Wagering on horse racing is both legal and available in upwards of thirty states throughout the country. As one of America’s favorite pastimes for centuries, betting on horses has always been arguably as popular as the sport itself. From the introduction of pari-mutuel betting at the Kentucky Derby in 1908 to The Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, the landscape of horse racing gambling is always changing.
We’ve got you covered with everything there is to know about betting on the ponies, including the best websites and apps to use, the types of bets that can be made, the biggest events to bet on, and much more. We’ll make you an expert on online horse betting sites.
Top US Horse Betting Sites
Legal Horse Racing Betting Bonuses
TVG originated in July 1999 as the first ever 24-hour horse racing television channel. The Television Games Network (TVG Network) has since solidified its place as one of the industry leaders in all things horse racing. Offering both horse racing and greyhound wagering services along with their broadcast network, the FanDuel Group-owned entity is by far one of the biggest names out and is currently available in 33 different states.
New users located in AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, VT, VA, WA, WV, or WY will be able to sign up and use TVG’s services. Players in New Jersey will be required to use 4NJBets – it’s the same platform, just listed under a different name specifically tailored to the Garden State.
The mobile app is available to download for free on the App Store for iOS devices and on TVG’s website for Android users. The app is sleek, responsive, and polished. Designated tabs for the homepage, upcoming races, your bet slip, and expert picks are available at the bottom of the app at all times. The fifth and final tab over to the right, labeled ‘More’ can be used to access other important features such as promotions, customer support, responsible gaming resources, and more.
Using our exclusive code, RISKFREE300, new users who register for an account with TVG will be awarded a risk-free first bet opportunity worth up to $300. Place your first bet and if it wins, you win. If it loses, you’ll receive 100% of your initial stake back in the form of wagering credits. This promotion is only available for 15 days after account creation and any wagering credits cannot be withdrawn until wagered at least once.
Churchill Downs Incorporated holds a very strong place in American horse racing history. It all began in 1872 when Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of William Clark of the famous Lewis & Clark expedition, traveled overseas to various parts of Europe and decided he wanted to bring their popular horse racing derbys back home.
Clark’s implementation of the Louisville Jockey Club would lead to the construction of a very special racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky that would later become known as Churchill Downs in 1937. The track would go on to host the first ever Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875 along with two other inaugural races – the Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap, which was renamed the Clark Stakes in 2019 after race conditions were altered.
It wouldn’t be until 2007 when the company debuted its first ever advance deposit horse racing betting service, TwinSpires. Today, the TwinSpires brand is the face of the company’s wagering operations, offering action on the biggest horse races throughout the United States.
The ‘TwinSpires Horse Racing Bets’ app, as it’s listed under the App Store, is available to download for free on both iOS and Android platforms. There is just one general app available for all users to download, meaning your specific state of operation will be selected from within the app.
The platform is clearcut, concise, and easy on the eyes. All of the most important features such as Races, My Bets, Deposit, and Offers are readily available through tabs on the bottom of the screen and loading times are fast. The brand also offers its users various promotions and opportunities to earn more while placing their bets.
All in all, it’s an extremely sound product from one of the biggest names in the game. Plus, in 2022 TwinSpires announced it would be shifting its attention entirely towards the racebook element of the business, stepping back from both online sports betting and online casino gaming.
TwinSpires horse racing wagering is currently available in 39 different states: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NH, NM, NY, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY. New users in any of the states mentioned above will be eligible for a $200 sign up bonus! Simply register for a brand new account using our promo code and you can unlock $100 in bonus cash for every $400 wagered. Bet $800, receive the full $200! This offer cannot be combined with any other promotional offers and any wagers must be settled within 30 days of account creation in order to qualify for the promotion.
Ever since their debut back in 2009, AmWager’s main goal was to become an innovative leader in the space while providing their customers with the best gambling experience imaginable. They’ve done all of that and then some, as they’ve quickly risen to the top of the ranks when it comes to wagering on horse racing.
AmWager is untraditional in the sense that they do not offer a mobile app. The product is fully accessible through their website, www.Amwager.com, which can easily be added to your mobile device or tablet’s homepage, basically as a substitute for an app.
