A Beginners Guide to the Horse Races

markinsacmarkinsac Member
If you've never been to the race track, this discussion is for you. I'll try to educate you as much as possible. Give you tips on what to buy and a guide to any track. If you're planning on going on vacation and wanted to go to a racetrack, just let me know the time of the year and the general area. I'll teach you how to budget for a good time. If you consider racing to be entertainment, then spending $20-$40 on an afternoon would be worth it. But if you get lucky and your horses come in, you might leave with more than you started with.
«1

Comments

  • Sounds like fun!
  • BUDGET:

    Some racetracks charge an admission charge, some don't. Some tracks have slot machines, these tracks don't charge for admission because they are making more off of the slot machines. If the track is charging admission, expect to pay $2-$5 to get in. There could also be a charge for parking, you could check the track's website to find all this out.

    Just inside the admission gates will be an employee selling the official program. It usually costs around $2. I'd suggest newbies buy this because a good program will help explain how to make a bet and what kind of bet are offered.

    I'm assuming you went to the track because there is LIVE racing going on. Many tracks are open but it's not the right time for live racing. So check the website or call the track to make sure there is LIVE racing. Otherwise if a track is not offering live racing, they offer simulcast wagering, where you can bet and watch on TV screens. This is really for the more expeienced player, maybe some day you will join them, but I feel it's always better to enjoy the live races first.

    There are many ways to bet on horse racing. Here are the options: WIN, PLACE, SHOW, EXACTA, TRIFECTA, QUINELLA, DAILY DOUBLE, PICK-3, PICK-4, PICK-5, PICK-6.
    Confusing? Yes. For beginners, first learn how to play the simple way, Win, Place and Show.

    If you bet to WIN, the horse you bet on has to win in order for you to collect. This bet is the most common for newbies, as the name of the game is to pick a winner. At most tracks the minimum bet for Win, Place or Show is $2. You bet by horse number, the program will have the horse number by the horse's name. And they will include the morning line odds, which is a prediction by the track's handicapper of the horses' final odds. But remember, this is pari-mutuel betting, which means the horses' odds will be determined by how much money is bet on that horse.

    Here's a typical scenario: 4 MARY'S BOY morning line 4-1

    If that race is coming up, look at the TV monitors or look at the infield board to see what his current odds are. Let's say 4 Mary's Boy is currently 5-1, then if you bet $2 to win on him and he wins, you win $10 ($2x5) plus you get your $2 bet back so you collect a grand total of $12. Since the odds are set by the amount of money bet, you can assume that the favorite horse has the best chance of winning. The horse with the most money bet on him is called the "favorite". So if a horse is 30-1 then it doesn't have that good of a chance. But they sometimes come in, so if you are feeling lucky, why not play that longshtot.

    If you bet to PLACE, you win if your horse finishes first or second. Since you have a better chance of winning, the payoff will be significantly lower than a win bet, but if the horse runs second, then you would have torn up the win ticket making the place bet a good bet.

    If you bet to SHOW, win if your horse finishes first, second or third. THIS IS THE SAFEST BET AT THE TRACK, but the payoff is also the smallest. Grandmas like to bet to show.

    Another popular bet is to bet your horse to: WIN, PLACE AND SHOW. This would cost $6 ($2W, $2P, $2S). If you want to make this bet at a teller window, you would say "I'd like $2 ACCROSS THE BOARD ON NUMBER 4.

    Notice: Since there's simulcast betting also going on, make sure you announce the track you are betting on, even if you are betting on the live track. It makes it easier for the teller. So now you would say, "Arlington (the track's name) $2 WIN on number 4.

    The live races are generally spread out about a half hour apart. This would give you a chance to go down to the paddock. The paddock is where the trainer and groom put the saddle on the horse and discuss race strategy. After the horses and jockeys walk to the track, you see the man who put the saddle on horse number 7 walk to the teller to make a bet, that's a good sign! Owners and trainers are only allowed to bet on their own horses if they got one in a race. And usually they will bet if they think the horse is coming into the race in good condition. You might see several trainers walking to the window, slow down! They all like their horses, so you're back to square one.

    Here's a typical payoff for WIN, PLACE AND SHOW:

    4 12.60 6.40 4.20
    10 8.80 5.60
    3 3.60

    So if you bet number 4 to win, you collect back a total of $12 and 60 cents. If you bet number 10 to win, you collect nothing because he came in second. But he paid $8.80 to place and granny collected $5.60 on her show bet.

