Guide to Horse Racing Betting


Horse racing is one of the oldest forms of sports still in existence. From its origins in ancient times, it has grown into one of the largest industries of modern times. Betting on horse racing is almost as old as the sports itself and has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry across the world. Online and mobile technology has opened horse racing betting to millions of bettors on a global scale.


Types of horse racing

Flat racing

Any horse race run over a fixed distance on a flat surface without any obstacles is classified as a flat race. This is by far the most used and most popular event, particularly for bettors and spectators. The most prestigious events held worldwide are flat racing events, and the Kentucky Derby in the US, The Royal Ascot in England, and the Durban July Handicap in South Africa are among the most notable annual horse racing events.

Endurance racing

As its name implies, endurance racing is more a test of the horse’s stamina, as well as that of the jockeys. Generally held over much longer distances or time frames, this format is not as popular with bettors as flat racing. The longest known event is the Mongol Derby, which is run over a staggering 1 000 kilometres!

Harness racing

This form of racing certainly dates back to ancient times, according to evidence found in art from the period. Usually, run on dirt tracks, harness racing involves the horse pulling a type of cart, known as a sulky, in which the rider is seated. The horse’s running style must be a trot or pace, and galloping is not permitted. This form of racing is popular worldwide, particularly in Scandinavian countries. Betting on harness racing is well supported, although the betting markets and the sport’s rules may seem complicated to the novice.

Jump racing

Similar to flat racing, but with the inclusion of obstacles on the course, such as fences, ditches, and water troughs. Extremely popular in Europe and the UK, this form of racing is also known as National Hunt or Steeplechase. Betting on jump racing is extremely popular, although you need to take into consideration the horse and jockey’s ability to consistently negotiate the various hazards. One of the most dangerous forms of horse racing, it has been known to claim casualties, both horse and rider. It remains a popular form of racing, with a large following.

Main horse racing competitions

Horse racing betting

Let’s take a look at some of the World’s most glamorous and prestigious horse racing events.

  • Cheltenham Festival
    A four-day National Hunt event held annually in March; the Cheltenham Festival originated in 1860. Held in the Gloucestershire town of Cheltenham in the UK, the largest crowd attendance was recorded in 2019, with over 67 000 visitors. There are currently 28 races held over the four-day period. The difficult course has sadly claimed a number of horses over the years, leading to a reduction in the number of obstacles.
  • The Grand National
    This annual event is held at the Grand National course at Aintree, Liverpool, in England. Run over two laps with a total of 6.9 kilometres; the left-handed course features 16 fences. First run in 1839, the event has become by far the most valuable steeplechase event in Europe.
  • Breeders Cup World Championships
    Held annually at changing venues within the USA, the Breeders Cup was originally a one-day event, becoming a 2-day event in 2007. Attendances vary depending on the hosting venue, with Santa Anita Park setting the highest total of over 118 000 visitors in 2016. Total prize money for the entire event is in excess of $30 million.
  • Kentucky Derby
    Held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, in May every year, the Kentucky Derby is possibly the best-known horse racing event in the USA. Open to 3-year old thoroughbreds, the race is held at a distance of 2 kilometres or 1.25 miles. The event has been held every year since its inception in 1875, without interruption. Attendance figures are consistently the highest of all US equestrian events, and purse money is in the region of $3 million.
  • Melbourne Cup
    Known as the richest two-mile horse race in the world, the Melbourne Cup was first run in 1861. Australia’s biggest horse race, the event carries a purse of AUS $8 million. The race is a handicap event, with entries from thoroughbreds of three years and older. The event takes pride of place on the Melbourne calendar, and Cup day is declared a public holiday in the city.
  • The Royal Ascot
    Located about 6 miles from Windsor Castle, in Berkshire, England, lies the Ascot racecourse, home of The Royal Ascot, one of Britain’s most prestigious horse racing events. Held over 5 days, beginning on Tuesday, the highlight of the event is the Gold Cup, run over 2.5 miles. This race is open to thoroughbreds of 4 years and older. For most areas of the course, the dress code is formal, befitting the Royal atmosphere.

Where to bet on horse racing

With modern mobile technology accessible to most, horse racing betting is readily available on many online betting sites. Almost every sports betting site caters to horse racing gambling, and most of these have downloadable apps for mobile devices. With racing held every day across the globe, the slope for betting is limitless.

Being at an event allows you to place track bets while enjoying the atmosphere that surrounds live horse racing. While you are there, you may pick up useful tips. Most online horse racing betting sites feature live coverage of the races, so can keep in touch with the action from wherever you are. The best betting apps for horse racing also incorporate a horse racing bet calculator. Make yourself familiar with the basic terms associated with each site.

