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Horse racing odds explained
Aug 15, 2022, 7:12:00 AM

Horse racing odds explained

As horse racing becomes immensely more popular in the betting scene, more new bettors are interested in learning how to read horse racing odds and how to bet on the different markets available. 

Horses are among the most majestic creatures on the planet, and they are absolutely built to gallop long distances as they look proud doing so. Horse racing provides a lot of enjoyment for both the punters, jockeys, and horses themselves. 

With horse racing being a prominent betting sport, it’s a potential market to tap into where you can earn a lot of money, especially when the horse you wagered on gets first place. Horse racing betting is surprisingly easy. However, you first need to learn the odds through a  horse betting guide. This will eventually boost your winnings. 

Bet on horses who are next to jump in horse racing

Horse racing odds explained 

How do odds work in horse racing? The odds are the probability of a particular horse and jockey to win at a certain place in the race. The numbers displayed can vary from the types of odds or how the punter wants the number being shown. 

There are different ways to read the odds. Most of them are easy to understand once you get how they work. Here are the most common types of odds and how these horse racing odds payout by the end of the match:

Fractional odds

Fractional odds is the most conventional type for beginners as the numbers are displayed purely in fractions. For instance, fractional odds can look like 4/1, 3/2, or 8/7. When spoken, you would say that 4/1 is ‘four to one’. 

For the payout, a 4/1 odds will payout $4 for every $1 bet plus your original wager. Another example would be a 3/2 odds payout $3 for every $2 wager plus the original bet. 

Fractional odds are straightforward and you can immediately see what the horse racing odds payouts are without thinking too much about how to calculate your possible wins.

Decimal odds

What’s great about decimal odds is that you immediately know the payout plus the bet you placed before winning. 

This means that you don’t need to add your original bet with the payout to know how much you’ll be receiving after a win. For instance, if the odds of a particular horse to win 1st place is 1.09, all you need to do is multiply your wager with the number and that would be the total payout you’ll receive. 

American odds

American odds are quite different in horse racing than it is in other sports like basketball and football. There are three ways to read the American odds: 

6-5 odds

Reading this would be ‘six to five’ which means that for every $5 bet, you’ll profit for every $6. This means that your total payout is $11 when your horse wins the race. 


This is read as ‘twenty to one’. A 20 to 1 odds gets you $20 in profit for each $1 bet you’ll wager. The total payout is $21 if you count the original wager. 

Bet on different races in horse races

The right way to read horse racing odds

While knowing the types of odds is helpful, it’s also important to know how to read them. This is where some terms are important in making sure that you understand how each of the odds are assigned to the horse and the jockey when a race is about to start.

Here are some that you need to know to get better at reading the best horse racing odds: 

Morning line 

Before any bets are placed, morning odds are wagered on every horse by the track’s handicapper. These are published in either the racing form or online in online sports betting sites. 

The morning line is where you’ll see all the odds of the horses so that you’ll have a head start betting on the races you wish to place your wager on. 

Changing odds

When reading odds, you have to put into mind that the numbers change depending on each situation. For instance, if the horse feels ill all of a sudden, the odds will drastically change. 

Also, the odds will change depending on the number of people or punters betting on every horse. This is because it is a great indicator of the confidence punters have in a particular horse. 


Just like any other sport, there are favourites and underdogs in every single match. In this case, race. The favourites are the horses that are bookmakers carefully analysed through statistics, and previous races. 

Determining the favourites and underdogs is important when betting on horses because that’s where you’ll know how much the payout will be. 

The favourites always have the lower payouts because they are more likely to win therefore give punters a lower risk of losing their bets. Underdogs, on the other hand, give players higher payouts but with higher risks of their horses losing the race. 


When reading odds, you can convert the fractional odds into percentages to get a better idea of how likely your horse will win. For instance, a race with a 1/1 odds would mean that for every failure, there would be at least one success giving you a 50% chance of winning. 

A 2/1 fraction suggests that for every two failures, there’s at least one chance of success that gives you a 33.33% chance of winning. 3/2 odds means that you get a 40% chance of winning, and a 2/3 odds gives you 60%.


Bet on different races in harness racing

Calculating horse racing odds 

Even if there is always a way to learn more about the wonders of horse racing, it can be challenging for beginners to delve into because of how the odds fluctuate from time to time. This fluctuation is referred to as the pari-mutuel wager, or pool betting. Everytime you bet, you are betting against the house.

After the winning horses are declared, the house will take a portion of the payouts and the remaining amount will then be divided among the punters who wagered on the winning horse. 

