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Horse Race Betting

Horse race betting is very popular in North America, Europe, and Australia, so it should come as no surprise that most of the renowned online sports betting sites have been allowing bettors to wager on the outcomes of the most important events ever since online gambling sites became popular about a decade ago. In fact, online horse race betting has grown big enough to allow bookies to offer dedicated race books.

This is quite an achievement if you consider the fact that wagering on most major sports such as American football, hockey, baseball, basketball, mixed martial arts, and soccer is generally possible exclusively via multi-sport sports betting sites. As a result, finding a good horse racing-friendly sports book isn’t much of an issue regardless of the type of races you’d like to focus on. Whether you enjoy Thoroughbred racing, endurance racing, or quarter horse racing, there are many websites that are basically guaranteed to cover all the important racetracks and major events.

How Online Horse Race Betting Works

Online horse race betting isn’t all that different from wagering on other sports. As with any other betting discipline, your long term goal is to beat the odds compilers and win some money, with the added benefit of being able to feel more involved in the actual races. The specific odds will differ from site to site, which means that sometimes it might be a good idea to play on multiple race books at once in order to maximize your profits.

All the standard sports book rules apply to horse race bettors, which means that you’ll be able to take full advantage of all the available bonuses and promotions. However, this also means that you won’t get any special treatment when it comes to bet size restrictions and other limitations, which can get pretty severe if you decide to become a price-trading professional bettor.

All things considered, experienced punters shouldn’t have any problems with adjusting to the particularities of the horse race betting world, while new bettors should probably get some general sports betting advice before wagering any serious money.

Horse Racing Odds

Most online horse racing sites allow you to display the odds using all the popular units, but it’s still fairly important to understand how each of those units works. Fractional odds are used mainly in Europe: a bet with a 7/2 price means that you’ll be able to win $450 for every $100 you risk.

Decimal odds on the other hand are expressed by a number which tells you how much you can win in relation to your wager. For example, a bet with a 7.00 price has the potential to pay $700 for every $100 you put at stake.

Finally, American odds are generally expressed with an integer: a plus means that you’ll be able to win the amount listed for every $100 you bet, while a minus means that you’ll have to risk it in order to have a shot at winning $100. This means that a +600 bet allows you to win $600 for every $100 you decide to invest.

How Online Race Books Earn Money

Most sports books that offer real money horse race betting rely on over-round to generate their income. This means that they try to maximize the probability of turning profit regardless of the outcome of the race by offering asymmetrical odds that amount to more than 100% – usually in excess of 120%. As a result, even if the bettors decide to wager in correlation with the odds, the race book will still be able to generate some revenue.

It is important for every horse-race betting enthusiast to understand that the odds listed on any horse racing website have very little to do with the real odds for the specific race. In fact, concealing the true odds allows the race books to maximize their income. This means that ambitious bettors should always compare the odds on all the available websites, while veterans should probably consider undertaking their own handicapping effort.

Fairness and Security

Successful sports books and race books can differ when it comes to odds, betting limits, and the available sports and promotions, but there’s one thing they all have in common – they’re very serious about providing players with a fair and safe gambling environment. Each website is tested to prevent any leaks of sensitive personal or financial information. What’s more, money transactions are always secured using the latest encryption technologies like the 128-bit SSL, which means that funding your sports book account is almost as safe as sending cash to your bank or e-wallet site.

Unlike in the case of poker sites, the nature of sportsbooks doesn’t allow for any in-game cheating, which means that horse race bettors don’t have to worry about things like collusion or hacking. The downside to this security-oriented approach is the fact that all customers are required to verify their accounts before being allowed to cash out in order to prevent underage gambling or registering multiple times to dodge betting limits.

All things considered, most of the major race books run by industry giants should be considered safe. Sticking to renowned sites will help you avoid many headaches. If you opt to go with a small, relatively unknown sports book, you have to keep in mind that you might have to deal with delayed withdrawals, cancelled bonuses, or even downright scam attempts.

Horse Racing Bet Types

Every major sport comes with its own selection of established bet types and horse racing is no exception. Thankfully, the most common wagers are very simple to understand and offer plenty of betting possibilities, which makes horse racing an excellent entry-level discipline for new sports betting enthusiasts.

Straight Wagers

Straight wagers are the simplest bets, as they don’t allow you to bet on more than one horse. The common types of straight wagers are as follows:

Win – You’re betting that your horse will take the first place. This means that you won’t get to collect if your horse finishes second or third.

Place – In this case, you win if your horse comes in first or second. The payout will be lower than in the case of a Win bet, but your chances of cashing in increase substantially.

Show – This bet means that you receive a payout if your horse finishes first, second or third. Keep in mind that this payout will be significantly lower than in the case of a Win or Place bet.

Across the Board – Betting across the board is slightly more complicated, as this kind of wager is basically a combination of the aforementioned bet types. An across the board bet is considerably more expensive, but if your horse comes in first, you get to collect the Win, Place, and Show money. Second place on the other hand will net you the Place and Show prizes, while third place means that you get a Show payout.

