How To Bet The Ponies Without Losing Your Life Savings

Horse racing is a sport that celebrates the magnificence of the Thoroughbred and his partnership with mankind.

It is a sport that displays elegance, passion, and drama to all who are fortunate enough to observe even a single race. It is synonymous with history and tradition, particularly in North America, where it was the first major sport celebrated by British colonists in the “New World.”

Of course, if that is not enough to draw you in, there is always the alluring financial incentive of the betting window.

Every year, when major racing events such as the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup series are run, there are accounts of astronomical win bets being cashed. Some of these tales may be the equivalent of “big fish” stories, and some may be due to less-than-savory behavior (the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Pick Six Scandal comes to mind), but enough real people have legitimately won real money at the racetrack to keep all of the cheerful dreamers coming back for more.

How can you count yourself among horse racing’s financial success stories? Read these tips to find out!

Learn Your Stuff

In order to win a bet, you first have to know how to place a bet.

Straight bets are the simplest bets. You are choosing one horse in one race. You can bet that horse either to win (finish first), place (finish first or second), or show (finish first, second, or third).

For win bets, you will receive a return proportional to the amount of dollars you bet on your entry, according to their odds; for example, a one-dollar bet on a horse with 4-1 odds yields a return of four dollars (plus your original bet), while a two-dollar bet would bring eight dollars, and so forth.

Please remember, however, that the odds on the track tote board only reflect bets to win; place and show odds are calculated in different pools.

Exotic bets are more complex, but can also yield more lucrative results. Horseplayers may want to bet an exacta, trifecta, or superfecta, which involves choosing the top two, three, or four horses (respectively). They may also want to try a Daily Double or a Pick 3-7, which involves choosing the winner of two or more (typically consecutive) races at a time.

These bets are, of course, more difficult to win. However, the payoffs can be huge. For example, choosing White Abarrio to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic only netted a bettor about $2.60 in profit. If that bettor had an exacta with White Abarrio and runner-up Derma Sotogake, however, that profit skyrocketed to $89.70 per dollar wagered.

Find Your Angle

Most successful handicappers use a lot of different factors when attempting to figure out an upcoming race, but there are some factors, called “angles,” that they put more stock in than others.

Many horseplayers specialize in one specific track or region. The climate of an area has a dramatic effect on the overall quality and speed of each racetrack. Certain tracks tend to favor certain running styles; this is what is known as “track bias.” You can check the Kentucky Derby past results to find bias:

Other bettors prefer to focus solely on the horses involved. They study each entrant’s past performances and race records, and the statistics of the humans working with them. Jockey and trainer statistics can be found alongside equine past performances.

Some handicappers lean heavily on speed figures. These are numbers that are assigned to horses after they race based on their performance. There are several different types of speed figures such as Beyer numbers, E speed figures, and Thorographs, and all are calculated slightly differently, but all have the goal of consolidating factors like the ones mentioned above so that horses can be compared more easily.

The Biggest Longshots Are Longshots For A Reason

Everyone likes the idea of picking the winner that no one else had.

Not only does this lead to a higher payout, but it also leaves the horseplayer feeling smart, as though they have noticed an element to a particular horse that their contemporaries overlooked.

However, the fact of the matter is that stories of huge longshots winning major races, such as Rich Strike’s famed 80-1 win in the 2022 Kentucky Derby, make the headlines because of how rare they are. Indeed, in the decade prior to Rich Strike’s improbable run, no fewer than six favorites won the Run for the Roses.

No handicapper will ever discourage you from playing against a heavy favorite, but never pick a longshot just for the sake of picking a longshot.

One Day Does Not A Career Make

One lucky day is just that- one day.

A few successful bets may make you want to place riskier wagers, or bigger bets overall. Keep in mind that there is no sure thing in racing, and you should never bet more than you can afford to lose, no matter how enticing the prospect.

Similarly, never let one bad day drive you away forever. If you have been wagering responsibly, cut your losses and simply try again another day!