Author: Sebastian Scheplitz
Horse racing is a venerable sport popular across Asia to Oceania whose drawing appeal has practically remained the same for millennia regardless of its evolution as a sport and a betting event – picking which horse finishes first.
From a rudimentary contest of speed and endurance between horses into a modern-day spectacle of festive races worth billions of dollars, horse racing has evolved its own traditions across countries.
Today, horse racing involves eye-watering amounts of money, state-of-the-art tracking technology, and more ways to bet on the sport than you can shake a stick at.
And given its prominence as a sport and betting event – to the tune of EUR109 billion (US$115 billion) in 2019 – it’s imperative that iGaming content marketing professionals should be well-versed in the sport.
Making effective content for online sportsbooks, especially when it comes to content writing for horse racing, requires a modicum of familiarity – if not expertise – with the ins and outs of the “sport of kings.”
That’s why we’ve put together a guide to horse racing for iGaming professionals.
If you want to create effective horse racing marketing materials, then you’ll want to check this out.
A Brief History of Horse Racing
The exact time and place when and where horse racing began are probably lost to time. However, based on the earliest written accounts, athletes participated in both chariot and mounted bareback races during the ancient Greek Olympics from 700 to 40 BC.
Horse racing soon spread to neighboring civilizations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa, where it has evolved to its present-day format.
In medieval England, professional riders rode horses to demonstrate their qualities – namely, their speed – to potential buyers. It was during the reign of King Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199) when the first-ever racing purse amounting to 40 pounds was determined and offered to riders who would win a three-mile race.
It wouldn’t be long until organized horse racing became a full-blown sport in no small part due to its emerging popularity.
Horse racing would gain its moniker as the “sport of kings” during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685), when he would acquire foreign mares to improve English horse stock through his marriage to Catherine of Braganza.
Not long thereafter, Charles II would institute the King’s Plate races – the first known horse racing events where prize money was awarded to winners. The first recorded set of horse racing rules would be formulated, many of which remain in force today.
Betting on horse racing took off during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, at a time when the sport was especially widespread.
The advent of modern horse racing as we know it and as it is practiced today is generally regarded to have begun in the 1700s. The first horse racing competition under modern rules – known as the St. Leger Stakes – was first established in England in 1776.
The Oaks and the Derby followed in 1779 and 1780, respectively. They remain among the most popular equestrian events to this very day, especially with horse race betting becoming a favorite pastime among cultures of the world.
France followed suit with the establishment of the Prix du Jockey Club, the Grand Prix de Paris, and the Prix l’Arc de Triomphe in 1836, 1863, and 1920, respectively.
Meanwhile, across the pond in the United States, organized horse racing most likely began in the 1600s, when the first racecourses popped up across Long Island in New York. Historians note that at the time, stamina was the gold standard in measuring an equestrian’s success rather than speed.
The United States finally followed its European counterparts by introducing the Belmont Stakes in 1867, the Preakness Stakes in 1873, and the Kentucky Derby in 1875 – constituting the United States Triple Crown.
🏇🏻 Horse racing fun fact #1: Did you know that horse racing has been recorded among nomadic tribesmen in Central Asia as far back as 4500 BC?
What Are the Different Types of Horse Races?
Generally speaking, there are four main kinds of horse racing. This includes flat racing, steeplechasing, harness racing, and endurance racing.
Flat racing is the most common type of horse race worldwide. This event is a competition among a field of horses competing over a level, oval course without obstacles.
The most prestigious flat races in the world include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Kentucky Derby, and the Dubai World Cup.
However, flat races in Great Britain and Ireland may vary, such as figure-eight tracks in Windsor, and racetracks that have high gradients, such as at the Epsom Racecourse. Flat races often take place at a distance ranging from 400 m to 4 km at speeds that could hit 64 km/h.
Track surfaces may vary, with turf being the surface of choice in Europe. In North America and Asia, dirt is more common, hence, synthetic surfaces such as Tapeta or Polytrack are used in several tracks.
Steeplechase racing is a type of horse race that involves equestrians jumping over obstacles such as fences while maintaining control over their horses.
