Horse racing is one of the world’s most popular spectator sports and one of the most popular sports to bet on. With hundreds of horse racing events taking place throughout the year, there are plenty of opportunities to bet on horse races. The introduction of the Interstate Horseracing Act in 1978 opened up the US horse betting market, giving more people the chance to wager on horse races across the country. If you’re completely new to betting on horse racing, or just want to learn more about betting on horse races online, Compare.bet US has everything you need to know.
Latest Horse Racing Betting News
Turf Paradise has been ordered to pay more than $150,000 for safety issues at the facility and previous penalty fees. The findings of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority have brought more scrutiny to the popular Phoenix racetrack, which has come under fire following the recent deaths of 24 horses at the track. Officials at…
History of Horse Race Betting
Horse racing — and illicit horse race betting — is first thought to have been introduced to the US in the 1660s with the British occupation and development of New York City, when race tracks were established on Long Island. The next two hundred years roused interest in the sport throughout the country, especially following America’s War of Independence.
In 1868, the first American Stud Book was published — an official record of thoroughbreds across the US. This book formally documented America’s fascination with horse racing and continues to be published today.
In 1867 the first Belmont Stakes took place, followed by the Preakness Stakes in 1873 and the Kentucky Derby in 1875. The American Stud Book from this time indicates there were 314 racetracks operating in the US in 1890, but by the early 1900s, anti-gambling sentiment led to the banning of bookmaking in almost all states.
This changing mood threatened to extinguish horse race betting altogether, until the introduction of parimutuel betting in 1908 delivered a rebirth to the industry. Rather than engaging in a process of taking bets, calculating odds and paying out winnings, parimutuel betting establishes a betting pool composed of other bettors’ wagers. Racetracks are allocated a proportion of the pool for running costs, with the rest divided among winning punters. It’s a horse racing betting system that remains to this day.
For many years, US bettors had to visit a racetrack to bet on horse races across most of America, which meant that horse wagering opportunities were pretty limited. However, in 1978, the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA) legalized off-track horse race betting, with Congress ruling that each state should have the freedom to determine what forms of gambling should legally take place within their border. Of course, this didn’t apply to all forms of sports gambling, until the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018.
The IHA opened up the US sports betting market, meaning bettors could wager on horse racing events at off-track betting parlors, where simulcast wagering allowed bettors to bet in the same betting pool. Eventually, the horse racing betting market opened further, leading to the popularity of online sites for horse race betting. The betting pools for US horse betting sites are joined with other racetracks.
The repeal of PASPA in 2018 has liberated all sports betting in the US. Punters can now access the best horse racing betting sites in many states, with other forms of gambling also permitted.
Major US Horse Racing Events
With daily horse racing taking place throughout the year, there are plenty of betting opportunities to take advantage of. The best horse racing betting sites offer markets on events across the world, including the Grand National and the Melbourne Cup, but here are some of the biggest horse racing events at home in America.
The Kentucky Derby is America’s best-known horse racing event and takes place at the world-famous Churchill Downs racetrack in Kentucky. It takes place annually on the first Saturday in May and is the first event in the US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. The race is one-and-one-quarter miles long and sees 20 horses compete. Horses must travel along the Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of 35 races across the world, to make it to the Derby itself, where there’s a total prize pool of $2 million.
The 2022 Kentucky Derby was won by Rich Strike and jockey Sonny Leon. The horse is the second longest shot to win the Kentucky Derby, with odds of 80-to-1. Rich Strike wasn’t initially in the field and could only run due to the withdrawal of Ethereal Road the day before.
The Preakness Stakes
This annual horse race is the second leg of the Triple Crown. It’s held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland on Armed Forces Day, the third Saturday in May. Horses must be at least three years old and a thoroughbred to qualify for the 9.5 furlong (1.19 miles) race on dirt track.
Early Voting took first place at the 2022 Preakness States, ridden by José Ortiz. At odds of 5-to-1, Early Voting was third favorite to win — and he did so on his owner’s 65th birthday.
Belmont Stakes is held at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York on the first or second Saturday of June every year. Also known as the ‘Run for the Carnations’ because of the white carnation blanket awarded to the winning horse, this race is 1.5 miles long. As the final leg of the Triple Crown races, the field is often the smallest of the three.
