you need to predict the top 4 horses and you will need to get the order right as well.
  • Daily Double – In this bet you will be required to predict the winner in two successive races.
  • Pick 3/4/6 – This bet works in much the same way as the Daily Double bet. However, it comes with a higher number of races to predict correctly.

Apart from the traditional and exotic wagers in horse racing, you will also find accumulators or parlays that you can use to bet with along with specials and prop bets, matchups, and even lay wagers to make your betting experience as fun and entertaining as possible.

How Are Horse Bet Winnings Calculated?

Your winnings will always be calculated on either the pari-mutuel system or the fixed odds system. With the fixed odds system, you will always know the potential payout if you have a winning bet. The odds will be fixed when you place a bet and will then be multiplied by your bet amount to determine your potential profit.

However, things get a little more complicated when it comes to pari-mutuel betting. It’s essentially a form of pool betting where all the money is accumulated in a pool and then distributed among the winners.

Different Types of Race Horses

There are several types of race horses when it comes to horse racing. Thoroughbred racing (like the Breeders’ Cup) is undoubtedly the most popular form, especially when it comes to horse race betting. However, there are plenty of other forms in horse racing that attract a great deal of attention as well.

Examples include quarter horse racing, endurance racing, and harness racing. Each of these racing forms will other horse breeds as oppose to thoroughbreds. Although most people think of thoroughbreds when it comes to horse racing, you will also find the following breeds in the sport:

  • Standardbreds
  • Arabians
  • American Quarter Horses

It’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy horse race betting without knowing much about the different breeds that came forth in the sport. In fact, the majority of bettors in this sport know very little in this regard.

The Biggest Horse Racing Events Around the World

  • Kentucky Derby – This is one of the most popular events in the world that has been around since 1875. The track length is 1.25 miles and takes place on the first Saturday of May each year with a prize pool of $2 million.
  • Preakness – This horse racing event started back in 1873 with a track length of 1.2 miles. The event occurs on the third Saturday of May in Baltimore, Maryland and comes with a prize pool of $1.5 million.
  • Triple Crown – The Triple Crown comprises of 3 prestigious horse races for three-year old thoroughbreds and if one runner can win all 3 it’s considered the greatest achievement in the sport.
  • Belmont Stakes – This horse racing event started back in 1867 and takes place on the second Saturday of June each year. With a track length of 1.5 miles, it comes with a prize pool of $1.5 million and takes place in Belmont Park, New York.
  • Canadian Triple Crown – This is a series of horse racing events for thoroughbreds in Canada and consists of the Queen’s Plate, the Prince of Wales Stakes, and the Breeder’s Stakes.
  • Cheltenham Festival – This horse racing event started back in 1860 and forms part of the National Hunt racing calendar within the UK. The festival takes place in March and coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day. It offers 4 different races across 4 days and only the Grand National tops it in prize money.
  • The Royal Ascot – This horse racing event began in 1711 and comes with a staggering prize pool of £6.5 million. The event takes place in mid-June over a course of five days in Ascot, Berkshire situated in England.
  • The Grand National – This racing event started back in 1839 with a track length of 4 miles that takes 10 minutes to complete. The event impresses with a prize pool of $1.6 million and occurs on the first and second Saturday of April each year in Aintree, Liverpool.
  • The Melbourne Cup – This horse racing event started back in 1861 and has a track length of 3,200 meters. The event occurs on the first Tuesday of November each year with a prize pool of $6.2 million. The event takes place in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
  • Breeder’s Cup – This horse racing event started back in 1984 with a track length of 1 miles and 1.5 miles. The total prize pool for this event is $28 million in total with $1.6 million for every race. The event occurs in late October or early November each year at various racetracks across the United States.

Horse Betting FAQ

How do you bet on horses?

You can bet on horse races by either visiting the racetrack and placing a bet in person or by registering an account with a licensed and regulated online sportsbook from the comfort of your own home. Simply place a real money wager on a single horse, or a selection of horses, with a wide range of betting markets and enjoy the race to see if you are a winner.

Is horse racing considered gambling?

Yes, horse race betting is considered gambling, whether it’s more chance or more skill, it’s quite clear that it’s defined as a form of gambling due to the fact that money is involved.

What are 9 to 4 odds?

This basically means that for every $4 you bet, you will receive $9 if you win. This is essentially a form of fractional odds. If the odds narrowed slightly, it would change from 9/4 down to 8/4, which would be represented as 2/1.

How do you bet each way on horses?

An each-way bet will consist of a place wager and a win wager. So, if your selected horse comes first, you will receive both the place and win wagers. However, if your selected horse comes in second of third, you will only receive the place wager for your each-way bet.

What is the smartest bet in horse racing?

This will greatly depend on your own personal preference and your knowledge of the sport. However, for newcomers, the smartest bet will be place bets as the horse can finish in either first or second and you’ll still receive money.