“Steeplechasing” can also refer to any type of jump race across racing jurisdictions, mainly in the United States.
Harness racing is a type of horse race where horses pull a drive in a cart known as a “sulky.” In harness racing, standardbred horses are used. They are split into two categories: pacers and trotters.
Pacers move their legs in tandem on each side of the body, while trotters move their diagonal legs simultaneously. Trotters are generally faster than pacers because of their gait.
Every once in a while, a horse may break their gait into a gallop or canter, leading to a loss or disqualification in some cases.
Endurance racing is an equestrian sport that tests the rider and the horse’s stamina to race over long distances without taking extended pauses.
Endurance race lengths may vary; some may be short and consist only of 16 km, while other races can take 160 km.
Several races go even longer than the latter, and last for several days. Endurance races are usually done on trails of natural terrain due to their length.
🏇🏻 Horse racing fun fact #2: In 2021, almost EUR950 billion (US$1 billion) in prize money was paid out to winning owners, jockeys, and trainers. Massive.
What Are the Most Common Types of Horse Racing Breeds?
There are over 350 different horse breeds worldwide, but only a select few are actually used in horse racing.
For a horse to be competitive in any type of race, they need to exhibit certain qualities – namely, strength, speed, or endurance.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 most popular racehorse breeds as follows.
Arabian horses are renowned for their intelligence, endurance, composure, gentle disposition, and beauty. Consequently, they make very popular racehorse breeds.
As the name implies, Arabian horses originated from the Middle East, and have been bred and spread worldwide for trade, war, and their desirable traits.
Thoroughbreds are the most popular racehorses in the world. They originated in 17th century England as a result of breeding native English mares with Barb, Turkman, and Arabian stallions.
Thoroughbreds are recognized for their robust, muscular bodies, deep chests, short backs, and broad heads. They are often used in equestrian sports, show jumping, dressage, and the Olympics, among others.
American Quarter Horse
American quarter horses are known for their stocky, robust build and low center of gravity which makes them excellent horses suited for long rides and fast runs. American quarter horses can run as fast as 88 km per hour.
The breed is one of America’s oldest recognized horse breeds, originating from the early 18th century.
Standardbred (Trotter Pacer)
Standardbred horses, also known as Trotter Pacers, are well-muscled and well-developed horses bred for fasted trotting and harness racing. They are the most popular horse breed for the aforementioned race types.
Their qualities, particularly their excellent comportment and temperament make them excel in racing and show events, but also in hunting.
Paint horses are renowned for their strength, agility, intelligence, and speed. That makes them popular horse breeds across Western disciplines such as barrel racing, cross-country events, trail rides, combined driving, and so much more.
Paint horses are known for their marking, color, and refined behavior making them among the most preferred breeds to own.
🏇🏻 Horse racing fun fact #3: Most racehorse breeds will have a racing career of only up to 3 years, but they live for up to 30 years.
Horse Betting 101: The Basics of Horse Betting
People have been wagering on horse races ever since horses were domesticated over 6000 years ago. Consequently, betting on the outcome of organized horse races can be a fun and profitable pastime if you know how to pick a winner and beat the odds.
Horse racing fans enjoy betting on the sport, with sportsbooks offering a wide array of bets to add to the thrill of the race.
In 2019, revenue from off-course horse betting in the United Kingdom alone amounted to EUR 4.7 billion (US$4.9 billion). That’s not even counting betting revenues across the pond, with massive events like the Kentucky Derby among the sport’s biggest betting draws.
Nevertheless, the emergence of online sportsbooks and sports betting websites have contributed to a significantly informed race-going audience.
A wealth of information about different horses and essential details such as their jockeys and trainers is widely available across media, which has helped immensely to continue drawing new audiences and widening its scope.
Consequently, horse race betting has secured the sport’s long-term viability and profitability moving forward.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common bet types in horse racing as follows.
The most popular betting option on horse racing is the win bet. It simply requires the punter to pick the horse that will finish first in the race – simple as that. All you need to do is pick your selected runner and follow its run throughout the course of the race and enjoy your winnings once you know it has won.
