Horse Betting 
Try the Thoroughbreds

Thoroughbred horse betting is a very exciting way to wager with your disposable income. Although the sport’s popularity has diminished in recent years since the proliferation of casino gambling, millions of fans still relish the horse races. 

If you’ve never done any horse betting before but want to know what all the excitement is about, here are some basics to help you understand why so many of us look forward to this exciting season.

Horse Classifications

{c}  Colt – A male under the age of 5 years

{f}   Filly – A female under the age of 5 years

{h}  Horse – A male 5 years or older

{m} Mare – A female 5 years or older

{g}  Gelding – A castrated male of any age

Racetrack Jargon for Horse Betting

Track – an oval shaped pathway prepped for racing horses. Both dirt and  grass,known as turf, tracks are used.

Furlong – The distance of about 1/8 of a mile. A race listed as 9 furlongs is a distance of 1 1/8 miles.

Track Conditions

{Ft) Fast – The track is dry and hard

{Gd} Good – The track is not quite dry

{Sl} Slow – The track is wet and drying out

{Sly} Sloppy – Firm with puddles of water

{My} Muddy – Soft from top to bottom

{Hy} Heavy – The slowest of all conditions


When wagering, you are up against other horse bettors, not the track. Payoffs are based on the amount of money bet on each horse. Odds change as bets are placed. The more bets that are placed on a particular horse, the lower the odds. The first odds published are called the “Morning Line” which is an educated guess on how the public will wager.

Place Your Bets

If you are unfamiliar with how to wager on a horse race, there’s been a big change added to the sport in recent years. It’s no longer just betting $2 on a horse to win, place, or show. Here is an explanation of some low cost combo wagers you can make:

 Win – Betting that the horse will cross the wire first

Place – Betting that the horse will finish in 2nd place

Show – Betting that the horse will show up in 3rd place

Across the Board – Betting on the horse for all three finishing positions. For example, the minimum bet for each is $2.00. The Across the Board wager is $6.00.

Exacta Straight – Betting that two horses will cross the finish line 1st and 2nd in exact order.

$1 Exacta Box - picking two horses to finish 1st and 2nd in either order. Total bet $2.

$1 Trifecta Box - picking three horses to finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in any order. Total bet $6.

$1 Superfecta Box - picking four horses to finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, in any order. Total bet $24.

$.10 (ten cent) Superfecta Box - Same as the $1 Super, except that the winning payout will be one tenth of the $1 payout. For example, if the $1 Super pays $2,000, the tent cent Super will pay $200. Not a bad wager for only $2.40.

Carryovers – There is also available betting for pick 3, 4, 5, or 6 carryovers where you can pick winners of select consecutive races. If you’re lucky there’s thousands to be won.  

Where to Watch and Wager

All area racetracks simulcast the top tracks where you can wager and watch on site, and at local OTB (Off track Betting) branches where legal. If you would rather watch and do some horse betting from home or your smart phone you can do that too. Unlike other forms of gambling, horse betting is legal on the internet. If you would like to place some bets on a computer, Betamerica,(link direct from this page) Twinspires, and TVG will take your bets.TV cable outlets carry the TVG channel, which broadcasts horse races daily.


Handicapping is an involved process. If you’re interested to give it a try, here are a few tips you might want to consider when reading the program:

Check out older horses. They usually run better than 3 year olds.

Horses should race at least monthly to stay in shape.

Check the jockey in the current and past races. Notice if he has won with your horse before.

Notice if the horse has raced this particular track before and therefore would be familiar with it.

See if the horse has won past races at this distance before.

Note if the horse has won before at the same post position.

Learn how to read and handicap the Past Performance (PP) form. This is the fun part of horse betting. Here’s a link to the Daily Racing Form’s guide on how to read the PP’s. It covers all the details. It’s an excellent tool:

DRF Handicapping 101 - Learn to play the horses

Finally, for fun, and perhaps profit, play your hunches. You may see a catchy name or want to play your birthday or anniversary dates. Here are two examples where hunches paid off handsomely:

During the 2005 Kentucky Derby my nephew and his wife bet a $2.00 exacta on their October 18th wedding anniversary date. As the race came down to the stretch, two long shots number 10, Giacomo and number 18, Closing Argument, crossed the finish line in 1st and 2nd  place. Their winnings? A $9,800 payout!

A 2019 Preakness hunch gave a nice payout to my daughter. She bet a $1 trifecta box on her Grandson's October 15th birthday. For a $6 bet on the horse numbers 10, 1, 5, she won $4,500!

If you have never wagered on a horse before, get ready for a real adrenaline rush while watching the fastest two minutes in sports!

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