Wed. Feb 24th, 2021



Q & A for Beginners

horse racing beginner

Q1. What are the Straight Wagers?

The basic or “straight” wagers newcomers generally become familiar with upon their first exposure to horse racing are Win, Place, and Show. Historically, all three required a minimum bet of $2, but these days they can be had for a minimum of $1 in most places. Here’s a closer look at the three wagers.

WIN: This wager, as its name implies, requires that your selection finish first. The takeout rate on a Win bet (as well as Place and Show wagers), that is the amount of money the track removes from each pool to cover expenses, is generally 15-20% depending on the track. The remainder is then distributed to those that hold Win tickets on the first-place horse. (The Win pool is separate from the Place and Show pools.)

Unlike Place and Show bets, Win odds are freely available by viewing the tote board, TV monitors, or on your screen if using an internet device.

In this example, with seven minutes to post, the #6 horse is the favorite at 8-5, or 1.6-1. If the horse wins, you would earn $1.60 for every $1 wagered, plus earn your stake back. The payoff for a $2 Win bet would thus be $5.20.

On the other end of the spectrum, if the #4 horse wins at 29-1, the payoff would be a minimum of $60 and as much as $61.80, depending on breakage. Breakage is a device tracks use to compute payoffs so they can be rounded to the nearest, lowest 20-cent increment (10 cents in New York) rather than paying in exact amounts (e.g. a calculated $60.94 payoff would instead pay $60.80).

As Win odds are determined by the level of play each horse receives, it’s hard to quantify the level of difficulty of this wager, though it’s harder than either Place or Show wagers as we will see. If you strictly bet the favorite to win every race, you would, on average, cash on one out of every three races. That average goes down the more higher-priced horses you bet to Win, although the rewards are higher.

PLACE: The Place bet requires your selection to finish first or second. It’s easier to cash than a Win bet, but the payoffs are typically smaller due to the Place pool being divided two ways rather than one (bettors with Place money on the first horse and second horse divide the pool).

Place odds and likely payoffs are not readily available to the public because they are dependent on who runs first and second. Though there are ways of determining approximate payoffs by calculating the amount of money bet on each horse in the Place pool, newcomers to the game are advised to enjoy the experience and not get too hung up on the mathematics. That’s what the track’s mutuels department is for.

SHOW: The easiest of the three straight wagers to cash, it requires that your selection finish first, second, or third. Because it’s the easiest, and the fact the pool is divided among three groups of ticket holders, the payoffs can be very low. If you’re betting favorites, the Return on Investment (ROI) can often be less than $1 for every $2 wagered. As is the case with Place bets, odds and likely payoffs are not readily available but an approximate return can be computed.

While Show bets are good ones for beginners with a low-risk threshold, winning the equivalent (sometimes) of pocket change will not be terribly exciting for some.

Q2. What are the Exotic Wagers?

Exotic wagers allow you to bet on multiple horses in a single bet, allowing you to increase your profit potential. But as I mentioned above, they’re much harder to win than straight bets, can get expensive if you’re not careful, and require much more skill in handicapping horses. Feel free to experiment with some exotic wagers after you’ve done a few straight bets.

EXACTA– You’re betting on two horses to come in first and second in an exact order. For example, if you placed a $2 exacta on horses 3 and 5, you can only collect if horse #3 comes in first and horse #5 comes in second. Exacta bets are popular among skilled horse handicappers because the payoff can be very lucrative. You can also “box” your exacta bet which means your two horses can come in any order in the top two spots and you still win. Boxing an exacta costs twice as much as a straight exacta bet. So a $2 box exacta on horses 3 and 5 will cost you $4.

QUINELLA– With a quinella bet, you’re betting on two horses to come in first and second in any order. As long as your two horses finish in the top two spots, you win. So if you placed a $2 quinella bet on horses 1 and 6, you can collect if horse #1 and horse #6 come in first and second in any order. You might be thinking, “What’s the difference between a quinella and a box exacta? Both let you win if your two horses come in first or second.” The big difference is cost: a $2 quinella bet costs $2 while a $2 box exacta bet will cost you $4. Why would someone pay more for a box exacta if it’s essentially the same bet as a quinella? The payout for a box exacta is generally more than a quinella bet, that’s why.

TRIFECTA– You bet that three horses will finish in first, second, and third in an exact order. If you place a $2 trifecta bet on 1-5-7, you can only collect if horse #1 comes in first, horse #5 comes in second, and horse #7 comes in third. You can also box your trifecta bet so you can win if your three horses come in first, second, and third in any order. Boxing a trifecta will significantly increase the cost of your bet because there are many combinations. So a $2 box trifecta bet will actually cost you $12 or a $1 trifecta boxed will cost you $6.

SUPERFECTA– You bet that four horses will finish, first, second, third, and fourth in an exact order. As with exactas and trifectas, you can box a superfecta at an additional cost. The minimum bet is often 10-cents, which makes it more appealing to many people.

