Horse Racing Betting

With much of the sports world shut down in 2020 by the coronavirus, more bettors are taking another look at wagering on horse racing online.

Horse racing has not been immune from the COVID-19 crisis, which has prevented fans from attending the races and resulted in an unprecedented shift in the Triple Crown schedule. But most horse race wagering is done electronically, keeping the sport accessible to a large number of horse bettors and fans.

This page offers convenient and efficient ways to wager on horse racing on your computer or mobile device, along with some basic betting strategies.

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How Bookies Picks the Best Horse Betting Sites

Bookies.com evaluates and compares horse racing betting sites, using many of the same the factors we consider most important when picking the best sports betting sites:

Safety and security: We only recommend sites that are legal and licensed in the state you reside, and will be responsive if you have an issue with your account. We never recommend offshore horse betting sites, which are unregulated and offer no potential safeguards.

Ease of use: Each betting site offers its own software, layout and graphics, and no two are the same. We look for the most user-friendly, but believe it’s best for bettors to try multiple sites to see which works best for them.

Bonus offers: We help determine which sites offer the most lucrative online bonuses and promotions to sign up new players and keep existing ones.

Track selection, odds: Bettors want a variety or tracks and the most up-to-date odds. Some betting sites offer a more robust selection of tracks to wager on, including racing outside the U.S.

How Does Online Horse Betting Work?

Online horse betting is similar to wagering at the track. It’s just more convenient.

The 2006 Unlawful Internet Enforcement Gaming Act shut down several some forms of online gambling, but specifically kept online horse race wagering legal. Each state has the option to allow online horse wagering and most states permit it.

Bettors have a choice of online pari-mutuel wagering platforms. Some of the most popular are TVG, TwinSpires, NYRA Bets, Xpressbet, DRF Bets and BetAmerica. Horse bettors can create an account with any of those operators, deposit funds and make wagers on the website or by downloading the app.

Each platform offers the same types of wagers offered at any racetrack, with odds updated in real time. Bettors can wager and watch the races and play multiple tracks at the same time.

Where is Horse Betting Legal in the U.S.?

At least 40 states allow online wagering on horse racing, with the number continuing to grow:

    Alabama
    Arizona
    Arkansas
    California
    Colorado
    Connecticut
    Delaware
    Florida
    Idaho
    Illinois
    Indiana
    Iowa
    Kansas
    Kentucky
    Louisiana
    Maine
    Maryland
    Massachusetts
    Michigan
    Minnesota
    Montana
    Nebraska
    New Hampshire
    New Jersey
    New Mexico
    New York
    North Dakota
    Ohio
    Oklahoma
    Oregon
    Pennsylvania
    Rhode Island
    South Dakota
    Tennessee
    Vermont
    Virginia
    Washington
    West Virginia
    Wisconsin
    Wyoming

    It’s important to note that due to various state regulations, some online platforms may not accept players from all legal states. For example, TwinSpires accepts players from Alabama but TVG does not. Neither accepts players from Maine. Your provider’s website includes a list of states from which residents may open accounts.

    Biggest Horse Racing Events in the U.S.

    The Triple Crown races are the most popular and biggest betting events in the U.S. To capture the Triple Crown, a horse must win all three races. The dates of all three Triple Crown races were rescheduled in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

    Kentucky Derby

    Annual date: First Saturday in May

    2020 date: September 5

    strong>Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.

    About: World’s most famous horse race is normally first leg of Triple Crown. Kentucky Derby distance is 1-1/4 miles; field limited to 20, based on points accumulated in prep races.

    Preakness Stakes

    Annual date: Two weeks after Kentucky Derby

    2020 date: October 3

    Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore

    About: Normally second leg of Triple Crown. Preakness Stakes distance is 1-3/16 miles, shortest of the three legs.

    Belmont Stakes

    Annual date: Three weeks after Preakness

    2020 date: June 20 (won by Tiz the Law)

    Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.

    About: Third and final leg of Triple Crown. Distance of 1-1/2 miles is longest of the three races. The 2020 Belmont Stakes was run as first leg and shortened to 1-1/8 mile distance.

    Breeders’ Cup Classic

    Annual date: Late October or early November

    2020 date: November 7

    Where: Awarded to different tracks. The 2020 event is at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.

    About: The Breeders’ Cup is two days of championship racing featuring horses from around the world, held annually at a different North American location. The Breeders’ Cup Classic, run at 1-1/4 miles, is the richest of the two days of races.

    Pegasus World Cup

    Annual date: Late January

    2020 date: January 25 (won by Mucho Gusto)

    Where: Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach, Fla.

    About: The 1 1/-8 mile race offered a purse of $16 million in 2018, making it the richest horse race in the world. Purse was lowered to $9 million in 2019 and $3 million in 2020.

