A Beginners Guide To Betting on a Day at The Races

Beginners Guide To Betting

(Photo credit: by Absolute Charm from Pexels).

For many people, a day at the races is the best possible way to have a good time. The atmosphere is feverish with excitement; people are milling around the betting windows or in the stands, all happily chatting about whose horse is going to win. The smell of delicious food is in the air, and the day stretches ahead, full of possibilities. However, if you are new to the horse racing scene, you may not know where to place your money. How can you be expected to know which horse is in with a fighting chance and which isn’t? How can you tell what the jargon is if you’ve never heard it before? How will you know which are horses that cost a lot and which aren’t? How will you know where and how to place your bet? 

Well, the answer is: you can’t be expected to understand any of it! That is why we have put together this little guide, full of helpful hints and tips for first-timers attending and betting on horse races. Now no newbie will feel out of place. Read on for the details.

The Odds and How to Mitigate Them

“The odds” is a term that you will hear associated with any kind of gambling. What it means in layman’s terms is “the chance of winning.” Of course, you want a horse that has the best chance of winning possible, so you’ll need to learn to understand how odds work.

The shorter the odds are on any horse, the better the horse’s chances of winning, according to the experts. Unless you are well versed in a horse’s history, you’ll have to trust the experts on what the odds actually are. Let us say that a horse has two to one odds: this horse then has a much higher chance of winning than a horse with five to one odds. 

What does five to one actually mean? It means that for every one unit you bet (let us say that one unit equals one dollar, for the sake of the equation), you will get five units in return plus that unit that you initially bet if your horse comes in where you bet it would. So if you bet one dollar on your five to one horse to win, and it does, you will receive six dollars in total.

These odds are fixed by bookies: the people who take bets on horse racing. Remember that, like any other kind of gambling, the odds will always favor the house. Bookies factor in many things when making the odds; of course, the horse’s history is a significant factor, but so too is the amount of money that has been bet on them. They work like this to prevent themselves from ever losing too much money overall. If a horse has done well in the past and been a favorite with the punters when it comes time to bet, it will have shorter odds. The more popular a horse is, the less opportunity you actually have to get a big win by betting on it.

Starting Prices

When placing a bet, you can either decide to bet on the current odds or place a bet on the starting price. What “starting price” means in this context is the odds that the horse had placed on them at the start of the races. During the day, some odds on some horses may shorten or lengthen due to some of the factors that we mentioned in the previous section. You never know what might happen to any given horse’s odds over the course of the day. If you are betting on a big race, like the Kentucky Derby, you’ll see that horses that have interesting histories or a connection to someone famous will probably have shorter odds come race day.

Day at the races

(Photo by Dana Hussain from Pexels)

Odds also fluctuate based on conditions, so be sure to check the weather forecast leading up to the race if you are betting far in advance. If your horse runs well in muddy conditions and the weather says that it is going to rain on the day of the race, chances are the odds on the horse will shorten, so taking the starting price is a better option.

Other factors: Age, Weight, and Form

If you are betting on a jump race (a course in which horses must literally jump over obstacles), it will likely be a handicap. The best sort of horse to bet on for this sort of race is a heavier one. You also need to take note of the jockey and their physical form. When betting on a race like this, you’ll see a list of numbers underneath the names of the runners and riders. The three hyphenated numbers refer first to the horse’s age, then to the weight that it is carrying in stones and pounds consecutively. Regular flat races are slightly easier to predict because there is no handicap.

You are able to judge the recent form of the runners and riders by looking at the list of numbers and letters underneath their names. A number might look like this: 1225U-P22. This number refers to the horse’s finishing position in a race with the hyphen separating seasons. The most recent result will be the last number on the right. A zero means the horse did not place. A U means the rider was unseated, a P means the rider pulled up on the horse, and an F means that they fell.

Placing Your Bet

(Photo by Mídia from Pexels).

Placing Your Bet

You can do this in person, over the phone, or online. All you need to do is open an account and transfer the funds. Click on or select your horse and decide whether you are betting that the horse will win, place, or each way: this means it may win or place. You will receive a smaller payout on the second kind of bet as half your wager will go to each option. It’s simple!

Wrap Up

See? Horse racing and betting aren’t nearly as complicated as you thought it was. With this information, you are ready for a day at the races. Good luck!


NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

DRF Past Performances

Check out the most powerful
interactive Past Performances
used by Michael Dempsey. Use the code TENOFF19 which gives
you a 10% discount on any DRF Formulator plan that is one month or longer.


Free Horse Racing Picks

Get free horse racing picks each day from expert race handicapper Michael Dempsey Click Here

Belmont Stakes News & Reports
Breeders' Cup
Turf ‘n’ Sport handicapper Michael Dempsey has the Belmont Stakes covered with his selections, analysis and fair odds for every race on the card!
Wager on the Belmont Stakes
Belmont Stakes News

Belmont Stakes Reports

Horse Racing Betting Tips

Horse Racing Betting Tips
Turf 'n' Sport handicappers give out basic horse racing handicapping information..