Wagering > Betting 101 > Learn how to bet
Betting on horse racing is just as historic as the sport of horse racing itself. From ancient civilizations across the world to the betting windows at Churchill Downs, the desire to bet on the horse that is fastest on a set course at a set distance has remain unchanged. Read on for beginner tips to help you bet on the Kentucky Derby.
Learn how to bet
An Introduction to Betting & Party Prep
Where to begin? Learn about the Win, Place and Show bets as well as a look at what a horse's past performances can tell us about how they may run in their race! Check out ways we suggest you bet the contender you like best in the Kentucky Derby and how to best use a budget.
The Kentucky Derby is more than just a horse race—it’s a national event. Like the Super Bowl or March Madness, folks who don’t normally follow Thoroughbred horse racing will tune in to watch (and wager) on the Derby, which has been held every year since 1875.
Planning to join in with a wager or two of your own? Whether you’re paying a visit to Churchill Downs or partying from the comfort of your home, these five tips will help you get the most enjoyment out of your Derby betting foray:
Read about the contenders
Bet the favoritesBetting horses at random will produce only infrequent winners, so if you want to impress your friends with a steady stream of victorious selections, go with the flow and bet on favorites. You won’t stumble into high-priced winners, but hey—winning sure beats losing, no matter what the payoff. Favorites win 35% of the time in the Kentucky Derby, a success rate that more or less holds true for all other North American horse races. Bet on every favorite over the course of 12 races, and you’ll likely pick four or five winners, sufficient to make you a handicapping hero.
Have a plan
Get your bets in early
Play party games
Knowing the basics and how to get started betting
Placing a bet on the Kentucky Derby is a fun way to have a rooting interest in the outcome, even if you don’t know much about the sport. But learning a few nuances of handicapping horse races will elevate your enjoyment of the Derby to a new level.
Test your knowledge with our free to play games at TwinSpires!
If you’re hoping to boost your racing knowledge and impress your friends with your prowess at picking winners, here are five ways to get started:
Examine the past performances
Watch race replays
Review expert opinions
Check the odds
Watch the race and review your handicapping
- TwinSpires educational library
- The Beginners Guide to Betting Horse Racing
- Betting Longshots to Turn the Tables on Favorites
- Handicapping 101: How smart ticket building can increase profits
- How Pace Makes the Race: Part 1
- How Pace Makes the Race: Part 2
- How Fast Finishes Can Identify Future Stars
- How Horses for Courses Can Produce Big Payoffs
- Step-by-step: Building an exacta ticket
- Step-by-Step: Building a Pick 3 ticket
- Dig into jockey and trainer statistics
- Consider pedigrees
- Watch how the track is playing
- Project the pace
- Choose the right wager type
- Introduction to Workouts: Part 1
- Introduction to Workouts: Part 2
- 5 Tips for playing Vertical Exotics: Part 1
- 5 tips for playing Vertical Exotics: Part 2
- Betting Exactas With the "All" Button
- How to bet the quinella
- How to Bet the Double
- How to Bet the Exacta
- How to Bet the Trifecta
- How to Play the Trifecta Like an Exacta
- When to Bet Sprinters Stretching Out in Distance
- What happens when no one is fast enough to win?
- Synthetic to Dirt: A Valuable, Overlooked Angle
- Betting First-Time Starters in Maiden Claiming Races
- Maiden Special Weight to Maiden Claiming: A Classic Class Drop
- From Grade 1 to Grade 3: A Significant Class Drop
- Pedigree Handicapping: From Dirt to Turf to the Winner's Circle
- How Knowing a Horse's Family History Can Lead to Winning Bets
- History Can Be Your Guide in Graded Stakes Races
- How Betting Triple Crown Nominees Can Yield Profitable Plays
- Should You Bet Horses Returning on Short Rest?
Use history as a guideline
Build smart tickets that reflect your opinions
Go against the flow in multi-race wagers
Identify races ripe for upsets
Play your strong suits, but work on your weaknesses
- Money Management for Winners by Frank Scantoni
- 5 Tips for playing Horizontal Exotics: Part 1
- 5 Tips for playing Horizontal Exotics: Part 2
- Taking a Contrary Approach in Multi-Race Wagers
- Pros and cons of multi-race wagering strategies
- The inside scoop on to bet racing in Japan
- Exploring the Advantages of First-Time Lasix
- Two Turns to One Turn, Your Turn to Cash a Bet
- Tips and Trends for Handicapping Marathons
- How Studying Stallions Can Yield Profitable Pedigree Plays
- Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 1
- Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 2
- Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 3: Blinkers
- Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 4
- Using Trainer Angles in Handicapping, Part 5
- Betting Regional Class Advantages, Part 1
- Betting Regional Class Advantages, Part 2
- Try the Kentucky Derby Future Wager to lock in early odds for Derby runners.