    How to Bet on Horses

    After you have selected an online betting platform and deposited funds, it’s time to wager.

    Your provider will offer a selection of racetracks to choose from. Find the track you want to bet on and the field for the upcoming race will appear on your screen with each horse’s win odds changing in real time.

    Simply hit the wager button and click on the amount you wish to bet. Then click on the type of wager (win bet, exacta, trifecta, etc.) you want you make. You can place as many wagers as you wish, provided you have the available funds in your account.

    When playing on your computer or mobile device, you can usually watch the races via live streaming. Winnings are automatically posted to your account.

    Depositing Funds on Horse Betting Sites

    Online horse racing wagering platforms offer several ways to fund your account. Among the typical banking options:

    Credit/debit card: Always a convenient choice. But be aware that some banks treat these deposits as a cash advance and charge high fees. Other banks may automatically decline gambling transactions as a matter of policy even though it is legal.

    Play+/Prepaid card: Play+ cards were created for sports and casino betting and are easy to use. If the site accepts Play+, typically there will be a link directing you to the Play+ site to register. You can fund your Play+ card with a credit card or bank account, then fund your horse betting site account. You can also withdraw your winnings back on to the card and then access the cash from ATMs. Prepaid cards are often available as a branded card on your operator’s website as well. Low fees and you can load the card with your amount of choice.

    E-wallet: The most popular are PayPal and Neteller, which store your credit information and allow you to move funds in and out of your online account for low fees.

    ACH/bank transfer: A digital connection links your checking account to your online racing account.

    PayNearMe: Use cash at a 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy or Family Dollar store, which will scan a barcode and transfer the funds to your online account.

    Check or money order: Mail a personal check or money order to the address provided on your operator’s website. No fees, but transactions take longer to process.

    Several of these methods, though not all, can also be used to make withdrawals from your online account.

    Online Horse Betting Bonuses and Promotions

    Online horse wagering platforms offer bonuses and promotions to sign up new players and retain existing ones. Generally, the bonuses offered by online horse racing platforms are more straightforward than online casino offers, and require few, if any, playthrough requirements. Among the most common bonus offers and promotions:

    Deposit match: Sign up for an account, make your first deposit and your operator will match that amount.

    Sign up bonus: Receive a small bonus just by signing up for an account.

    Risk free bet: Make a wager on a specific day or track and if it loses, your wager is refunded.

    Money back specials: Make a win bet and receive a refund if your horse finishes second or third.

    Welcome bonuses such as sign up and deposit match are generally offered only to new accounts. Players can receive multiple bonuses by signing up with multiple wagering platforms. Make sure to read the terms and conditions on all bonuses.

    Types of Horse Bets

    The horse racing betting menu is vast, with single horse, multi-horse and multi-race wagers available.

    Win, place and show wagering

    Win Bet: Betting on a specific horse to win a race. Win odds are determined by the amount wagered on each horse in the race. The more money wagered on a horse, the lower the horse’s odds.

    Place Bet: Betting on a horse to finish no worse than second.

    Show Bet: Betting on a horse to finish no worse than third.

    Exotic betting

    More than 70% of all horse race wagers are exotic bets. These are wagers that involve two horses or more in a particular race or a series of consecutive races. Exotic bets are popular because, while they can be difficult to hit, they offer potentially lucrative payouts.

    Examples of exotic wagers:

    Exacta Bet: A wager on two horses in a race to finish first and second in exact order.

    Quinella: A wager on two horses in a race to finish first and second in either order.

    Trifecta: A wager on three horses in a race to finish first, second and third in exact order.

    Superfecta: A wager on four horses in a race to finish first, second, third and fourth in exact order.

    Daily Double: A wager combining the winning horses of two consecutive races.

    Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6: A wager combining the winning horses of three, four, five and six consecutive races.

    Horse Betting Apps

    All of the most popular online wagering platforms offer betting apps, which allow players to wager on their mobile devices from anywhere in their state.

    The apps are available for Android and iOS devices and can be downloaded for free on your operator’s website or the App Store. The apps include all of the same features you would find on your computer, including all wagering options, live streaming of races and deposit and withdrawal options.

    Where Can I Watch the Races?

    Horse players have a choice of venue:

    On your computer or mobile device: All the most popular online pari-mutuel operators offer live streaming of races on their websites and mobile apps. It’s often as easy as clicking a video button.

    At the racetrack: Place your wagers at mutuel windows or self-serve kiosks at the track. Tracks in several states function as racinos and also offer some form of casino gambling, such as slots and/or table games.

    Off-track betting (OTB) facilities: Races are shown via simulcast from a location other than the racetrack.

