Know The Sport of Horse Racing

Nomadic tradesmen from Central Asia first domesticated the horse in 4500 B.C. That time is also when we see the first instances of horse racing. Since its origins, horseracing has evolved to the point that it is divided into three main categories: Maiden horse races, Allowance horse races, and Stake horse races. Those categories are further divided to include weights, grades and claiming opportunities.

Horse breed categories also vary in horse racing.

The Standardbred, Thoroughbred, Arabians, and American Quarter Horses. The standardbred was developed in the United States for harness racing. This type of horse is also known as a trotter or a pacer.


Thoroughbreds are the most familiar bred. Many people even know the names of famous thoroughbreds like Man o’ War, Secretariat, and Seabiscuit. The thoroughbred was sired by one of three stallions: Godolphin, Darley Arabian, or Byerley Turk. They are bred to be hot-blooded and have long necks and legs, deep chests, and a lean body. They stand at 25 to 17 hands high. (A hand equals 4 inches.) At birth, the thoroughbred is assigned a birthdate of January first if born in the Northern hemisphere and August first if born in the Southern hemisphere. The thoroughbred is most often used for competition racing but is often seen in other equestrian sports too.


The Arabian breed is thought to be the oldest breed of horses. This breed dates to 4,000 years ago. This breeds bloodline is often used to improve other breeds. It is possible to find the Arabian blood line in other breeds. Arabians have a wedge-shaped head, a wide forehead, a long croup, arched neck, high tail carriage, and large eyes and nostrils. This breed dominates in sports requiring endurance and stamina.

American Quarter Horses

The American Quarter horse stands 14 to 16 hands high, with a muscular body, a broad chest, powerful rounded hindquarters, a straight profile, and a short head. Its most popular in racing that run a quarter mile, thus the name the American Quarter Horse.

Types of Races

Maiden Horse Racing

These races are for horses that have never won a professional horse race. Still, any horse can be traced for the first time in any race category including stakes races. In the Maiden category there is a Maiden Claiming Race which is considered the lowest level of claiming races. Maiden Special Weight is a category of races where the horse can move up in status quickly if they win.

Claiming Races

This category of races accounts for 50% of the races that take place in the country. A price tag is placed on every horse that enters the race and must be claimed before the race starts. Claiming races are essentially opportunities for horse buyers to see their potential purchases run. If the horse wins the race the old owner gets the winnings or the purse, but the new owner gets to take the horse home as his own. The price tag on claiming horses ranges from $1,000 to $100,000.

Allowance Racing

In allowance racing, the horses are not for sale and the winnings or purses are generally higher. Horses qualify of allowance races based on previous wins and weights. There are four categories of Allowance races: N1X-no previous wins; N2X-only one previous win; N3X-no more than two previous wins; and N4X-only won three previous times.

Stakes Racing

This is the ultimate racing category that has the biggest purse ranging from $1.5 million in 2019 for the Belmont Stakes, $3 million for the Kentucky Derby in 2020, the Preakness Stakes $1.65 million in 2019 and $10 million in the Dubai World Cup. Stakes races are divided into Restricted Stakes, the lowest category of stakes racing and Graded Stakes. Graded Stakes have grades from 1 to 3, with Grade 1 featuring the most superior horses. The only restrictions for these grades may be age and sex.

Betting on Horse Racing

Start with buying the daily racing form. This book lists all the horses running that day along with their stats: the horse’s past performance, his or her bloodlines, the jockey, and the trainer. This is purchased for $5 to $10. Now, placing a bet is a lot more complicated.

A “Straight wager” is for the horse winning and coming in “First”, “Placing” and either coming in first or second or “Showing”, coming in first, second, or third. The payout can be anywhere from 3 to 1, 5 to 1, and up to 20 to 1. The minimum bet is usually $2.

Exotic bets involve more than one horse and have higher payouts but are also harder to cash.

Exacta bets require you to pick the first two winners in order. Quinella bets have you selecting two horses that come in first or second. Trifecta betting has you choosing the three horses that come in first, second and third. A Superfecta picks correctly the first, second, third and fourth horses. A Daily Double selects the winners of two consecutive races. Choosing the winners of six raises straight, is a “Pick Six”. Your purse size is reflected in the number of wins.