Win/Place and Place/Show – Those bets are very similar to betting across the board in that they combine multiple straight wagers in a single package. The Win/Place bet allows you to receive the Win and Place money if your horse finishes first, and Place money if it comes in second. The Place/Show bet allows you to collect the Place and Show money if your horse finishes first or second, and Show money whenever your horse comes in third.

Exotic Wagers

Exotic wagers are significantly more complicated than straight bets, as they allow you to bet on multiple horses in a single wager. Consequently, the potential profits are substantially higher than in the case of simple bets, but the actual chances of collecting a payout decrease. Exotic wagers are considered to be best suited for experienced bettors who enjoy assuming a high-risk, high-reward approach.

Exacta – In this case, you wager on two horses to finish first and second in a specific order. This means that if you bet on horse #3 to come in first and horse #4 to come in second, you will not receive a payout if horse #4 finishes first, while horse #3 finishes second. Boxed Exacta bets don’t have this requirement, but cost twice as much.

Quinella – You’re betting on two horses to finish first and second in any order. Please note that a Quinella bet is different from a Boxed Exacta bet in that it’s significantly cheaper, which comes at the price of a lower payout.

Trifecta – With a Trifecta bet, you bet on three horses to come in first, second, and third in a specific order. This makes it very similar to an Exacta bet, so it should come as no surprise that most sites will allow you to box your Trifecta bets.

Superfecta – A Superfecta bet allows you to wager on four horses to finish first, second, third, and fourth in a specific order. Much like Exacta and Trifecta bets, Superfecta wagers can be boxed at an additional cost.

High and Low Stakes Horse Race Betting

As mentioned above, horse racing is no different from any other major sport available with online sports books when it comes to betting limits. The minimum size on your wager is $1 for straight bets on most websites. Exotic bets on the other hand will usually cost at least $5, but the potential payouts make them well worth the risk.

The maximum wagers tend to differ from site to site. You should expect to be allowed to wager at least $1,000 with straight bets and $2,000 with Exactas, Quinellas, Trifectas, and Superfectas, but please keep in mind that a few sports books might allow you to place crazy bets that significantly exceed those limits, particularly if you’re planning to wager on a race at one of the major tracks.

Finally, please note that many sites have a policy of lowering the maximum horse betting limits when dealing with professional bettors. Fortunately, this usually applies exclusively to price trading players, but if you’re worried about having your limits lowered you can always pick a sports book that doesn’t engage in such practices.

Horse Race Betting Sites

Given the popularity of online horse race betting, it’s not that hard to find a quality sports book that allows you to wager on all the important horse racing events. There’s no denying the fact that online race books aren’t created equal, so there’s no reason not to go for a site that offers excellent odds and lucrative bonuses in addition to reliable banking and the ability to bet on all the important races.

Below, you will find a short list of some of the best horse betting sites in the entire industry. Those sites have been carefully selected based on their welcome promotions, accessibility, customer support and additional features, such as live video streams or race replays.

1. TwinSpires

Dedicated race book

$100 Sign-Up Bonus

Free live video and horse race replays

Up-to-the-minute current live odds

TwinSpires Mobile features horse betting and live video streams

Accepts US-based players

2. Ladbrokes

Well known online sports book

High Maximum Wagers (£500,000)

Limits lowered for professional bettors

Doesn’t accept American players

£50 Free Bet for UK residents

$50 CAD Free Bet for Canadian players

3. William Hill

Reputable online sports book

High Maximum Wagers (up to £500,000)

100% Free Play up to $100 for Canadian punters

Doesn’t accept US-based players

No limit collars

4. GoHorseBetting

Dedicated online race book

Accepts American players

8% Daily Rebate

20% Free Play up to $100

Great Betting 101 section with amazing tutorials

Playing For Real Money

Online horse race betting may not make the legislators as angry as poker, casino games, or other forms of online gambling, but there’s no denying the fact that having to deal with strict gambling laws has the potential to complicate the life of any inexperienced bettor.

If you aren’t sure about your country’s regulations concerning this form of gambling, I’d advise against registering at a sports book until you’re entirely sure that you won’t be breaking any laws and that you won’t have any problems funding your account or receiving a payout.

Horse Race Betting by Region

Sports betting regulations tend to differ from region to region, which means that some bettors might have a rather limited access to quality horse race betting sites. In fact, some sports books and race books might even refuse to accept players from a number of countries, which is entirely understandable given the fact that most gambling laws focus on punishing illegal game operators instead of individual players.

United States

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made it illegal to transfer money from banking institutions to gambling sites. As a result, many quality, Europe-facing sites simply refuse to accept American players, which makes it somewhat difficult to find a reliable US-friendly race book. Even worse, each state has its own set of gambling regulations, which means that horse race betting might land you in jail in one state and be entirely legal in another. I’d advise every American player to check out a reliable legal resource and if still in doubt, consult a lawyer.


