Top 5 Legendary Horse Races in the US Every Bettor Should Know

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Saddle up, bettors! The season of horse racing will soon be upon us, so we are going to take a slow trot through the exciting world of U.S. horse racing.

If you’ve never been to or watched any of the five legendary horse races in the U.S. that every bettor should know, you are missing out. Whether you’re heading to Kentucky to see which stallion or steed is crowned in “The Run for the Roses” or holding out for the final race of the Triple Crown, knowing the difference between them and how you can bet will increase your odds of winning on a thoroughbred. Giddy up!

Introduction to the ‘Sport of Kings’

Horse racing, which is also known as the “Sport of Kings,” is an amazing mingling of tradition, speed, and the unpredictability of nature and these gorgeous beasts that tear up the racetrack. At its core, though, it’s simple enough—a contest of speed and endurance between the world’s finest steeplechasers. But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover it’s a super complex sport with a long history, where strategy, breeding, and betting are intertwined.

Before we get into the big five horse races, we are going to break down the different types of bets that can be wagered at these iconic competitions. Understanding the types of bets is the first step to joining the elite wagerers who turn out every year for these legendary horse races!

The Types of Bets at US Horse Races

Here’s a quick primer on the main types of bets you’ll encounter at any legit horse racing betting app:

  • Win: Betting on a horse to finish first.
  • Place: Your horse needs to finish first or second.
  • Show: A bet that your horse will finish in the top three.
  • Exacta: Pick the first and second horses in the exact order.
  • Trifecta: Predict the first, second, and third horses in the correct sequence.
  • Superfecta: A challenge to correctly guess the first four finishers in order.
  • Hi-5: Predict the exact order of the first five finishers in a race (high payouts due to its difficulty).
  • Quinella: Pick two horses to finish first and second in any order.
  • Daily Double: Bet on the winners of two consecutive races.

Now, we are ready to pick up the gait, kick up some dust, and gallop into the five most legendary horse races in the U.S.!

The Kentucky Derby

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Known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” the Kentucky Derby is the crown jewel of American horse racing. Held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May, it’s the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Derby isn’t just a race; it’s a cultural phenomenon, complete with its own beverage—mint juleps—and women wearing the most extravagant hats you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Beyond the pageantry, the Kentucky Derby is a betting bonanza, offering some of the largest purses and drawing bettors worldwide. Its unpredictable nature has led to historic wins, like when Country House won in 2019 after Maximum Security was disqualified.

The Preakness Stakes

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Exactly two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes takes center stage at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s the second jewel of the Triple Crown and is known for its less formal, more party-like atmosphere compared to its predecessor—more beer and fewer hats.

The Preakness is critical for any horse going for the elusive Triple Crown, making it a make-or-break race for bettors. The stakes are high, and the excitement is off the hook, especially if the Derby winner is going on to race for continued glory.

The Belmont Stakes

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This is the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, held in June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Known as “The Test of the Champion,” it’s the longest of the three races, challenging both the horses and the jockeys with its 1.5-mile length.

The Belmont is a now-or-never stakes for a Triple Crown dream, adding a whole other level of high stakes to this betting scene. It has been the track for some of the most memorable moments in racing history, such as Secretariat’s (there’s a book AND a movie about Secretariat) astounding 31-length victory in 1973, setting a world record that no other horse and jockey have been able to beat.

The Breeders’ Cup

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When the Triple Crown is over, horse bettors turn their attention to the Breeders’ Cup, a two-day event that marks the end of the international racing season. It is held at different tracks each year, and it features multiple races across various distances and horse classes.

The Breeders’ Cup is known for its big-money purses and attracts an international field, making it a bettor’s paradise. The assortment of races means that there are lots of betting opportunities, highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a defining race for the year’s champion.

The Travers Stakes

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Known as the “Mid-Summer Derby,” the Travers Stakes takes place at the end of August at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. It’s one of the oldest races for thoroughbreds in the U.S., adding a privileged history to its prestige.

The horse race at Saratoga is famed for its upsets, earning it the nickname “The Graveyard of Champions.” Betting at the Travers is as much about picking the next great winner as it is about spotting a potential upset, attaching an extra something for bettors who love to research and up the ante.

Final Thoughts

A few horse races have been the stage for some of the most unforgettable moments in horse racing. Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah’s 2015 Triple Crown victory, and Zenyatta’s 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic win are just a few examples that have left indelible marks on the sport’s history and for bettors who picked the right horse.

The draw of these legendary horse races goes beyond the spectacle; they’re a bettor’s triple threat—a mix of tradition, live excitement, and the chance for big monetary wins. Whether you’re drawn to the historical prestige of the Belmont Stakes or the global appeal of the Breeders’ Cup, each race is a gateway into the world of horse racing betting. And every single bet that is placed is not just a wager on a majestic racehorse but a piece of the lush landscape that makes horse racing the Sport of Kings.

Alyssa Waller Avatar
Alyssa Waller

Alyssa contributes sportsbook/online casino reviews, but she also stays on top of any industry news, precisely that of the sports betting market. She’s been an avid sports bettor for many years and has experienced success in growing her bankroll by striking when the iron was hot. In particular, she loves betting on football and basketball at the professional and college levels.