How to Bet Horseracing
Most tracks these days offer two ways to place your wagers — either at the traditional teller window or through self-service automated kiosks. If you're new to the track, you might prefer to go to the teller window, because the teller can help you with any questions you might have.
For live, at-the-track racing, you'll usually have 30 minutes or so between races, but you should get to the teller window at least 15 minutes before the start of the race you want to bet on. This will give you plenty of time to place your bet without worrying about “shutting out” the people in line behind you.
To place your bet, you need to give the teller the track, the number of the race, the amount you want to bet, the horse's number, and the kind of wager you want to place. For example, if you were to bet on the race described previously in the race sheet section, you would tell the person at the window, “Finger Lakes, race two, two dollars on number three to win.”
Be sure to specify the track when placing your bet. With simulcasting, you can bet on races at virtually any track anywhere in the country. If you don't specify the track, the teller may assume you want to bet on the race at the home track.
Types of Races
Different classes of horses compete in different classes of races. Stakes and handicap races generally attract the best horses, trainers, jockeys, and drivers, and they usually carry the highest purses. Owners have to pay a fee to nominate, enter, and run their horses in these types of races, and those fees are added to the prize money or purse for the race. Usually, horses must be nominated at least two weeks before the running of a stakes race. In handicap races, faster horses may be required to carry additional weights to ensure a more equal competition.
One variation of the stakes race is an overnight stakes, in which horses can be nominated as late as a week before the race. Usually, owners don't have to pay the nominating, entry, and starting fees required for a stakes race. Nevertheless, overnight stakes races usually attract high-quality racehorses and offer good-sized purses.
In claiming races, the horses entered can be purchased for the amount indicated by the owner. The value of a horse that easily beats a field of $5,000 claimers will usually be increased to avoid having that horse claimed, or purchased, for the lower claiming price. Maiden races are for horses that have never won a race.
Types of Bets
You have several options for wagering on a given race. The most basic is a straight “win” bet, in which you bet that your chosen horse will win the race. A “place” bet means you bet that your horse will finish either first or second, and a “show” bet means you bet that your horse will finish first, second, or third. The “show” bet is sometimes called an “across-the-board bet,” because it covers first-, second-, or third-place finishes.
If you prefer, you can choose two, three, or even four horses in a given race. For two horses, you can place a quinella bet or an exacta bet. In a quinella, you win if your two horses finish first and second in either order. In an exacta, you have to pick which horse will finish first and which will finish second, and you win only if your two horses cross the finish line in the exact order you predicted.
If you want to predict the exact order of the top three finishers, you can place a trifecta bet; as in the exacta, you win only if your horses finish the race in the exact order you predicted. A superfecta bet allows you to choose the top four finishers of a race.
Most tracks and betting parlors have a $2 minimum on bets for win, place, or show. If you place an across-the-board wager, you have to bet $6 — $2 for the win bet, $2 for the place bet, and $2 for the show bet.
You can bet on multiple races, as well as multiple horses. In a daily double bet, for example, you choose the winners of two consecutive races (usually the first two races of the day at a track, although some tracks offer later doubles). Both of your horses have to win in order for you to win your wager. Some tracks also offer daily triples, or pick three, bets, in which you choose the winners of three consecutive races.
Many tracks feature six-race bets, called “pick six,” “classix,” or “super six,” in which you choose the winners of six consecutive races. Usually, these are the last six races of the day. The money pool, like a lottery jackpot, is divided among all bettors who correctly chose the six winners. If no one correctly picks all six winners, part of the money is divided among those who picked five correct winners, and the rest of it goes into the next day's six-race pool.