Upon jumpstarting the registration process, players will find two options offered to best fit your betting needs: AmWager Plus and AmWager Pro. The former is tailored to casual bettors who simply want to sign up, place some bets, and then watch the ponies do their thing. The latter was created for the more advanced bettor, who strives to find as much valuable information as possible. It’s all about personal preference here, so choose whichever one makes the most sense for you!
Despite the ability to choose between Plus and Pro, the AmWager mobile and desktop offerings leave a lot to be desired. The platform feels incomplete, all over the place, and flatout messy. It seems underdeveloped and would greatly benefit from the implementation of an actual mobile application.
AmWager’s services are currently available in the following states with zero restrictions: AL, CT, DE, KS, LA, NE, NH, ND, RI, SD, TN, VT, and WI. Their services are also available in FL, ID, IN, KY, MA, MT, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, WV, and WY with varying restrictions such as players not being allowed to wager on certain races at specific tracks or market fees resulting in reduced rewards. For any reason, all state-specific info regarding AmWager’s product can be found on their website in the ‘Policies and Disclaimers’ section.
If AmWagers is unrestricted in your state, all new, first-time users who sign up using our exclusive promo code 150MATCH will be eligible for a 100% first deposit match worth up to $150! Simply register with our code and your account will immediately be credited with a match for your first deposit.
It is worth noting that all players must be at least 21 years or older in order to use AmWagers services despite the fact that most states set their legal pari-mutuel gambling age at 18.
The Daily Racing Form originated in 1894 as a 4-page tabloid newspaper published in Chicago, Illinois. The medium was created in order to provide horse racing statistics based on previous results to bettors throughout the United States. DRF remains the only newspaper in the country that is dedicated to a single sport and is one of the most heavily-trafficked horse racing destinations on the internet today. Providing wagering services through its mobile app since 2016, DRF is undoubtedly a premier option when it comes to betting on horses.
DRF’s mobile app has a solid layout, is loaded with valuable information, and even includes links to DRF sportsbook, news, and television products. A series of tabs designates areas of the app for upcoming races, bets placed, race results, and more. And unlike a lot of other wagering platforms, DRF does have a Rewards Program. Players can enter their email and begin earning cashback and other products just for placing wagers!
The DRF mobile app is available to download for free on Google Play or the App Store for both iOS and Android users. DRF’s service options will vary from state to state, but is generally available in some capacity in the following states: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, MT, NE, NH, NM, NY, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
If your state is listed above, it means you are likely eligible for DRF’s exclusive welcome bonus. All new, first-time users who register with DRF will receive a 100% deposit match worth up to $250 plus $10 on the house! Upon account creation, all users will automatically get $10 before even making a deposit. From that point, you’ll have 14 days to make your first deposit for the $250 match. All bonus funds must be wagered within 14 days of the initial deposit before removal. In order to withdraw any winnings, the entirety of the deposit and bonus must be fully wagered at least once.
As previously mentioned above, 4NJBets is the state-specific website and app for TVG users based out of New Jersey. It is the exact same platform as TVG’s main app and website in every aspect, down to the appearance, layout, and functionality. Just like TVG’s mobile app, 4NJBets offers an all-around quality user experience as one of the industry-leaders in horse racing wagering.
The 4NJBets app is available to download for free on the App Store for iOS users, however there doesn’t seem to be an Android offering at the moment. Instead, the platform can be accessed through your mobile device’s browser or a desktop computer at any time.
New users in the Garden State who sign up for 4NJBets using our promo code RISKFREE300 will receive a risk-free first bet opportunity worth up to $300. In order to qualify, simply register with our code and place your first wager within 15 days of account creation. If it loses, you will get back 100% of your initial stake in the form of wagering credits. Any unused credits will expire after 30 days, so be sure to use them before it’s too late!
The New York Racing Association is a non-profit corporation that operates three of New York state’s largest horse racing tracks: Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Aqueduct Racetrack. In 2016, NYRA opened its first ever advance-deposit online horse racing betting service, dubbed NYRA Bets. The platform covers everything from upcoming race information, results/replays, track changes, and more.
The NYRA Bets mobile app is available on both iOS and Android devices. Apple users can download the app via the App Store, while Android users will have to take a few extra steps and download it directly from NYRA Bets’ website.
