Bettors also can learn a great deal from a horse’s past performance, which often times is listed in the upper right portion of most daily racing forms. Usually prefaced by the word “Life” or similar wording, career stats will include information on how many races a horse has run, the number of wins as well as second-place and third-place finishes. Horses that consistently finish at or near the top can be strong candidates so long as their recent history suggests they are in good running shape. The career information also should indicate how the horse as done in past races at that track as well as its record in races of similar distances at other tracks, how it has done on wet tracks and the horse’s record on turf. Some horses run better under certain track conditions or at certain race lengths, and knowing which horses do well in relation to current race conditions can help give an edge to bettors.
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Horses that have high career earnings also can be good candidates for wagers, although it always must be noted that past performance does not necessarily predict future performance. If a horse has been away from the track for several weeks, it might be weaker than normal and not a good candidate for a wager. But one that has been run regularly and that has proven to be a good earner might be a good candidate for a box exacta or trifecta and possibly to win and provide a big payout, particularly if there are similarly strong-running horses on the bill.
Once the basics of laying straight bets are understood, bettors can increase their fun and potential winnings with more complicated wagers. Because the top three finishers can pay out, bettors can lay an Across-the-Board wager on a horse, which essentially is the same as laying three straight bets on the horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins the race, the bettor collects on all three wagers at the odds posted. If the horse takes second, the ticket will collect on the place and show odds. A third-place finish will just pay the posted odds for a show finish. Because the wager is equal to three straight bets, it will cost three times as much as a simple straight bet. Bettors also can wager on Win-Place and Place-Show straight bets that are equal to laying two straight bets on a horse to either win or come in second or to come in second or third in the case of the Place-Show wager.
Professional race bettors are well-educated on the horses, tracks and conditions as well as jockeys and owners and generally have a good deal of knowledge to enable them to bet multiple horses in multiple ways. Beginning and even knowledgeable bettors don’t have that kind of information and generally are best advised to stick to relatively simple straight bets and the Across-the-Board bets and other varieties to help improve the chances of cashing tickets and collecting money. Done properly, betting on the horses can be very entertaining and potentially financially rewarding.
When reading the Daily Racing Form that is available at most tracks, information on the jockeys can help even beginning bettors to pick likely winners. A good jockey knows a horse and how to get its best performance without running the horse so hard that it suffers an injury or tires early. That intimate knowledge of the horse and the ability to get the most of the horses they ride make choosing winning jockeys nearly as important as picking winning horses. Horses don’t just run freely with the fastest sprinter taking the top spot. A horse race is an endurance event, and a good jockey knows how to position his horse to put it in the best spot for a strong finish. A good jockey also knows how to avoid getting boxed in by slower horses, and jockeys and will do what it takes within reason to give the horse the best possible chance of winning.
The importance of assessing the jockey is critical when selecting a horse on which to bet. On average, only about 20 percent of all jockeys win about 80 percent of all races. A big reason for such consistent success is due to the jockey’s special riding abilities, but an equally big part is the fact that the owners of the best race horses also want the best jockeys to ride them. Once a jockey has established that he or she is among the best, owners of top horses will seek the jockey’s assistance in winning as many races and as much money as possible. The more races won and the larger the purses, the more likely a horse will remain a strong earner well into its retirement years through stud and breeding fees, and that requires putting the best jockeys on the best horses. So knowing which jockeys are the best in a given field can help improve handicapping results.
The Daily Racing Form usually lists the jockey and his or her recent racing results right under the horse’s name and owner information. The information will tell readers about how the jockey has performed at the current track and how the jockey has done overall during the past 365 days of racing. The information will list the number of races run at the venue, the number of races run during the past year and the number of wins, places and shows the jockey took. A winning average is tallied for the current track and all other races run during the past year. The best jockeys will post winning percentages that are greater than 10 percent with many of the best showing win rates of 15 percent or higher. Jockeys who win about at least 10 percent of their races generally are good bets, and the best jockeys in the nation typically win about 20 percent or more of their races.
Whether betting at the track, at an off-track betting joint, online or at a race and sportsbook in Nevada or Atlantic City, the way wagers are laid always is the same. Most places offer options for bettors that range from standard betting windows manned by ticket writers, using automated betting kiosks, betting online or possibly using a handheld device. In Nevada, many race books and sportsbooks now have betting apps for smartphones and tablet devices that enable people to wager from a pool of money deposited earlier, and many race tracks and other betting facilities have online websites where bettors can deposit funds and wager their money on tracks across the country. For beginning bettors of horse racing, it is best to avoid the betting kiosks and electronic devices until gaining a firm understanding of the various betting types.
When laying a simple straight bet on a horse to win, place or show, every race book in the nation and online handles the wager in the same way, so bettors must state the wager in the proper order. The first thing the race book needs to know is the venue followed by the specific race, amount being wagered, the number assigned to the horse in that race and the type of bet. If you want to bet $5 on the number five horse to win the third race at Hollywood Park in California, you need to tell the ticket writer: “Hollywood Park; third race; $5 on horse number five to win.”
The ticket writer will write up the bet, take your money and return any change due. While still at the window, quickly look over the ticket to ensure the bet is what you want and then wait for the race to begin. If laying an exacta or trifecta bet, the wager mostly is laid the same way, only the horse numbers must be stated in the order of finish unless doing a box exacta or trifecta, in which case the order of finish does not matter. A $5 exacta on the same race with horse number seven chosen to finish second to horse number five would be stated as: Hollywood Park, third race, $5 on horses five and seven, exacta.
Whenever approaching a betting window and especially when it’s close to post time, bettors have to know what they are doing, lay their bets quickly and accurately and then move on so the next person can lay his or her bets. Nothing will anger other bettors more than having someone taking up a lot of time asking silly questions, looking for betting advice from the ticket writer and handicapping at the window. Bets need to be laid as fast as possible and tickets checked for accuracy before leaving the window, and the entire time spent at the betting window should not be more than about 30 seconds and less if possible. If betting only one race, it should not take more than about 15 seconds to lay a wager and get out of the way. The longer it takes to lay a bet, the greater the possibility that the racing odds might change due to betting action and the angrier others waiting in line will become.