Basic Horse Racing Bets

Not surprisingly, betting is what drives the sport of horse racing. The thrill you get when your horse hits the finish line in front is second to none. Below, we take a look at the most popular horse racing wagers, in the most basic of details, for you to begin to learn and experience that thrill firsthand.

 

Straight Horse Racing Bets

Win Wager

The easiest wager one can place on horse racing is the win bet and, thanks to its simplicity, it is the most popular among horse racing fans. Handicapping past performances PPsWager on a horse to Win.  If he or she wins the race, you collect the payoff based on a $2 win mutual.  It’s that simple.  The hard part, of course, is uncovering the horse that will win.

Place and Show Wagers

The place bet is wagering on a horse to finish no worse than second, and the show bet is wagering on a horse to finish no worse than third.  There is often confusion among newbies, believing that a horse must finish third in order to cash on the show bet.  Many a ticket has been discarded because of that mistake.

 

Exotic Horse Racing Bets

Daily Double

This is the simplest type of exotic wager, and probably the oldest.  The Daily Double is combining the winners of two consecutive races.  If your wager includes both winners, you cash.  The base wager is either $1.00 or $2.00 depending on the host track.

 

Exacta / Perfecta

The exacta is picking the exact order of the top two finishers in a race.  You can play the exact straight or you can box the wager, so that if the horses finish in any order, one-two, then you cash.  You can include as many horses as you wish in your exacta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially and your chances of turning a profit diminish greatly. The base exacta wager is usually $1.00.

 

Trifecta

The trifecta is picking the exact order of the top three finishers in a race.  You can play the trifecta straight or you can box the wager, so that if the horses finish in any order, one-two-three, then you cash.  You can include as many horses as you wish in your trifecta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially.  The base wager is usually either $0.50 or $1.00.

 

Superfecta

The Superfecta is picking the exact order of the top four finishers in a race.  You can play this quad bet straight or you can box the wager, so that if the horses finish in any order, one-two-three-four, then you cash.  Like the exacta and trifecta, you can include as many horses as you wish in your superfecta box, but the cost of the wager goes up exponentially.  At many tracks throughout the country, the base minimum wager is only $0.10 and that makes the bet affordable for the recreational horseplayer.

The industry has added a lot of new bets over the past few years, and we’ll take a look at them in an upcoming primer.

 

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How Well do Horse Racing Favorites Perform?

by Rich Nilsen

The wagering public has been pretty amazing over the years. Historically, the betting choice, a.k.a. the favorite, has hit the Winner’s Circle at tracks all over the country at a fairly consistent 32% success rate. However, over the past decade or so I noticed that this rate of how horse racing favorites perform continued to creep up.

There is little doubt that smaller fields have played a significant role in this increase. The bottom line is that the widely used 32% win rate for favorites is inaccurate by as much as 10% (35 vs 32 percent).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am the first guy who will be quick to bet against the favorite. In fact, that is what I am looking to do every time I handicap a race.

Here are the average win rates for the wagering public’s favorite, on average, at racetracks across the nation:

Favorites Win 35% of the time

Favorites Place (run 1st or 2nd) 55% of the time

Favorites Show (run 1st, 2nd or 3rd) 69% of the time

Consider these numbers the next time you place a horse racing wager! If you are playing a trifecta wager, for example, where you have to pick the top 3 finishers in order, is it wise to just toss the favorite with no regard to the percentages? Considering that the typical favorite hits the board (show) nearly 70% of the time, the answer in most cases may be a resounding “no!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am the first guy who will be quick to bet against the favorite. In fact, that is what I am looking to do every time I handicap a race. However, I like to think that I am not stupid (no witty comments please). I realize that the favorite in most races stands an excellent chance of hitting the board. For that reason, I will often “use” the public choice in my wagers – somewhere – even if I am betting against him. It’s not just an insurance play. It’s playing the percentages, and as a “numbers” guy, that is what I am about.

A good example is the trifecta wager. Let’s say you don’t like the favorite. You are playing against him to win. However, realizing this horse could very well “hit the board” the wise thing is to include him underneath in the trifecta bet.

Learn about other handicapping tips from AGOS

This is a prime reason why “boxing” horses in a trifecta is usually not a good idea. If you don’t like the favorite to win, then don’t use him in a box, where, in essence, you are including him in the win hole of the trifecta wager. Otherwise, you would not be playing against him.

Post Parade Gulfstream Park maiden race

Copyright Agameofskill.com

This year’s Donn Handicap [2012] was an excellent betting race, a great event to wager on the trifecta if you had an opinion. My top two choices in this field were Trickmeister and Hymn Book. I did not particularly care for Preakness winner Shackleford, but I realized that he could certainly be in the money, especially if he got loose on the lead.

With a full, competitive field of stakes runners, this was just the type of situation where you would hate to be right about one of your top choices (marked as A, B runners) but miss the trifecta because you tossed the favorite.

