Learn what is horse race betting all about. Discover how to bet on a horse race using different types of horse racing bets.

How To Bet On Horse Racing

Do you enjoy horse racing and would like to make it more exciting by betting on it? It’s great that you are passionate about a sport. Betting on horse racing will definitely make it more memorable and fun. However, you could find it challenging to begin. Betting on horse racing is an entirely new activity compared to following horse racing as a sport.

There are many new terms, types of bets, and helpful information \that you should know to excel at betting. Another challenge is that the necessary information is scattered all over the web. That’s precisely why I decided to bring everything together and create an ultimate mini-guide about how to bet on horse racing.

If you are making your first steps into the world of betting on horse racing, you’ll find the following information quite helpful.

What is horse racing betting? 

Horse racing betting refers to placing a wager on all kinds of outcomes that can take place in a horse race. Given that there are so many factors in play, horse racing betting is very engaging and can cause many exciting but also potentially disappointing moments. While this activity commonly occurs at many tracks today, horse racing started small.

Over the years, horse racing betting broke out of its traditional model where punters could only bet through a bookmaker. Thanks to online technologies, punters can now use horse racing betting websites. This makes betting more accessible, convenient, and beginner-friendly.

Here is an example from MansionBet showing what modern online horse racing betting sites look like.

mansionbet horce racing betting

How it works 

Horse racing betting operates in a similar way to betting in other sports. Once you figure out the best payment method to use and how to deposit and withdraw the money, you are ready for the next step. You have the odds, which dictate the multiplier of your wager if you win. You then place your bet, wait for the outcome, collect the winnings or lick your wounds and go back at it. 

You can choose to bet relying entirely on pure luck. For instance, you can bet on a jockey you find interesting, a horse name that you like, or your lucky number. Let’s say you wish to place a straight bet (more about different types of bets later on). 

mansionbet horce racing bet slip

You can place a win, place, or show bet type. A win means that you think your horse will win, place means that it will finish first or second, and show means that it will take first, second, or third place. Once the race is over, you will receive a payout if you guessed correctly. The winning sum will depend on the odds and if you managed to guess the exact outcome.

How to place bets 

Placing bets on horse races is quite straightforward. It just needs a little bit of effort. First, you need to find a reliable and trustworthy online betting site. We’ll return to this topic later. The most important thing to do is to ensure that the site is available in your region and that it accepts bets from punters in your area. 

Once you’ve got a website selected, you need to create an account and confirm it by clicking the link sent to your inbox. However, before you do that, you should do some shopping around. The value of sports betting bonuses is not the same across all sites. Choose one that provides the most value to you and your preferred style of betting.

Here is a login screen example from 888sport showcasing how you can easily log in using only your BankID.

888sport login page

Now that you’ve verified your account on your preferred site, you can log in and proceed to place a bet. Select the specific horse racing event, choose what you wish to bet on, place your bet, take a sip of your favorite drink, and wait for the race to start. 

This is exactly why online betting sites are perfect for beginners. They make betting on horse racing as simple as clicking a few times with your mouse. Some sites even have a dedicated mobile app so that you can participate more conveniently, even on the go.

Different types of horse racing bets and how they work 

Horse racing betting isn’t popular just because it is fun. It’s also popular because it offers many different types of bets so that punters can always play a new game against other odds. Let’s start with the basics.

The three most common types of bets on horse racing are:

  • To win;
  • To place; and
  • To show.

You’ll rarely hear savvy punters saying “to win”. Instead, they’ll say straight bet. This means to place a bet on one horse. If your selected horse ends a race as a winner, you win.

To place means that you are betting on a horse to finish 1st or 2nd. If that horse finishes 3rd, you lose. If you place a “to show” bet, it means that you’ll win regardless of the horse finishing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. 

Since a “to win” bet is the one with the lowest chances of making the right call, it comes with the highest odds compared to the other two. “To show” offers the lowest payoffs out of the three. 

The situation may change depending on the size of the field. For instance, in the UK, with seven or fewer runners, the “to show” bet is only a winner if the selected horse ends up 1st or 2nd. 

The general rule goes like this — if there are eight or more runners, “to show” is a winning bet if a horse ends up either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. In a case where there are seven or fewer runners, only the first two finishers are winning bets.

Across the board

Across the board is an attractive bet for beginners because it enables you to combine the previous three bets in one. You basically bet on a horse to win, to place, and to show. The payout sees it as three different bets — if the horse wins, you win the money from all three bets. If it finishes second, you cash in on “to place” and “to show” bets. But if it finishes third, you win only the “to show” bet.

Exotic bets

Next, we have exotic bets, which basically offer a bet that requires multiple combinations. What’s interesting about exotic bets in horse racing is that you can create combinations guessing the outcome of more than just one race. Below are the most common exotic bets in horse racing.