The NYRA Bets app differs from a lot of the other traditional horse racing betting apps, as they opted for a pull-down menu to navigate it rather than a series of tabs. Players can use this menu to access features such as My Account, My Bets, Promotions, Contact Us, and more. Overall, it’s a rather refreshing experience in comparison to the generic cookie-cutter apps found throughout the industry.
NYRA Bets is available in the following states: AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, MT, NH, NY, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, VT, VA, WA, WV, and WI.
States with legal Online Horse Racing Betting
Horse racing legislation can be tricky to follow, as some states allow for online wagering without any access to in-person betting, and vice versa. Other states allow nothing at all, while some are all-in on everything surrounding the historic sport. We provide you with all of the nuances to be aware of, listed below:
Legal Horse Racing Betting states
- Alabama: All online platforms offered besides TVG, no racetracks but multiple OTB locations
- Arizona: Both AmWager and NYRA Bets are currently unavailable to residents of Arizona, multiple tracks in state
- Arkansas: AmWager is unavailable in Arkansas, home to the famous Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
- California: AmWager is unavailable in California, multiple tracks in state
- Colorado: AmWager is unavailable in Colorado, home to Bally’s Arapahoe Park
- Connecticut: All online platforms fully available, more than 10 off-track betting locations
- Delaware: All online platforms fully available, home to multiple tracks
- Florida: AmWager may reduce rewards in specific zip codes due to 3.5% source market fee, home to multiple tracks
- Idaho: NYRA Bets unavailable, no greyhound wagering offered by AmWager. No tracks, multiple OTB locations
- Illinois: AmWager is unavailable in Illinois, home to multiple tracks
- Indiana: AmWager may reduce rewards due to 5% source market fee, home to multiple tracks
- Iowa: Both AmWager and NYRA Bets are currently unavailable to residents of Iowa, home to Prairie Meadows Racetrack
- Kentucky: No greyhound wagering offered by AmWager, may reduce rewards due to 3.5% source market fee, home to multiple tracks
- Louisiana: All online platforms fully available, home to multiple tracks
- Maine: Residents of Maine will be restricted to wagering with HollywoodRaces.com for any online needs
- Maryland: AmWager is unavailable in Maryland, home to multiple tracks
- Massachusetts: All online platforms fully available, no tracks in state following the closure of Suffolk Downs
- Michigan: AmWager is unavailable in Michigan, residents can place OTB action at Northville Downs
- Minnesota: AmWager is unavailable in Minnesota, home to Canterbury Park Racetrack
- Montana: AmWager may reduce rewards due to 4.5% source market fee, no racetracks but multiple OTB locations
- Nebraska: Both TVG and NYRA Bets are currently unavailable to residents of Nebraska, multiple tracks in state
- New Hampshire: All online platforms fully available, residents can place OTB action at The Brook
- New Jersey: NJ residents are restricted to using 4NJBets, no other platforms available. Home to multiple tracks
- New Mexico: NYRA Bets unavailable, some restrictions on AmWager. Home to multiple tracks
- New York: No greyhound wagering on AmWager, certain rewards may be reduced due to 5% source market fee. Home to multiple tracks
- North Dakota: All online platforms fully available, no racetracks but multiple OTB locations
- Ohio: AmWager restricts wagering on Mahoning Valley or Thistledown races. Home to multiple tracks
- Oklahoma: Both TVG and NYRA Bets are currently unavailable to residents of Oklahoma, AmWagers restricts wagering on Fair Meadows and Remington Park races
- Oregon: AmWager may reduce rewards due to 5% source market fee, home to the Portland Meadows Racetrack
- Pennsylvania: AmWager is unavailable in Pennsylvania, home to multiple tracks
- Rhode Island: All online platforms fully available, no racetracks but multiple OTB locations
- South Dakota: All online platforms fully available, no racetracks but multiple OTB locations
- Virginia: AmWager is unavailable in Virginia, home to the famous Colonial Downs Racetrack
- Washington: AmWager is unavailable in Washington, home to the Emerald Downs Racetrack
- West Virginia: Residents using AmWager cannot play Charles Town Races, Tri-State Greyhound Park, Wheeling or Mountaineer Racetrack races and some rewards may be reduced due to 6% source market fee. Home to multiple tracks
- Wisconsin: TVG is unavailable in Wisconsin, no racetracks but multiple OTB locations
- Wyoming: NYRA Bets is unavailable in Wyoming, some rewards on AmWager may be reduced due to 3% source market fee. Home to the Wyoming Downs Racetrack.
