Find where to bet in your state! See Sportsbooks
Be Social on Youtube Bet Now

Sports Betting 101 - How to Bet on Horse Racing


The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Vegas Insider makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of information given or the outcome of any game or event.

How To Bet on Horse Racing

Win, Place and Show Horse Racing Bets

Win- The horse you choose must finish in first place.

Place- The horse you choose must finish in first or second place.

Show - The horse you choose must finish in first, second or third place.

If you bet on a horse to win, place and show, it's often called an "Across the Board" wager. If the horse finishes first, then you will be paid on the win, place and show wager. If the horse finishes in second, you will be paid on only the place and show wager. And if the horse comes in third, then a show wager is paid out. If the horse does not come in the top-three, then none of the bets will be paid.

Best Horse Racing Betting Sites

Review Racebook Welcome Offer Bet Now
TVG Racebook Review
Visit | Review
TVG Risk-Free Bet up to $300

T & C’s Apply, 18/21+
AmWager Racebook Review
Visit | Review
AmWager $250 Deposit Match

T & C’s Apply, 18/21+
TwinSpires Racebook Review
Visit | Review
TwinSpires $200 Risk Free Bet
Promo Code: VIRACING
T & C’s Apply, 18/21+

Updated on :

Horse Racing Win Odds

How to read the odds.

Ex. Bet $2.00 on a horse at 1/10 to win $2.20

Ex. Bet $2.00 on a horse at 8/5 to win $5.20

Ex. Bet $2.00 on a horse at 20/1 to win $42.00

Horse Racing Odds Chart

Odds (Payoff)

  • 1-10 ($2.20)
  • 1-5 ($2.40)
  • 2-5 ($2.80)
  • 1-2 ($3.00)
  • 3-5 ($3.20)
  • 4-5 ($3.60)
  • 1-1 ($4.00)
  • 6-5 ($4.40)
  • 7-5 ($4.80)
  • 3-2 ($5.00)
  • 8-5 ($5.20)
  • 9-5 ($5.60)
  • 2-1 ($6.00)
  • 5-2 ($7.00)
  • 3-1 ($8.00)
  • 7-2 ($9.00)
  • 4-1 ($10.00)
  • 9-2 ($11.00)
  • 5-1 ($12.00)
  • 6-1 ($14.00)
  • 7-1 ($16.00)
  • 8-1 ($18.00)
  • 9-1 ($20.00)
  • 10-1 ($22.00)
  • 12-1 ($26.00)
  • 15-1 ($32.00)
  • 20-1 ($42.00)
  • 50-1 ($102.00)
  • 60-1 ($122.00)
  • 99-1 ($200.00)

How to read a Track Surface

Dirt Tracks

  • SLOW: Footing that is between sloppy and heavy.
  • SLOPPY: Wet on surface with firm bottom.
  • GOOD: Footing that is between fast and muddy.
  • FAST: Footing that is between fast and even.
  • HEAVY: Slower than, muddy.
  • MUDDY: Soaked with water.
  • WET-FAST: Sloppy on top but firm underneath.

Turf Tracks

  • FIRM: Dry turf.
  • GOOD: Firm turf with some moisture.
  • YIELDING: Very wet that is deep.
  • SOFT: Plenty of moisture and substantial give.
  • HEAVY: Deep and often waterlogged.

Synthetic Tracks

A synthetic surface is mostly considered fast regardless of weather condition.

Types of Races

Horse racing defines races into certain categories. The more quality of horses running in a specific race will determine the status of the race. Here are the basic races for horse racing.

  • Maiden: This is a race that is exclusive for horses that have never won a race. A term often used "broken its maiden" is given to a horse when they win.
  • Claiming: This is a race that is often broken into levels by price. Owners who enter horses in these races understand that their horse can be claimed by another stable.
  • Allowance: This is a race that is very similar to claiming races except the horses cannot be claimed or sold to another stable. These races normally have set criteria for each horse involved.
  • Handicap: This is a race that is designed to put equal horses against one another based on their records, weights, etc.
  • Stakes: This is a race that puts the highest class of horses against one another. Handicap and stakes races offer the largest purses of all the various types of races.

FAQ -How To Bet On Horse Racing

In this section, we’ll answer common questions from players regarding how to bet on horse racing.

Is betting on horse racing legal?

Yes. In fact, betting on horse racing is a historic form of gambling in a vast amount of states in the US. Its legal status predates modern sports betting legislation in most of the country. In many cities and towns across America, horse betting is almost a cultural institution.

There’s also a great number of racetracks around the nation, built during the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of these tracks have been in continuous usage for well over a century. It’s an unusual exception to America’s rather strict betting laws.

Where can you bet on horses in the US?

You can bet on horse races in the vast majority of the US. Over 41 states have legal horse race betting markets available. Many of these states feature online and pari-mutuel horse race wagering. Other states require gamblers to visit the local track or off-track betting parlors.

It’s easier to list states where horse race betting isn’t legal than the other way around. States where horse betting is against the law include Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas, and Utah.

What is the best bet for horse racing?

That’s subjective. It depends on the specific player in question, their preferences and gambling style, among other factors. Generally speaking, it’s smart for inexperienced gamblers to avoid the more exotic wagers or parlays. Straight win, place, or show bets are ideal for newcomers.

What happens if my horse doesn’t start the race?

That’s up to each betting operator, as defined in their rules. However, in most cases, it depends on the horse.

If the horse is withdrawn before the race begins, it’s deemed a “non-runner,” and your stake is returned. However, if the horse makes it to the starters but refuses to run, you would then lose your entire stake.

Can I bet on a race after it already started?

Yes, you can. Betting on unsettled, ongoing horse racing events is called live betting. This form of wagering is wildly popular in racetracks and online betting sites across the country. Please note that live betting odds can shift as rapidly as the race unfolds.

It’s also worth noting that not all states with legal horse betting allow for live betting. In some states, only pre-match pari-mutuel wagering is allowed.