Hymn Book (A) and Trickmeister (B) were both square prices at 6-1 and 4-1, respectively. My (C) and (D) horses were Mission Impazible and Flat Out.

In this race I honestly felt any of the 11 runners could run third. When you are presented with a race like this, it is imperative to use the “ALL” button in the third slot. The approach with this type of race is to key around your top choices, and play a partwheel similar to the one presented below:

A, B with

A, B, C, D with

ALL

Total cost for this Trifecta: $108 based on a $2 base wager. The trifecta is calculated as follows: 2 horses x 3 horses (four minus one) x remaining horses, which in this case is 9 (11 minus two). Players with a larger bankroll could then reverse the 2nd and 3rd slot of the Trifecta for $1 for an additional $54 bet:

A, B with

ALL with

A, B, C, D

The idea behind the second ticket would be a form of protection in the event a longshot – or, even the favorite – got up for the Place spot.

Alhough the favorite, Shackleford, failed to hit the board in the Donn Handicap, I was protected with this wager in the event he did [provided, of course, that he didn’t win].

Hymn Book (6/1) defeated Mission Impazible (8/1) in a real thriller, as Redeemed (8/1) finished third. The $2 trifecta payoff returned a lucrative $1,296. Even if Shackleford had finished in the money, the trifecta still would have been a nice payoff because of the competitive nature of the field.

Imagine if my top two choices, Hymn Book and Trickmeister, had run one-two and Shackleford had ruined my trifecta? If I absolutely hated the favorite and completely tossed him from the wager, that would be a different story. But that wasn’t the case here. Shackleford was the deserving [lukewarm] favorite in this field. That didn’t mean I had to like him.

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The Top 10 Reasons Handicappers Lose Money

 by Richard Nilsen

 If you have been playing the races this year and are not happy with the results you’ve been getting recently, then it is always a smart idea to take a step back and analyze the situation. What are you doing right, and more importantly, what exactly are you doing wrong?

My father used to remind me that horse racing will teach a person to lose better than any other sport or recreation. Truer words have never been said about this game, because horse racing will often be a real roller-coaster ride. Successful players are able to ride out the bad times in order to reach the “high” moments. Successful players also recognize their faults and consequently make fewer mistakes than their competition. This is a pari-mutuel game, so I am your competition.

 If you are not getting the results you anticipate when you play the horses, chances are that you consistently fall into one or more of the following scenarios:

 1)      You are picking a decent percentage of winners, but your wagering strategies are causing you to lose money. [See reason number five].

 2)      You are betting every single race, instead of looking for prime spot plays. This is the cardinal sin of most bettors. Focus on your best wagers of the day.

 3)      You are employing the same information to handicap that the general public is using. If you are not relying of your own personal notes or a site like Brisnet.com that provides value-added racing information, then you are wagering at a significant disadvantage versus the more sophisticated players.

 4)      You are easily swayed by other people’s input, and therefore, lack conviction in your own selections. This is a game of opinion. Wager on your own.

 5)      You concentrate most of your wagers on low percentage bets. For example, you may be going after too many exotic wagers, such as trifectas and Pick-3’s, that can be both difficult to hit and are based on high takeouts (the amount withheld by the track).

 6)      You look for the quick fix, such as the hot tip from an insider, or the magic formula designed to pick 78-percent winners. No such formula exists, and insider information cannot be relied on over a long-term basis.

 7)      You blame the outcome on an imaginary “fixed” race, instead of looking at the reasons which pointed to the true winner. I highly recommend that you look back over the races you handicapped and dissect the past performances to see why you may have missed the winner(s). All too often, you simply missed an important clue.

 8)      You fail to notice the bias at the track, resulting in wasted money on horses that have the odds stacked against them. Put the percentages in your favor by wagering on horses that fit the profile of the track or the current bias.

9)      You are betting scared money, having no bankroll set aside for horse race betting. You should always have dedicated funds for wagering.

10)  You have no plan or strategy for wagering. You often get in line without knowing your bets, or you jump on your online wagering site with just a few minutes to post and rush your wagers.

Trying to Go Deep?

It is safe to say that most handicappers have committed the mistakes listed above. Of course, the difference lies in who continues to make the same mistakes and who does not. If you feel as though your selections are good, then consider your wagering strategy. Are you swinging for the fences every time, looking to crush the trifecta, meanwhile missing the opportunity for the exacta? Consider knocking your bets down, keying on the Daily Double instead of the Pick-3 or the exacta instead of the trifecta. The inevitable result is that you will cash more tickets and restore your confidence.

 Check the scenarios above which apply to you, then consider the steps you need to take to fix the problems. Doing so, you will place yourself well above the general public, which, we should always remember, is your competition for the wagering dollar. When you minimize the number of mistakes made, your confidence will soar because you will be winning more often. And that is the reason we handicap the horses.

 –          Rich Nilsen is an 8-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship and the only player to finish in the top 10 twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is now founder of AllStarPress.com, an e-book publishing firm, and AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.