8 Horse Racing Betting Tips You Need to Know to Win

horse racing betting tips win big

In April 2020, a man at Florida's Gulfstream Racecourse placed a 50 cent bet on selecting the winners of the first five races.

Luck was on his side that day. He walked away with a staggering $524,966.50—one of the highest 50 cent payouts in US horse racing history.

Would you like to increase your odds of striking it rich at the racetrack? In this post, we'll reveal eight horse racing betting tips every gambler should know.

Read on to learn more (and may the odds be ever in your favor).


1. Start with the Program

The racing program reveals essential information you'll need for your horse betting strategy.

You'll need to use a guide to understand every symbol and icon, but beginners should focus on these details:


  • Post position
  • Horse's past performance 
  • Horse's age & gender
  • Name of jockey & trainer
  • Special equipment or medications (i.e., blinkers or Lasix)

Before you pick which races and horses you'll bet on, get an overview of the field through the racing program. Once you narrow your focus to a few horses, it's time to consider other factors.


2. Study Recent Workouts

Just because a horse has won big in the past doesn't mean he'll continue to do so. Past performances reveal the horse's ability, while recent workouts reveal his current physical condition.

To the far left of the past performance line, you'll find the dates of the horse's most recent races. Below that, you'll find a few times from recent morning workouts.

In general, the more recently a horse has raced, the better his condition. If it's been more than two months since his last race, it's unlikely he's in peak condition.


3. Dirt vs Turf Track Performance

Some racetracks have both types of courses, while others are one or the other. It is extremely rare for a racehorse to perform well on both types of track.

Breeding and other physical aspects determine if the horse will perform better on the dirt or on the turf. If the horse fails to perform well on one surface, his trainer may switch him to the other.

For example, a horse that performs well on a muddy or sloppy dirt track may take well to the turf. If you're betting on a horse who's making the switch, analyzing his past performances could indicate how well (or not) he'll take to the new surface.


4. Current Track Conditions

This is another major but often overlooked betting factor. Before you even think about placing a bet, you need to know which condition the track is rated that day.

In the US, track ratings are:


  • Fast (dirt track) or firm (turf track)
  • Good (slightly softer than fast or firm)
  • Muddy (dirt track) or yielding (turf track) from recent rainfall
  • Sloppy (dirt track) or soft (turf track) with visible standing water
  • Slow (surface and base are soaked)

Surprisingly, not all horses perform best on dry, fast tracks. Some naturally run better in muddy, sloppy, or even slow conditions.

Consider how the horse performed in the past on different track conditions to determine how well he'll perform on the current track.


5. Know Your Race Classes

If you're studying Kentucky Derby points standings, you probably know you're betting on a major stakes race.

But what about the other classes of horse races? Each horse must work his way up through "qualifying" races that might include:


  • Maiden races (for horses that have never won a race)
  • Claiming race (the horse can be claimed or bought by a new owner)
  • Allowance race (the horse has previously won a race but is not for sale)
  • Stakes race (horses must qualify to run in Grade 3, Grade 2, or Grade 1)

Major races like the Kentucky Derby or the Breeder's Cup Classic are Grade 1 stakes races. If you visit your local racetrack on a weekday, you're likely to see an array of maiden, claiming, and allowance races.

Keep in mind that you can win just as much betting on a maiden race as you can on stakes race. Dollars, cents, and odds work the same way in every racing class.


6. Know Your Betting Options

You can increase your chances of a big payout by trying different types of bets.

The most common betting options are:


  • Win (horse must finish 1st)
  • Show (horse can finish 1st or 2nd)
  • Place (horse can finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd)
  • Quinella (horses can finish 1st or 2nd in either order)
  • Exacta (horses must finish 1st and 2nd in exact order)
  • Trifecta (horses must finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in exact order)
  • Superfecta (horses must finish 1st through 4th in exact order) 

Betting becomes more challenging as you move through these betting options, but your odds of a big win increase if you get it right.


7. Post Position

In a small field, the post position isn't too important. But as the number of horses in the race increases, post position can become a major advantage (or disadvantage).

In the Kentucky Derby, for example, the field usually includes 20 horses. The horses who draw outside post positions may be forced to swing wide around the turns and cover more track—a disadvantage in a long race.

The first few posts along the rail can also be a disadvantage, as these horses may get boxed in by others fighting for a good position. Before you place your bet, factor in where your chosen horse is breaking from.


8. Don't Bet by Color or Number

Gamblers tend to be a superstitious bunch. You might be tempted to place your bet based on the color of the horse or the jockey's silks, or the post position number.

Don't do it. Successfully placing bets on horse racing involves studying the facts, not choosing a lucky number or color!


Put Your Money on These Horse Racing Betting Tips

Like any sport, there's a certain amount of luck involved with horse betting strategy.

Maybe you won't walk away with a cool half-million like the man mentioned at the outset. But if you put the horse racing betting tips above into practice, who knows?

One day soon it could be your lucky break too!

Now that you're educated on horse racing strategy, what's next? Be sure to browse our other posts for more great sports betting tips. We have a wide variety of articles on sports betting, casino gambling, poker strategy, and much more.

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