Horse Race Betting For Beginners Guide 2020

Horse race betting dates back to shortly after humans climbed on the backs of these majestic creatures! The activity has grown in popularity and prestige over the centuries to what has become today. In this, our horse race betting for beginners’ guide 2020, you will learn the basics to betting on this activity often termed the sport of kings!

Many beginners are intimidated at first when exploring the world of horse race betting. The aim of this article is to equip you with the entry-level knowledge to make your trip to the races a pleasurable experience rather than a daunting one!

RaceBet 336

Since most of you reading this article are beginners, we need to stress the importance of using safe betting practices, particularly when you first venture out into this arena.

The primary and foundational rule is to set a betting budget for yourself. Make sure that these are funds that you can afford to lose without putting yourself under financial stress. The second rule, which is just as important as the first, is to then stick to your budget. Don’t be tempted into the trap of just one more bet! Not only is this a safe thing to do, but it is the sensible and responsible thing to do.

This will take the stress out of your gambling and enhance the enjoyment and excitement level you will experience.

Horse Race Betting Explained

To understand how horse race betting works, you will have to learn a few horse race betting terms. Many of these are unique to the horse race betting industry. Many of these terms are related to the various horse race betting types, or types of wagers you can place on a race.

The challenge with horse race betting terms is that they are not the same everywhere you go. There are some differences, particularly between the USA and Europe, so make sure you understand the terms used in your location.

In horse race betting there are two separate categories of wagers you can make. These are straight wagers and exotic wagers. Each of the categories, in turn, has different types of bets you can make.

From a broad perspective, straight wagers are bets you place on only one horse, while exotic wagers allow you to place a bet on the finishing order of multiple horses in one race, or perms across multiple races.

Straight wagers are the much simpler and cheaper category of bets. If you are a beginner to horse race betting, this is the type of wager we recommend you start out with. Exotic bets are more complicated, requiring more knowledge of the industry, and the bets are more expensive.

Straight Wagers

In this category, a bet is placed on a single horse in a single race. So let’s take a look at the types of bets you can place in this category:

Win Bet

This is the simplest bet, and you are betting that your horse will win the race.

Place Bet

With this bet, you are betting that your horse will finish in the first two. ( *NB – note than in some countries, such as South Africa, this term is used more broadly and incorporates the show bet – that means a place is any finish in the top 3 or 4, dependant on field size)

Show Bet

With this wager, your bet will payout if your horse finishes first, second or third.

Across The Board Bet

With this type of wager, you are betting on a win, place and show for your horse. It is also referred to as a combo straight wager.

Win/Place Wager

This is also a type of combo bet. If your horse wins, your payout will be for the win, and the place, but if your horse only manages second, your payout will only be for the place bet.

Place/Show Wager

Another combo bet. This means you are betting your horse will finish second or third. If the horse finishes second, you collect both payouts, but if it finishes third, you only collect the show payout.

Exotic Wagers

This betting category allows you to make wagers on multiple horses and in some cases across multiple races, all in a single bet. Your odds of winning these types of bets are much more difficult and should only be attempted if you are a seasoned horse betting pundit! Due to their complexity, these bets are also more expensive.

Exacta Bets

This is a bet where you are betting on two horses. One to win and one to come second. The bet will only pay out if your horses come in with the exact order of the bet. You can also box your exacta bet which will give you a payout even if the no matter the order the horses finish in. This in effect is an exacta, quinella combo bet, but they are quite expensive bets to make.

Quinella Bets

With this bet, you bet on two horses for first and second place, but they can finish in any order.

Trifecta Bets

With this wager, you are betting your three-horse selection to finish in the exact order of first, second and third. Trifecta bets can also be boxed to allow a win if the horses finish in any order, but these bets are significantly more expensive.

Superfecta (or Quartet) Bets

In this type of bet, your select four horses and bet that they will finish in the exact order of first, second, third and fourth that you select.

Key Bet

Key bets are possible on trifecta or superfecta bets. This allows you to select one horse to win, and box the remaining horses to finish in any order. In some countries this is termed a “floating banker”.

How to Win at Horse Race Betting

As with any betting activity, the thrill is in the win! So are there any secrets on how to win at horse race betting? As a beginner who doesn’t know too much about the industry, the stables, trainers, jockeys, winning horse bloodlines, and so on, it is difficult to win, unless you just get lucky.

To win consistently in this game, it helps to be a fan and watch the progress of horses, trainers and jockeys over some time to gain insight and understanding. This knowledge will give you the tools to consistently make calculated bets that are not just rooted in luck, but in the knowledge, you have about all the various components in the sport.

In other types of sports betting, punters follow their teams, their wins and losses and the performance of individual players in the team. Essentially, horse race betting is no different. You need to follow the race participants, know who the favourites are, and how they have performed over their last few races.

