How To Bet On American Horse Racing

Santa Anita

We may have no British and Irish racing at the moment but our American Racing Tips are still provided on a daily basis! In this article, we take a look at some of the best trainers, horses and tracks across the pond.

Best trainers

Bob Baffert: the most recognisable and one of the most successful trainers in US racing history. Based in California, Baffert has trained the two most recent Triple Crown winners in American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018) along with a host of other top names, such as Point Given, Arrogate and Silverbulletday.

Steve Asmussen: just the second trainer in US racing history to win 8,000 races, a mark he achieved in May 2018. He continues to churn out winners on a regular basis and in 2009 trained Rachel Alexandra to defeat the colts in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the US Triple Crown. Curlin and Gun Runner are other notable names he has handled.

Chad Brown: initially known for his skills with turf horses, including several runners that started their careers in Europe, Brown has since grown to be one of the top trainers in the entire country. Brilliant filly Sistercharlie is his star performer, while the likes of Newspaperof record, Stacelita, Cloud Computing and Bricks And Mortar have landed major prizes.

Todd Pletcher: a seven-time winner of the Eclipse Award for leading trainer, Pletcher is invariably involved in the biggest races. He has twice won the Kentucky Derby (Super Saver and Always Dreaming) while he won the 2007 Belmont Stakes with filly Rags To Riches.

Brad Cox: has entered the big time in recent years through the exploits of the likes of Grade 1 winners Monomoy Girl, Covfefe and British Idiom. He has finished in the top five in the overall trainers’ championship the last two years and is again a leading presence this year.

Best horses

Sistercharlie: described as a ‘horse of a lifetime’ by owner Peter Brant, the brilliant mare has dominated the turf for the past two years. Her ultimate aim is the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, a race she won in 2018.
Maximum Security: switched to trainer Bob Baffert after winning the $20 million Saudi Cup, the richest race in the world, on his last start. Demoted after ‘winning’ the Kentucky Derby last year after causing interference, but a talented performer on the dirt.

Midnight Bisou: chased home Maximum Security in the Saudi Cup but generally the five-year-old mare has been a winning machine with 12 successes in her career.

McKinzie: often promised more than he delivered in 2019, but he is a Grade 1 winner and he is held in considerable regard by trainer Bob Baffert. A likely Breeders’ Cup Classic contender.

Tiz The Law: swept to the head of the betting for the Kentucky Derby with an authoritative success in the Florida Derby on his most recent start. Likely to be contesting the biggest races this season.

Best racetracks

Santa Anita, California: one of the most stunning racecourses in the entire world and the location of many of America’s best contests. Endured a difficult 2019 following a spate of equine deaths, but remains a leading course following alterations made to the racing surface.

Churchill Downs, Kentucky: home of America’s most famous race – the Kentucky Derby. The twin spires that top the grandstand are among the most famous sights in world racing, and many of the top races in the USA take place on the turf and dirt tracks.

Belmont, New York: nicknamed Big Sandy, Belmont is one of the biggest courses in the USA and stages the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the US Triple Crown. Staged two of the greatest runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Cigar’s win in 1995 and Tiznow’s victory in 2001.

Del Mar, California: has the tagline ‘where the surf meets the turf’, Del Mar is California’s summer hangout spot. Formerly visited by famous faces such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, Del Mar’s biggest race of the season is the Pacific Classic.

Biggest races

Kentucky Derby: the most famous race in America, the Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the US Triple Crown, a series of three races run in May and early June for the best three-year-olds. First run in 1875, the 1m2f Kentucky Derby, run on the first Saturday in May and known as the ‘Run for the Roses’, it regularly draws a crowd of 150,000 people to watch.

Preakness Stakes: the second leg of the US Triple Crown, the 1m1f contest takes place at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland. Scheduled two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, it often draws the winner of the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Belmont Stakes: the third and final race in the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, over 1m4f, is a thorough test for three-year-olds and generates significant media interest if a horse competing has won the first two races in the series. Justify (2018) is the most recent of the 13 horses to win the Triple Crown.

Travers Stakes: often referred to as the ‘midsummer Derby’, the Travers Stakes takes place over 1m2f at Saratoga racecourse in upstate New York. The race frequently draws in the leading Classic three-year-olds and helps determine the true champions as a result.

Breeders’ Cup Classic: the end-of-year highlight for American racing, the Classic has only grown in importance since it was first run in 1984. Worth a total of $7 million over run over 1m2f, it has been won by the likes of Cigar, Zenyatta, Curlin, Arrogate and American Pharoah, who is the only horse to win the Triple Crown and the Classic – a feat known as the Grand Slam.

Racing style

As dirt is the predominant surface on which racing takes place, most US horses are trained for speed from the gate. Being able to dominate opponents and get on to, or close to, the lead and out of the kickback is seen as advantageous. Timing and fractions are all-important too, with riders who are able to dictate the pace often the most successful. All races take place anti-clockwise.

Track surfaces

Racing in the US takes place on dirt, turf and all-weather (synthetic) surfaces. Dirt is the leading surface due to its durability, with most of the top races in the country taking place on it. The tighter, turf tracks are invariably inside the dirt courses.

Bet types

Fixed-odds betting has only recently returned to the USA after decades of bookmakers being outlawed from offering such a service. As such, betting in America is mostly done through the pools with exotic bets, such as the quinella (first and second in any order), exacta (first and second in the right order) and the daily double (two selected races where you try to pick the winners) the preferred punting options.

Betting factors

Speed and time are the two leading factors in selecting winners in the USA, with horses who are able to clock fast times in training and/or races often the most successful. With nearly all races taking place on left-handed ovals, low draws are often favoured over higher gates.

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