2022 saw first place in the Belmont Stakes taken by Mo Donegal and his jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. The horse was the favorite to win with odds of 5-to-2.
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships
This competition is the culmination of the US thoroughbred-racing season. Horses must be nominated to participate in the various races that take place across the weekend, which means only the best of the best compete. Race distances over the weekend range from 5.5 furlongs to 1.5 miles, though the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the defining event of the race. This race is limited to 14 starters, all competing along the 1.25 mile track for their share of the $6 million prize purse. The 2021 Breeder’s Cup Classic was won by Knicks Go and jockey Joel Rosario, with final odds of 16-to-5 (3.2).
The location of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships varies. Attendance usually depends on race track capacity — in terms of numbers, the event comes second, behind the Kentucky Derby. It’s previously been held at Santa Anita Park, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Churchill Downs to name a few. The 2022 race will take place at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky on November 5.
Since its inception, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships have taken place only at US racetracks barring 1996, when they were held at Woodbine Racetrack in Canada.
More Horse Race Courses
A defining characteristic of any horse race is the course it takes place on. Many of these venues are steeped in rich history going back hundreds of years. Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known American race courses.
On the sunny West Coast in Arcadia, California, you’ll find Santa Anita Park. This thoroughbred racecourse has played host to many prestigious events, with around 100 Grade I, II, and III races taking place throughout the year. Noteworthy events include the Santa Anita Derby and Santa Anita Handicap.
In 2023, Santa Anita will host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the 11th time — the most of any racecourse.
Saratoga Race Course is one of oldest sporting venues of any kind in the country. Located in Saratoga Springs, New York, it opened in 1863. The Saratoga meet lasts 40 days, running from mid July to Labor Day in September. There are five days of racing per week during the event.
The racecourse hosts many Grade I, II, and III events, with 77 graded races making up the 2022 season. The Travers Stakes is possibly the most notable — it’s been held at Saratoga since 1864 and is the oldest major thoroughbred horse race in the US. Other major races include the Alabama Stakes, Hopeful Stakes, and Whitney Stakes.
On many horse racing bettors’ maps is Gulfstream Park, located in Hallandale Beach, Florida. There are three courses at Gulfstream Park: a one-and-one-eighth-mile dirt track, a synthetic Tapeta track that’s one mile and 70 yards long, and a turf track of seven furlongs.
Despite the large number of Grade II and III races, there are just three Grade I races held at Gulfstream Park: the Florida Derby, the Pegasus World Cup, and the Pegasus World Cup Turf.
Some of the best horse racing can be found at Belmont Park, a thoroughbred racecourse in Elmont, New York. There are typically two meets a year: the Spring Meet — which hosts the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown — and the Fall Meet.
Other high-profile races at Belmont Park include the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Woodward Stakes, and the Suburban Handicap.
International Horse Racing Events
Looking outside the United States, there are loads of international horse racing events to bet on. Here’s a round-up of the most important events in the global horse racing calendar.
- The Grand National is a four-mile race with 30 fences and a prize pool of £1 million ($1.18m).
- Cheltenham Festival takes place at Prestbury Park and offers four days of National Hunt racing.
- Royal Ascot is a five-day horse racing festival often associated with the Royal Family. Races include the Coronation Stakes and the Commonwealth Cup.
- The Melbourne Cup is the country’s premier horse race, with a prize purse of A$8m ($5.5m).
- The WS Cox Plate is one of Australia’s toughest courses. It’s 1 mile and 2 furlongs long (approximately 2,040 meters).
- The Golden Slipper Stakes takes place at the Rosehill Racecourse in Sydney every March. The track is around 1,200 meters long.
- The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is considered the top horse race in France, and is also the second-richest turf race in the world.
- The Prix du Jockey Club takes place at Chantilly and is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It’s 2,100 meters in length.
- The Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris is the richest jump race in France, and it’s run across 6,000 meters and 23 fences.
- The Japan Cup is one of the biggest events to close out the global horse racing calendar, run on turf and 2,400 meters long.
