Horse Racing 101: Betting Odds, Terminology, and Rules

The 2020 Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September, but there will continue to be great horse racing from around the country over the next few weeks (hopefully). The handicapping team at WagerTalk wants to get you up-to-speed on everything you need to know if you’re looking to place some bets. Our Horse Racing 101 guide will take you through betting terminology, explaining the odds, and clarifying payouts.

Wagering on horse racing is done through parimutuel betting. Whereas sports betting is essentially the sports book vs. the bettor, parimutuel wagering pits bettors against one another. Money for each wagering type (i.e. win bets, exacta bets, etc.) get placed into individual pools. The track takes out their administrative fees, and the remaining pool gets returned to winning bettors.

Horse racing odds are fluid leading up to the race because they are dictated by the amount of money in the pools. Prior to every race day, a track official will release the morning lines. Those morning lines are a projection of where the odds for each horse will finish when the race goes off, and do not have any direct impact on potential payouts. Using those morning lines as a starting point, as more money comes in on certain horses, their odds will go down. Horses that aren’t attracting a lot of money in the win pool will have their odds go up. Those odds will remain fluid all the way up until the moment the gates open and the race begins.

Take a spin through our Horse Racing 101 guide, which explains everything from superfectas to daily doubles.