    Any questions, feel free to ask
  • Thank you. This is all very helpful in understanding and I can now see I had a completely wrong way of understanding. Good think I've never tried betting.
  • VA in CA, do you live near a race track? What track were you planning to go to?
  • As a kid I used to watch the harness races at the Rutland County Fair in VT, and then never again got to see racing until I went on a field trip in the early 90s with a bunch of students to the LA County Fair in Pomona and spent quite a bit of time watching the horses. That was my first time to see horses being ridden in races. I found the best place to enjoy it was to stand outside the fence on the other side of the track from the grandstand. That was really cool to see the horses go by and actually see and feel how fast they were going. Then last March, I went on a senior bus trip to Santa Anita and loved it. We were in the Clubhouse area, but I spent most of the time standing in the corner of the fence where the tunnel and the track fence meet. I think the seats would be better on the other side of the tunnel, in the grandstand because the finish line is so far down to the left from the Clubhouse seats. I will always regret that I never got to see Zenyatta there. I did get to see Mike Smith walking down into the tunnel after winning one of the races that day that I did go. Very exciting. Since I am living on a tight budget, I could not afford to bet, so didn't. But thanks to you, at least I know what's what a little better. Sometimes I watch races on TV. I was not much of a horse RACING fan, but more a lover of horses who liked to watch the horses and didn't much care who won. But I really got an appreciation for racing by watching Zs incredibly exciting races, and by reading the Diary Posts. One of these days I'll post on your other discussion. I'll tell the sad tale of how I chickened out and missed my chance to see Zenyatta in person. I knew at the time I would always regret it, and I have.

    Thank you for starting both discussions. What is your background that you have such great knowledge?

    Virginia
  • Thank you for sharing your story, VA. First of all, my father took me to Santa Anita when I was 5. He told me, "I'm going to give you $2 to bet on a horse. What horse do you want?" I told him to read to me the name of all the horses in each of the races. In the 5th race there was a horse named "Woodland Pines." I used to love going up to the mountains above L.A. and I loved the pine trees. He looked at me kind of funny, "He said, you're going to wait all the way until the 5th race?" I said, "yep." I was encouraged because my favorite jockey, Willie Shoemaker was riding. Woodland Pines won and I got back $12.40 for my bet.

    PS, I sure don't wait till the 5th race anymore. I bet them all.

    PS2, you brought up one of the enigma's of horse racing. You see folks, at most tracks, the blue-collar people watch the races from the grandstand. The Clubouse admission is higher, so that's where the well-to-do hang out. But usually the finish line is located in the grandstand so the Clubhouse people really get a bad view of the races. I'm not paying more more to see less, just because they have carpeting.

    In the 2009 Breeders' Cup, the grandstand admission was just $10. They lowered the prices from the previous year because of the recession. They didn' allow us to go up into the seating area, but we had access to the paddock, the infield and the grandstand apron. There were people who paid $40 for a reserved seat almost a quarter of a mile away from the finish line. Me with my cheapo admission was able to watch Zenyatta right at the finish line!
  • Did you hear the guy cussing Z? When she won. We did here in tv land. I felt bad for ESPN cause in that moment they had no control over what was said over the airwaves.

    Whoever it was was rude and very disrespectful not only of us but of Z.
  • Margaret, I was standing right in that area, but it was too noisy. I later saw the video on youtube.

    I think the individual cussing might have been Steven Crist of the Racing Form.
  • What great information. I hope this thread doesn't get removed. I know absolutely nothing about betting, but then most of my money goes for rescues, so I'm left with...not much!
  • I'll be offering more in the days to come. Remember, betting is gambling. So plan a budget ahead of time. Use only money you can afford to lose. If you do all that, then you will have a good time, win or lose.
  • caseycasey any racetrack with camera in handMember
    I love to go to the races, but I don't bet. I did bet on Zenyatta in the 2010 Lady's Secret Stakes, just so I could have the keepsake- it just so happened to be held on my birthday :) I love to go to shoot photographs. I'm a rank amateur, but I enjoy it. My idea of picking horses is "ummmmm oooh, he's pretty" or "oh the number 6 horse just pooped, that should be a good sign" or "I like that one's name". Unfortunately, sometimes I forget that I'm looking at a racehorse, and start thinking "ooooh, nice extended trot, that one would make a nice dressage horse" I thought that of Zennie, she had so much extension and impulsion.......::::::::sigh::::::::;
  • I love to go to the races, but I don't bet. I did bet on Zenyatta in the 2010 Lady's Secret Stakes, just so I could have the keepsake- it just so happened to be held on my birthday :) I love to go to shoot photographs. I'm a rank amateur, but I enjoy it. My idea of picking horses is "ummmmm oooh, he's pretty" or "oh the number 6 horse just pooped, that should be a good sign" or "I like that one's name". Unfortunately, sometimes I forget that I'm looking at a racehorse, and start thinking "ooooh, nice extended trot, that one would make a nice dressage horse" I thought that of Zennie, she had so much extension and impulsion.......::::::::sigh::::::::;
    Please consider betting the next time you go to the track. That is where the purse money comes from, especially at tracks without slots. Without purses, there are no winnings, and without winnings there's no way for the horses to earn their keep, nor for the trainers, grooms, gallopers, and others to put food on their tables. Lots of people pick the prettiest horse, and sometimes they win by doing so. You don't have to bet big. Fans are nice, but bettors pay the bills.
  • Margaret, I was standing right in that area, but it was too noisy. I later saw the video on youtube.

