Horse racing odds, morning lines and fair odds

Betting on horse racing can be a thrilling pursuit for bettors who like frequent action and prefer seeing the results of their bets within minutes, rather than hours or days in the case of other sports. Bettors typically have dozens of races throughout the world to play, seven days a week.

Read on to learn how horse racing odds work.

How do horse racing odds work?

TwinSpires uses the pari-mutuel system of wagering, where odds are not fixed but instead are determined by the amount of action each horse or combination receives as a percentage of the total pool. Every type of wager on a race has its own separate pool, and after the track has deducted a certain percentage (called takeout) from each pool, the remaining amount is distributed among those bettors with winning tickets.

Generally speaking, the only odds readily available to bettors before a race are those for the "win" pool, as there will only be one winner (except in the case of a dead heat). "Place" and "show" pools are divided two and three ways, respectively, so payoffs can vary, depending on which horses finish in the other positions.

"Will-pay" and "probable" payouts on "exacta" wagers (picking the top two finishers in order) and "double" wagers (picking the winner in two consecutive races) can be viewed before a race. However, like "place" and "show" wagers, "trifecta" and "superfecta" payoffs are dependent on who finishes in the other positions and are not readily available. "Will-pay" prices on "Pick 3," "Pick 4," "Pick 5," and "Pick 6" wagers are available only before the final race in the sequence.

How to read horse racing odds 

When looking at horse racing odds at TwinSpires, the "win" odds on a horse are shown in bold, after the program number, horse's name, jockey, trainer, and pedigree information. These odds will fluctuate during the course of the betting, as more money is added to the pool.

If a horse is 5-1 and wins, bettors will receive $10 for every $2 wagered, plus their original stake back. A $2 bet on a horse who wins at odds of 5-1 pays a minimum of $12.

The "win" odds shown are often inexact, as a 5-1 price can mean odds ranging from 5-1 to 5.9-1. Therefore, the $2 payoff on a 5-1 winner can actually be as low as $12 and as high as $13.80.

Tips on how to win with horse racing odds 

Contrary to what some might believe, horse racing is not a random-outcome sport. Although some luck can be involved, skill and savvy play a much more significant role. Form, class, track condition, pedigree, trainer, and jockey are just a few of the factors bettors analyze to come up the winning horse or bet.

Past performances (a detailed record of a horse's racing history) are available to download for each race.

Sound like too much work? You're in luck! The TwinSpires Edge's horse racing experts have done your homework for you. Look for their expert opinions throughout the week, especially on weekends, when the bigger stakes races are held. 

Horse racing morning line 

The "morning line" on a horse race is a creation of an employee at each racetrack and is their opinion on what the final starting price of each horse will be.

The quality and accuracy of a morning line can vary. Ultimately it is bettors who determine a horse's final odds, based on the amount of play each receives.

Horse racing odds values and strategy

"Profit-line" odds, listed near the current "win" odds and the "morning line," represent each horse's estimated probability of winning, based on a computer model. "Profit-line" odds incorporate numerous handicapping factors (speed, class, pace, form, weight, distance, surface, trainer, jockey, pedigree, recency, etc.). "Profit-line" odds are provided for all North American Thoroughbred races. The horse with the lowest PL odds is considered to be the most likely winner.

Look for "overlays" (noted in green). "Profit-line" deems these "overlays," because the current odds are greater than (or equal to) to the horse's estimated fair chance of winning, which means you will get a higher return on your wager, based on live odds, than the "profit-line" program predicted.

Horse racing fixed odds

While fixed odds on horse racing are not legally available, the closest equivalent available on TwinSpires is the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW). Generally held four times before each year's Kentucky Derby, the KDFW is a pari-mutuel wager but allows bettors to lock in a horse at a certain price, without the odds being affected by the millions of dollars wagered on the day of the Derby.

For example, those who bet Justify in Pool 3 of the 2018 KDFW received a $2 payoff of $14.40, rather than the $7.80 payoff his backers received on Derby Day.

Where to bet horse racing events

Residents of all states where online pari-mutuel wagering is allowed can enjoy legal horse racing betting at TwinSpires. You'll find a wide selection of races every day, and don't forget to visit The TwinSpires Edge regularly for the best betting advice from our dedicated team of horse racing experts.

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