Additional handicapping resources when starting out:
Intermediate Horse Players
How to improve your betting. Step foot into exotic betting with exactas, trifectas and superfectas! Do you know the impact of workouts or final race times? How about the best way to bet your Kentucky Derby horse or bet on a budget; $2, $10, $25, $100 or more!
Maybe you know a thing or two about betting on horse races, but expert horseplayers take many factors into consideration before making their selections and choosing their bets. Want to up your game and dive into the deep details of handicapping a horse race? These five tips will steer you in the right direction:
Surface proclivities can be even more pronounced—some bloodlines are known for their prowess on turf, others are geared strongly toward dirt, and some consistently produce winners on wet tracks. Brisnet past performances contain plenty of useful stats to get you started, though a passion for racing history will greatly enhance your pedigree handicapping skills by familiarizing you with the most influential sires and broodmares.
The key is to choose a wager that reflects your opinion of the horses you’re betting. If you’re certain two runners are superior to their rivals, playing them together in the exacta (requiring you to pick the top two finishers in order) makes more sense than betting one to win, or trying to decipher the trifecta. If you’ve found a favorite who seemingly can’t lose (but at odds too low to warrant a win bet), consider building a Pick 3, Pick 4, or Pick 5 ticket around this horse to boost your profits.
Payoffs for these “exotic wagers” can reach hundreds or thousands of dollars, though they can also be more complicated and expensive to play. Racing analysts covering big events for industry websites often provide tips and strategies for betting exotic wagers, and online wagering calculators can help you determine the costs when planning out your own tickets.
Additional intermediate handicapping resources
Advanced Betting Strategies
Advanced and expert handicapping. Have you attempted a vertical sequence such as a Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 or a Pick 6 before? Or can you spot a class improvementor or class drop that could impact a race performance and race competition? In addition to this knowledge, explore Brisnet handicapping products to discover Optix Plot diagrams, Prime Power Ratings, Speed Ratings and Class Ratings.
Test your knowledge with our free to play games at TwinSpires!
When it comes to handicapping horse races, knowing how to bet is every bit as important as knowing who to bet. Expert horseplayers spend a large portion of their time constructing sound, logical wagers designed to give them the best chance at generating profits.
Want to take your handicapping to the next level? These five tips will help you develop your betting acumen in promising new directions:
Watch enough races at your local track, and you might discover longshots frequently prevail in maiden claiming races over the turf course.
Some trends can be short-lived, disappearing as soon as you discover them. Others can provide profitable plays for years to come, and bettors who use history as a guideline will always have a general idea of what to expect in any given race.
When playing exotic wagers like the trifecta (requiring you to select the top three finishers in order), many bettors are too quick to “box” their wagers. Boxing means a player is betting every possible combination of tickets involving their preferred horses—if they correctly conclude #1, #6, and #7 will sweep the top three slots, boxing means they’ll cash a ticket regardless of the exact order in which the horses finish.
This sounds great in theory, but boxing wagers is more expensive and is often an inefficient wagering strategy. If you believe #1 is a near-certain winner, why would you waste money on combinations playing #6 and #7 to win? Entire books have been written on the art of structuring wagers, because designing tickets that reflect your opinions is the key to generating profits in the long run.
Yes, unless the heavy favorite is actually vulnerable to an upset. Big favorites are often bet even more heavily in multi-race wagers than in the win pool, so if they lose, the payoffs can be astronomical. When the capable Keen Ice famously upset Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers (G1), an otherwise logical and winnable $2 Pick 3 paid $439—a hefty reward triggered almost exclusively by the defeat of one huge favorite.
In contrast, a race where the favorites seem just barely faster than their longshot rivals is ripe for an upset. When all the horses are relatively slow, and even minimal improvement could send the field’s biggest longshot to the winner’s circle, you have the makings of a lucrative betting race.
Still, there’s no reason to avoid developing your weak areas. Maybe you thrive betting high-class stakes races, but if you’re keen to play multi-race wagers, from time to time you’ll have to round out your tickets with picks for low-level claiming events.
If you find yourself struggling to accurately handicap certain types of races, study them without the pressure of betting. Read books and online articles to learn other handicapping ideas and methods. If any given winner leaves you scratching your head, review the past performances to see what you missed. With enough time and effort, you can develop your weaknesses into strengths.
Additional advanced handicapping resources:
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