Stakes Winner is a 2D horse racing game. Taking the role of horse jockeys, players must win a series of races using one of the game's eight selectable horses. Each horse is rated in strength, speed, and stamina, making each horse different in handling. During the game, horse ratings can be boosted through completing bonus levels. Each horse has a stamina bar displayed at the bottom of the screen, next to a picture of the horse's head showing its current health. The stamina bar decreases as the horse runs, and when it is depleted, the race is over for that horse.