Betting on horse racing is one of the most popular pastimes around the world. There are big races each and every week with purses in the hundreds of thousands or millions. It breeds a lot of excitement. If you’ve never bet on the ponies, we’ll walk you through with a guide on how to handicap the races and to understand the different bet types.
How To Handicap Horse Races
There are many things that you have to keep in mind when you’re betting on horse racing. To start, you want to look at the track. There are numerous factors like the track surface (turf or dirt), track length and track conditions that are a big factor. Different horses perform better in different settings. Beyond that, you want to take a look at each horse’s pedigree. Typically, horses who come from good lineage tend to have more success. Also, you want to keep an eye on momentum. Horses that enter the race on a winning streak or at least with a number of close calls is a good sign that they’ll compete well. You’ll want to avoid horses that are struggling.
Lastly, take a close look at the trainers. There are certain trainers like Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen who are Hall of Fame trainers and continue to produce winners. They have strong track records, so that’s something you want to keep an eye on in the races.
Basic Types Of Horse Racing Bets
These types of bets focus on betting on one horse at a time. While we’ll get into the exotics below, it’s important to understand the basic bets first.
Win – When you’re betting on a horse to win, this is a simple bet that means you are backing that horse to finish in first place. If your horse wins the race, you win your bet. If the horse finishes in any place besides first place, you lose your bet.
Place – If you’re betting on a horse to place, that means that you’re betting on it to finish in first place or second place. If it finishes in either of those places, you win. If not, you lose. The payout to place is smaller than to win but remember that you end up with a bigger margin of victory as your horse can now place in the top two spots and you’d still win.
Show – Like place, show gives you a bigger safety net than simply to win. If you’re betting on your horse to show, that means you’re backing it to finish in first, second or third. Any of those results would lead to a win for you.
Across The Board – This is a bit of a more complex bet but it’s similar to what we’ve been talking about with win, place or show. In this type of bet, if your horse wins, then you win the money for win, place and show. If the horse finishes second, you still win for place and show. If your horses finishes third, you win for show. It’s best to understand it as three separate bets. This type of bet can be useful in the right scenario but is better to be avoided by people who are new to horse racing.
Now that we’ve gone through the basic bets, let’s take a closer look at the exotic bets in horse racing. One of the aspects that makes horse racing so fun to bet on is the exotics as a small bet can result in a massive payday. That’s because these types of bets allow you to bet on multiple horses in one bet (in a parlay of sorts). They’re not easy to hit but when they do, that’s when you really strike it rich.
Exacta – An exacta is when you bet on two different horses to finish in first and second place in that exact order. For example, if you picked the No. 3 horse to finish first and the No. 5 horse to finish second, that’s exactly how the race has to end for you to win. If there is any other result – even if you get one right – you still lose your bet. One option that gives you a little bit of leeway in terms of betting is to box your exacta bet. What that means is it gives you the chance to win regardless of the order. In other words, if the No. 3 horse places first or second, or the No. 5 horse places first or second, you still win. Keep in mind that boxing your exacta usually costs about double the price of a regular exacta.
Quinella – A quinella bet is kind of like an exacta with a box. Once again, what you’re betting on is two horses to finish in the top two spots. However, with a quinella, you’re able to win regardless of what order the horses finish. The main difference between this and a boxed exacta is payout. You’ll earn more with a boxed exacta but it will also cost you more. The opposite is true for a quinella, which pays out less but also costs you less. In terms of the bet itself, it’s the same thing.
Trifecta – When you’re betting on a trifecta, you’re predicting the first three results in a horse race. In this case, you have to accurately predict which horse will be first, second and third – in that exact order. If you place a trifecta with 2-8-14, then the No. 2 horse has to place first, the No. 8 horse has to place second and the No. 14 horse has to place third. Any other result leads to a loss for you. However, if you’re right, you’ll win a pretty big payday. You’re also able to box your trifecta, which means that the horses can finish in any order as long as you get the top three right. Boxing a trifecta will cost you, though, as you’re increasing your chances of winning.
Superfecta – Like a trifecta, this type of bet allows you to do virtually the same except now you’re predicting the top four horses. That means if you pick four specific horses for this race, they have to finish in that exact order for you to cash your bet. Any other result leads to a loss for you. As you can imagine, the payday for hitting this type of parlay is massive. One other unique feature about superfectas is that they generally have a minimum bet of $1 or less. That’s what makes it fun as many people like to throw a few pennies or a dollar to try and hit it big.