How to Bet on a Racehorse

A day at the races can be fun – and maybe even profitable – if you know what you’re doing when it comes to placing bets.

By Jenn Webster

Have you ever wanted to place a bet on a racehorse, but became overwhelmed by the thought of it? Wagering at the track, when done in moderation, can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. In honor of the Kentucky Derby today, we have compiled an easy guide to placing bets on racehorses. There’s no bigger thrill than watching the powerful equine you bet on, cross the finish line first!

Thoroughbred racing is the oldest form of organized racing in the world but in North America usually means the horses are flat racing on a dirt or turf surface. Race lengths can vary. In Canada, Thoroughbred racing is seasonal so it’s normal to see many short races at the beginning of the season when many of the horses are not yet conditioned for longer races. Younger animals too, usually run shorter races, taking into consideration the horse’s rate of growth and inexperience. However, some horses (all ages) run consistently better at short distances and these statistics are all recorded – something seasoned bettors note! Depending on the length of the race, Thoroughbreds may run straight sprints or on larger tracks that require them to go around turns.

Quarter Horse (QH) racing is much like Thoroughbred racing, however the race distances are much shorter. There are several different lengths available for these horses, ranging from one furlong (220 yards), to four furlongs (870 yards). Most QH races are straight sprints, which means they must be able to break well from the starting gate.

Standardbred racing is harness racing – the horse pulls a light cart or “sulky” and is driven, as opposed to being ridden. Standardbred horses are either pacers or trotters.

BETTING

1 – Decide how much money you are willing to bet. The minimum bet is $2, but you can always bet more if you like.

2 – Pick your horse. People pick their horses in a variety of ways. You may like its name, colour, number, jockey or colour of its silks. Many advanced bettors choose their horses based on past performance, the trainer’s reputation or the jockey’s records. Other considerations they might keep top of mind is the type of track, the weather, bloodlines of the horse, or the size and shape of the track. And here’s a pro tip! If you’re ever observing the racers in the paddock prior to a race, the horse that is jumping, rearing or displaying a lot of extra activity is not usually the one you want to bet on – the horse that is calm, cool and collected in the paddock is the one conserving its energy for the race.

Race programs too, give you the information on every horse and every race for the day and they are usually available for a small fee. They can be helpful in picking a horse.

3 – Choose your Bet. Straight wagers are the best type of bets for visitors completely new to the world of racing. When you making this type of bet, you are only betting on one horse.

WIN – This means you are betting on a specific horse, to come in first place.
PLACE – Your horse must finish first or second.
SHOW – Your horse must finish first, second or third.

Odds are something else you’ll want to look consider. These are the numbers appearing beside the horse’s number (displayed in numerous places around the track, in the program, etc.) The more a horse is liked by bettors, the lower its odds are and the lower the pay-out will be. The underdog horses have higher odds and consequently, a higher payout.

4Master More Advanced Bets. Once you are comfortable with how win, place and show works in a basic bet, you may want to move on to a more exotic wager. Here is some terminology you should know:

EXACTA – You bet on two horses to come in first and second, in an exact order.
QUINELLA – You bet on two horses to come in first and second in any order.
TRIFECTA – You bet that three horses will finish in first, second, and third in an exact order.
SUPERFECTA – You bet that four horses will finish, first, second, third, and fourth in an exact order.

Many racetracks like Century Downs in Balzac, AB, even offer Betting 101 classes for free. You can join them and learn about placing exotic bets, multi-race wagers, Jackpot High-5 or Century Down’s own unique wager. Their experts can walk you through the betting basics so placing your first bet isn’t so daunting. Have fun and enjoy yourself!

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