States with no horse racing betting, some betting, restrictions, or limitations
- Alaska: No horse racing wagering of any kind, both online and in-person
- Georgia: No horse racing wagering of any kind, both online and in-person
- Hawaii: No horse racing wagering of any kind, both online and in-person
- Kansas: Online wagering is fully legal and available through TwinSpires, AmWager, or DRF, however there are no in-person offerings in the state
- Mississippi: In-person wagering is legal at any sportsbook in the state, online wagering is illegal
- Missouri: Online horse racing wagering is illegal in Missouri. In-person betting is actually legal, however it must take place at a racetrack, which there are currently none
- Nevada: Residents in Nevada do not have access to popular sites like TVG or TwinSpires, and instead must use one of the many apps or websites provided by the local casino companies. In-person wagering fully available
- North Carolina: No horse racing wagering of any kind, both online and in-person
- South Carolina: No horse racing wagering of any kind, both online and in-person
- Tennessee: Online wagering is fully legal and available through TwinSpires, AmWager, DRF, or NYRA Bets. In-person wagering is illegal
- Texas: In-person wagering is offered at various locations throughout the state, however online wagering is prohibited
- Utah: No horse racing wagering of any kind, both online and in-person
- Vermont: Online wagering is fully legal and available through TVG, TwinSpires, AmWager, DRF, or NYRA Bets, however there are no in-person offerings in the state
Placing your first online horse racing wager
In order to place any online horse racing action, players will first be required to register for an account with any of the available wagering services offered in their state. Generally speaking, the registration process will be similar across all platforms and should be fairly quick and easy.
For starters, players should expect to provide some basic personal information such as first name, last name, date of birth, email address, and phone number. From there, most legal wagering services will also require your home address, city, state, and zip code, along with the last four digits of your social security number.
Between mobile sports betting, mobile casinos, and horse racing, just about every legal gambling operation in the United States requires this information in order to protect both themselves and you, the customer. With that being said, all of your information is 100% safe, secure, and will always remain confidential. Once the sign-up process is complete and the service provider verifies your account, you should be well on your way to placing your first online horse racing wager.
Types of horse racing bets and payouts
For less-experienced players, some horse racing betting terms may sound like a foreign language. They are really quite simple when broken down, and we’ve got you covered with an explanation below:
- Win: One of the more common bet types, a win simply requires your horse to finish in first place, and first place only
- Place: Like a horse but don’t love them? Bet on it to place and cash your ticket if it finishes first or second
- Show: The payout is a bit smaller than the former, but betting on a horse to show will cash if your horse finishes first, second, or third
- Exacta: Pick the first and second place finishers correctly, in that exact order
- Quinella: Pick the first and second place finishers, order does not matter
- Trifecta: Pick the first, second, and third place finishers correctly, in that exact order
- Superfecta: Pick the first, second, third, and fourth place finishers correctly, in that exact order
- Super Hi-Five: Pick the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth finishers correctly, in that exact order
- Double: Pick the first place winner in back-to-back races
- Pick 3: Pick the first place winner in three consecutive races
- Pick 4: Pick the first place winner in four consecutive races
- Pick 5: Pick the first place winner in five consecutive races
- Pick 6: Pick the first place winner in six consecutive races
How to watch live horse races
Luckily for horse racing enthusiasts and bettors alike, the apps and websites that can be used to place your action also provide you with multiple ways to watch the races you are betting on! Out of the five main platforms listed above, all five of them offer viewing options of some sort on their app and website.
Aside from streaming live races, they also provide users with unlimited replays of previous races. After opening your TVG, TwinSpires, AmWager, DRF, or NYRA Bets app, simply select the race you want to watch from the main menu and look for a small ‘Live’ button in the upper-righthand corner of that race’s page. The button’s appearance will vary from site to site: TwinSpires uses a classic ‘play’ button, while NYRA Bets opted for a small camera emblem. TVG, AmWager, and DRF all have it spelled out for you, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to locate.
