The 10 Best Tips for Betting on Horse Races

By in Horse Racing on
6 Minute Read
Horse Racing Betting Slips

Horse racing is the sport of kings, but sometimes, betting on the ponies can make you look like the jester.

If you’ve ever sat in the stands or in a chair at the sportsbook after the races have been run with a handful of losing tickets, you know what I mean. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), if this has happened to you, you’re not alone. A lot of people have left a lot of dollars at the racetrack.

No bet is ever a sure thing. But there are certain things you can do to increase the number of ponies you pick right and decrease the number of days you come home empty-handed.

Even better, these 10 tips are easy to do. They don’t require any magic, just a little forethought and perhaps an internet search or two. With no more than that, you can make money at the racetrack.

If you’re ready, here are 10 tips for horse betting. Each will focus on getting you a little more data about a given horse. Hopefully, this helps you bet using a good horse racing betting strategy and make more money.

1 – Leave Your Emotions at the Door

This may be the single most important tip for horse racing or any type of gambling activity. Whatever you do, do it based on as much logic and as little emotion as you possibly can.

Yes, we’ve all heard stories of a man who bets the horse his daughter picked or choosing the one named after his grandpa and getting rich quick. Truthfully, that is not a reliable strategy for long-term profits over time. Sound planning and knowing how to bet will make you a lot more money than emotion ever will.

2 – The Favorite Is the Favorite for a Reason

There’s a lot thought and research that goes into assigning odds to a horse. While there are days where it might seem like all the names were tossed into a hat and drawn at random to determine who was the favorite, I can assure you that’s not the way it works.
Horse Race

Therefore, if you want to place a bet and don’t know whom to bet on, place money on the favorite. You won’t earn as much, but the horse is the favorite for a reason.

Face it. 100% of a smaller amount is better than 0% of a much bigger amount.

3 – Bet on One Horse Only

One of the top things to consider when learning how to bet on horse races is to bet on one horse at a time. You can look at the odds and bonuses and the flash of betting a quinella (two horses in any order) or trifecta (top three in exact order) and trick yourself into thinking that’s a safe bet. It’s not.

Yes, those types of bets will earn you a lot more money, but you’re not going to hit them unless you are very sure of yourself. Keep in mind what I said before. It’s better to get all of a smaller amount of money than none of a bigger reward.

With that said, don’t hesitate to bet that a horse will place (a horse will finish in the top two) or show (a horse will place in the top three). Those are far safer bets and are much better if you’re not sure you can decisively pick the winner.

4 – If You Don’t Know the Type of Track, Don’t Bet

If you’re standing in the betting line and don’t know how long the track is or what kind of surface it is, get out of line. You have not done your homework, and unless you have Marty McFly’s book from Back to the Future, you’re throwing your money away.
Horse Racing Track

All you need to do is go find out the surface and the distance of the track. Anyone who works there should know, but use this information to your advantage. Find out how the horses do on various tracks and distances, then you can bet accordingly.

5 – Find the Jockey’s Form

A jockey’s form doesn’t refer to some sheet of paper they had to fill out. Their form is how well they have been doing over the past several races. Just like football or basketball players, jockeys can have streaks of both good and bad luck.

If you notice that the jockey for the favorite is on a downslide, but the jockey for a horse in the top four has had a run of great luck, consider riding the hot hand.

If you’re not sure where to get jockey stats, all you need to do is perform an internet search to find out.

6 – Match the Trainer to Their Specialty

Part of the information you will receive (or can easily look up) about every horse in the race is who their trainer is. Like all trainers, some of them excel at certain areas (tracks, lengths, distances, etc.) and do less well in others.

Again, using the power of internet searches, you can start to get a picture for how given trainers do in certain situations. Then, figure out if any of those situations apply to a horse you can bet on or against.

For instance, if the favorite’s trainer is terrible on rainy days and there’s some precipitation, consider not betting the favorite.

With that said, keep in mind that the handicappers of the race will have taken a lot of trainer tendencies and factored them into the odds.

7 – Match the Age to the Distance

Horses are athletes just like humans. While Tom Brady might still be doing amazing things at the age of 40, for the most part, you don’t do as well when you get older. The same goes for horses.
Racing Horse in Field

The older horses are more likely to have endurance issues and do poorly in longer distance races. Keep this in mind when choosing who to bet on.

8 – Calculate the ROI on the Tip Sheet

A lot of tracks will sell you tips or cheat sheets that give you advice or more information on the horses. You can then use this to make more informed decisions.

Normally, having more information is never a bad thing, and that’s likely true at the horse track. However, I personally have baggage against buying these types of sheets from the track itself. As near as I can figure, the racetrack makes money when I lose bets.

Therefore, how much faith should I put into something that’s supposed to help me win that’s sold by the people who want me to lose?

Again, I have personal baggage on this issue and, at the end of the day, I might still buy the sheet just to see if it’s any good or buy from a third party. Therefore, feel free to do so yourself, but ask yourself whether it’s worth it. If you spend $10 on it, will you make $10 back? You may not know until you buy a few, but that’s what you need to find out.

9 – Horses Can Have PEDs

More importantly, horses can have legal performance enhancing drugs. Apparently, in some circles, there are a few drugs prescribed to prevent bleeding or inflammation that can enhance a horse’s performance.

While you’re not likely to find out that a horse has been taking any of these drugs, if you do, you might consider tossing down a few dollars on them. Maybe you can settle the PED debate once and for all?

10 – Beware Long Car Rides

Try this for an experiment. Hop in your car, ride for ten or twelve hours, then get out and run. How well did you do? Even if you rest for a few days, travel can take it out of you.

Horses are high performance athletes and if they had to travel for long distances then race on short rest, they’re not going to be at their best. Therefore, you should be careful about placing a lot of money on that horse, especially if it’s a bit older.

Again, this isn’t a make or break thing, but something to consider when placing horse racing bets.


Horse racing is a great sport just to watch. There’s not a lot else in sports that can match the thunder of the hooves, the dirt kicking up, and a last-second photo finish

Of course, one of those things that can match it is winning a lot of money on said horse’s victory. There are lots of systems and tricks and tactics for making money at the horse track, some of which work.

Still, no matter what you do, whether you have a system or not, keep these 10 tips in mind. They will help you clear your mind and focus on the horse, not feelings and they give you little extra tidbits of data to improve your betting.

Over time, you will figure out which tidbits make a major difference to your system and which only aid a little bit. Either way, you will always be better off because you had more data.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. ...

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