    I think the individual cussing might have been Steven Crist of the Racing Form.
    It sounded like a woman to me. And it's hard to say what the cussing was about--whether it was directed at Zenyatta, another horse, or someone/something else entirely. It does make that video memorable, though, doesn't it?
  • I love to go to the races, but I don't bet. I did bet on Zenyatta in the 2010 Lady's Secret Stakes, just so I could have the keepsake- it just so happened to be held on my birthday :) I love to go to shoot photographs. I'm a rank amateur, but I enjoy it. My idea of picking horses is "ummmmm oooh, he's pretty" or "oh the number 6 horse just pooped, that should be a good sign" or "I like that one's name". Unfortunately, sometimes I forget that I'm looking at a racehorse, and start thinking "ooooh, nice extended trot, that one would make a nice dressage horse" I thought that of Zennie, she had so much extension and impulsion.......::::::::sigh::::::::;


    Please consider betting the next time you go to the track. That is where the purse money comes from, especially at tracks without slots. Without purses, there are no winnings, and without winnings there's no way for the horses to earn their keep, nor for the trainers, grooms, gallopers, and others to put food on their tables. Lots of people pick the prettiest horse, and sometimes they win by doing so. You don't have to bet big. Fans are nice, but bettors pay the bills.
    Thanks for letting us know about this. I might consider betting if it is truly going to help support the horses, trainers, etc. Do they get anything from the admission fees, or does that just go to the track? I guess it must be expensive to keep the track in great shape, plus manage the landscaping and other costs such as cleaning the stands, grounds, etc. after fans drop paper and other debris all over the place. One tends not to think of those things when one is only interested in the horses.
  • How To Figure Out Who To Bet On

    Horse racing has a lot of complexities. Some newbies bet on their favorite numbers, but the more veteran players use some kind of publication that shows how the horses have been running (past performances). By far, the most popular publication is called the "Daily Racing Form." You can buy it at the race track or some convience stores sell them too. They cost about $6 per issue. They are also available online, in case you wanted to play the races at home on the computer. The 'form will show the last 10 races that a horse has run, with the most recent one on top, followed by the second-most recent, etc. A typical line in the horses past performance would read like this:

    15Feb10 8Lrl 7f 22.1 45.2 108.4 120.3 3u GenGeo-G2 94 5 7-12 7-8.5 7-4 3-3 L 116 Russell 10.90 104-03 Greenspring. Digger, Sey Hey CJ Lagged, Came 5w, closed 7

    15Feg10: That is the date he raced on, the 10th of February, 2010

    8Lrl: He raced in the 8th race at a track named Laurel (each track has an abbreviation)

    7f: He raced 7 furlongs. A mile has 8 furlongs, so he raced 7/8 of a mile

    22.1 45.2 108.4 120.3 Those are the fractional times. And these times are the times of the horse that was on the lead. They can vary depending on the distance. In this example, the leader of the race went a quarter of a mile in 22 and 4/5 seconds. The half-mile time is 45 and 2/5 seconds, 3/4 of a mile in 108 and 4/5, final time is 120 3/5.

    3u: The race was for 3-year-olds and the "u" stands for up, they may use an arrow pointing up, so it was for 3-year-olds and older.

    GenGeo-G2: This particular race has a name to it meaning it was a stakes race or a handicap and it was rated G-2 which stands for Grade 2. The highest class race would be Grade 1, followed by Grade-2, then Grade-3. Zenyatta raced in 14 Grade 1races through her career.

    94: That is the Beyer rating. A racing journalist came up with a formula that weighed the time of the race against the track variant. Race tracks play different speeds from day to day. So the Beyer rating takes the headache of figuring it all out. The question is how much faith do you have in Mr. Beyer's rating? Me personally, I trust it, most of the time it is fairly close, sometimes it misses.