Despite the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, Australia is a good place for horse race betting enthusiasts. Generally speaking, the IGA focuses on targeting the providers of gambling services, which means that it is not an offense for Australian residents to use the internet in order to bet on the outcome of sporting events. Even better, online sports betting is entirely legal in Australia, which means that Australian bettors have many locally-regulated sports books to choose from.


After the introduction of the French Gambling Act in 2010, French gambling sites are required to obtain separate licenses to offer online sports betting and online horse race betting. This means that some sites might opt not to accept French bettors, but despite this problem France residents have plenty of quality race books to choose from.


Germany is yet another horse racing-friendly country, as the German Interstate Treaty on Gaming of 2008 banned all forms of gambling with the sole exception of horse race betting.


Horse race betting is banned in the state of Maharashtra under the Bombay Wager Act, but keep in mind that other regions have no clear sports betting-related regulations. Nevertheless, the Federal Information Technology Rules make it perfectly legal for the Indian Internet Service Providers to block any gambling websites.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is an extremely online horse race betting-friendly country. In fact, many quality sports books like Ladbrokes and William Hill are based in the UK. Consequently, if you’re living in the UK and you’d like to try online horse race betting, the only thing you should worry about is getting the best set of welcome promotions.

Depositing & Withdrawing

Virtually every online sports book or race book will allow you to deposit using a wide range of payment methods. The most popular options include credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards, which shouldn’t be all that surprising if you consider how fast they are. The most reliable credit card brands include Visa and MasterCard, while e-wallets like PayPal, Neteller, and Skrill are pretty much universally accepted by Europe-facing sites.

There are a few sports books that have no qualms about accepting bank wire transfer or MoneyGram/Western Union money orders, but keep in mind that the fees will be significantly higher and most sports books prefer their customers to use instant payment methods anyway.

Withdrawals are generally handled with a bank wire transfer or an e-wallet payment. However, there are sites that offer local cash outs via a check by courier or even debit card. What’s more, the sports books that support Western Union and MoneyGram deposits usually allow you to request a payout using this method, but keep in mind that this is usually available exclusively to players who made a Western Union/MoneyGram payment in the past.

Finally, please note that e-wallet banking options are unavailable for US-based bettors.

Bonuses and Promotions

Online sports books are notorious for offering the least generous promotions among all kinds of online gambling sites and, unfortunately, online horse race betting sites are no different in this regard. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that you should forget about grabbing the free cash. Quite the contrary, finding a good welcome promotion becomes all the more important, especially since clearing the bonuses is usually easier than in the case of online poker rooms or casino sites.

a) Free Play Offers

Virtually every quality sports book or race book has some kind of free play offer available, which generally allows you to receive some promotional money the first time you make a deposit with the site. These bonuses usually allow you to grab up to $200 and are a 25% or 30% match on your payment, but keep in mind that it’s possible to find better offers, such as $500 of free play with a 40% match.

b) Reduced Juice Promotions

Reduced juice offers are very hard to come by these days, but if you find one you shouldn’t hesitate to use it. Reduced juice means that the race book will allow you to place cheaper wagers due to smaller over-round. As a result, any reduced juice offer will generate considerable savings over a long period of time, particularly if you’re an active player.

There are a number of different types of bets that can be made in horse racing. Here’s a list of the more common types of horse racing bets:

Straight Bet Also know as a Single Bet or Win Bet. This is simply a bet on one horse to win the race. If your horse crosses the finish line first you’ll win at the given odds.
Place A bet on a horse to finish either first or second..
Show A bet on a horse to finish in one of the top three positions; first, second, or third.
Combination Bet A combination bet covers from two to four horse to win in a chosen order.
Pick 3 This bet requires you to pick the winning horses of three consecutive races. Some tracks have a rolling Pick 3 where you must pick three races in a row and it continues for the next three races.
Pick 6 This bet requires you to pick the winning horses of six consecutive races before the first race of the pick six. Tracks may place the pick six as the first, middle, or last six races. Some tracks have carry over pools for the pick six that can grow to sums in the millions.
Quinella Also known as a Reverse Forecast. This is a bet placed on two horses to finish first and second in either order.
Perfecta Also known as Exacta or Straight Forecast. This is a bet placed on two horses to finish in the exact order chosen.
Trifecta Also known as Tricast or Treble Forecast. This is a bet placed on three horses to finish in the exact order chosen.
Superfecta This is a bet placed on four horses to cross the finish line in the exact order chosen.
Daily Double A bet on the winning horses for the first and second races of the day.
Jackpot For this bet you must pick six winners in six races to share in a jackpot prize. The rules and prizes for this bet will vary depending on the racetrack.
Parlay Also know as Accumulator. This is a kind of ‘let-it-ride’ multiple bet. The bet is made by simultaneously making selections on two or more races with the intent of pressing the winnings of the first win on the bet of the following race selected, and so on. All of the selections must win in order for you to win the Parlay. If a race is a tie, postponed, or cancelled, then your bet in reduced by one selection.
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