Horses racing at Eldorado Scioto Downs in Columbus, Ohio

Experience the thrill of harness racing

The Standardbreds have been doing their thing right here at The Downs since 1959, which means generations of fans throughout Central Ohio have enjoyed the money winning thrills of harness racing right here JUST LIKE YOU. If you’re new to the game, we’ve made this guide for you! It’s a playbook to help you understand what’s going on out on the track, to pick some winner’s and leave Scioto Downs with more money than you came with. 


First a word about our equine athletes. They are called Standardbreds and they are truly an American Breed. While Thoroughbred racing has long been known as the “sport of kings,” the dependable, willing and athletic Standardbred brought racing to the common man, first on country roads and fairgrounds and later at state-of-the-art racetracks. This is why the sport of harness racing is known as “America’s First Pastime. “ Most Standardbreds begin racing at the age of two and they can race through their fourteenth year of age.

Standardbred racing is contested on two different gaits, the trot and the pace. Trotters move with a diagonal gait: the left front and the right rear legs move in unison, as do the right front and left rear. Pacers move both their front and back legs on the same side of the body in unison. Pacers are faster than trotters and even though the trot is the horse’s natural gait, it is much harder to do at race speed. For this reason, about 75% of races held at Scioto Downs are for pacers.

Nearly every race contested here at Scioto Downs is one mile in length. The circumference of the track is 5/8ths of a mile, which means the race starts on the backstretch and the horses race nearly one and one-half times around the track before reaching the finish line. The Standardbreds race while harnessed to a sulky, on which the driver sits and steers the horse. That’s why the sport is called harness racing.

At race speed Standardbreds move at more than 30 MPH and their drivers must make split second decisions when figuring the best way to win the race. Drivers, much like other athletes, possess varying amounts of ability and even the best of them have slumps. You can check the Driver Standings in the front of your race program to see who the top drivers at Scioto Downs are. A driver record is provided next to his or her name on each horse they drive, which lists: number of starts and number of 1st-2nd-3rd followed by his “UDR” which stands for Universal Driver Rating. Consider this number just like a batting average in baseball, the higher the number, the more success the driver has had.

The trainer is responsible for the conditioning and care of the horse. Trainers are hired by the owner to get their horses ready to race, and to help them perform at their best. Trainers are also responsible for fitting their horses with the right equipment to maximize their racing potential and make sure they stay strong and healthy throughout the racing season. Again, just like with drivers, standings for trainers are listed in the front of the program and their seasonal record follows their name in the program on each horse they train.

At Scioto Downs, we want your visit with us to 
not only be enjoyable, but also rewarding. When betting on the horses, you are playing against 
other bettors, not the house. This is called “Pari-Mutuel Wagering”. The track handles the bets and redistributes the money to the winners and has nothing to gain by which horse wins the race. Winning money at the racetrack is part luck and part skill, as are most things in life. The “skill” part is broken down into two components: Handicapping the Race (or figuring out which horse is going to win the race) and of equal importance, Wagering to Maximize Profits. The remainder of this guide will explain types 
of wagers offered here at Scioto Downs and hopefully help you have a winning evening. 

First things first, a word about the odds. The Morning Line, which is listed below each horse’s betting number in the program, is only an estimate made by the Track Handicapper as to what each horse’s final odds will be. The actual odds are affected by how much the bettors wager on each horse, and that’s why the odds change right up until the final bets are calculated as the race goes off.


Your horse must finish first for you to collect. $2 minimum bet.

Your horse must finish first or second for you to collect.  Generally the payoff is less than a win payoff. $2 min.

Your horse must finish first, second or third for you to collect. Generally the payoff is less than a win or a place payoff. $2 min.

The following wagers are known as exotic wagers and many times give you the opportunity to win big on a relatively small investment.

You win by picking the first two horses to cross the finish line in exact order.

You win by selecting the first three horses to cross the finish line in exact order. This payoff is generally higher than an Exacta, but is a tougher bet to win.  You can bet a Trifecta for as little as .50 cents.

You win by selecting the first four horses to cross the finish line in exact order. You can bet a Superfecta for as little as .20 cents and they routinely pay hundreds of dollars for a dime. 

You win by selecting the first five horses to cross the finish line in exact order. At Scioto Downs, Super High Five wagering is held on the 9th Race. You can wager as little as .20 cents and win thousands of dollars if you hit it.

You must pick the winner of two consecutive races to collect. Here at Scioto Downs, we offer Daily Double wagering on the first two races of the night.

You must pick the winner of three consecutive races to collect. Here at Scioto Downs, Pick-3 wagering beings on Race 3 and on the final three races of the evening. 

You must pick the winner of four consecutive races to collect. At Scioto Downs the Pick 4 begins on Race 1 and the final four races of the evening. 

You must pick the winner of five consecutive races to collect.  The Pick 5 will have a low takeout of 14% and starts Race 5.

You must pick the winner of six consecutive races to collect.  The Pick 6 will be the final 6 races of the evening with a $.20 cent min.

This method of wagering combines your selections to finish first & second (third for trifectas & fourth in the case of superfectas) in every possible combination. Example: If you bet a “Trifecta Box 3-4-5”, you win if those horses finish in any order first, second and third.

Combines one horse with all the others in the race. Example: If you wager an “Exacta Wheel 5-ALL”, you win if the five finishes first, no matter which horse finishes second.

Allows you to pick only the combinations you want. This is often used by experienced bettors. Example: If you bet a “Trifecta Partial Wheel 3 with 1, 2, 4,” you win if the 3 wins and 1, 2 or 4 finish second and third. Or say you wagered a “Trifecta Partial Wheel 1, 2, 4 with 3 with 1, 2, 4,” you win if the 3 finishes second and any combination of 1, 2 or 4 finishes first and third.

Choose Your Winner

Now that you know the basics of the sport, here’s the FUN PART! Even if this is the first time you’ve been to a harness race, you can learn to do the most exciting thing in all of sports – PICKING WINNERS! Choosing a winner can be as simple as picking your horse by name. Standardbreds have great names and if you find one you like, place a wager on that horse. Or you can purchase a copy of our OFFICIAL PAST PERFORMANCE PROGRAM and learn to handicap (pick winners) like the pros do. At first, it might look like an overwhelming amount of information, but once you know how to read it, it’s a snap. The bottom line is, picking horses can be as scientific or unscientific as YOU WANT IT TO BE!


Management reserves all rights to change, modify or cancel this promotion at any time without prior notification, with regulatory approval. Must be 18 years of age or older to participate.

Back to Top