No other major sport in the world is intrinsically tied to the world of gambling quite like horse racing. Gambling and sportsbooks are of course a big feature of many other sports, but in horse racing it is a central component.

Incredibly, it is estimated that the global revenue generated by horse racing betting is around $116 billion! That is more than the GDP of the Ukraine!

If you are new to the world of horse racing, this guide will provide everything you need to know to get started.


Understanding the odds and markets

Before going ahead and placing a load of bets, it’s important to understand what the odds mean and the various markets that are available.


Odds will give you an idea of the horse’s chances of winning a race. A horse with short odds is viewed by the bookies and the experts as being a stronger contender than a horse with longer odds. A horse priced odds-on is considered a very strong favorite.

For example, Horse A is priced at 2/1 (3.00 in the decimal system, +200 in the Moneyline system) to win the race. If you place $10 on Horse A to win and he does, you will get a return of $30: your winnings of $20 + $10 stake.

In another, Horse B is priced at 150/1 to win the race. If you place $10 on Horse B and he wins, you will receive $1510 ($1500 in winnings + $10 stake). Now, Horse B could earn you more money, but his chances of actually winning the race are deemed extremely low.

It is important to know that odds in horse racing are prone to change, sometimes right up until the last moment before the race. This is particularly the case in major races like the Kentucky Derby, where there is a huge influx of money being placed on the race.

It means the horses priced as Kentucky Derby favorites days and weeks before the race might not be the same by the time the race actually takes place. The challenge is to land the best odds you can before the market fluctuates against you. You can easily check the best odds on the Kentucky Derby race here:

On the flip side, you could get great odds and suddenly a large wager is placed on the same horse that drives the odds down. It can therefore be very difficult to accurately predict which way the odds might change, which is part of the fun!


Markets are the different ways bookies will allow you to bet on a horse race. These are the most common betting markets in horse racing for beginners to focus on. There are other, more complex, markets but these are the best to start with.

Fixed Odds: This market could also be called ‘Win Bet’ or ‘Moneyline’ and is the most basic of all horse racing bets. By making a fixed odds bet, you are placing money on a horse to win the race. Simple as that.

Each Way Bets: This will see you place a bet on a horse to finish within the top places. How many places the bookie offers will depend on how big the race is. For example, a major race like the Kentucky Derby that runs with 20 horses, the bookie will typically offer Each-Way for the first five or six places. If you want to make an Each-Way Bet, you will select a horse for a Fixed Odds bet and also select the option for Each-Way, which will offer odds on a fractional basis, usually one-fifth of the usual odds. This also doubles your stake: one wager on the Fixed Odds bet, another on the Each-Way Bet.

Therefore, if your horse wins, you will win the Fixed Odds bet and the Each Way bet. However, if your horse only finishes in the Each-Way places, you will lose the Fixed Odds bet but win the value of the Each-Way bet. This is a great way to factor in horses with longer odds who might not win but could still finish near the top of a race.

Forecast Bets: This is when you bet on not only the winner but the horse to place second, too. This is a great way to significantly boost your odds for a race, although predicting the top two places can be difficult.

Reverse Forecast Bets: Similar to Forecast Bets, but instead of betting on the exact places, you bet on two horses to finish in either first or second. As long as one of the horses wins and the other is the runner-up, it doesn’t matter in which order – as long as they place in the top two.

Tricast Bets: One step beyond the Forecast Bet. Now you are placing a bet on the top three horses to finish in an exact order. Reverse Tricast Bets, therefore, mean you bet on three horses to finish in any order in the top three.

Accumulators: Not content with limiting each bet to one race, you can create an accumulator. This means you are placing bets on two or more races and grouping these together in one bet.

In practical terms, there are four races. You place a Fixed Odds bet on one horse in all four races. If all four horses win their races, then your accumulator wins. However, if even one horse lets you down, your accumulator loses. This is a great way to boost your betting odds if you choose to back a series of heavy favourites.

Other Bets

Horse racing is full of different betting markets, many with weird and wonderful names: Trixie, Yankee, Lucky 15, Canadian, Heinz, Goliath, Union Jack, and the list goes on.

But for beginners, start with the markets laid out above and you can expand into other areas once you are more familiar with the basics. And always remember to gamble responsibly!

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