Colorado Horse Racing and Betting

Horse racing first came to Colorado in 1950 after pari-mutuel betting was legalized. Today, there is one active track in Colorado, Arapahoe Park, which features live racing annually from May to August. This detailed guide to Colorado horse racing and betting shares everything you need to know about horse race betting in the state.

We begin with information about Arapahoe Park and the racing calendar, including the biggest races and types of bets you can place when making a visit. We also cover how to place horse bets online in Colorado using FanDuel Racing where new users get a $20 No Sweat First Win Bet. From there we discuss Colorado’s many off-track betting venues, share details about pari-mutuel and fixed-odds betting in Colorado, and offer a history of horse racing in Colorado.

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Horse racing in Colorado at Arapahoe Park

Today, Arapahoe Park is the lone racetrack in Colorado. It is based in Arapahoe County, on the outskirts of Aurora. The track features up to 40 meetings annually, with all of the racing squeezed into the summer months. Every meeting on its calendar takes place either on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday, and always with a post time of 1 p.m. The first ever race at Arapahoe Park took place on May 25, 1984, when Easy Bloom won a five-furlong race.

All races run at Arapahoe Park are run on the dirt. The track has a distance of 1 mile. The average daily purse on offer at the track is in excess of $70,000, ensuring that it attracts high quality fields throughout the season.

In total, there are 38 stakes races run at the track, roughly equivalent to one for every meeting. Quieter racing days will feature no stakes races — while the busier days, especially at the end of the season, can feature a handful of the biggest races. Many of the biggest races at Arapahoe Park take place over sprint distances of 400 yards or less featuring quarter horses.

Biggest horse races at Arapahoe Park

  • The Cherry Creek Futurity — Run in early June (with trial races in May), this race has a purse of $96,000 and is run over the sprint distance of just 330 yards, with the winner hitting the winning post in a time of around just 17 seconds. This exciting race for quarter horses is open only to 2-year-olds.
  • The Mile High Derby — This race takes place in the middle of August, with trial races at the back end of July. The Mile High Derby for quarter horses has a purse of $100,000. This race is open to 3-year-olds at a distance of 400 yards and takes place on the penultimate day of the racing calendar at Arapahoe Park.

The final day of the season sees a bumper crowd at the racetrack and features three of the biggest races featured at Arapahoe Park:

  • The Arapahoe Park Classic — This race is open to 3-year-olds and up, and is run over a distance of 1 mile and 1 furlong. For thoroughbreds, this race has a purse of $100,000.
  • The Gold Rush Futurity — A thoroughbred race run over a distance of six furlongs, this race tests the sprinting power of the best 2-year-olds. With a purse of $100,000, this race attracts a strong field of the best young sprinting talent.
  • The Mile High Futurity — The biggest race of the year at Arapahoe Park, and the last stakes race to take place annually, this quarter horse race is run over a distance of 400 yards and is open to 2-year-olds and older. This feature race of the year has a purse of $160,000.

Types of bets at Arapahoe Park

On heading to the Arapahoe Park website, you’ll find a very handy betting guide, detailing all of the different bet types you can enjoy in great detail.

Below is a summary of the most popular bet types:

Basic wagers

  • Win — The most straightforward wager of all, where you collect if your selection finishes first.
  • Place — The second horse to finish places, meaning you’ll win if your selection finishes first OR second.
  • Show — You’ll collect if your selection finishes first, second or third.
  • Quinella — This bet involves you picking the first two finishers in a race in either order.
  • Daily Double — Pick the winners of two consecutive races to collect.

Advanced wagers

  • Exacta — Like the Quinella, but you have to pick the first two in the exact order.
  • Trifecta — Pick the first three finishers in the race in the correct order.
  • Superfecta — Select the first four finishers in the correct order.
  • Triple (Pick 3) — Select the winners of three consecutive races.

Multiple wagers

  • Across the board — Put win, place and show wagers on a single selection. If it wins, all three bets will pay out, if it places, the place and show bets will pay, while if it finishes third, only the show bet will pay.
  • Boxes — A box bet means you cover all combinations in bets such as exactas, trifectas and superfectas. For example, a “boxed” trifecta can see you cover all combinations of finishing order for your three selections. This is more expensive than a standard wager, as you’ll have to pay the stake for each combination.
  • Wheels — If you have a selection that you think will win the race, you can wheel this selection with other combinations. Your selection must finish in the position you have designated for you to win. For example, you could have a trifecta where your key selection is No. 7, while you also select Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Any result that sees No. 7 win and any combination of 2, 3 and 4 coming in second and third will see the wager pay out.

Racing days at Arapahoe Park

Throughout the summer, you can enjoy a fantastic choice of racing. General admission to the track is just $5, with free admission for anyone 17 and under, while seniors aged 55 or older will be admitted for the cost of a dollar.

There is plenty of free parking at the track, too, ensuring that costs are low for a day of racing entertainment. Food and beverages are available throughout the weekend on the grandstand, third and fourth levels (racegoers on Monday will face a limited choice). A gift shop on site features equine themed gifts, jewelry, art, home decor, collectibles, toys, games and a whole lot more.

Online horse race betting in Colorado

As well as heading to off-track betting locations, residents of Colorado can enjoy placing horse racing bets online. While each of these horse betting sites have strengths, we recommend FanDuel Racing above the rest.