Biggest horse races in the United States
Although horse racing in the United States dates all the way back to the 1600’s, it wouldn’t be until the late 1800’s when we start to see the implementation of some of the most iconic races known to man: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.
By far the biggest household name in the sport, the Kentucky Derby should be familiar to just about anyone in the United States, and even around the world. After making its debut in Louisville, Kentucky on May 17, 1875, the Kentucky Derby has successfully run for 146 consecutive years, usually taking place on the first Saturday in May. The Derby is a flat race that takes place at the famous Churchill Downs, which received its official name change in 1937. The race extends for one and a quarter miles and only allows for three-year-old thoroughbreds to compete.
The inaugural Kentucky Derby was won by a young jockey named Oliver Lewis, who rode a colt named Aristides. After initial success, some thoroughbred owners decided to send their winning horses to compete in two other competitions, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
In 1919, a horse by the name of Sir Barton became the first ever to sweep all three races and win what would later be dubbed as a Triple Crown. The term wouldn’t actually surface until 1923 when used by The New York Times, but didn’t gain mainstream popularity until seven years later in 1930, when famous sportswriter Charles Hatton used the term to describe Gallant Fox’s clean 3-0 sweep, marking just the second occurrence in history, at the time.
Following the Kentucky Derby is the famous Preakness Stakes, which occurs on the third Saturday in May at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Despite now being the second installment of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes actually made its debut two years prior to the Kentucky Derby on May 27, 1873.
The Preakness Stakes originally got its name from former Maryland governor Oden Bowie, who named the race after a colt named Preakness. Preakness won the inaugural Dinner Party Stakes, which took place at Pimlico Race Course in 1870, the day the track first opened. Just like the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes is a flat, thoroughbred race in which three-year-old horses can compete in. Unlike The Derby, which extends a full 10 furlongs (1 furlong = 1/8th of a mile), the Preakness Stakes is slightly shorter in distance at 9.5 furlongs.
In 1890, the race was temporarily held at Morris Park Racecourse in the Bronx, New York before ceasing to run for the next three years. When the Preakness resumed action in 1894, it would begin a 15-year run of hosting the race at Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island, New York. After returning to Pimlico Race Course in 1909, the race has successfully run every year, in Maryland, for more than a century. To this day, the Preakness Stakes falls just behind the Kentucky Derby as the biggest event in horse racing, toppling every other race in terms of attendance. In 2017, the Preakness Stakes achieved its largest crowd to date, with over 140,000 spectators on hand.
The third and final installment of the Triple Crown is none other than the Belmont Stakes, which is yet another flat race involving three-year-old thoroughbreds. The Belmont Stakes is actually the oldest of the three events, first making its debut on June 19, 1867 in the Bronx, New York at Jerome Park Racetrack.
The track was built by Leonard Jerome and was funded by August Belmont Sr., an investor who the race is named after. The first ever Belmont Stakes winner was a female horse by the name of Ruthless, who would go on to be inducted into National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1975.
The Belmont Stakes would take place at Jerome Park for upwards of twenty years before being moved to Morris Park Racecourse in 1890. Fifteen years later in 1905, the race would be moved once again for the third and final time after the brand new Belmont Park racetrack made its debut in Elmont, New York. The race was cancelled in 1911 and 1912 after New York’s Hart-Agnew anti-gambling bill was introduced, but would return just two years later in 1913 and has successfully run at Belmont Park ever since.
Biggest international horse races
While the United States might be home to some of the biggest races in the sport, the rest of the world annually hosts a number of high-profile events of their own. Whether the races are held in England or Australia, horse racing at the highest level can be found all over the globe. And even though they may not be in your time zone, you can still bet on them legally from within the United States!
The Grand National
The Grand National is a famous steeplechase race that takes place at the Aintree Race Course in Liverpool, England, usually towards the beginning of April. This race has been going on for nearly 200 years now after making its debut on February 26, 1839 and is easily one of the biggest horse racing events in the world today.
The Grand National is a National Hunt race, or one that requires horses to jump over fences, among other obstacles. National Hunt racing is also known as “jumps” over in London and steeplechase racing in just about every other part of the world. The race is run on turf and extends exactly 4 miles and 514 yards, making it nearly four times longer than the Kentucky Derby. As far as jump races in Europe go, The Grand National is by far the most lucrative of the bunch, paying out the biggest purse among its type of race.