Place bets are another popular bet type in horse racing. It requires the punter to pick a runner to finish either first, second, or third after the race is finished.
Place bets are easier to hit than picking a single runner to win it all, making it a desirable option to hedge win bets.
It’s as simple as selecting runners to finish first, second, and third place. Place betting often has a lower payout than betting on a single winner.
Each way bets
Each way betting simply means that you are putting an equal amount of money on a horse to Win and Place.
If your selection wins you will receive your percentage of the Win dividend and Place dividend. If your selection finishes 2nd or 3rd then you are only entitled to your percentage of the Place dividend.
Online sportsbooks and iGaming sites give punters the option to make exotic bets. Exotic betting is a popular group of horse racing bets that require the punter to wager on multiple horses either in a single race or over a series of multiple races.
Many bettors enjoy making exotic bets because of the potential to make serious dough with them – however, they are harder to hit than the basic bet types.
Among the most common exotic bets people make include the exacta, the trifecta, and the superfecta. Let’s take a brief look at them as follows.
- Exacta. The exacta is an exotic bet that basically requires the punter to predict which runner finishes first and second upon the official completion of a particular race. For instance, if you make a bet on a 2-5 exacta, you will win if the #2 runner takes first place, and the #5 runner takes second.
- Trifecta. Also known as a triple or big triple, trifectas require the punter to correctly predict the first three winners in order in a particular race. These bets can bring in a handsome payout at a small outlay, making them a popular exotic bet.
- Superfectas. Taking off from the exacta and trifecta, superfectas require the punter to predict the first four finishers in order in a single race. This can be a tough ask with long odds to hit, but they can bring in some serious profit if you manage to hit them. For instance, punters can win a 2-3-4-5 superfecta if the #2 runner takes first place, #3 takes second, #4 takes third, and #5 takes fourth.
We’ll discuss more about exotic horse racing betting types in more detail in another article.
🏇🏻 Horse racing fun fact #4: Knowing a horse’s history and its strengths and weaknesses from past races is an essential part of handicapping.
The Rise of Horse Racing on Online Sports Betting Platforms
As with most sporting events, horse racing has been subject to massive changes brought on by technological advances in recent years.
Granted, horse racing has largely retained the great majority of its traditions, rules, and regulations as a sport – but it has also benefited immensely from the emergence of technology in the past several decades.
For instance, virtual reality has brought virtual horse racing to the gambling public. With virtual horses, punters can bet on simulated races every several minutes–all day, everyday. Unlike betting on live horse racing events, virtual races are on 24/7 and are never canceled due to inclement weather.
On the other hand, horse racing has also crossed paths with NFT technology, enabling blockchain-based virtual horse racing games and breeding simulators.
In particular, the advent of iGaming and online sports betting has revolutionized the horse racing industry and turned it into a legitimate multibillion-dollar industry with a tremendous global following.
Horse racing fans no longer need to bet in person using bookmakers or parimutuel tellers; instead, they can bet off-track from literally anywhere in real-time using their mobile devices or computers.
Consequently, bettors can compare odds across iGaming providers, use a variety of payment methods including cryptocurrencies, and neatly keep track of their ongoing bets in one app or website.
There’s no doubt that iGaming has created tremendous opportunities for the sport of horse racing to attract new fans from all over the online sports betting world, opening up new markets and revenue streams for organizers and iGaming companies alike.
It can only be good for the business – it’s literally unthinkable to imagine a future for horse racing without betting as part of the equation.
That said, iGaming content marketers should also take stock of this opportunity to create better, value-generating sports betting content that new and old horse racing fans alike will find useful and captivating – with the ultimate goal of driving a successful overall marketing strategy that generates results.
Learning the essentials of horse racing is inseparable from that goal.
How did you like Sebastian Scheplitz’s blog post “Horse Racing 101: A Guide to Horse Racing for Sports Betting Content Marketers”? Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add, have another content idea for iGaming blog posts, or just want to say “hello.” 🙂