There’s so much to appreciate about an afternoon at the local racetrack. The horses, jockey silks and overall environment are often a thing of beauty. With that said, it’s still gambling that brings most people to the races. If you are thinking about going to the races for the first time, we thought you might appreciate some tips for beginners.
Tools of the Trade
Upon entering the track, patrons will have an opportunity to purchase a variety of handicapping tools. For online horseplayers, these items should be available through the wagering website, either for free or at a cost similar to the cost at the track. Here’s a list of tools that can be helpful in the handicapping process.
- Program – This is a must. The program lists the horses running in each race by post position. It also lists the owners, trainers and jockeys. In some programs, some rudimentary handicapping information (speed figures, etc.) might be included.
- Racing Form or Form Guide – This tool comes in either a newspaper or magazine format. It contains past performance information for each horse in each race. While this option is not absolutely necessary, it really is the best way to compare horses within the same race. Intermediate and experience horseplayers often refer to these items as the “horseplayer’s bible.”
- Tip Sheets – For the patrons who want a little help picking winners, there’s never a shortage of tip sheets being offered for sale by professional handicappers. Caution: On its own, a tip sheep offers little value because most handicappers in a public handicapping forum land on favorites. Tips sheets are best used to confirm an opinion.
After factoring in exotic wagering options, there’s usually more than a dozen ways to bet on a horse race. Here’s the basics:
- Win/Place/Show – These options are considered one horse options. A win bet is a winner if the horse finishes first. A place wager requires the horse to finish first or second. A show wager requires the horse to finish first, second or third. Online bettors will note most European tracks don’t offer show wagering.
- Exacta – Pick two horses in the same race to finish first and second in the exact order of finish.
- Quinella – Pick two horses in the same race to finish first and second where order of finish does not matter.
- Trifecta – Pick three horses in the same race to finish first, second and third in the exact order of finish.
- Superfecta – Pick four horses in the same race to finish first, second, third and fourth in the exact order of finish
- Daily Double – Pick the winners of two consecutive races
- Pick Three – Pick the winners of three consecutive races
- Pick Four – Pick the winners of four consecutive races
- Pick Five – Pick the winners of five consecutive races
- Pick Six – Pick the winner of six consecutive races
- Omni Swinger – Pick two horses that must finish in the top three in any order
Before you head to the races or sign on to your wagering website, establish your bank roll. You should never bet more than you can afford to lose.
Beginners should focus on making small win and place wagers. An occasional exacta or quinella would be acceptable. Beginners should keep things simple until they learn more about the sport of horse racing. By the time a player has learned to use the racing form/form guide, they should have enough experience to start using some of the more sophisticated wagering options, option that have high risk/high return potential.
Above all, beginners should just relax and enjoy themselves. By staying alert and taking in the surroundings, it will only be a matter of time before you will begin to learn the nuances of the sport, which will make you a better horse player.