The Basics of Horse Race Betting: Guide for Beginners 2024

Horse race pit a person get it ready

There are few more popular sports to bet on throughout the year than horse racing. Action on the track is staged throughout the week, with meetings taking place in all four corners of the globe. Many of the biggest races on the calendar attract even those who wouldn’t typically place a wager to get involved in betting on the sport. 

Therefore, races such as the Kentucky Derby and Grand National are races that even novices to betting would look to place a wager on. But, if you’re just getting started on betting on horse racing, what are some of the key factors that must be considered?

Importance Of Odds

Odds in Horse Race Betting

According to TwinSpires, one of the most important factors to understand before placing a bet on horse racing is the importance of the odds. This will have a direct impact on the amount that you stand to win if your selection is correct. Odds can tend to differ depending on the site that you’re betting with, which typically means that gamblers will shop around to get the best price available. 

Understanding how to read odds will also differ depending on the layout that you’re using. American odds are most popular in North America, with ‘-‘- and ‘+’ used to show the favorite. Fractional odds are most popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland, while decimal odds are prominent across Europe. 

Popular Horse Racing Markets

Exploring Trending Horse Racing Markets

Win Betting

The easiest market to use to make a wager on horse racing is the win-betting option. Here, you will be wagering your stake on the horse that you think will finish the race at the front. Bettors will only be paid out on their selections if their runner finishes first, with bets on horses that finish second or worse being settled as a loser. 

Place Betting

Place betting is most popular with newcomers to betting, as it will cover the insurance of your selection finishing second or third. This market is typically less lucrative than betting on the win market, but the big plus is that you will get returns on your selection if it finishes second or third. 

It is most appealing to bettors when looking to wager on an outsider in the betting market, especially in huge races such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

Exotic Betting

One of the most popular betting options for more experienced bettors can be found in the Exotics. Here, bets can be placed on markets such as the Exactas and Trifectas. These types of bets require a lot more research, as they are much more difficult to gain returns. 

To land a win in the Exotic market, a bettor must correctly predict the runners that finish first and second. In the Trifecta market, a bettor must correctly predict the horses that finish first, second, and third in the correct order. Payouts in these markets can typically be extreme, but the punter will also need to put in the research to ensure that they have the best possible chance. 

Tips To Remember When Betting On Horse Racing

Tips To Remember When Betting On Horse Racing

Read The Form

Before making any bet on the latest horse racing action, bettors must become familiarized with the form of each of the runners involved. This includes examining the distances that each of the runners have competed over, and whether they have a winning strike rate. 

Bettors should also consider the speed figures of each of the horses involved, which could be one of the most straightforward tactics to help identify the most likely winner. 

Assess The Connections

Trainers and jockeys will also provide some of the most important information for bettors to assess before making a selection. Strike rates of both involved with the horse will be available at leading sportsbooks, and it could be a vital factor to assess. 

Yards in excellent form will always stand a better chance of continuing their winning sequence, while those in poor form may have something amiss within their stables. Jockeys that are in excellent form will also stand a better chance of continuing their winning run, as they will be riding with greater confidence than those chasing a win to end a long winless sequence. 

Track Conditions

Experienced bettors will understand the importance of assessing track conditions before making a wager on the horse racing action. Some runners will have strong winning records when the ground is more testing following rainfall, meaning that there could be value in siding with them when compared to runners that have limited experience. 

Horses that also have solid records at certain tracks should also be marked up when it comes to assessing the most likely winner of a race. Horses for courses is one of the oldest sayings in the sport, and it rings truer than most when it comes to assessing the most likely winner of a race. 

Most Popular Horse Racing Events

Top Horse Racing Events

Kentucky Derby

The biggest race in North America annually is the Kentucky Derby. The race was established in 1875, and it has been run annually throughout history. It is the opening leg of the Triple Crown series in the United States, with the field competing over a distance of 1 ¼ miles. Legends are typically born in the Derby, and it is one of the most-watched sporting events in North America.

Grand National

One of the biggest betting races in the world remains the Grand National, which was first staged in 1839. Aintree Racecourse hosts the iconic race, which will see a big field of runners compete over four miles, tacking 30 fences. It is watched by over 600 million fans across 140 countries, and it is an iconic betting event for those around the world.

Melbourne Cup

The biggest race in Australia comes in the form of the Melbourne Cup, which is held annually on the first Tuesday of November. It is one of the world’s richest races on the turf, and it has been staged annually since 1861. The handicap race is one of the world’s most watched races, with a big field tackling the 3,200-metre distance.

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Aleksandra Kontic

I am Aleksandra Kontic, a content creator and writer for, a website renowned for its engaging content. My academic background includes studying English language and literature at the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad, where I honed my writing skills and analytical abilities. This educational journey laid the groundwork for my career in content creation.