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Betting on Horse Racing(No Experience Necessary)
By Tony Warren
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Tony Warren
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThis book is intended for novice race track attendees. If you only attend the races on special racing days such as Kentucky Derby day, Preakness day or Belmont day, the book will give a greater insight into wagering on races and may perk your interest enough that you might try the races more than a few times a year.
I realize the whole process of wagering on races may seem a bit overwhelming. If you read all the information provided, I think you will have a greater appreciation of how much fun you can have from wagering on horse racing. The book will not delve into the sophisticated handicapping of races but rather focus on ways to make a wager and what types of wagers to make. The idea of this information is to allow you to make small wagers that potentially offer a nice return for that small amount of money wagered.
We will concentrate only on thoroughbred racing in our discussion. The other main type of racing in the United States is harness racing. Arabian, steeplechase and quarter horse racing are also seen in the United States but are only seen at a few smaller race tracks. The harness races are races where a driver sits in what is called a sulky and the horse pulls the driver around the track while he sits in the sulky. Somepeople refer to these races as chariot races. These races are a whole different game although many of the definitions used here will still apply to harness racing. The major difference between harness racing and thoroughbred racing is that in thoroughbred racing a jockey rides atop the horse and in harness racing the driver is pulled in the cart or sulky.
The big money in horse race wagering is done on thoroughbred racing and since thoroughbred racing is my passion we will concentrate on those types of races.
Each year, in the United States alone, there are thousands of races run. In those races, hundreds of thousands of horses compete. Racing throughout the world expands those numbers dramatically.
There is an old adage in horse racing that tells us "you can beat a race but you can't beat the races".
The point here is that if get into horse wagering on a more serious level, you should not bet every race you see. Be selective on the number of races you play each day. If you attempt to wager on every race presented to you, then you will lose. You should pick one or two tracks a day to wager on and then wager only on races that seem playable by our standards to be discussed later. The idea is to bet small to win large. That is easy to say, of course, and hard to do. I will try to show you how it can be done.
When we talk about wagering small amounts of money to win large amounts what I mean is the following. In a casino, when you make a five dollar bet on blackjack, and you win, the most you will win is seven dollars and fifty cents if you get blackjack. If you win without a blackjack, you win five dollars. In horse racing you can make certain wagers for as little as ten cents up to a dollar and you could win thousands. These types of wagers will be addressed in the question section later. It has happened where people have won a million dollars on a two dollar wager. This folks is not the lottery, you too can win and much of what you do to win is in your control. You can use your intelligence and not have to depend on ping pong balls to get a nice win. The most I have won on a one dollar wager was around five thousand dollars, but keep in mind I am not a high roller and my small wagers do return huge returns on many occasions.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of wagering on races let me give you some background on how my interest in racing evolved. First of all, let me tell you up front, I am not a professional gambler. I have just retired from a sales career as a pharmaceutical sales person after thirty eight years.
Gambling has been part of my life since I was in grade school. My family would have large picnics at a lake setting where we fished, swam and played blackjack for pennies. I was around ten years old and I was totally fascinated by blackjack and since I always won I was hooked. Reflecting back on my always winning, it is now quite obvious I was being allowed to win but as a ten year old you don't know about games being fixed. I fell in love with cards and gaming.
Throughout high school I played poker with friends and won more than I lost. Just as I was about to start college I heard a harness racetrack was going to be built in my sleepy hometown of Wilkes - Barre, Pennsylvania. I didn't pay much attention to the news about the track.
I continued to play cards when I started college. Between classes, we would play cards over coffee in the cafeteria. The games were small stakes games but one could find a game anytime of the day.
I find it amusing that holdem has become such a big deal. Everyone knows the game and everyone thinks they can play it better than the pros. I never heard of holdem back in my early poker days and frankly, I wish I never heard of it now. After I've played holdem for ten minutes I am totally bored.
As my freshman year was ending, I was looking for a summer job. A friend suggested we try to get a job at the racetrack. I was eighteen and it sounded like fun. We were both hired to clean the track every morning after the previous nights races.
