Betting on horse racing is legal in much of the US. Online wagering is also available in many states. Signing up to bet is quick and easy, and you’ll be able to bet on all of the big races — Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, etc. — at your convenience. This page covers the best online horse betting sites and information on legally and safely betting on horse racing.
Horse betting apps for 2023
Check below for legal online horse betting options in your area of the US.
Sports betting giant FanDuel has expanded its offerings to include horse racing. FanDuel Racing is available on the web and mobile and has quickly become a solid option for bettors in states where it is legal. As is the case with other FanDuel products, the platform delivers a smooth and user-friendly experience. Signing up for an account is quick, as well. You can be up and running in minutes and will then have access to wagering on 200+ tracks around the world. FanDuel Racing also has live streaming right on the platform, as well as a dedicated channel for smart TVs.
What are the best horse betting sites in the US?
How to bet on horse racing
Once you have signed up and deposited, you’ll be ready to place your first bet. There are two parts to the process. First, you need to find your selection and the bet you want to place. Second, add it to your bet slip and confirm the amount you want to wager.
You’ll be able to find your race via the track listings or the timeline of races. You’ll see the horses for each race, with the odds for win and show, plus a toggle for more options. Adding the bet to your slip is as easy as clicking the line you want to bet.
Sites place the bet slip to the right (or via a pop-up message). For single bets, you can add an amount you want to bet and confirm it. For more exotic bets (trifectas, exactas, superfectas), you’ll need to first add all the selections to your slip.
Horse betting apps
Betting on your phone or tablet is easy these days. If you access a horse betting site via your mobile browser, the display will automatically adjust to your small screen. The same functionality, including live streaming (if available) and results/stats, will generally be available, allowing you to deposit and place bets while on the move.
Bonus bets, sign-up bonuses
Each of the major online racing sites offers bonus bets or welcome promotions, though the specifics will vary. Note that these will likely have playthrough requirements and other terms and conditions. Check out our reviews of specific betting sites for more on the fine print.
Terms and conditions apply to all offers. Please see the specific racebook for details. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.
Where can I watch the races?
You’ll have a lot of options when it comes to watching horse racing as it happens, ranging from heading to your local track to viewing a live stream on your phone. Here are the main choices:
- At the track: With hundreds of racetracks nationwide, many people have a venue within driving distance. Depending on what’s legal in individual states, some tracks may offer casino games, too.
- On TV: Major races will appear on one of the big networks; others may be available via streaming sites.
- Via simulcast: Racetracks are linked together, with many showing races at other venues on large screens — as well as offering the ability to place bets on them.
- OTB venues: Some states let you bet and view races/check results at dedicated off-track betting venues that don’t host live races.
- Streaming live: The most popular racing sites offer live streaming via their websites and betting apps. If you are an active bettor, you may be able to view the races in real time via your web browser.
If you miss a race, you may find replays available on some betting sites — as well as comprehensive results.
Horse racing odds and picks
In each race, the amount of money that bettors wager on individual horses determines the odds. These tend to appear as fractions.
For example, if you see 4/1, you’ll stand to win $4 for every $1 you wager (plus your initial bet back) if you end up successful. If you instead see 1/4, this means that for every $4 you bet, you’d stand to win $1 plus your bet back on a successful wager. These “odds-on” selections are when a race has a strong favorite.
Odds for place and show bets are naturally smaller than for win bets. You have multiple chances of being paid.
Horse racing has a skill element, involving finding value from the field. Picking a potential winner or finding a selection whose price is better than its true winning chances can potentially make you money over time.
Online horse betting sites will provide statistics detailing the results of previous races. These range from simple form guides and raw results to detailed past performance databases. Many databases are paid services, with the racebooks offering them as a perk for bettors who wager on a specific meeting.
Understanding the payouts
As we went over above, horse betting odds generally appear in the fractional format. To calculate how much you could potentially win based on the current odds, simply multiply your stake by the odds, then add that stake back in. For example, if you see odds of 6/1 and bet $10, your payout on a winning bet would be 6 x $10 + $10 = $70.
Biggest US horse races
There are prestigious events for all types of horse racing, ranging from harness through Arabian horses. When it comes to events that catch the public’s imagination, the Triple Crown takes center stage.
This involves three races for thoroughbreds, each of which has qualifiers to ensure that only the best horses take part. Here are the races in date order. To complete the Triple Crown, a horse needs to win all three in the same year.
- Kentucky Derby: This race, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, has a reputation as “the most exciting two minutes in sport.” The Kentucky Derby has taken place every year since 1875 and caps a two-week festival featuring many races and a number of traditions. These include mint julep cocktails and a blanket of roses on the winning horse.