    Whichever option you choose, races from a variety of tracks are generally available, giving bettors a wide range of options.

    Virtual Horse Racing Betting

    Virtual horse racing betting is also known in the U.S. as instant racing. Instead of live racing, instant racing electronic machines allow players to wager on replays of horse races that have already been run. It is available in several states and benefits the horse racing industry because a percentage of its revenue is used to boost purses.

    Betting Strategies to Consider

    Unless you’re extremely lucky, becoming a winning horseplayer is hard work. Here are some helpful strategies to consider:

    Familiarize yourself with past performances: Having an informed opinion is the best way to select winning horses. Past performances give you an accurate picture of how each horse has performed in the past several races. Past performances are available for all tracks, sometimes for free. The most popular are Daily Racing Form and Brisnet.


    CHECK OUT: How Class, Speed Figures Into Horse Racing Handicapping


    Pay attention to the human element: The best trainers and jockeys win the most races. Jockey and trainers standings at each track are readily available and can be an insightful handicapping tool.

    Find your betting style: What kind of bettor are you? If your wagering priority is limiting losses, then a smaller win, place or show bet may be appropriate. If you are willing to embrace more risk, then an exotic bet may be for you. Your betting personality and bankroll size will help dictate the types of bets you should be making.

    Demand value if you can: In pari-mutuel horse race wagering, you are betting against other bettors, not the house. More often than not, the public is wrong. Assess what you believe a horse’s true odds should be, and if the actual odds are higher, consider making a wager. Conversely, if you believe a horse is overbet, consider looking elsewhere.

    Pick your spots: There is no rule that you must bet every race, nor is it recommended. If you don’t have a strong opinion, save your money for races you feel more comfortable betting on.

    Horse Racing Tracks in the U.S.

    The COVID-19 crisis shut down most tracks for a brief period of time, but overall, horse racing has fared better than other sports. Excluding or limiting fans from live horse racing is not as significant a deterrent because most horse racing wagers are made online.

    The biggest impact was juggling the sport’s Triple Crown schedule, with the Kentucky Derby, normally held the first Saturday in May, postponed until September 5.

    A list of selected thoroughbred/harness tracks across the country and how they were impacted:

    Track Location Racing
    Arlington International Racecourse Arlington Heights, Ill. Resumed July 23
    Belmont Park Elmont, N.Y. Resumed June 3
    Canterbury Park Shakopee, Minn. Resumed June 10
    Charles Town Charles Town, W.V. Resumed May 14
    Churchill Downs Louisville, Ky. Resumed May 16
    Del Mar Del Mar, Calif. Week of July 17-19 canceled
    Delaware Park Dover, Del. Resumed June 17
    Emerald Downs Auburn, Wash. Resumed June 24
    Evangeline Downs Opelousas, La. Resumed June 5
    Gulfstream Park Hallandale Beach, Fla. Resumed March 12
    Keeneland Lexington, Ky. Meet condensed to one week
    Laurel Park Laurel, Md. Resumed May 30
    Lone Star Park Grand Prairie, Texas Resumed July 19
    Meadowlands Harness East Rutherford, NJ Resumed June 5
    Monmouth Park Oceanport, N.J. Resumed July 3
    Parx Racing Bensalem, Pa. Resumed June 22
    Santa Anita Park Arcadia, Calif. Resumed May 15
    Saratoga Race Course Saratoga, N.Y. Opened on schedule July 16
    Yonkers Raceway Harness Yonkers, N.Y. Resumed June 22

    Horse Betting Terms to Know

    Claiming race: A race in which all entrants in the field are available for sale, ranging from a variety of prices, from $4,000 to $75,000 and up. Most U.S. races are claiming races.

    Colt: A male horse age 4 or younger.

    Daily double: A wager in which the bettor must pick the winner of two consecutive races.

    Exacta: A wager in which the top two finishers are selected in exact order.

    Filly: A female horse age 3 or younger. At age 4, they become a mare.

    Furlong: One-eighth of a mile. A six-furlong race is three-quarters of a mile.

    Gelding: A castrated horse.

    Inquiry: An investigation by the racing stewards to determine if a foul was committed by a horse or jockey during the running of the race. The stewards have the authority to make disqualifications.

    Maiden: A horse that has not won a race.

    Photo finish: A close finish of a race that is determined by a photograph.

    Silks: Colors worn by a jockey during a race, usually representing the horse’s owner.

    Stakes race: The highest quality of races. The best stakes races in the U.S. are graded, with Grade 1 the premier races, followed by Grade 2 and Grade 3.

    Trifecta: A wager in which the top three finishers must be correctly selected in exact order.

    Yearling: A horse between one and two years old. Horses can start racing at age 2. The Triple Crown races are for 3-year-olds.