A punter needs to guess the two horses who will finish the race in the 1st and 2nd position to win an exact bet. You also need to predict the exact order of finish. Punters love this because the odds are quite high, meaning that the cash out is high as well. 

An alternative to exotic betting is the exacta box. This is a type of bet in which punters bet on different combinations selected by the betting site. For instance, if you bet on exacta box using 1,3,5 horses, you will win if any two of these horses end up in 1st and 2nd position. The order doesn’t matter here as long as horses 1, 3, or 5 finish 1st and 2nd. 

Trifecta is even harder to win than exacta. It is a bet in which you must guess the three horses to finish the race in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd position. And, yes, you must select the exact order of finish too. 

An alternative for trifecta is the trifecta box. The situation here is similar to the one with the exacta box bets. However, now, we have three horses. Punters bet on combinations using a given number of horses. However, you don’t have to guess the exact order of finish. Your ticket will produce a win if the horses you bet on end up in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd position. Finishing order doesn’t play any role here. 

Pick 4 or 6, or any other number, is a type of multi-race wager. The number stands for how many races you are betting on. Basically, you bet on several horse races, selecting the winners in each one. Pick 6 is most commonly seen on US betting sites, while Pick 4 is more prevalent in the UK and Europe. 

Finally, you should know about the daily double. This is a type of bet that enables you to guess the winners of two consecutive races. The odds in these bets are very high, promising a high cash out. 

There are numerous other terms that are quite specific for horse betting lingo. Knowing a few of them will help you to level the playing field. Now that you grasp the basics about different types of horse racing bets, you are ready to learn about some tools that can help you to become a better punter.

Tools that help your betting efforts 

When you are starting out as a punter with a taste for horse races, you can learn from a variety of sources. There are also several tools that you can use to step up your efforts and increase your chances of placing a winning bet. Here are some ideas to inspire you as you step up your game.

Websites with relevant statistics 

Statistics are the bread and butter of betting in any sport. They can give you an edge and help you to earn more cash. 

We suggest that you focus on websites that publish the most recent horse racing data. This data should be regularly updated so that you can make accurate decisions. Horse racing data should include all sorts of information, ranging from trainer and jockey form, to horse performance and other relevant stats.

Handicapping lists 

Handicapping lists are also essential to watch. These lists are, in fact, ratings. They are released every week. The ratings in the handicapping lists stand for the horses’ performances on the racecourse. Handicappers allocate horses different weights to carry and thus give them equal chances of winning. Generally speaking, high ratings indicate that a horse is a good prospect.

Reliable betting site 

Finding a reliable betting site is important. It means that your data will be kept safe, and you will receive payouts with no hassle. Fortunately, you can now read reviews and comparison charts of many online betting sites to find the one that suits your needs.

Daily racing form 

The Daily Racing Form is a newspaper that features all of the relevant statistics for punters to rely on. This newspaper publishes relevant data about every horse, including past performances, wins, and close calls.

Essential horse betting factors 

At the very end of this guide, we are sharing about essential horse betting factors to help you to place even more informed bets.

Speed numbers 

Speed numbers are the first thing to pay attention to, especially if you are interested in sprints. A complex formula is employed to calculate numbers for every horse, taking into account horses’ finishing times, run-up distances, rail distances, and track conditions. The higher the speed, the faster the horse is.

Gate position 

Gate position plays a role in racing too. A horse too close to the fence can be pinned down, or a jockey may not be able to see around to assess the situation accurately. Generally speaking, gate positions 2 to 7 are considered the best.


Understanding odds for horse betting is easy. You always need to look at a particular horse with the existing context in mind. How is it’s past performance, who is the jockey, the trainer? Which gate position is it assigned? The higher the odds, the lower the chances to win the wager. However, if you win, the payout will be significant.

horse betting odds example

Here are two examples from MansionBet, one showcasing a table featuring horses’ odds for the current race, including the previous odds. The other example showcases different types of odds.

ttypes of odds

Form of the jockey

The form of a jockey is key. It’s advisable to dig into the past performance of every jockey on the racecourse. It’s easy to spot talent — a good jockey finishes among the top three quite frequently, no matter the horse. You should also take into consideration the history of a jockey with the specific horse that they are paired with.

Form of the trainer 

Last but not least, we suggest researching the form of the trainer. After all, the trainer is the person that spends the most time with the horse. An excellent trainer form indicates that the horse will be in good form too, meaning that there is a chance it will finish in one of the top three positions.


Now you know more than just the basics about horse racing betting. While it is similar to betting on other sports, there are a number of factors that make betting on horse races unique. Given that you are just starting out, you should start with small bets to learn the systems and see how different bet types work. Keep in mind that employing different tools and understanding horse betting factors can help you to increase your chances of winning. Good luck!