Horse Racing Betting And Odds – A Short Guide For Beginners


When you’re new to the horse racing scene, you may not know the specific bets you can place or what any of the odds mean. Without that information, you’re not going to be placing many winning bets. Fortunately for you, we’ve got a quick rundown of everything you should know when placing bets.

Once you’ve read the below information and have some understanding of how horse racing betting works, you should check out sites like that offer gambling services and give odds on upcoming high-profile races.


Let’s start with the odds – you’ll need to understand those if you want any chance at placing bets and having them pay off. Like with any sport or casino game, the odds are your horse’s chances of winning. When odds are short, the horse is favored and so you’ll get less for gambling on them. This is because the odds are set by bookmakers who need to make sure they profit from the outcome of most races.

Odds are typically expressed as fractions, for example, 2/1 odds are much more desirable than 4/1. So, what do these fractions mean? 4/1 odds mean that you get 4 units in return for every 1 unit that you bet (plus the 1 unit that you initially bet). Replace the word unit with whatever your wager is. If that was a $10 bet and it pays off, you’d get $40 and then the initial $10 you put forward.

When creating odds, bookmakers will factor in a horse’s track record, weight and age details, and how many bettors are betting on a horse. If there is a favorite horse that’s attracting a lot of betting attention, the bookmakers will skew the odds so that they’re always making money, even if that’s not properly indicative of the actual odds of winning.

Starting Prices

When you place your bet, you’ll have a choice of the current odds or the starting price. What are they? The starting price will be the odds that are attached to the horses at the very start of the race. This means you can place a bet and, when the race starts, the odds will have changed and your wager will use those odds. Sometimes the odds will become shorter, which is bad, but other times the odds will lengthen and so you’ll get a great deal for your bet. 

Knowing when to pick starting prices is difficult but can be a great way to get a solid bet for cheaper. If the horse is a local or even national celebrity, you can typically predict that their odds will shorten on the day of the race and the last-minute betting crowd pours in.

The going often changes the odds. The going is simply another term for the environment, particularly the weather, so keeping track of the weather can be useful for anticipating odds changes on the day of the race. If it’s raining heavily and the ground is muddy, certain mud-friendly horses are going to have their odds shortened, so take the current odds price instead of risking it. Conversely, horses not used to mud will have their odds lengthened.

Horse Details

The details of the horses that are racing are very important. With other sports, you typically have to track the health and rest of human players who are covered by media and can communicate for themselves. With horse racing, they are animals that aren’t so easily figured out.

The age and weight of the horses are considered the most pertinent details that every bettor should be aware of when placing a bet. Next to the names of the horses and their rides, you should see a sequence of hyphenated numbers. From left to right, the first of these is their age and then the second two numbers are the horse weights in stones and pounds. The weight information is more important for handicapped races than flat ones, which also offer short odds on the horses likely to win anyway.

You can and should also check out the recent form of the horse. These are sequences of numbers and letters that let you know the horse’s finishing position in previous races. They are measured from one to nine so, if a horse didn’t finish within the top nine races, it is typically not logged. The letters U, A, and P mean that the rider was unseated, the rider pulled up their horse, or the horse fell, respectively.

How To Bet

Placing your bet is easier when you gamble online but the physical gambling scene for horse racing is still alive and well. When you use the Internet, you just need to create an account and transfer funds, which you can then use to place wagers and try to win more money. You’ll have to choose your preferred horse and the nature of your bet, which we’ve detailed more in the next section below.

Types Of Bets

Wagers placed on horse races can be generally separated into two camps – straight wagers and exotic wagers. Since you’re new to the tracks, we’d recommend you place straight wagers for now until you understand how everything works, and maybe one day you’ll be confident enough to try them out. Straight bets are also cheaper and carry less risk. With that said, we’ve detailed exotic wagers below too so you can read a little about them.

Here are some of the most possible straight wagers:

  • Win – A bet on one horse that will come in first place.
  • Place – A bet on one horse that will come in first or second.
  • Show – A bet on one horse that will come in first, second, or third.
  • Across The Board – Betting on a horse to win, place, and show at the end of the race. This is the three above bets wrapped into one. If the horse is first, you win all three, while you still win one of the bets if the horse comes in third.
  • Win/Place or Place/Show – Combination bets that bet the horse will win or place, or place or show.

Exotic wagers are more complex because you can bet on multiple horses in one wager. This makes them more difficult to win but also maximizes the profit you’d get if they did pay off. Those experienced with betting and horses, in general, are best at figuring out how to profit from these bets.

Here are some exotic bets, check them out:

  • Exacta – This is where you bet on two horses to come first and second in a specific order, so you need to accurately predict not just the two top horses but which of those horses will outperform the other.
  • Quinella – This is where you bet on two horses to come first and second in any order, so you don’t need to predict where each horse will finish.
  • Trifecta – This is where you bet on three horses to become first, second, and third. Like an exacta, you need to also predict the exact order of which horses are first, second, and third. Some variations are more lenient, allowing you to box this bet so your chosen horses can be in any order.
  • Superfecta – This is where you bet on four horses that will finish first, second, third, and fourth and predict the exact order they will do so. They can also be boxed so you don’t need to predict the order but this will cost more and cut into potential profit.