- Tokyo Yushun, also known as the Japanese Derby, is a Grade I flat race held at Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu.
- The Dubai World Cup is one of the UAE’s four Grade I races and is run on dirt.
- The Dubai Golden Shaheen, previously known as the Nad Al Sheba Sprint, is a six-furlong dirt race with a purse of around $2m.
Bonuses at Horse Racing Betting Sites
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to betting bonuses at sportsbooks with horse racing. Here’s an explanation of some common offers.
Sign Up Bonuses
Sign up bonuses and welcome offers are one-time deals for new customers at a horse racing betting site. Some are granted as soon as you sign up, while others require a deposit in order to claim. A sign up bonus can take many forms, such as free betting credit, matched deposits, or risk-free bets.
Free bet promotions are exactly what they sound like — you’ll be able to place a bet on an event at no cost but with a shout of winning some real cash. The free bet stake isn’t usually returned, and there might be restrictions on which markets and types of bets you can use the free bet on.
If you want to take a punt on some longer odds, a risk-free bet bonus is a great option. Just place a qualifying bet at the minimum odds required, as stated in the terms. If it wins, great! You’ll take home the payout. If not, it’s okay — your stake is returned, either as real money or free bet credit.
Some betting bonuses require a promo code to claim them. You might need to enter it when you sign up, or during payment if the offer requires a deposit. Sometimes promo codes are sent out to existing customers via email or the sportsbook’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, so check your communication preferences if you don’t want to miss out.
Types of Horse Racing
Before placing a bet on a horse race, it’s helpful to understand what kind of race it is. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few of the most popular horse racing events to bet on.
Flat racing is exactly what it sounds like: a race on flat terrain with no obstacles. Primarily a test of speed and stamina, there’s also an element of strategy — tactics like horse positioning, when to push the horse, and when to hold back all come into play. The distances in flat racing can range from five furlongs to over two miles, and there may be restrictions on which horses can take part, based on age, sex, weight, or ability.
The Kentucky Derby is one of the premier US flat races, run over 1.25 miles at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Harness racing is different to flat or jump racing in many ways. Most significantly, the jockeys ride behind the horse in a special cart or chariot called a sulky, also known as a bike. The race begins with a rolling start, where the horses trot behind a moving gate.
There are two ‘gait’ styles of harness racing, which determine how the horses move:
- In pacing gait, each side of a horse’s legs move in unison.
- In trotter gait, the front and back legs move in opposite directions on each side. The front right leg and back left leg would move together, and likewise for the front left leg and back right leg.
Most harness races are a mile long. The gait style determines the speed of the race, and pacing horses typically run faster. One of the most popular tracks for this type of race is Meadowlands in New Jersey.
Flat and jump races normally compress all the excitement into just a few thrilling minutes. Endurance racing, on the other hand, takes a number of hours and can even be spread across days. Most endurance races in the US are around 50–100 miles, with horses stopping periodically for a veterinary check.
While the winner is usually the first horse to cross the line, there’s also a prize for ‘best conditioned’, which takes into account the finishing time, weight carried, and veterinary scores. The American Endurance Ride Conference sanctions the majority of US endurance rides.
Thanks to their natural endurance and stamina, Arabian horses often dominate endurance racing.
Picking a Winner
There’s no simple answer when it comes to picking a winner in horse racing. Betting on a horse according to its race name is just a popular tactic among more casual bettors, but there are a few factors you should research before you bet on the horses.
Previous performance and recent races are a good place to start, but you should look a little deeper than simply where the horse has placed. You should consider the distance of the race, as well as the design of the racetrack, considering the ground type and any obstacles along the way to determine which horses are likely to come out on top.
Some of the best online horse betting sites have information on past performance, which means you can get clued in on the horse racing stats and head over to make your bets in just a couple of clicks.
In order to give all horses a more equal chance at a first-place finish, handicapping can be used. Practically speaking, this is achieved by adding extra weight to a horse which is inserted into pockets in the saddle. Theoretically, the weight of a horse will affect its maximum speed.
In a handicap race, horses deemed stronger by the handicapper will carry heavier weight to put them on more equal footing with weaker entrants. By assigning handicaps, there’s more chance the horses will remain closer together when they cross the finish line, resulting in a more exciting finish.