- Preakness Stakes: The second leg of the Triple Crown takes place at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore. It happens two weeks after the Kentucky Derby on the third Saturday in May. This race is 1,900 meters and on a dirt track. The winner of this race also gets a blanket of flowers — in this case, black-eyed Susans.
- Belmont Stakes: If a horse has won both of the preceding races, all eyes will be on it for the final leg of the Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes take place in Elmont, New York, on either the first or second Saturday in June. This 1.5-mile race started in 1867. It attracts huge TV audiences when the Triple Crown is at stake. Flowers are once again a tradition. This time, a blanket of white carnations covers the winner.
Other major horse races
- The Arlington International Festival of Racing — Arlington Park, Arlington Heights, Illinois
- Stars and Stripes Racing Festival — Belmont Park, Elmont, New York
- Haskell Invitational Stakes — Monmouth Park, Oceanport, New Jersey
- Travers Stakes — Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs, New York
- Dubai World Cup — Meydan Racecourse, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Santa Anita Derby — Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
Where can you bet on horse races online in the US?
Betting on horse racing online or via a mobile device is not legal in every state. Here are the states that allow the activity:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Where and how you can bet will vary by state, but some online racebooks serve all of these, often with wagering on races across the country and even internationally.
How is it legal?
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act has a carveout for horse racing. That leaves it up to individual states whether they want to legalize online wagering on horse races.
Anywhere the platforms above offer wagering, states have enacted laws to allow for online wagering and horse race betting apps.
Virtual horse race betting
If no real races are going on, you can also wager on virtual horse races. These are races that a computer program simulates, and bettors can wager on the outcome. More on virtual sports betting.
However, this is not available in the US, although land-based and online casinos may offer this in the near future. Wagering on virtual horse races is more common in Europe and other regulated markets internationally.
Horse racing breeds
To the majority of people, racehorses look similar. Behind the variations in color and height, you’ll find several distinctive breeds in different races.
Thoroughbred horses: The big races are for thoroughbred horses. While there is a mix of heritage, they can all be traced back to just three fathers born in the 1700s. Those sires were then imported to England, where they established bloodlines that later came to the US.
Standardbred horses: Harness racing uses a different breed — standardbred. These horses can have thoroughbred ancestors, with mixed heritage. This breed tends to be easier to handle than the highly strung thoroughbreds. Standardbred horses take part in showjumping as well as harness/trotting racing.
Arabian horses: While many of today’s races are over short distances, there also are longer endurance-type races. A different breed — Arabian horses — takes part in these contests. Arabian horses are built for long distances racing, though not for short bursts of speed. As the name implies, these horses (recorded as a subsection of thoroughbreds) were first bred in the Middle East.
Quarter horses: Quarter horses are mixed breeds that come from Spanish colonial stock. The name comes from the quarter-mile racetrack that was popular in the early days of horse racing.
Horse betting terms
There are a lot of slang terms, abbreviations and distinct language associated with betting on horses. The list below includes the key definitions to get you started.
Blinkers: Also known as “blinders,” these cup-shaped devices cover the eyes of horses, narrowing their field of vision to the track ahead.
Colt: A young male horse (4 years old or younger if a thoroughbred; 3 or younger if a standardbred).
Daily double: A bet that involves picking the winners of two races (usually consecutive).
Furlong: This is a distance measure. For example, a race might be 10 furlongs. A furlong is one-eighth of a mile.
Exacta: This is a bet on the first- and second-place finisher (in the right order).
Filly: A female horse.
Gelding: A male horse that has been sterilized, a common practice that can make unruly horses focus on racing.
Grade: Races are graded on the quality of the horses involved (and purse). Grade 1 races have the best competitors.
Handicap: Many races add weight to the better horses (based on past performance) to level the playing field.
Harness racing: These races involve jockeys in small carts behind the horses.
OTB: This abbreviation stands for off-track betting. In some states, you can place bets at venues that do not have racing of their own.
Post position: The placement of a horse in the starting stalls, which is in relation to the position of the rail.
Pari-mutuel: Bets are pooled, with the payout based on the total wagers and the number of bettors who wager correctly on a specific bet.
Place: A bet on a horse to finish either first or second.
Pick 6: A bet covering the entire race card. Pick bets are sometimes available for three or more races. If no one wins, the prize pool rolls over onto the next racing fixture.
Purse: The prize money that a race awards.
Show: A bet on a horse to finish either first, second or third.
Simulcast: Live races appearing on screens at racetracks around the country. You can bet on these races and watch them as they happen.
Superfecta: Bet on the first four finishers of a race in the correct order; this bet has the potential for huge prizes.
Trotting: This form of racing does not allow the horses to break into a gallop.
Triple Crown: To win the Triple Crown, a horse needs to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year.
Trifecta: A bet where you need to predict the first-, second- and third-place finishers of a race in the correct order.
Win: The basic horse racing bet. You try to pick the winner of the race.