    5 7-12 7-8.5 7-4 3-3: These are the horses position during the race. Early on he was 5th (no lenghts behind given), At the next call he was 7th, 12 lengths behing the leader, next call he was 7th 4 lengths behind, and the last figure is where he was at the finish line, in this case he finished 3rd, three lengths behind the leader. If the line reads: 1-3, then this horse would be the leading horse and he's 3 lengths in front of the second horse. From this performance, we can deduce that this horse's running style is to come from behind.

    L: This horse was administered Lasix which is a legal medication before the race

    116: Was how much weight he was carrying on his back (the jockey plus weight bars so he would carry the amount required, depending on the conditions.

    Russell: That was the last name of the jockey

    10.90: That was his odds to the dollar. So for every dollar you bet on him, you would make a profit of $10.90

    104-03: The 104 is his speed rating compared to the track record. And the 03 is the track variant. That means the track was playing very fast on that day.

    Greensring, Digger, Sey Hey CJ: Those are the names of the first three finishers in the race.

    Lagged, Came 5w, closed-This is the coment on his performance by the Racing Form's evaluator. The 5w means he was 5 horses wide when he made his move. If a horse has to go wide around other horses, that horse will lose ground or have to travel a little farther than other horses inside him. Sometimes this is a factor, sometimes it is not.

    7: That means there were a total of 7 starters in the race.

    WHAT ARE THE KEY FACTORS?

    That could depend. Some bettors say the time is the most important thing, others say the horses class is more important. A horse that has raced at a higher class level and is dropping to face lower class horses, more than likely will improve. So, if a horse finished 9th place in a $30,000 claiming race, but was now running against $20,000 claimers, expect him to finish much better than 9th place.

    The problem here is horses dropping in class tend to get bet on heavily. So you have to factor in the odds too. Another negative factor with horses dropping in class is maybe the horse isn't training or performing very well.

    Time of the race could be deceiving. All tracks can vary from day to day on how fast they play. If a horse runs 6 furlongs on a dry track in 1:10, but runs 6 furlongs on a wet track in 1:11, the wet track time may actually be faster because the track may have been playing more than a second slower.

    Distance is a key factor. Some horses can go only short distances, then they poop out. Some are better suited for longer distances. It's up to the trainer to find the best distance, sometimes they may experiment and put them at a distance they've never ran before.

    Beyer Rating: If you don't want to do a whole lot of homework, then you could simply play the horse that has the highest beyer rating in his last race. But they usually go off at a low price. However, I've seen horses with the best Beyer Rating sometimes go off at 10-1 or higher. That's when they are for surely worth a bet.

    Running style: I shouldn't have put this so far down. The easiest way for a horse to win is to take a clear lead without getting pressured, set a slow or moderate pace, then sprint the last few furlongs. More than likely, nobody will catch him. However, if you can deduce that 3 horses or more will try the same front-running strategy, then they probably will soften each other up, setting up the race for a closer.

  • You can go to drf.com and they will show you how to read their publication. It's all up to you on how much effort you want to put into it. And it's best to learn at a slow deliberate pace.

    If you just want some good horses to bet on without doing the homework, you can buy tip sheets at the track. They usually cost a couple of bucks. Some local newspapers will publish a handicap of the day's races also.
  • UNDERSTANDING CLASS TERMS

    MAIDEN

    A horse's class will determine which race a trainer will enter him. A MAIDEN race is for horses who have never won. If the owner paid a lot of money for the horse, it will be entered in a straight MAIDEN aka ALLOWANCE MAIDEN which is a race that has no selling (claiming) price. If a horse is a Maiden and is making it's first start ever, it is difficult to assess how talented it is. Generally, I personally don't bet on first-time starters because I like to have a reasonable amount of information when I risk my money. But there are times when a first-time starter may be worth a play. One good reason is the horse's trainet has done good in the past with first-time starters. In the Racing Form at the bottom of the horse's running lines will be the trainer's record concerning the trainer's record in this situation.

    When Zenyatta made her first start, she ran in a sprint race (not her best distance) and the TVG announcers covering the race said they heard whispers that she might be a good thing. Despite that, her odds were a healthy 6-1. Since she was a first time starter, the fans didn't respect her that much.

    If I could only go back to that day . . .

    In the Racing Form at major tracks, the "Form's handicapper will give a written opinion on each horses chances. Now this is just his opinion, so take it into consideration, and look for clues on which horses are worth the risk. In the 'Form the opinion will be on the right side of the horses past performances (I believe they call it a "Closer Look")
  • This is amazing information for the "horse racing clueless" (that's me). Thank you so much for taking so much time in writing these explanations. Some day I might get to put it to use!