Q3. What are the Pick Wagers ?

The horizontal pick wagers are essentially parlay bets. To win, you must select the winner of consecutive races before the first of the series of races begins.

A Daily Double is the winner of two races in a row, a Pick 3 is three straight races, a Pick 4 means you must select the winner of four consecutive races, a Pick 5 is hitting five winners in a row, and the Pick 6 is six straight winners.

Q4. What is the Morning Line?

The track handicapper’s estimation of what the final odds will be for the horses at post time. This is not a prediction on the outcome of the race, it is only an educated guess as to how the betting public will wager.

Q5. What do the Odds mean in horse racing?

When horse racing odds are shown in the form of 7-2, 5-1, etc, it expresses the amount of profit to the amount invested. So odds of 7-2 mean that for every $2 invested, the punter gets $7 profit in return. This means when you bet $2, the total return if the bet is successful is $9.

Q6. How much will my horse pay to Win?

You’re betting on horse races and want to know how much your winning bet will give you. To compute your $2 win price, take the odds of your horse and multiply the first number by 2, divide that by the second number, and then add $2 — simple as that! Following is a list of payoffs at various odds for quick reference:

Odds$2 PayoffOdds$2 PayoffOdds$2 Payoff
1/9$2.10 - $2.308/5$5.20 - $5.407/1$16.00 -$17.90
1/5$2.40 - $2.709/5$5.60 - $5.808/1$18.00 -$19.90
2/5$2.80 - $2.902/1$6.00 - $6.809/1$20.00 -$21.90
1/2$3.00 - $3.105/2$7.00 - $7.9010/1$22.00 -$23.90
3/5$3.20 - $3.503/1$8.00 - $8.9012/1$26.00 -$27.90
4/5$3.60 - $3.907/2$9.00 - $9.9015/1$32.00 -$33.90
1/1$4.00 - $4.304/1$10.00 - $10.9020/1$42.00 -$43.90
6/5$4.40 - $4.709/2$11.00 - $11.9030/1$62.00 - $71.90
7/5$4.80 - $4.905/1$12.00 -$13.9050/1$102.00 -$121.90
3/2$5.00 - $5.106/1$14.00 -$15.9099/1$200.00 & Up

Q7. How do I handicap horse races?

Buying an official program is the wisest investment you’ll ever make at the racetrack. In addition to the list of horses in each race, the program also provides the official betting number of the horse and lists the owner, trainer and jockey.

Be sure to refer to the current trainer and jockey standings that are listed in the program. Perhaps the most important consideration in evaluating or “handicapping” a race is the current form or physical fitness of each horse. The best way to assess the status of a horse is by reading it’s past performance.

Most programs carry at least an abbreviated past performance history for every horse in the race. The most comprehensive review of past performances is found in the Daily Racing Form.

The serious handicapper has mastered the use of reading the past performances, racing stories and columns found within “The Form.” The aspiring handicapper will make an effort to comprehend the valuable information it offers. Each Daily Racing Form has a How To Read The Form page dedicated to educate the novice fan.

Q8. What type of thoroughbred horse races are there?

Stakes - These races offer the largest purse money and generally attract the highest quality horses.

Handicap - The Racing Secretary assigns a weight to each horse in order to equalize the winning chances of all the runners. The high weight is usually considered the best horse in the race. The assigned weight includes the weight of the jockey and any additional lead pads that may need to be added to the saddle to fulfill the weight assignment.

Allowance - A non-claiming race usually designed for lightly-raced or above average horses.

Claiming - The most common of all races. Each horse is entered at a specific price and may be purchased, or “claimed” by any licensed owner. The claiming price serves to balance the competition within that particular race. A horse valued at $25,000 isn’t likely to run in a $5,000 claiming race as it will probably be claimed for far less than it’s value. A $5,000 horse isn’t likely to run against $25,000 claimers as it would be overmatched or out-classed.

Maiden - Races for horses which have never won. Maiden Special Weight races lure the best of the non-winners with greater purses than Maiden Claiming races.

Q9. What is Triple Crown?

In the United States, the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, commonly known as the Triple Crown, is a title awarded to a three-year-old Thoroughbred horse who wins the Kentucky DerbyPreakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. The three races were inaugurated in different years, the last being the Kentucky Derby in 1875. These races are now run annually in May and early June of each year. The Triple Crown Trophy, commissioned in 1950 but awarded to all previous winners as well as those after 1950, is awarded to a Triple Crown winner.

Q10. Is online horse racing betting legal in USA?

Online racing betting is legal in most US states due to favorable gaming laws dating back decades. Even to this day, it is surprising to find out just how many people have no idea that it is perfectly legal to bet on horse races online in the USA. The truth is it has been legal for years.

Now here are the states where it appears that internet horse race betting is legal and where licensed sites (such as TwinSpires, TVG, and BetAmerica), are currently accepting players.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.