Before venturing out to the track, you will need to do your research on the races and horses you intend to place a wager on.

Some of the information you will need to know to make an informed bet would be the following.

  • What are the odds on the horse you like? As with any bet, the odds should be greater than the probability of the sought result. (ie- if you think a horse should be 2/1 and you are getting 5/1 – that is a great proposition if your judgement overall is good)
  • How has the horse performed in its last few outings?
  • Who is the trainer and what is their reputation?
  • Which jockey will be riding the horse and how has he performed this season?

If you intend to make horse race betting a regular activity, you will need to do some research and follow the news from the racing fraternity if you want to increase your chances of coming away with a win.

If you are a casual participant and just want to have an afternoon outing, try to take a friend along who has some insight into the contestants.

Once you get more into the horse race betting scene, you will soon notice there are other nuances of the event that can affect the outcome of the race. As you study these variables, they will play a significant role in where you place your bet and which type of bet.

Some of these factors you can include the following.

  • Is the track turf or dirt? Some horses do better on one kind of track or another. The horse you want to wager on may have a great record on turf, but if he is running on dirt in the current event, it may change the way you want to bet.
  • Starting gate placement. The starting places of the horses are drawn and publicised before the race. The various starting positions have advantages and disadvantages. Certain horses also have preferences of where they like to start a race, and may not do as well in a different position.
  • Does the horse require the use of blinkers? Blinkers are a device that is put over the horse’s eyes to keep him looking forward and prevent sideline activities from distracting the horse. Some horses do well when wearing blinkers, but with others, it may put them off their game.
  • Race distance. Some owners may enter their horses in races of varying distances to maximize earnings and to build the horse’s experience. From a betting strategy, however, some horses do better at races within a certain distance, so if the race is outside the comfort zone of the horse, it may affect the way you place your bet. A great way of identifying a possible “betting coup” is to spot a horse that has blatantly been campaigning over the incorrect type of distance and is now returning to its optimal trip.
  • Horses for Courses or Jockeys. Believe it or not, some horses perform better at a different course, even though it’s the same surface. This could be due to a number of factors including tightness of the bend, crowd size or quickness of the track. Even more astonishing, some horses perform significantly better for a specific jockey.
  • “Gin Strike”. This term refers to a horse that has run previously without alumites (ie- unshod) but now has had them put on. Many horses perform significantly better with the addition of “shoes”.

Types of Horse Races You Can Bet On

No doubt you will be aware of some of the most popular horse racing events around the world! Some of these races become not only a racing event but a social event, where people come out to show off the fancy cars, the latest fashions, drink champagne and eat caviar!

The typical races that happen at the local track on a Saturday afternoon are mostly shorter sprint races. There are however long-distance races that last a few days, and the exciting steeplechase events such as the Grand National that takes place near Liverpool in England.

Other famous races around the world attract a lot of attention, and even if you are not a regular player at the tracks, you may want to place a wager at one of these famous races. Of course, you may not have the means to travel from continent to continent to attend these racing events, but thanks to the internet, that doesn’t prevent you from placing a bet!

Horse race betting online brings you the ability to place a wager on horse races, around the world, from your living room!

You are no longer limited to races that occur in your geographical location and you don’t even have to go down to the track to place your bet! Although, the pomp and ceremony of the race and the atmosphere at the track is often what attracts people to the event in the first place!

Some of the other more well-known international races include the following.

  • The Kentucky Derby. Run in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, this is one of the most well-known horse races in the world and probably the biggest in the USA!
  • The Epsom Derby. This race takes place in Surrey, England, and carries one of the biggest prize purses in Britain.
  • The Dubai World Cup. This race runs in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and is considered one of the most prestigious races on the planet.
  • Royal Ascot Gold Cup, held in Berkshire, England and is known for its history and prestige.
  • The Melbourne Cup brings the whole of Australia to a standstill and swells the betting pools to capacity.
  • The Durban July in South Africa is steeped in history and has many adoring fans.

A word of warning needs to be noted here. If horse race betting is not legal in your country, it would not be wise to try your luck with betting online. Many betting sites will also only allow participants from their own country or from certain regions and will require identification credentials to validate your location. Some sites will prevent you from signing up if they detect your computer IP address to be from a country they do not support.

There are however some international online gambling sites such as based in the UK, where you can find out information on many sports gambling options, including horse race betting.

List of Top Horse Race Betting Sites

T&C Apply.
T&C Apply.


This horse race betting for beginners guide will hopefully give you a start, should you be interested in getting your feet wet in this sector. The main things to remember are to be safe with your bets, don’t over commit yourself, and most of all, have some fun!