When casinos and lotteries were illegal, horse racing became very popular, since it was the only legal way that somebody could gamble. Before being able to place a wager, like in any other sport, you must understand its basic rules and bets. Some may even ask themselves: “Why would I want to go to horseracing anyways? That is what my grandpa use to do.” Watching horse racing while you are at the highest level of the sport is really such a wonderful experience. Unlike most of the dark and smoky casinos, horse racing feels more like an experience, entertainment, an outing. While football or some other sports, usually cost a lot to just be able to watch them, let alone bet on them, horse racing allows its bettors to just place a minimum bet and they can easily watch the race.

There is a lot of history and tradition behind horse racing. Since ancient times, horse racing has been plasticized throughout the civilization across the whole world. Some archeological records say that horse racing first occurred in the Ancient Greece, Syria, Egypt and Babylon. It is also an important part when talking about myths and legends, such as the contest between stallions of the giant Hrungnir and the god Odin (Norse mythology). Historically, equestrians sharpened their skills through races and games. Their sports provided a high form of entertainment for their crowd and they displayed excellent horsemanship that was, of course, needed in battle.

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On top of all of the wagers you can place, there are a lot of different types of horse races. Which include:

Flat racing: this is the most common form of horse racing, worldwide. These tracks are usually shaped in an oval shape, however, in Ireland and Great Britain, there are many other variations; such as a figure of eight track called Windsor. Some of those tracks would often have severe changes and gradients, like in Epsom Racecourse. In this type of a race, the horse is supposed to gallop around an oval or straight track while going between two points.

Jump racing: this type of a race is sometimes also called the Steeplechasing, or as the people in UK and Ireland call it the National Hunt racing. Jump racing can easily be divided into two groups, hurdling and steeplechasing, which usually depends on the size and the type of the obstacles that horses jump over. Typically, the horses would progress to longer races with bigger obstacles as they get older.

Harness racing: this is another form of horse racing where the horses would race at a specific gait (a pace or a trot). They would often pull a cart with two wheels, which is called a sulky, in Europe, however, racing under a saddle is also performed.

Endurance racing: the length of this race varies a lot. While some can be very short, up to ten miles, other can be huge or long, up to one hundred miles. Some of the endurance races can be even longer than one hundred miles and they can last for multiple days. These lengths in endurance racing can be divided into 5 categories:

1) Pleasure rides, which are usually 10 – 20 miles long.

2) Non-competitive trail rides that tend to be 21 – 27 miles long.

3) Competitive trail rides that are 20 – 45 miles long.

4) Progressive trail rides, which are 25 – 60 miles long

5) Endurance rides, which can be up to 40 – 100 miles in just one day, or even up to 240 miles in multiple days.

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After you learned about the types of horse races, you can move on to the types of bets. These bets can be split into two categories than you can choose from: exotic wagers and straight wagers.

Straight Wagers: For beginners at horse racing, it is recommended to stick with straight wagers; they are simple and cheap. The only thing you need to do is just pick a horse that you believe will come 1st, 2nd or 3rd. The most important thing to remember about these wagers is that you bet on only one horse.

WIN – with this you are betting that the horse you chose will win the race. If your horse comes in first place, you can collect your bet.

PLACE – when you wager a place bet on a horse, you are betting that that horse will come either first or second. Only when the horse you bet on finishes 1st or 2nd can you collect your bet. These bets may seem much better than the WIN bets, but you can win a less amount than with a WIN bet. On top of that, with PLACE bets, you have the security and higher odds of winning a bet.

SHOW – similarly to the previous two bets, with this bet you are betting on a horse coming 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Again, just like with PLACE bets, you have a much higher chance of winning this bet, but your payout will be much lesser than two previous bets.

ACROSS THE BOARD – with this bet you are basically placing all of the above bets on one horse. The “across the board” bet can also be called a “combo straight wager” because this bet is a three-bet combined wager. Since you have three bets in one, they will be more expensive than WIN, PLACE or SHOW bets.

