Horse Racing Guide & FAQs

min read
BetMGM @BETMGM Jun 16, 2021, 2:20 PM
Horses racing down a track.

If you’re new to the world of horse racing but are intrigued by this classic form of gambling, there are many questions that you might need answers to. In this guide, we unpack the basics of horse racing and betting so that you can make the most of your wagers.

Horse racing – A classic gambling experience

Horse racing as a competitive sport has existed for thousands of years, with some sources placing it at least as early as 1,000BCE – but it’s possible it existed hundreds, if not thousands of years before that. There have been many types of horse racing over the years, including flat racing, steeplechase, and going back in history, even chariot racing. 

Today, the most common types are:

  • Flat racing – A flat race is the type of race you’ve most commonly seen in the movies or on television. This type of race takes place on a track that’s usually oval, although they sometimes occur on different shaped tracks. Races can cover different distances, depending on the purpose of the race. Shorter races tend to be about five furlongs (approximately 1,100 yards), while longer races can be two miles and four furlongs.
  • Jump racing – As you may have guessed, this is a type of horse race where the horse (and its jockey) must also clear several obstacles during the race. Jump racing itself is further divided into two subcategories: hurdling and steeplechasing. Hurdling is relatively straightforward in that horses must clear a hurdle of a specific set height. Steeplechases can involve hurdle-like objects, but also ditches filled with water, and each fence is unique. Depending on where you are in the world, both hurdling and steeplechases may be referred to under the same term.
  • Endurance racing – An endurance race is a long-distance race, with the longest endurance race, The Mongol Derby, approximately 620 miles.
  • Harness racing – This is the modern equivalent of chariot racing, where horses pull a sulky (cart) with a driver on board. 

No matter which type of horse racing you’re interested in, there’s no doubt that the sport as a whole is one of the most recognizable forms of gambling and is important to many cultures across the world. 

Frequently Asked Questions

A horse race about to start – the gates have just opened.

Check out this list of frequently asked questions and top tips so that you can have a great time betting on the races:

How to bet on horse racing online

How exactly do you bet on horse racing via the internet? Well, the first step is to register with an online sportsbook that is legal in your state and suits your betting needs. Once you’ve found a site that fits these criteria, all you need to do is provide them with some personal information and documentation to verify your identity. You can then deposit into your account and begin wagering on the races.

Here is some additional information you’ll need to keep in mind when placing a wager:

  • The name of the racetrack
  • The race number
  • The type of bet you are interested in
  • The horse (or horses) you are interested in betting on

How do odds work in horse racing?

There are two main ways of representing the odds in horse racing. They represent how likely each horse is to come in first past the post and reflect how much you can expect to win if you bet on them. 

The first way is fractional odds and is the system primarily used in the US. Here are two examples of these odds:

  • 1/1 (said or read as one-to-one)
  • 4/1 (said or read as four-to-one)

The first number in this format refers to how much you could win, while the second number refers to the amount of money you put down as a bet. So in the first example, for every $1 you bet, you could win $1. In the second example, for every $1 you bet, you could win $4. If you do win, your original wager will also be included in the amount you get back. So if the odds are 1/1, and you bet $10 and you win, you’ll receive $20. If the odds are 4/1, and you bet $10 and you win, you’ll receive $50.

The second way odds are represented is a decimal format, which is more commonly used in Europe. To use the same example as above, if odds are displayed as 5.00, that means your wager will be multiplied by a factor of 4 if you win. If you bet $10, you’ll receive $50 in return for a win, as the total amount includes your original wager, which is already factored in from the start.  

Of course, you might be more accustomed to seeing odds in American (moneyline) format. In the examples above, 4/1 or 5.00 odds are represented as +400 – indicating the amount that a successful wager of $100 would win. Similarly, 1/1 odds would be represented as either +100 or -100, since you wouldn’t make any profit (or loss) on such a bet.

What is a place bet in horse racing?

A place bet is a wager that requires a horse to finish in first or second place for the bettor to receive a payout. Naturally, the payout for this type of bet is lower than a win (first place) bet, but you’ll have a better chance of walking away with some winnings.

What is a show bet in horse racing?

A show bet, quite simply, is a wager placed on a horse to finish in either the first, second, or third place position. 

What is a trifecta in horse racing?

A trifecta refers to a bet in which the bettor must correctly predict the horses that will finish in first, second, and third place. The predictions must match this order. This type of bet usually has a large payout, reflecting how difficult it is to predict a top-three finish accurately.

What is a superfecta in horse racing?

A superfecta refers to a bet in which the bettor must correctly predict the horses that will finish in first, second, third, and fourth place, although some countries have expanded this bet to include the fifth and sixth place finishers too. Because this is harder to predict than a trifecta bet, it will have an even larger payout. 

What is a pick 5 in horse racing?

A pick 5 is a type of wager in which the bettor must correctly choose the winner of five consecutive horse races. 

How long is a furlong in horse racing?

A furlong sign on a horse racing track.

A furlong is a standard imperial measurement of length. A single furlong is equal to 220 yards, or an eighth of a mile. It used to be a common unit of measurement, particularly used for measuring farmland, but is only common in horse racing today. Most races are represented in miles, with furlongs covering any additional fractions of a mile.

What does SCR mean in horse racing?

SCR stands for “scratched.” This means a horse has withdrawn and will not be taking part in a race. This can occur for multiple reasons, including any health issues affecting the horse or the track conditions are considered unsuitable. If a horse is scratched, any bets made on that particular horse will be refunded.

What is the Triple Crown in horse racing?

The Triple Crown refers to a prestigious series of races, more formally known as the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. It is a horse racing competition exclusively for three-year-old thoroughbreds and comprises the Belmont Stakes, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes. If a horse wins all three of these races, they are awarded the Triple Crown Trophy (this has only been achieved five times to date, most recently in 2018 with a horse called Justify).

Enjoy excellent sports betting at BetMGM

All this sports betting talk has probably got you amped up for your next bet! At our online sportsbook, you can enjoy a great range of sports betting options, including wagers on baseball, football, MMA, tennis, and much more.

Register at BetMGM to join in all the sports betting action!

Actor Jamie Foxx on the Welcome Offer BetMGM's banner.
About the Author


Read More @BETMGM

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.