When it comes to betting on a handicap race, the art lies in choosing a horse you think will outperform the expectations of the handicapper. There’s a myriad of factors to be taken into account when doing so, including form, speed, horse class, and jockey.
Horse Racing Betting Markets
You’ll have a few different options when it comes to betting on horse races.
Straight wagers are bets on just one horse in that race
- Win- You’re betting that your horse will come in first place, and this bet will only pay out if your horse wins.
- Place- This is a bet that your horse will come first or second.
- Show- Show bets put money on your horse placing first, second or third.
Exotic wagers are bets on multiple horse in one bet, upping your potential profit.
- Exacta- This is a bet that two horses will come first and second in exact order and will only pay out if the horses finish in the order you predict.
- Quinella- Similar to an exacta bet, but you aren’t predicting the order in which your two horses come first and second.
- Trifecta- You’re betting that three horses will finish first, second and third in exact order.
- Superfecta- A superfacta is a bet on four horses finishing in the top four places in exact order.
Horse Racing Betting Odds
You’ll need to have a basic understanding of how betting odds work before you bet on a horse racing event. US horse betting sites tend to display horse betting odds in fractional format, but you might see betting odds displayed in American or decimal format. However the odds are displayed, they indicate the same thing: the betting site’s prediction of whether the horse will win, or place, in a race.
Horse racing odds are a good place to start when it comes to betting on horse races, but betting on the bookies’ favourite doesn’t guarantee you a winning bet. Horse racing betting odds can vary between sportsbooks, so we’d advise comparing betting sites to find the best price.
Here’s a real-world example of how horse racing odds work:
At a Churchill Downs horse race, the betting site has odds priced a moneyline bet for Princess Warrior to win at 7/5. This means that, if the horse were to win, you’d win $7 for every $5 wager. So, if you were to make a successful $50 bet, you’d land a total of $350.
Want to know more about how odds work? Check out our guide on how to read betting odds.
Payment Options at the Best Betting Sites for Horse Racing
The best betting sites for horse racing provide a variety of options for sportsbook deposits and withdrawals. Here’s a rundown of some payment methods you might find.
A popular e-wallet service, PayPal comes with a host of advantages. Once you’ve stored your debit card or bank details within the wallet, you can make payments to and from the sportsbook without having to share this information. You’ll also benefit from top payout speeds — withdrawals with PayPal can reach your account in 24 hours, but sometimes in under 60 minutes. The main drawback is that PayPal and other e-wallets are usually disqualified from claiming betting offers and promotions.
Debit cards remain the most utilized payment method at US betting apps and sites. Visa is one of the biggest payment networks in the world and so is supported at pretty much every sportsbook. Using a debit or credit card for sports betting deposits and withdrawals is familiar to most, and the funds will be in your sportsbook wallet immediately. Withdrawals tend to take longer — around 3–5 business days — unless you’re using Visa Fast Funds. At horse betting sites that support this service, the money could land in your account within 30 minutes once you cash out.
Another well-known e-wallet, Neteller is owned by the Paysafe Group, which also operates Skrill and Paysafecard. It shares many of PayPal’s benefits, but unlike PayPal, it does have some fees attached when you transfer money in and out of the e-wallet. As PayPal isn’t supported at every horse betting site, it’s helpful to hold an account with an alternative such as Neteller if e-wallets are your preferred payment method, although bear in mind the service is often excluded from claiming a bonus.
A cutting-edge method that utilizes blockchain technology and decentralization, Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency supported at a small number of horse betting sites. Advantages include strong security and anonymity, and both deposits and withdrawals are often instant, although the volatile nature of the currency means it won’t suit everyone. You’ll need a free crypto wallet to get started, and you should keep in mind there are some fees associated with Bitcoin transactions.
Mobile Horse Racing Betting
There might only be a handful of states that permit mobile sports betting, but mobile betting on horse racing is available across much of America. The best betting sites have mobile betting sites and apps for iPhone and Android users, which means you can bet on horses on your phone wherever you are in a state with legal online horse racing betting.