FanDuel Racing Colorado

FanDuel is best known for sports betting and daily fantasy sports, but the FanDuel Racing app has fast become a top choice in Colorado and other states where it is available.

Action from tracks across the nation is broadcast live on FanDuel Racing, which is available on leading cable and streaming providers. You can also download the FanDuel Racing app right to your smartphone to watch whenever you wish. FanDuel Racing offers an excellent platform that’s easy to use and provides all of the available bet types. New users to FanDuel Racing Colorado get a $20 No Sweat First Win Bet.

Off-track betting in Colorado

In addition to Arapahoe Park, there are 11 off-track betting sites in Colorado.

These first came to Colorado in 1991 when the government approved limited stakes gambling, which came as a result of the relaxation of gambling laws. As well as having the opportunity to bet on races from within the state, simulcast racing all year round gives residents of Colorado the opportunity to wager at other tracks and enjoying the best that racing has to offer.

Here is a list of the OTB venues:

  • Havana Park — Admission is $3 per person, and this full service OTB site is available seven days a week and has a capacity of 200. Doors open 30 minutes before the first race.
  • Celtic on Market — Based in Denver, this OTB site is open seven days a week until 10 p.m. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. all other days.
  • Softball Country — Off 64th and Pecos in Denver, this site is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. daily. Open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • Pick 6 @ The Mirage — Based in Littleton, this site is open daily from 10 a.m.
  • Pick 6 @ The Fox and Hound — This OTB site is based in Lone Tree and doors open daily from 10 a.m.
  • The 8 Track — Based at Bank 8 Billiards, this is the only OTB site in the Grand Junction area of Colorado. Open daily from 10 a.m., this site is one for the night birds on weekends, as it remains open until 2 a.m.
  • So Co Gaming and Event Center — Based in Pueblo, this site opens from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday. The site is closed on Tuesdays.
  • Big D’s at Whiskey River — Based in Greeley, this OTB opens from 10 a.m. daily (apart from an early 9 a.m. on Sunday) and is open till 9 p.m. on the busiest days of the week.
  • Elevations at Union Station — Based in Colorado Springs, this site is open all year round, with the longest hours of business from Wednesday to Sunday, staying open till 9 p.m.
  • Post Time OTB — With a new location at Austin Bluffs & Academy in Colorado Springs, this OTB features an 8,000-square-foot sports bar. This site is open six days a week (closed Tuesday), staying open until 9 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday.
  • OTB Sundance — Based in Fort Collins, this OTB opens at 10 a.m. daily (aside from Tuesdays). Have a fantastic steak while you’re there!

Pari-mutuel wagering and fixed-odds wagering in Colorado

Almost all horse betting uses the pari-mutuel wagering system. With pari-mutuel wagering, your wager becomes part of a pool along with the contributions of other bettors. How much gets wagered on each horse affects the odds which keep changing right up until post time when betting finally closes.

With pari-mutuel wagering, whatever the odds are on your horse when betting closes is what determines your payout. That is to say, your horse might have been a 4-to-1 favorite when you made your bet in the morning, but if the odds went down to 2-to-1 by post time and your horse wins, you’d get a 2-to-1 payout and not 4-to-1.

Meanwhile, most other sports betting uses fixed-odds wagering which means whatever the odds were at the time you place your bet determines what a winning bet pays. This is common when betting on basketball, football, baseball, hockey or other sports, but fixed-odds betting is relatively rare in horse betting.

Recently the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission legalized fixed-odds wagering on a trial basis, making Colorado one of the few places in the US where it is legal. Therefore, you might find fixed-odds horse betting appearing on legal Colorado sports betting apps such as Bet365 Colorado which was the first site to introduce it.

History of horse racing in Colorado

While the first racetrack in Colorado didn’t open until 1950, the noble sport of horse racing was making headlines in the state way back in 1908.

This was due to the Great Horse Race, an incredible endurance contest over 500 miles that would start in Wyoming and end in Denver. While there were 25 horses entered into the race, all the talk was about two particular competitors — Sam (ridden by Dode Wykert) from Colorado and Teddy (ridden by Charles Workman) from Wyoming. While many of the horses would drop out, Sam and Teddy would make it all the way to Denver.

Eventually, the contest was deemed a draw, as both horses were declared unfit for the final stage and would walk to the finish line, with the streets lined by thousands of people. The event served as the inspiration for the Oscar-nominated movie Bite the Bullet starring Gene Hackman, James Coburn and Candice Bergen.

Pari-mutuel racing was finally legalized in Colorado in 1948. Centennial Park opened just a couple of years later, a track dubbed the Santa Anita of the Rockies. Ten thousand people crowded into the track on its Independence Day opening, wagering half a million dollars. While the opening day showed promise, it was a struggle for Centennial Park, as the amount wagered daily was $30,000 less than the Mile High dog track in the state. Racing would take place at Centennial Park until 1983, when the land was sold to build an apartment, condo, and office complex.

In 1965 Pikes Peak Meadows would open and run alongside Centennial Park, and for nine years it would be the only racetrack in the state after the demise of its rival. The arrival of Arapahoe Park came later in 1992, and, just a year after that, Pikes Peaks Meadows would close and become a race car speedway. Arapahoe Park continues to this day.

Incidentally, at one time Colorado was also a hotbed for dog racing, with the aforementioned Mile High track, joined by Cloverleaf, the Rocky Mountain Kennel Club and the Pueblo Kennel Club all along Interstate 25 until the sport was banished from the state in 2008.