The Beginners Guide to Betting Horse Racing

TwinSpires Staff

August 16th, 2017

Answers for your horse racing questions can be found here!

We have taken on the task to continually grow a knowledge center for racing questions and information. Common questions of handicapping, betting, racing and examples to assist your racing journey.

We have compiled this 101 guide as a FREE PDF Download from, which provides some of the most basic information to getting started in successful handicapping. The contents can be found below, as well as links to our FULL library of betting guides online, written by our editorial team and expert handicappers.

A Beginners Guide to Betting Horse Racing


  • 3 - How to Read a Past Performance
  • 4 - Beginners Guide to Horse Betting
  • 6 - How to Bet a Trifecta
  • 7 - Betting with Pedigrees
  • 9 - Pick Winners Using the Pace of a Race
  • 11 - Payouts
  • 12 - What Do Odds Mean in Horse Racing
  • 13 - What is Pari-Mutuel Betting
  • 14 - How to Bet a Pick 4
  • 15 - How to Bet a Superfecta

Past Performances Explained

Twinspires customers get FREE BRISnet PPs for tracks they wager on:
The Ultimate PPs are the most detailed past performance product on the market and include speed ratings, pace figures, exclusive Prime Power and Class ratings, detailed jockey and trainer statistics, and pedigree information. Start using Ultimate PPs and discover why is the handicapper’s edge.

The Beginners Guide for Betting Horse Racing

As Win odds are determined by the level of play each horse receives, it’s hard to quantify the level of difficulty of this wager, though it’s harder than either Place or Show wagers as we will see. If you strictly bet the favorite to win every race, you would, on average, cash on one out of every three races. That average goes down the more higher-priced horses you bet to Win, although the rewards are higher.

How to Bet a Trifecta

When’s the best time to play a Trifecta? One popular approach is to play it when you believe the favorite either cannot win or stands a strong chance of finishing out of the money.

Handicapping With Pedigress

Pedigree can also be an indicator of how well a horse will adapt to doing something for the first time. Bettors will often look to a horse’s ancestry to determine a potential fondness for running over dirt or turf, handling an off track (i.e. less than fast), or tackling an unfamiliar distance

Pick Winners Using the Pace of a Race

Before computers, horseplayers had to calculate their own Pace Ratings if they wanted to know how fast a horse ran to a specific point-of-call in a race. By using tested algorithms and proprietary techniques, has taken all the work out of the process, generating Pace Ratings that are available to customers through a litany of products.


What is the most your office brackets pool pays? Maybe a few thousand bucks to one person if it’s a big one? In 2013, 318 people hit that $28,542 Kentucky Derby superfecta!

What Do Odds Mean in Horse Racing?

When horse racing odds are shown in the form of 7-2, 5-1, etc, it expresses the amount of profit to the amount invested. So odds of 7-2 mean that for every $2 invested, the punter gets $7 profit in return. This means when you bet $2, the total return if the bet is successful is $9

What Does Pari-Mutuel Betting Mean in Horse Racing?

Considering gambling has been going on for millennia, pari-mutuel gambling is relatively new: attributed to Moulin Rouge impresario Joseph Oller who introduced the system in 1867 to French tracks, which adopted it at the expense of fixed-odds wagering (i.e. bookmaking) in 1891

How Do I Bet a Pick 4 in Horse Racing?

The best Pick 4 sequence on which to invest, regardless of whether it’s held at a major, mid-level or small track, is one where a handicapper can beat one or more favorites and, hopefully, can single a horse in one or more legs while having the ability to spread out in more contentious races.

How to Bet a Superfecta

One popular bet is to select the four horses you like most, and then place a box bet. This covers all possible permutations — this is a good option as it can be frustrating to select the correct horses but not have them in the correct order. For a $0.10 betting unit, a four horse box superfecta would cost $2.40. If you placed this bet last year, your return would be $54.21.