The Royal Ascot
The Royal Ascot is a race meeting that takes place over the course of five days in June in Ascot, Berkshire, England. Each of the five days begins at 2pm with the Royal Procession, which is essentially an entrance ceremony for the Royal Family accompanied by the National Anthem. The Royal Ascot is broken up into four different enclosures, each of them offering their own unique ambiance.
The Royal Enclosure is by far the most exclusive of the bunch, with extremely limited access available. In order to apply for a spot in the Royal Enclosure, new hopefuls are required to gain sponsorship from another guest who had attended the event within the last four years. It has the strictest dress code of the bunch, which dates back to the 19th century.
The Queen Anne Enclosure is the main public destination for those that attend the Royal Ascot, as it is right in the middle of all the action. Its dress code is slightly less formal than that of the Royal Enclosure, but still requires women to wear a hat or headpiece at all times and men to wear a matching suit with a tie. Guests who attend the Queen Anne Enclosure are granted access to a plethora of amazing events, including the traditional Singing Around the Bandstand, which takes place at 6:40pm at the end of each race day.
The Windsor Enclosure offers the most relaxed vibe out of the four enclosures, with no formal dress code required. Described as vibrant and colorful, the Windsor Enclosure lays out all of the keys to a successful day out, including live music, casual dining options, and a gorgeous atmosphere filled with amazing people.
Whether you attend a pre-ordered picnic or line up to see the first glimpse of the Royal Procession, the Windsor Enclosure has endless options for an action-packed afternoon. The Village Enclosure is the fourth and final enclosure which was a late addition back in 2017. The Village Enclosure is only open on the final three days of the Royal Ascot, from Thursday to Saturday, and carries a similar dress code to that of the Queen Anne Enclosure although slightly less formal. Between the street food options, live music, and more, the Village Enclosure has quickly risen in the ranks and is now a popular choice when it comes to attending the event.
The Dubai World Cup
The Dubai World Cup is a series of flat, thoroughbred horse races that take place at the Meydan Racecourse in the Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The event was created in 1996 and has been running ever since on the final Saturday in March, involving eight regular races followed by one Purebred Arabian contest.
The Dubai World Cup surpassed the Pegasus World Cup in 2019 as the richest horse racing event in the world after its total purse reached $12 million. The races are run on a dirt track extending 2,000 meters long and allow for Northern Hemisphere thoroughbreds ages four and up and Southern Hemisphere thoroughbreds ages three and up to compete. The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, causing the postponement of its 25th anniversary celebrations, which would eventually take place the following year in 2021.
The Saudi Cup
Inaugurated in 2020, The Saudi Cup is one of the newer races to enter the circuit. The event rewards $10 million to the 1st place finisher and holds a total purse of $20 million, surpassing The Dubai World Cup as the richest event in the history of the sport.
The Saudi Cup takes place about four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup and four weeks prior to The Dubai World Cup, allowing the pool of horses from either competition to enter their lucrative race. The infamous Maximum Security, who won the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was later disqualified for interference, won the first ever Saudi Cup race in 2020.
The Melbourne Cup
Dubbed “the race that stops the nation,” The Melbourne Cup is a historic event that takes place at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia at 3:00pm on the first Tuesday in November. The tradition actually began on a Thursday, when the first ever Melbourne Cup took place on November 7, 1861 between 17 horses.
The race is a flat, thoroughbred competition that was originally two miles long until Australia adopted the metric system and shortened the distance by about 62 feet in 1972. The race became the first in Australian history with a total purse of $1 million or more in 1985 and has since grown its pot to $8 million in total prize money.
Horse racing types
When betting on horse racing it’s important to know what type of race you’re wagering on. Is it flat? Are there jumps? Are you betting on harness racing? Each type of horse racing and horse racing betting offers up a different style. Here are the most popular horse racing types to bet on.
Flat track racing is by far the most common form of horse racing, and thus the most popular to bet on. Some of the biggest events in the world are flat races, including the Kentucky Derby, The Melbourne Cup, and The Epsom Derby, among others. Flat races are typically run on dirt in North America, while turf is more commonly used in Europe. Simply put, flat races can best be described as a straightaway race with no obstacles of any kind.
