Horse Race Betting For Beginners

Posted on May 4, 2022 - Last Updated on May 5, 2022

The 2022 Kentucky Derby is just days ahead, taking place this Saturday evening at Churchill Downs.

It’s one thing to watch this thrilling Run for the Roses unfold, but wagering on its outcome creates an entirely new level of engagement.

Whether you’re betting on the Kentucky Derby or on any other horse race this year, here’s everything you need to know to become fluent in horse race wagering.

How to wager on a horse race

For those of us living in Tennessee, we’re only just recently getting used to how sports betting works. Horse race wagering, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal.

It takes a bit of effort to get past the initial learning curve. Once you get the hang of it, though, you’ll be — *ahem* — off to the races, so to speak. And if you’re familiar with horse racing in general, you’re already halfway there.

First, you’ll need to decide which platform to use for wagering — in Tennessee, only two such options exist. Then once you sign up, you’ll be ready to explore the selections.

Depending on your past experience with horse races and your overall risk tolerance level, there are a few different ways to wager on any given event.

2022 Kentucky Derby betting for beginners

Kentucky Derby Horse

Players making their first foray into horse racing may want to stick with single-horse wagering. This type of betting allows you to predict a particular horse’s finish.

Here’s what you’re betting on when you make the types of wagers listed below:

  • Win: the first-place winner
  • Place: a first- or second-place finish
  • Show: a first-, second- or third-place finish
  • Across the Board: three separate wagers on a horse to win, place and show


Intermediate wagering options

Kentucky Derby Horse Race

Once you get the hang of wagering on a single horse, now it’s time to shake things up a bit.

Maybe you have your eyes on a couple of potential horses that could show. Instead of placing a separate wager on each horse, there are a few options for combining your wagers to lock in a higher potential payout.

Not only do you have to select the right horses in this scenario, but you also have to correctly predict their exact finishing position.

For all you TN sports bettors out there, think of these types of wagers as a parlay. Each of your selections will have to hit in order for you to win. But if they do, you’re in for a nice payday.

Here are the types of intermediate wagers available:

  • Exacta: horses to finish first and second
  • Trifecta: horses to finish first, second and third
  • Superfecta: horses to finish first, second, third and fourth
  • Daily Double: the first-place winner of two consecutive races


Advanced 2022 Kentucky Derby betting

When it comes to horse racing, advanced wagering options fall into the same realm as, say, 12-leg parlays. Your odds grow significantly longer with each additional factor at play.

This means your chance of winning is far less likely. But as we all know — more risk often means more reward. As the difficulty of making a correct prediction increases, so does your potential for profit.

The most in-depth wagers you can make on a horse race include:

  • Super Hi-Five: select the first five horses in exact order
  • Pick 3, 4 & 5: the first-place winners of three, four or five consecutive races
  • Single 6 Jackpot: predict the winner of six consecutive races

Since the latter two of these options factor in multiple races, these bets — commonly referred to as “exotics” — often have the longest odds.

Odds for the 2022 Kentucky Derby will continue to fluctuate until horses take to their starting positions on Saturday. Post time is scheduled for 6:57 p.m. ET, so make sure to lock in your picks beforehand. Then sit back and enjoy a mint julep or two!

Kentucky Derby Mint Julep


Photo by AP / Darron Cummings
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Alec Cunningham

As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. She then returned to her love of written word in 2000 after working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer. As a journalist, she's covered a variety of topics and currently specializes in Tennessee online sports betting and Virginia casino news. She served as a panelist at this year's All American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry.

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