I started to watch the horses work out in the morning. I enjoyed the sound of the sulkies and the rhythmic breathing of the horses was calming. I started to go to the track in the evenings and watch the horses run the races. I was too young to wager as one had to be twenty one to be a player. It finally occurred to me, that even though I was too young to gain admittance to the track, I could still get in. I used my workers ID badge and if anyone asked what I was doing, I simply told them I was there to check the cleaning supplies for the following morning. I got in anytime I tried.
I found a couple of young tellers who didn't ask my age and allowed me to place some wagers. I fell in love with the sights and sounds of the track and in a sense was off and running. I spent that summer working at the track during the day and after going home for dinner I went back to watch and wager. I didn't wager much and I didn't bet every race. I just loved being there. I worked at the track the following summer as well and followed the same pattern.
Since the track was so new and so popular the local television station would show the stretch runs of the first two races every night on the news. If I couldn't get to the track I would have someone who worked there or worked with me make a couple of daily double wagers for me so I could watch those two races on television.
The track where I worked and wagered is called Pocono Downs. It is still there some forty years later. The name has recently changed and it now houses a casino and will have a large hotel built on the grounds very soon. So after many years of dwindling interest by area residents, it is now a new hot spot for the locals once again.
After graduating college, I moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and all of a sudden a new thoroughbred track called Penn National was being built. It was about forty minutes from my home in Lancaster. As soon as racing started, I had to get there to see the new track and see what thoroughbred racing was all about. Penn National only raced at night except for Sunday when they raced in the early afternoon. After work, I would take the short ride to put myself under the race track lights. It was very appealing and I tried to get there about twice a month. I had a real career now and was recently married. Leaving my new wife at home at night was not a good idea. Her interest in horse racing was and still is minimal.
I had my first of two daughters while living in Lancaster. When she was four we met a couple who had a four year old son and also had some interest in the races. On Sundays we would go to Penn National for a few races with the kids and wives. We would watch and wager on about four races and then head home stopping for dinner along the way.
Talk about luck, after being in Lancaster for five years I was transferred via my job to Baltimore, Maryland. I felt like I was moving up the class ladder of racing. I went from Pocono Downs to Penn National and now on to Pimlico..
Pimlico was awesome. The first time I saw the huge complex I got the chills. The place dwarfed the other two tracks in size and structure. Pimlico is an old track located in Baltimore city. You can feel the history of the place as you approach the entrance and see in huge letters "The Home of the Preakness". The track is frankly not the most beautiful track I have frequented but I love it just the same. It is indeed, my home track. I immediately signed up to get on the mailing list for Preakness tickets and have been on the list ever since. I have seen many great races and jockeys run and ride at Pimlico. Edgar Prado, Chris Mc Carron and Kent Desormeaux all rode at Pimlico in the early stages of their careers. All three are now in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
In my travels, I have been to tracks in many parts of the world. I have seen some beauties and some beasts. I have been to tracks in the United States, Canada, Ireland and France. The tracks in France were by far the most beautiful. They are small brick structures that are very pleasing to the eyes. My favorite tracks in the states are Saratoga in New York and Del Mar in California. Both are awesome and you can smell the big money in the air.
When arriving at the track or if you are betting via the computer or phone the first thing you need to buy is some type of program that lists the horses and gives the official program number of the horses for each race. There are three types of programs that are available. There are two programs that are referred to as forms or racing programs and these are available at most tracks and at many convenience stores or newspaper shops in your area. The other program that is available generally only at the track is the track's own official program. All three have the basic information you need in order to make a wager. The track program will suffice for most of you at this point. These tools are always needed and it is remarkable how they are printed day in and day out without errors. Numerous local newspapers have a section on racing with analysis by experts who follow their local tracks. The folks who analyze the races are generally well informed and do pick winners quite often. I find the two New York tabloids to be the best. They do a great job on racing at the New York tracks.
We will not dissect all the information in the racing programs. You will gather enough information throughout the book without having to define every term in the racing programs. We will review a few key points about the program here to get you started.