Whether you want to bet on horse racing, or bet on any other sports online, you can count on Compare.bet to bring you the very best betting sites, as well as the latest US sports betting news.
Now that mobile horse racing betting has been given the green light by the majority of US states, you can place wagers and modify your bet slip while you’re on the move. All sportsbooks optimize their sites so that bettors can access them from their mobile browsers, adapting interfaces to suit different touchpoints and screen sizes. Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider betting on the races from your mobile browser:
- Place a bet anytime, anywhere, provided you’re in a state with legalized mobile gambling
- React to racing events as they take place
- Gamble on your mobile without the need to download any software
Horse Race Betting via a Mobile App
Here at Compare.bet, we’re of the opinion that most betting experiences are enhanced by dedicated mobile apps. The best betting sites with horse racing will develop their own app, which players can download onto their mobile device, provided they’re using a compatible and fairly modern operating system.
While both browser and app betting carry the same perks of mobility, loading times tend to be faster on the latter. This is because app data is stored locally on the device, as opposed to remote data servers. And since mobile and in-play betting go hand-in-hand, this could be vital when punters are looking to place quick bets or cash out their wager.
Mobile betting apps also offer users better functionality. Products are constantly updated and improved, reflecting the real-time wishes of current users. Part of this functionality includes an element of personalization, with sportsbooks able to be modified according to the tastes and preferences of the account holder. For example, if you’re only interested in the biggest events in horse racing and baseball, many apps allow you to tailor your homepage to only display events in these sports.
Last but not least, app notifications will alert bettors to any available bonuses and promotions as they go live. This means you can get more value for money from your betting account, capitalizing on as many offers as you like.
If you’re interested in betting through your betting site’s app, head to the Google Play Store if you’re an Android user, and Apple’s App Store if you’re on iOS.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to bet on horse races online?
Yes, if you’re betting at a licensed US betting site. Each state has its own racing commission that sets laws on betting on horse racing events, regulating both racetrack betting and online horse racing sites to ensure compliance with that state’s horse racing betting laws. These commissions also ensure that betting sites are secure, protecting bettor’s personal and financial information. Offshore gambling sites don’t offer the same security guarantee as they aren’t regulated by a governing body.
Can I claim a bonus at horse racing betting sites?
Yes. The top horse racing betting sites have a range of bonuses and promotions to reward punters. While matched deposit bonuses and free bets are the most common welcome bonus, some sites have VIP programs and wager reward schemes through which customers are rewarded for wagering on the site. These rewards vary from cashback schemes to invitation-only special events.
What is the legal age for betting on horse races?
This depends on the state you’re betting in. While some states permit betting on horse racing from 18, others stipulate that residents must be over 21 to gamble.
Can I stream horse racing events on horse racing betting sites?
Yes. You can watch high definition live streams of hundreds of races around the world, as the action is underway. Most sites even allow customers to stream these events on their mobile. You’ll need to create, and verify, your online horse betting site account to view these live streams, and there may be a limit to how many videos you can stream in a specified time.
Do online horse betting sites offer markets on international horse racing events?
Sure. Whether you want to bet on Kentucky Derby horse races, the Grand National or the Melbourne Cup, there are plenty of international horse racing betting markets at the top betting sites.
What is the best online betting site for horse racing?
Which is the best online betting site for horse racing will come down to personal preference, since gamblers have different sets of priorities. While some might look for the widest market coverage, others will prefer a sportsbook with live streaming capabilities. Browse through our recommendations of the top horse racing sites and find the one that suits you best.
What are the different types of horse races?
The most popular types of horse races are flat racing, steeplechase or jump racing, harness racing, and endurance racing.
Which betting site has the best odds for horse racing?
All of our recommended horse racing sites offer competitive odds, but these are largely determined by the number of wagers placed on any particular event. In any case, you’ll want to select a sportsbook that offers odds-related perks such as odds boosts and best odds guaranteed to receive the very best odds.
Can I claim bonuses on horse racing betting sites?
Of course! Bonuses are one of our readers’ top priorities when it comes to selecting a horse racing betting site. Given the popularity of the sport and its widespread appeal, horse racing is often targeted with multiple bonus opportunities.