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Horse racing facts and history

The origins of horse racing can be traced back to ancient times. Archaeological finds have indicated the presence of horse racing in various forms in many civilizations, notably Greek, Roman, and Egyptian. Reasonable evidence based on these finds suggests that horse racing existed as far back as 4500 BC. Other evidence points to horse racing being included in the early Olympic Games. Often these early contests appear to have featured chariots, a forerunner to harness racing of today.

The earliest organized races seem to date back to the 15th century, where the annual Spring Festival in Rome was closed with an event consisting of riderless horses along a straight section of road. The role of the horse in military applications also appears to be linked to the origins of horse racing. Military horses were required to be fast and strong, and the riders developed their skills of horsemanship to match. The earliest recorder purse being offered on a horse race in Britain was in 1198, under the rule of King Richard the Lionheart. Military horses were used, with their Knights riding. A sum of £40 was offered to the winner.

Around the 16th century, King Henry VIII began importing horses from Italy and Spain with the purpose of breeding, and it was then that first stud farms began. By the mid-1600s, organized horse racing events were taking place in Britain, France, and America. The formalization of horse racing as a sport soon followed, with governing bodies being set up to regulate it.

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Some horse racing facts
  • The average racehorse lives to about 30 years, but they are usually retired from racing by the age of 15.
  • No horse older than 18 has ever won a race, according to records.
  • Some stallions have earned their owners more as stud horses than they did while they were racehorses.
  • A racehorse generally weighs around 450kg, far less than a normal horse.
  • The highest speed recorded by a racehorse is 43.97mph. The horse was Winning Brew, and this record was set in Pennsylvania in 2008, over 2 furlongs.
  • Regardless of when in the year they are born, all racehorses share the same birthdate. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is January 1st, while it is August 1st in the Southern. This is done to simplify the ages of the horses for entry into events. A race that only accepts 3-year old horses, for example, cannot have the same horse win it two years in succession.
  • All modern thoroughbreds are so inbred that they can trace their linage back to just one of three horses.
  • The most expensive thoroughbred sold at auction fetched a cool $16 million! It never won a race.
  • A racehorse can consume 20 pounds of food and 13 gallons of water a day.
  • Over $100 billion is bet on horses worldwide every year.


Horse racing is one of the oldest sports still in existence today, and horse racing betting is the oldest form of sports betting. The variety of betting markets within the sport make it attractive for bettors, and by studying the field before an event, including the horse and jockey’s recent form, a reasonable good bet can be made by an averagely experienced bettor. There are horse racing events every day of the week across the world, and the coverage of horse racing betting sites allows you to bet on almost any race from anywhere on the planet. Horse racing is a massive industry and is growing all the time.


Below are some questions that are frequently asked about horse racing betting. We hope you find the answers informative.

How to bet on horse racing?

With betting available online and through mobile apps, access to horse racing betting has never been easier. Choosing your bets should be done with some careful consideration, and a little research can go a long way to securing a successful wager. Always look at the horse and jockey’s recent form and the events in which they perform well. Take note of the latest tips that become available closer to the event.

What is the best type of bet in horse racing?

A win bet will almost always give you the best return. You bet on a specific horse to win the event. A safer bet would be the place bet, where your horse finishes first or second. Odds are less in this case, but your chance of winning is higher. A show bet has even lower odds, with your horse only having to finish in the top 3 to win the bet, and is probably your safest bet.

What is a place bet in horse racing?

In the place bet, your chosen horse must finish the race in either first or second place. The odds are lower than a win bet, but your chances of winning are slightly better.

Why bet on horses online?

Betting online gives you the freedom to place bets on any race that is covered by the betting site, anywhere in the world, at any time. Betting online is straightforward, and you can bet on different races simultaneously.

What if the horse I bet on is withdrawn?

It can happen that a horse may be withdrawn just before a race, and this is known as scratching. There could be several reasons for this, a last-minute injury or ailment, or perhaps a regulation issue. Regardless of the reason, if the horse you bet on is scratched, the bet is voided, and your wager is returned.

What does odds-on betting mean?

Usually applied to the favourite in a race, odds on betting means that your potential win is lower than the amount you wager. Assume a horse is a 2/1 odds-on favourite; you will win $1 for every $2 you bet. If you bet $4, and the horse wins, you would receive $6, your original $4 bet, plus $2 winnings.

Atanas Tanev
Atanas is the founder of the Efirbet Project, and he is the guy behind everything on the website - reviews, tips, bonuses, design, etc. He is passionate about online marketing, affiliates, entrepreneurship and sports.