On the inside cover of most of the programs you might buy is an explanation page of what you are looking at in the program. I urge you to look at this explanation page as it can answer some questions we will not discuss in the book. For our purposes the explanation page can tell you eight things you need to know. I will list those eight points and then elaborate on four of them that are most important right now. The points are:
1. What type of race is being run and what is the distance of the race
2. The last date your horse raced
3. What type of wagers are available for the race
4. Jockey and trainers names
5. The horses post position and official betting number
6. Where did the horse finish in its last race
7. Jockey's weight
8. A short comment on your horses last few races (got bumped, jockey fell off)
Most of these points will be discussed throughout the book but as mentioned, we will discuss four of the points in more detail at this point. The four points discussed now will also be discussed further in later questions but these four points are critical to your early success.
Date of your horses last race - I will not play a horse that has not raced in the last forty days. Some horses will win after a long layoff of over forty days but more will win who have raced in the past four to five weeks.
Where did my horse finish in its last race? - I generally like to play a horse that finished first through fourth in its last race if the race had at least eight horses in the race. I want my horse to show some recent good form of running well. Long term data suggests that a horse that ran first through fourth in its last race will win more races than those that ran fifth or worse in their last race. I would put the percentage on one of these horses winning at around thirty per cent.
What about the trackman's comments? - I like to read the comments made by people who have seen the horses' last races. I might play a horse that finished fifth or six in their last race if the comments point out something like, had a troubled trip or stumbled at the start. Look at the comments section but remember most of the other people wagering on the race will read them as well.
What type of race did my horse run in?
This question will be the most complicated so far so read slowly and read again if you need to. There are basically two types of races. There are claiming races and all others. The all others are Maiden Special Weight, allowances, handicaps' and stakes races. For our purposes we will consider claiming races and all the others as the same.
Claiming races are races when a horse is being offered for sale at the time of the race. These races have a set price for the horses in the claiming race. Those prices range from $2,500 to $100,000 with rare exceptions. A trainer who is registered in the states can claim (buy) a horse by putting in a claim prior to the race being run. When the race is over the horse is now his. The person who owned the horse during the running of the race does collect any winnings from that race but no longer owns the horse. If the claimed horse gets hurt or in some cases dies during the race the new owner still owns it and is responsible for it from that moment forward.
The other types of races are generally for the better horses or when an owner just does not want to risk losing the horse via a claim. These horses can't be claimed or bought in any race other than a claiming race.
If you look at your program and a horse you like is running for a claiming price of $10,000 and has been competitive in the recent past at this same level of competition then that horse could be considered a play.
Horses move up and down the claiming ladder. A horse may move from a race where he can be claimed for $5,000 to a race where now he is being offered for $10,000. The reverse can also be seen. A horse was running for $10,000 and is now in a race where the claim price is $5,000. Horses that have been running in non claiming races also drop down to claiming races when they are not doing well against the higher competition or the owner / trainer just feels the horse is over his head in allowance races and they drop him into the claiming ranks with the hope the horse will do better against the lesser competition.
I tend to put more value on a horse running at the same level it has been running in rather than a horse going from a non claiming event to a claiming event. This is referred to in racing as moving up or down in class. If a horse has been running for a claiming price of $10,000 and now moves to a race where he can be claimed for $25,000 I like him more than a horse going the other way. If the horse was worth $25,000 last month why is he now only worth $10,000?
This class issues and raising or lowering the level of your horse is controversial. Some serious and not so serious players love horses dropping in class. I do not. Remember, if a horse is running in high priced races and doing all right then why drop him to a lower level where he can now be claimed. Some will reason the owner/ trainer is dropping the horse from say an allowance race to a claiming race to be more competitive with their horse. A lot of issues are involved in the claiming end of the business and at this point we have discussed enough for you to have enough insight into the types of races out there to move forward. Just keep this in mind. You can't buy a mint 1955 T Bird for the price of a used cab. If a owner/trainer is offering what looks like a mint car for the price of a junker, beware.
Excerpted from Betting on Horse Racing by Tony Warren Copyright © 2009 by Tony Warren. Excerpted by permission.
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