How to Pick a Winning Horse to Bet On (2023 Winner Tips)

Do you know how to pick a winning horse to bet on when you’re at the track? Do you know that you can place bets that pay even if the horse you pick doesn’t win?

Horse tracks are a lot like other gambling businesses. The business makes money, and most of the gamblers lose. But if you can learn how to pick a winning horse, you can make money at the track.

How to Pick a Winning Horse in Horse Racing

It’s easier to SAY you can pick a winning horse than it is actually to pick one. But there are some things you can do to help you the next time you’re at the track. And you’re going to find the best way to get started in this post.

How to Pick a Winning Horse to Bet On: Handicapping Basics

Horse handicapping is the art of looking at past statistics and results, comparing the horses in the race, and determining which horse or horses have the best chance to win. Handicapping horse races sounds easy. But the truth is that handicapping is challenging.

Inexperienced horse bettors make a lot of  mistakes. One is looking at a horse that has done well in recent races and assuming the horse will do well in the next race. But if the horse has moved up in class, it might not perform as well as in past races.

Another mistake is basing your handicapping on the current odds on the horses. Horse racing odds are based 100% on the bets that other people make on the race. They’re not based on any realistic expectation of what the horses will do.

The horses with the best odds of winning usually win. But there are also horses that don’t have great odds that win races. The public just isn’t good at picking winning horses.

Horse tracks collect all of the money bet on a race, take their percentage, and then pay out all of the rest of the money. The odds listed are set based on how much money each horse has bet on it before the race. And the odds change as new bets are made.

Large bets can change the odds dramatically, so be careful about placing a bet based on the current odds. The correct way to handicap horse races is to determine the horses that have the best chance to win and then bet on those horses no matter what the odds are.

Jockey Considerations

In the rest of this post, you’re going to learn more about the things you need to consider when handicapping horse races. Of course, speed is the most important factor. But it’s not the only thing to consider.

Horses are animals, but they’re intelligent and strong like humans. And they need guidance when they run a race. So trainers develop horses and get them ready to race, but the jockey has control during the race.

If you put an average jockey on a horse that’s much better than the rest of the field, the jockey will win with the horse. If you put the best jockey in the world on a bad horse, the jockey isn’t going to win. But most races have many horses of similar ability, and this is where a great jockey can make a big difference.

When you handicap horse races, always look at the jockey on each horse. Most jockeys ride horses in several races a night, so you can quickly learn about the jockeys and their records. And the same jockey usually rides the same horse every time the horse races, but you need to check to verify that the same jockey rode the horse the last time the horse raced.

Track Considerations

Some horses run at the same track most of the time, and others run on many different tracks. Therefore, you have to know where each horse ran their previous races and how each horse performed on each track. Of course, the best information is how each horse performed in past races on the current track, but all information is useful.

You also need to consider the condition of the current track. I’m going to talk about the weather in the next section, but the weather isn’t the only consideration when you’re looking at track conditions.

Track how early or late each horse ran in previous races. Do they perform the same when they race in one of the first races of the night as they do in a late race? For example, does the horse put up the same speed in race number two and race number 13 on different days?

The condition of the track can change from early to late race times, and some horses perform differently based on this information.

The Weather Is Important

When you handicap horse races, you have to know what the weather was in previous races for each horse. Some horses perform better on dry tracks, and some perform better on wet tracks.

I’ve seen information about the weight of the horse and jockey influencing how well horses race on sloppy tracks. The general idea is that heavier horses and jockeys do better in bad conditions. I haven’t really seen evidence that this is true at my local track. But it’s something you need to learn about where you bet on races.

When a race is filled with horses that don’t have a history on sloppy tracks is run in bad conditions, I usually don’t bet on the race. Sloppy track conditions because of the weather are hard to handicap, and I’d rather skip the bet than make a big mistake because of the weather.

The Key Is Speed

The fastest horse wins the race, so speed is the key factor when you handicap horse races. But you can’t just find the horse with the fastest speeds and bet on them and make any money. Nobody would make money betting on horses if it was this easy. Everyone would bet on the same horse in every race.

Here’s an example of why you can’t just bet on the fastest horse:

Some horses win races by being the fastest horse to the first corner and running away. But some horses always come from behind to win a race.

And sometimes, the fastest horse gets caught inside and can’t break free in time to catch up and win the race. So all kinds of different things happen in a horse race, and you can’t predict all of them.

You have to look at speed for each horse in their previous races, make sure you’re looking at races of the same length, and track every horse’s speed to the first corner or the first quarter in each race.

Combine the speed data you collect with the other important factors listed in this post and come up with the horse you expect to do the best in the current race. Then decide which bets you want to make and see how you do.

Popular Horse Wager Options

The most common bet when you pick a winning horse is a straight bet on the horse to win. If you can identify the winning horse, you can usually make money this way. But if the horse is a heavy favorite, you won’t make much money.

But what if you pick a horse to win, and they end up in second or third place? When you make a straight win bet, and this happens, you don’t win anything. But if you make a win, place bet, or a win, place, show bet, you can still win if your horse doesn’t win.

And if you make one of these bets and your horse wins, you get paid for the win and place, or the win, place, and show.

Of course, there are many other wager options when you bet on horses. But the best strategy at first is to handicap the races to identify the horse or horses with the best chance to win, and place win, place, show bets on them.

If you identify two horses in a race and another horse is the odds favorite in the board, placing a win, place, show bet on both of your horses can be profitable.

You can find more details about picking a winning horse to bet on at the official Kentucky Derby website, too.

Conclusion – How to Pick a Winning Horse to Bet On

If you want to learn how to pick a winning horse to bet on, you have to learn the basics of handicapping. Good horse race handicapping includes the jockey, track, and weather conditions. But the most important thing to handicap is speed.

Consider making a bet other than a straight win wager once you identify the horse with the best chance to win the race. For example, when you make a win, place, show bet, you still win some money when your horse doesn’t quite pull out the win but still finishes in one of the top three spots.

Don’t risk too much until you learn how to handicap horse races. You don’t have to bet a lot to enjoy your time at the horse track.

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