  • Please consider betting the next time you go to the track. That is where the purse money comes from, especially at tracks without slots. Without purses, there are no winnings, and without winnings there's no way for the horses to earn their keep, nor for the trainers, grooms, gallopers, and others to put food on their tables. Lots of people pick the prettiest horse, and sometimes they win by doing so. You don't have to bet big. Fans are nice, but bettors pay the bills.
    Laura,
    I never would have known this. Thanks as always for your helpful information!

  • UNDERSTANDING CLASS TERMS:

    CLAIMER:

    A CLAIMING race is for horses that are for sale. These are for the lower-class horses. They also have claiming races for maidens called MAIDEN CLAIMERS. For example, if a horse is in a $20,000 claiming race, you can go buy it if: You got $20,000, you got a trainer, and you got a state racing licence as an owner. So if you did all that, you would put in a claim with the racing officials before the race. Once the horse crosses the finish line, he's yours. But if more than one owner claimed the horse they do a draw to see who gets him. The claiming game can be intriguing. If a horse gets claimed out of a race, he might be dangerous in his next start. The Racing Form will note when a horse gets claimed by a "c" by his claiming price. So if you see c20.000 in the past performance lines, that means he got claimed in that particular race. Why are claims dangerous? Some trainers are good at waking a horse up. Just the change of scenery and training regimen usually improves a horse's performance. Horses that just got claimed are really worth a bet if they are going off at high odds, as the bettors tend to overlook this angle. A horse that is dropping in class to a lower claiming level will also see his odds drop and his performance improve.

    Note: You can go to the bookstore and buy a book on "Horse Handicapping" or find information online. Do a web search if you want to learn more. But there's a lot to learn so go slow.
  • Thanks for all the great info!
  • @VA in CA, AFAIK, money from admissions etc. goes to track operations. Purse money comes from bettors and at some tracks, funds from casinos/slots. For some races, purses are augmented by state incentive finds. Purses for stakes races are supplemented by nomination and entry fees.

    @Anybody who plans to buy a program or Racing Form for the first time: if your eyes need a little help, BRING YOUR GLASSES! The past performance data are printed in a small, narrow typeface. They pack a lot of information into a small space.

    Bring a pen and/or pencil, or else plan to buy one. You can buy one where you buy your program.
  • WHERE DOES ALL THE MONEY GO?

    Betting on horse racing in the United States is done in a pari-mutuel way. The odds are determined by the dollar amount bet to WIN on each horse. The PLACE has it's own separate pool than the WIN pool, same for the SHOW.

    Money is deducted from the pool (pool stands for the total betting amount combined). This money deducted is called TAKEOUT. The takeout is divided up, some going to the state, some going to the horsemen if the form of purses and some goes to the track operator. The takeout can vary from state to state and from pool to pool. It gererally averages out to 20%. The takeout on the WIN, PLACE, and SHOW pool is usually about 17%.

    The tote board in the infield shows the pool amount. If number one horse has numbers that read 8,755 and underneath that is 4,511 and underneath that is1,723, those are the dollar amounts bet on him to WIN, PLACE and SHOW.

    For examble, let's say the total win pool is $100,000. First we deduct the takeout of 17%. That leaves us with $83,000 to pay off the winning horse. Since number one has $8,755 bet to win, his odds would be approximately 9-1. Every minute the odds will be updated. If you bet on number one at 9-1 with 3 minutes to post, the odds may drop down if a bunch of late money comes in on him, they might stay the same or they might go up. Once the horses come out of the starting gate, a bell rings and betting is closed, then the final odds are posted.

    Many of the big-money professionals wait till the last minute to bet because they are looking for the best odds. But in general, the favorite horses get a lot of play in the last minute and their odds drop more than the longshots. Conversly, the longshots odds will go up.
  • ALLOWANCE RACES

    After a horse wins a maiden race, it moves up the class ladder with each win. So the next step will be to face other horses who also have just one win. This race would be classified as ALLOWNCEnw2 (allowance non-winner of 2 races). Once a horse has won about 4 races or so, there will be no more allowance conditions available for him, so the owners will have to enter in a stakes race or a claiming race. Some races are written as non-winner of 2 races for the last year etc. If you are confused by these conditions, then you can just reference the purse amount. In gerneral, the better horses will race for the higher purses.
  • Thanks for the info on betting for newbies!
Sign In or Register to comment.