Ten Important Ideas to Consider When Wagering on Horse Racing

ticket400285WELCOME TO WAGERING 101

With Del Mar exactly six days away and Saratoga starting soon thereafter, the horse racing world comes to life this summer. These two incredibly popular summer meets will feature some of the best horse racing (and the best atmospheres) the country has to offer from some of the best horse racing partnerships and owners alike. I highly advise you to make sure you make one of these historic race tracks a summer destination spot and, while you are there, you might as well have a little fun at the windows!

Listed below are ten ideas to consider when wagering on horse racing.

1. Keep it simple.

If you are not a professional gambler, and trust me – most of us – including myself, are not, there is no reason to go and try and hit multi-level bets like any of the “Picks” (Pick three, four, five, or six). Stick with the old fashioned bets like Win, Place, or Show. If you’d like to get crazy and try an exacta, just make sure you “box it”

2. Make a Budget.

If you are reading this column, you probably have been to Las Vegas. When you go to Vegas, you usually have a number in mind, right? The number is… how much money am I ok with losing?! Same goes for the race track. If you are going to be ok losing $100 and there are nine races, you’ve got $11 a race to work with. Stick to your budget and, at the end of the day, you will walk away satisfied.

3. Play a Show Parlay.

If you ask my good friend Kenny Mayne, the most exciting aspect of a group-type bet is the “show parlay”.  Here are the rules: a) Everyone puts in the same amount of money to the pool. If you have 8 people and everyone puts in $10 (just for sake of discussion, this figure may be whatever you want) then the show parlay will start with $80. b) Pick a person to start the parlay. That person than picks ONE horse from the first race and bets ALL $80 to Show on the horse.  (Note: When we say “show”, the horse just needs to finish third or better for us to win the bet). c) If the horse finishes third or better, you cash the ticket and give all of the funds (original $80 plus whatever you won on the previous race) to the next person, who then decides on the horse for the second race. d) Repeat these steps until 1) a horse does not finish third and all of the money is lost or 2) you’ve accumulated so much money that everyone can’t stand the excitement and wants to stop or 3) the races end and you’ve won every race and the money is divided up amongst the original 8 members. Remember, this is an “exponential” bet so, even after three or four races, that original $80 could be as much as $400-$500 riding on a horse.  The pot can grow quickly and the show parlay is a great communal play.

4. Start a Consortium.

There is bound to be one person in your crew who has a general knowledge about the races and how to bet. Let that person be the “group leader” and “pool” your funds together so a) you are all rooting for the same horse(s) and b) you have more chances of winning.  If your budget is only $20, you are probably stuck making smaller $2 bets. However, if you pool your money with several others in your crew, all of you will benefit by spreading out your wagers and possibly hitting something big, like a Pick Six.

5. Purchase the Tip Sheets.

I know they may seem cheesy, but many of these “tout sheets” like Toby Turrell’s Gold Card are used by even the most sophisticated gamblers. These sheets are actually designed for the novice player and may provide valuable information. Remember, you are betting against every other person at the racetrack and information is king. If you pull one piece of great workout information from one of these “sheets” and cash a bet on a big long shot… it will all be worth it!

6. Play “My Favorite Jockey”.

My grandfather, the man responsible for my horse racing addiction (that’s one way of saying it, right?), used to go to the track and only bet on one jockey, Chris McCarron. McCarron is a hall-of-famer and during his prime in the 80’s, there was nobody better. So gramps, who loved racing and loved going to the races, actually never handicapped a single race. He’d take his program, circle all the horses ridden by McCarron, and hope he brought in a bunch of winners that day.  No matter what circuit you are playing, there are great riders to simply call them your very own for the day.

7. Go For the Best Names.

Keeping it in the family, my mom (a $5-$10 show better), bets on names. I will get text messages and emails throughout the race day just to let me know that she won on a horse named Billy’s Bullet or Emmy Darling (my sister’s name is Emily). And what’s wrong with betting this way. Absolutely nothing. Take a minute and go through the card and pick out names that mean something to you. Find names of your pets or a friend or a loved one and – when one of them wins – you will have a story for the ages (or at least the rest of the night!).

8. Bet Strictly by Looks.

You don’t have to be an expert to look at a horse and see positives and negatives about a horse’s appearance before a race.  I suggest looking at each horse as they enter the paddock and as they hit the track before making a wager. A horses coat is a dead giveaway of health. Try and find horses who have dapples (little circles) on their coat or horses who have glowing coats. A dull coat, on the other hand, is a sign of a horse who may not be thriving.

9. Don’t Bet The Favorites.

Favorites win at approximately 33% of the time or, for those of you math wizards out there, one of every three races.  On a nine race program, generally, three of the favorites will win and six of the favorites will lose. This is NOT a winning proposition. Look at the simple math.  Let’s say each favorite is even money, meaning if you bet $2.00 to win and the horse wins, you will receive $4.00 in return. If you make a $2.00 win bet on all nine favorites (all at even money for the sake of this discussion) it will cost you $18.00. Assuming three of the favorites win, your earnings will be $12.00. You may feel pretty good about yourself for picking the winner of three of the nine races but, at the end of the day, you will still have lost money. In fact, betting this way, you would have to win five of the nine races in order to make money.

Instead, assuming again you have nine races and you are betting $2.00 to win each race, if you can identify horses that are 9-1 or higher, you just need to win one race to break even and, if you are lucky and win just two of the nine races, you stand to make a healthy profit.

Interestingly enough, there is a way to find some good long shots…

10. Look for Overlays.

An “overlay” is simply a horse that has odds greater than its morning line odds. The morning line is created by the racetracks odds-maker and is their opinion of how the betting public will ultimately bet.  You will find the morning line odds for each horse in the program and on the tote board. Since horse race betting is “pari-mutual”, the final odds are dependent on how much money is placed on each horse. Thus, the morning line is simply a prediction. So look at it this way, if the odds-maker at the track thinks a horse should be 4-1 and you look at the tote board and the same horse is 10-1, you have a nice overlay as the betting public may be missing something.  This is your time to strike. Remember, you are betting against every single person at the racetrack and, as we showed you in the previous example, you must demand value.


If none of these wagering ideas strikes a chord with you… well… you can also bet birthday numbers, anniversary numbers, etc. Whatever you do when you go to the race track to wager on horse racing… just have fun!

If you are not interested in gambling or handicapping and more interested in becoming a fractional owner in the Sport of Kings, simply contact us today and start your very ownership experience.