WIN/PLACE, PLACE/SHOW – this is a very similar bet to the “across the board” bet, in a sense that you are combining a number of bets in a single bet. In the win/place bet, you are wagering your money on a horse to both WIN and place. With this, if your horse comes in first, you can collect both bets. If your horse comes in second, then you can just collect the place bet. In the other bet, the place/show bet, you are betting on a horse that he will come in 1st or 2nd (place bet) and show. If the horse you wagered your money on wins the place bet, then you can collect both the place and the show bet. If the horse wins just the show bet, then you can collect just the show bet. Since you are placing more than one bet in these wagers, they will be more expensive.

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Exotic Wagers: The exotic bets will allow you to make a lot of bets on multiple horses in a form of a single wager. These exotic wagers are generally more difficult to win compared to a straight bet. Exotic bets require an advanced level of knowledge and skill and are way more expensive. These bets will allow you to place a wager on more than one horse in a single bet, which will automatically increase the potential of your odds to win.

EXACTA – with this type on an exotic bet you are placing a wager on two horses to finish 1st and 2nd, in a certain order. For example, when you place this bet on two horses 3 and 5, then you will only be able to collect those bets if number 3 comes first and number 5 comes second. These bets are very popular among professional horse handicappers since the payout of this bet is very high. You are also able to “box” your bet, which will mean that your horses can come in, in any order they just need to be 1st and 2nd place. However, when you “box” an exacta bet, it will cost you twice as much as the normal exacta bet.

QUINELLA – this bet is similar to exacta bet, however, here it does not matter which one of the two horses will come first. As long as the horses you bet on finish in the first two places, you win the bet. For example, if you placed one quinella bet on horse number 1 and number 6, as long as either of those is 1st or 2nd, you will win your bet. The one big difference these two bets have, the quinella and exacta box bet, is the cost of the bet. Exacta is much more expensive, but if you win, it has higher payouts.

TRIFECTA – similarly to the other two bets, here you bet on three horses to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd, in an exact order. For example, if you place this bet on horses 2-4-7, then you can only win this bet if the horse number 2 comes in first, the horse number 4 comes in second and the horse number 7 comes in third. Just like in exacta bet, you can box your trifecta bet, so that your horses can come in any order.

SUPERFECTA – again, similarly to the previous three bets, here you wager your money on four horses to come 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, in an exact order. As you can box an exacta and trifecta bet, you can also box a superfecta bet, but with an additional cost. The minimum you can wager on is less than on any other bet, which makes this bet more appealing.

After you have mastered all of these bets, and by that we mean, you have placed more than once all of these bets, you can move on to the “keying” horses. Though, have in mind that those bets are a bit too advanced since they allow you to minimize your bet while you increase the payout by picking the right horses.

Another thing you should also know is how to talk to your teller, and what are you supposed to say. First off, you need to find the appropriate bet you want to wager, and then you can go to your teller. It is highly advised to have human tellers when you are at the racetrack (in person). The non-human or automatic tellers have huge lines, and you can risk of not even placing your bet because of a beginner placing multiple bets, while not knowing how to. There will always be the risk of you pressing the wrong button, and that will mess up your bet. The human tellers are accurate, fast and very friendly. When you do decide to bet, and you have everything prepared, then be sure you also have your money in check. Things move very fast with human tellers, and you really do not want to be the guy who holds the whole line because you can’t find your money.

There is an order that all the human tellers follow, which is:

  1. What is your racetrack and race number? (but only when you are placing a bet on a race at a different racetrack)
  2. The amount you are wagering
  3. What type of a bet are you going to place?
  4. What is the horse’s program number?

After that, you can hand your money to your teller and you will get a ticket. You need to keep the ticket in a safe place since the ticket will be needed in order for you to claim your bet if you win.

