Horse Racing 101

Are you new to betting on the ponies? Are you curious as to why the worldwide sport of horse racing has captured the interest of millions? Do you just want to brush up on your lingo before betting on the Breeders Cup World Championship this weekend? Well, then, you’re in the right place.

A Very Brief History of Horse Racing 

Horse racing has been around since 4500 B.C. and it began in Central Asia. Essentially, ever since man domesticated the first horse and began to ride horses around town for convenience, they had the clever idea of racing them. You could say that the need for speed is in mankind’s DNA. Since then, the sport of horse racing has grown and in America, there are five major race events that millions of horse racing enthusiasts tune in for every year.

  • The Kentucky Derby: The Kentucky Derby began in 1872 and was founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of the famous William Clark of Lewis and Clark this race happens every May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • The Kentucky Oaks: The Kentucky Oaks is often called The Kentucky Derby’s little sister, because it was founded by the same Merriwether Lewis Clark, Jr, happens on the same weekend as the Derby and while the Derby races predominantely male horses, the Kentucky Oaks races only female horses. 
  • The Preakness Stakes: This race was inaugurated shortly after the Kentucky races in 1973. This race is run at the end of May every year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The most famous horse to ever run a race, Secretariat, holds the record there.
  • The Belmont Stakes: The Belmont Stakes was founded before the Kentucky races in 1867 making it the longest running race on this short list. The Belmont Stakes happens in early June every year in Elmont, New York.

Before we move on to the fifth popular race, we have to bring up the Triple Crown. The United States Triple Crown is the act of one horse winning these three key races: The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. In the history of the Triple Crown, there have been 13 horses. If you’ve been around a track or two, then the names Omaha, Secretariat, American Pharaoh, and Justify might be familiar to you as they’re some of the most popular Triple Crown winners.

Okay, the fifth popular race event that Americans enjoy but is also watched worldwide is the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

  • The Breeders’ Cup: The Breeders’ Cup World Championships is a culmination of the year’s top thoroughbred horses battling it out to see who is the best of the year of their gender over the turf or the dirt at their best running distance.  Inaugurated in 1984, this race always happens at the beginning of November and is held at one of the premier race tracks in the country.  This race is called a “world championships” because a number of horses make the trip across the big pond from Ireland, Great Britain, France and other countries. 

Three Types of Horses and Races

All of the big five race events mentioned above are races in which thoroughbred horses are racing. But those aren’t the only types of horses that race!

  • Thoroughbred Horses & Racing: All of the above, most popular races mentioned, are thoroughbred races in which thoroughbred horses run. Thoroughbred horses tend to be lean with long legs and their specialty is traveling medium distances at a fast pace.
  • Standardbred Horses & Harness Racing: Standardbred horses are the horses that run in harness races. Harness races are races in which horses pace or trot with a “sulky” behind them, think of a very modern, slimmed down buggy that holds the Driver. Since they’re carrying an extra load, Standardbred horses tend to be more well-built and solid than thoroughbred horses.
  • American Quarter Horses & Quarter Horse Racing: Quarter Horses weren’t recognized as a breed until the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association in 1940, so they’re distinctly American. Quarter horses are sprinters. Extremely powerful, their hindquarters may be larger than other horses due the muscle that’s packed there.

In our OTB room, guests can watch and bet on all three types of horse races. One strategy some bettors employ is really getting well-acquainted with one track. Knowing what the track conditions tend to be at “your” track and whether or not horses tend to underperform or do well at your favorite location, may give you a hands up on your competition.

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino simulcasts races from tracks all across the world, but some popular tracks include Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Santa Anita, and Gulfstream Park. Check our OTB Schedule to get the full list of what’s playing.

Okay, so you understand what horse racing is all about, you know what type of horse race you want to watch, you know what track you want to watch, what’s next?

The Daily Racing Form, OTB Program, & Researching Horses

Visit our OTB Room to pick up an Off-Track Betting Program or Daily Racing Form, both sold by our Mutuel Tellers. The DRF /Program provide you with info of all of the races that are happening at the track and background info on all of the horses that will be racing. You’ll see their previous race times, their current record, notes about their previous performance, and the morning line odds. This will give you an idea of what horse you want to put your money on.

If neither of those suit you, then you can also visit which will have similar information about the horses that are scheduled to race.

Placing Your Bet & Betting Tips

Once you’ve got a good idea of which horse you want to put your money on, then you can make a bet in our OTB Room. We’ve provided details on how to make a bet here, but we have two more tips for you.

  • Keep an eye on the odds: If you’ve chosen your horse too far in advance of the race, then you may be disappointed when the odds shift too drastically for a big win. Not that small wins are a bad thing, they’re actually one of the things people love most about OTB. You win some, you lose some, but there’s a good chance you’ll walk away with more than you came in with if you bet smartly.
  • Choose the best race for you: In poker we say “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” In the racing world, we don’t have a clever phrase like that, but the principal still applies…sort of. The nice thing about horse betting is that you never have to risk it all. You could place a $1 bet on every race that happens in a day and turn out fine. But if you’re going “all in” on a horse or race you don’t know all about, where the reward isn’t quite worth the risk, then maybe find another race. There are hundreds every day!

This is why we’re particularly excited about the upcoming Breeders’ Cup 2019. The reward potential is HUGE! On November 1st and 2nd there will be guaranteed pools of $1 million and more. In horse betting, potential winnings are based on how many dollars people bet on a race. For the Breeders' Cup, these guaranteed pools mean that no matter how much money is bet, the potential winnings are at least $1 million dollars, which will be split between the lucky few who mange to pick all of the right horses. Some of the guaranteed pools are as follows:

Friday’s Guaranteed Pools

$1,000,000 minimum guarantee – all Breeders’ Cup Pick 4

Saturday’s Guaranteed Pools

$1,000,000 minimum guarantee – Breeders’ Cup Ultra Pick 6

$2,000,000 minimum guarantee – all Breeder’s Cup late Pick 5

$2,000,000 minimum guarantee – all Breeder’s Cup late Pick 4

 Win your share when you place a bet in OTB!