From Studs to Winners: Understanding the Art of Horse Betting


Horse racing continues to be a big sport throughout the US to bet on and it’s becoming an important part for all the sportsbooks. Over the years there have been thousands of guides, books, and other literature published on finding and selecting the right horse to put your money on. Still, it’s no easy task finding winners in horse racing.

In order to help you on your way to your next winning bet, we have come up with this beginner’s guide to winning at horse racing. We want to stress the importance of responsible horse betting with a safe environment for both the horses and the bettors. 

Understand The Horse Racing Terminology

The world of horse racing is one of those that has its own language, and some might find that a bit challenging at first, but there is no need to worry. Horse racing is a wonderful and fast paced journey. Unfamiliar words and phrases are just part of the learning process and you’ll understand them quick enough once you begin following this universally enjoyed sport. Once you get to know more words, you’ll feel like you’re becoming part of the journey that has been embedded in our culture for hundreds of years. Horse racing is a sport that has always fascinated people from pretty much every walk of life. 

In addition to the horse racing terminology, betting on horse racing has its own specific vocabulary as well. To give you a basic idea, the most common types of bets people place on horse racing are the following:

  • Win Only: this bet is quite straightforward as you simply back a horse to win the race. For you to win, the horse you have backed must finish 1st in the selected race.
  • Each Way: horse racing meetings will often feature races that have a bigger number of runners, often exceeding 16, so making a winning pick can prove to be quite a challenge, in particular, if you are not a seasoned racing bettor.

Know Your Horses

As with other sports, horse racing has lots of specific terminologies, words, situations, and phrases to understand. Getting familiar with these phrases is crucial, so take a look at the information below which are some examples of the essential terminology to learn. These refer to the form of the horse you would want to place your bet on:

  • The Company: the other horses that take place in the race will also affect how it’s run, and what chance of winning the horse you’re betting on will have. If there are ‘front running’ horses that have an early start, chances of an outsider staying the pace are less likely.
  • Bouncing Back: while it’s easy to focus on the horses who ran very strongly last time, if you want to pursue the really big payouts, the secret comes in trying to spot where a horse may have run poorly but is considered ready for a next, big race. Previous performances can be affected by change in conditions, including physical.
  • Rating Figures: if you manage to find a horse that set a personal best in its last race, you might just end up making a win in the next one.
  • Race Comments: if you’re looking online for useful information, make sure to search for horses that are stated to either “ran on well” or “quickened” and you’ll most likely find a filly or colt in fine fettle.
  • Easy Last Time Out Winners: horses in form can often put together winning streaks, and maybe even get to two to three wins in 5 races. Starting by looking for easy last time out winners which look like they could go in again in the next one. This is always a good starting point.
  • Class: for whatever reason, a trainer can decide to put a weaker horse in a ‘higher’ class race and pretty much hope for a miracle to happen. If you’re looking at a runner with a decent recent record, we suggest you carefully check the quality of its opponents too. Also, if a horse has dropped down a class it can be worth a look as well.

Understand Surfaces

Different horses run better on different surfaces, it works like this in different sports and horse racing is no exeption. Dry courses (commonly referred to as ‘firm’ or ‘good to firm’) will see the highest speeds and therefore suit daintier horses, while runners that are known to hit the ground hard are more likely to get the most out of softer turf. This will give them a lot more sprinting power from gripping into the ground. When you’re making bets on a horse, we suggest analyzing the surface it’ll be racing on and base your bets on this. Previous form on the surface can be crucial, particularly with deeper ground, so make use of this information.

Understand Trainers

As important as the horse you’re betting on is the trainer who’s taking care of it. In addition to the above, trainers tend to enjoy different records on different tracks. Some will be stronger at preparing runners for specific courses and those that have won at a track before will know how to do so again. As a general rule of thumb we would say that it is easy to point out the dominant trainers at a course as they’re known to be likely to field multiple horses in a horse race.

To your convenience, lots of horse betting guides will show an overview of a trainer’s record at a course, typically over a certain period of time, such as recent months. The more you analyze the stats, the more useful information you will see to place your next bet. You will soon see that each year one trainer routinely selects a particular race in order to show their particularly talented 2 year-old horse. Please note that the above works the other way around as well. Poor trainer records at certain venues will give you a clue who not to back. Looking at this and understanding what you see, you will be able to recognize which horse represents value for money.

Understand Jockeys

The jockeys that work with the horse also provide a fair deal of valuable betting insight and can help you to better understand winners. Just as some trainers have a strong preference for a certain course, many jockeys tend to have favorite locations as well. This works both ways: not only will some skill sets be naturally suited to some specific courses, trainers are also a lot more likely to pair the best riders with the best performing horses.

Specific jockey + trainer combinations are therefore essential to understand as a bettor. Sometimes, trainers will field more than one runner in the contest, so knowing who is the best performing jockey will give you a close idea which horse in the race is the yard’s hope to make a winner. In the end, horses and jockeys are part of a team performance. 

Recognize a Strong Performing Horse

Of course, this isn’t really something you can do while you sit back at home watching the races on TV, but if you’re at a live event then it can pay to watch your horses while they pre-race to see how they’re reacting to the circumstances they’re part of. For example, a calm, confident runner with a glamorous coat is most likely to perform better than an anxious horse that’s clearly taking up a lot of energy in the paddock. According to Kiwigambler, Bill Benter is the richest gambler, and he knew how to recognize a strong performing horse like no other. Being able to do so is what makes horse betting an art. 

Look Beyond the Favorite

Horse racing in the US dates back to 1665 and for centuries, it is a notoriously and highly unpredictable game. Unlike other sports, the favorite only comes home first about 30% of the races, so if you rocked up to an event and lumped all your money on the favorites over the course of the day, you’d more than likely end up without a payout. The house wins even more often than in other games of chance and the secret isn’t looking for which horse is likely to win, but which offers the most value at a certain point in time. In order to find value, you need to know your selections and do proper research. The more research you do, the more you’ll enjoy it, and it makes a difference, especially in the long run.