To know how to calculate horse racing odds, here are the different pari-mutuel horse bets that are common: 

Straight bets 

Straight bets are wagers placed where there is only a single combination. Here is how the odds are calculated:

Win bets: Choosing the winning horse that gets to be the 1st placer. 

Place bets: Betting on the horse to finish as the 2nd placer.

Show bets: Betting on the horse to finish as the 3rd placer. 

Exotic bets 

Unlike straight bets, exotic bets allow you to make multiple wagers on several horses in a single wager. Here is how you calculate the horse race betting odds: 

Exacta: Picking the 1st and 2nd placers in order. 

Trifecta: Betting on the first three finishers in order. 

Superfecta: Bet on the first four places to win in order

The best horse racing odds 

When betting, there are bets that have better odds than the others. That way, you’ll know which odds to pick which leads to your chances of becoming the winner of a certain race skyrockets after learning the reference below: 

Type of bet

Winning chances 




Payouts are are greater than show betting



Payouts are greater than place betting and are dependent on the win odds 


Very high 

Average payouts 



The risk depends on how much was wagered; the higher the bet, the greater the risk and vice-versa. 


Very low 

High payouts but expensive to wager 


Extremely low 

Big payouts are common, but hard to bet on unless you are a high bankroller 

Horse racing betting tips 

After knowing how the odds work. It is also important to know some of the best tips to boost your chances of winning. Here are some tips that will help you get better at how to bet horses successfully: 


A lot of people bet without researching. Even looking at guides is helpful enough to get you started betting like a pro. 

Online racing forms will give you all the information that you need about the race and the horses competing for the top spots. It won’t tell you which horse to wager on, but it will at least provide you with some statistics like winning percentage and what to look at when an actual race begins. 

For instance you’ll know what track the horses are going to race on, the horses’ numbers, jockey shirt colour, and the most important information out of all, the previous races each horse has participated in. 

This way, you’ll know who is likely to win and not by simply going through each track record to smartly place your wager on the best horses for the race. 

Make different types of bets 

The types of horse racing bets are there to diversify your way into placing your wagers. This way, the endeavour won’t be too monotonous and add flavour to each bet. 

However, this goes beyond giving thrills to punters who’ve been betting for a long time. This is the perfect opportunity to start betting smartly where you don’t hold all your money in one single bet. 

While challenging for beginners, multiple betting provides you with a better chance of making sure that you will at the very least have one winning bet when betting on horses. 

Look at the odds

The odds are the first aspect in horse racing that you need to pay attention to the most. Fortunately, there are easier ways for you to read the odds that should help you understand the likelihood of each horse winning a race. 

Pay very close attention to the odds and work your way into figuring out how to balance your strategic sense when betting and the intuition as well as sometimes, the numbers don’t show you everything in a particular race. 

Manage your bankroll 

The last tip that you should be aware of is knowing when and when not to bet. This is a method called bankroll management where you know not only the perfect time to bet, but also how much you’re staking at a single race. 

If you go all in irresponsibly, you won’t be able to make up for losses. Always set a bankroll for each bet you’ll be making. That way, you are constantly monitoring the wagers being placed on horses every single time. 

Bet on horses who are next to jump in harness racing 

Horse racing betting terms you need to learn 

There’s one more step you need to take to absolutely hit a homerun when betting, you need to learn some horse racing betting terms to add more to your already arsenal of horse racing mastery. Here are a few that will help you get better in horse race betting: 

Horse race betting terms



It is the equipment that goes over the top of a horse's head.


Male horses are allowed to breed from mares at stud, where they are held only to give birth to a new generation.

Race card 

It's a programme that informs attendees of a racing meeting about the races planned and the horses scheduled to participate in them.


The kind of horse that is most often used in horse races.

Weighed in 

Racehorses must carry a particular amount of weight in order to compete in a race Prior to and immediately after a race, all jockeys are mandated to weigh in. An official statement of ‘weighed in’ signifies that the outcome is unassailable.


Between one and two years of age.

Photo finish

To resolve a dead-heat finish, a judge must review a picture taken during the race. In addition to revealing the winner's position, a photograph may reveal where the other competitors stand in relation to them.

Master the odds and bet on the best horses in Sportsbet! 

These are everything you need to know about horse racing odds. As the first step to becoming a pro horse racing punter, this sure can feel overwhelming at times. 

But don’t fret, as sports betting sites like Sportsbet will provide you with the easiest ways to read the odds that will edge you closer to more wins and higher payouts. 

For more horse racing and sports updates, visit 

Words: Vonn Consul

Image: Alamy 


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