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Something people always tend to ask is, “How does one pick a winning horse?” After the previous step, you can easily move to the next and a more fun step, which is picking the horse you want to bet on. While some people prefer placing bets randomly on horses, some professional players actually have their own strategies and if you want to win a lot of money you should too. However, even if you bet randomly there is still a chance for you to win something, which is what makes horse racing so exciting to watch. There is that high dose of adrenaline that hits you just as the race starts, you can even catch yourself yelling out “GO BABY, GO”, as the horse you bet on is in the lead.

This still does not answer the question of how exactly do you pick a winning horse. Well, there are actually thousands of websites and hundreds of books that explain different strategies, with different opinions on the same topic. Nevertheless, the plain ol’ luck will always be the biggest reason behind winning (especially for the beginners), handicapping can give you that sense of control.

The first thing you need to do is get familiar with the race program. The ability to be able to read and know the race program will help to successfully handicap horses. The race programs will always be full of random information that can help you place a smart bet. There will always be a list of the horses together with their winning history and odds. All of the numbers and lines in the program can be a little intimidating at the beginning, but as soon as you bet few times you will get used to it.

The next thing that is very important is for you to look at the class levels that the horses have been racing at. There are a number of different classes, or levels, which the horses race in. As you go further you will find the better-performing horses together with their higher purses. These are the 4 race classes you need to know: maiden races, stakes races, allowance races, and claiming races. Racetracks usually try to have the same-leveled horses at the same tracks. The more horses race the better they get, which means they will move up as they gain more experience.

Another thing is to always check the history of the horses, depending on which surface did they race on (since there are several different types of racetracks as well as the surfaces). Some of them would have artificial “all-whether” tracks while others will have natural grass and dirt. Horses will, of course, perform differently on each surface type. Some of them maybe like the artificial track, while others hate them, and the same goes for all-natural tracks. The program will tell you the past performance on each of the tracks from all of the horses.

You also need to learn more about the history of the horse’s jockey. If you see that the same jockey is repeatedly being placed in a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, whichever horse he or she is riding, that means he or she has talent. So even if a horse usually ends up in the middle, and a jockey who always ends up in the first three places, it is still a good bet to make. Same goes if a particular horse and jockey have usually ended the race in one of the first three places, it is a good bet to place.

Always consider the odds of the horses, since each horse will have its own odds on winning the next race in the program. The horse that will have the lowest odds is going to be the favorite to win. Past performances will not guarantee excellent future performances, but the statistics show that you have more chances of winning if you follow the odds.

It is always good to observe the horse in a paddock. There is an area, called a paddock, in the race where all of the horses will be paraded. This is done so that the bettors will see how the horses behave and look before the actual race starts. Just like anybody else, horses also have their good and bad days, and sometimes even they can get that case of “Mondays…” You need to closely observe the horses to see how they are behaving; do they look eager and peppy to race? Are they perhaps Eeyore or Mopey-like? Check the horse you are wagering your money on to see if he is sweating. The way you can tell that the horse is sweating is by looking if he has dark spots on his coat. Horses that sweat a lot are usually very nervous, or maybe they are just not feeling well. In any case, you might want to pass betting on that horse if this is the case. On the other hand, you will also have those horses that show their spunk, by going around in circles while acting jittery. You should pass on these ones too since they are spending all of their energy in the paddock. Go with the calm, but an alert horse.

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As for the random superstition factors, they are useful for randomly handicapping your horse. Which means just pick a horse that is either wearing your favorite color or you lucky number. Or just pick the horse because you like their name. A lot of bettors have their own silly strategies that they make up, and just like that, you can make your own.

Last Minute Tips:

– There is no need for you to bet on every race. Usually, the beginners like to wager their money on every single race in that day’s program. There will be a chance you will win one of those bets, however, there is a huge possibility that you will lose more money betting than you will earn by winning one of those bets.

– When betting, it is always good to have a “plan” or a “budget” for money spending, and you need to stick with it. Bring only the amount of money you wish to spend, and that you can afford to lose.

– Always wear a hat. There are only a few venues today where wearing a hat does not look like you are out of place. One of those is a racetrack.