Contrary to flat racing, steeplechase racing involves various obstacles in which horses must maneuver around, including hurdles and ditches. Also known as National Hunt racing in Ireland and jump racing in England, steeplechase racing is only second to flat racing in terms of popularity.
The Grand National is easily the most notable steeplechase event to date, not only offering the biggest purse but also reaching an estimated 600 million spectators across 140+ countries worldwide.
Harness racing is a bit more obscure than the other aforementioned race formats, however it is still a major part of the sport. Harness racing involves a horse pulling its jockey in a two-wheeled cart, also known as a sulky.
The horses must move at a certain gait, which is a term used to describe one’s manner of walking. A horse can either trot, which means its diagonal legs move in unison, or pace, which involves two legs on the same side of its body moving forward together. The most famous harness race in the world is the Prix d’Amerique, a historic event in Paris, France that has been taking place since 1920. If you’ve seen what looks like chariot racing on TV, you’ve just seen Harness Racing.
Endurance racing is all about long distance. Organized endurance racing originated in 1913 in Vermont when the Morgan Horse Club sent seven riders out for a 31-hour journey that extended 154 miles long. Nowadays, endurance races in the United States typically range either 50 miles or 100 miles long.
Less experienced competitors will often compete in Limited Distance rides, which are shorter endurance races. The most popular endurance race in the United States is the 100-mile long Western States Trail Ride, an annual event that has taken place in California since 1955. This race is commonly known as The Tevis Cup. Endurance racing would eventually reach Europe in the 1960’s and would go on to be added to The International Federation for Equestrian Sports list of regulated competitions in 1978.
Horse racing breeds
In addition to the type of race, there are a lot of different types of horses that you can bet on. The breed of the horse will vastly inform the overall performance and result.
Thoroughbred horses are by far the most common breed found in horse racing. They are said to have originated in England around the 17th century, when a group of local mares were selectively bred with horses of the Arab, Barb, and Turk breeds.
Thoroughbred horses were imported into the United States by 1730 and would reach other parts of the world such as South America, Europe, and Japan, throughout the 19th century. The high-spirited breed is known for its speed, stamina, and smooth, long strides. Whether it’s Seabiscuit or Secretariat, the thoroughbred breed is responsible for some of the sport’s greatest accomplishments.
Standardbred horses generally specialize in harness racing thanks to their muscular build, sturdy legs, and strong joints. They are slightly heavier than a typical thoroughbred, which actually happens to be the breed responsible for bringing standardbred horses into the world.
An English thoroughbred named Messenger was sent over to the United States in 1788 to be crossbred with other horses in hopes of producing faster offspring. It definitely worked out, as Messenger’s great-grandson, Hambletonian, went on to become one of the most iconic standardbred horses in history. Hambletonian is responsible for siring over 1,300 standardbred horses, 40 of which were elite competitors.
To this day, Hambletonian is credited as the horse in which all standardbreds descend from. While betting infrastructure wasn’t in place to bet on Hambletonian, the current online horse betting sites allow for bettors to easily wager on his descendants.
One of the oldest breeds in existence, Arabian horses originally hail from the Arabian Peninsula. They are known for their speed, endurance, and ability to compete and succeed in long distance events. The breed is extremely recognizable due to its physical features, such as its high tail placement and strong bone structure.
Throughout history, many Arabians were used for breeding in hopes of producing offspring with similar features. Unlike most horses that have 24 vertebrae, Arabian horses typically only have 23, making their backs a bit shorter. The average Arabian horse can grow as tall as 60 inches and can weigh anywhere from 800 to 1,000 pounds. Nearly every riding horse in the world today has some sort of traces to Arabian bloodlines.
An American quarter horse is a breed known best for its ability to cover short distances. Quarter horses are usually on the shorter side and carry a stocky, muscular frame that improves their ability to stop short.
The breed is extremely popular in United States horse racing and even has its own organization, the American Quarter Horse Association, which is responsible for breeding, preserving, and keeping track of all records involving quarter horses. Their headquarters are based in Amarillo, Texas and the organization is now home to over 200,000 members, including more than 30,000 from overseas. To date, the AQHA is responsible for registering over 6 million American quarter horses, making the breed the most popular in the world.