Beginner’s Guide To Horse Racing

A Newcomers Guide To Horse Racing Beginner's Guide To Horse Racing

People have been placing bets on Thoroughbred Horse Racing since 1908.  When parimutuel betting was introduced and really turned the sport around.

If you are new to the sport and want to learn how to place a bet on the horses, you have come to the right place.  We will give you the steps on how to place bets for beginners. 


How to Place a Bets

This is the Beginner’s Guide To Horse Racing where’s the easiest place to start? You ask?

Newcomers to horse betting should start with a simple straight bet of Win, Place or Show.  A straight bet is easy to do because you only pick one horse. It’s also cheap to do for beginners, it can cost you as little as $2.

Here is how it’s broken down:

A Win bet is exactly as you would think, simply selecting the horse that you think will cross the finish line first. So what exactly is meant by Place and Show?

Simply put, a Place bet wins if the selected horse you choose finishes in either first or in second.

Finally,  a Show bet wins when the selected horse you choose finishes in first, second or third place.

Across the Board, when you place a bet on one horse to finish in first, second or third place.  As long as the horse finishes within the first 3 slots in would win some kind of payout. 


What you will need to know before placing your first bet.

  1. What Racetrack do you want to bet on?
  2. Pick which Race?
  3. Decide how much money you want to wager?
  4. State the wager type (Win, Place, Show or Across the Board)
  5. Pick the horse# (post position) or horses you want to bet on (make sure to give the teller the number of the horse, not the name of the horse)
  6. Check your ticket before leaving the window or machine  (Best of Luck)
  7. Wait for the race to start and Cheer your horse on!


How Bets are Paid Out

The following screenshot is from a recent race at Belmont Park which shows the payouts for a Win, Place, Show scenario.

Win-Place-Show pricing examples

  • The #3 horse Posse Needed won the race. By placing a minimum $2 wager solely to Win, Posse Needed returned $11.60. 
  • The #9 horse, Tiz Super returned $12.60 for a $2 wager solely to Place.
  • The #10 horse, Parade returned $8.60 for a $2 wager solely to Show.

If by chance you happened to wager $2 to Win, Place and Show (aka Across the Board) on the #3 horse that would have cost you a total of $6. However, you would’ve collected $11.60, $5.30 and $3.80 for a total win of $20.70. 

Although the #9 horse did not win the race he still hit the board and finished second. If you played the #9 horse for $2 across the board, you still had a nice return for $12.60 + $9.80 a total of $22.40. The #10 horse who hit the board and finished third paid out $8.60 which is not bad at all. 

Sometimes it’s necessary for experienced handicappers to go back to the earlier days and revisit the basics of being a newbie at the racetrack. The thrill of experiencing that very first trip to the racetrack and seeing the wonderful horses live, right in front of your eyes….we were hooked immediately.


Horse Racing Talk

There are going to be some phrases that you will hear at the race track that you might not know what they mean. Here are some of the phrases and what they mean:

  • Across the Board: To wager an equal amount of dollars to Win, Place, and Show. Example: $2 Win, $2 Place, $2 Show for a bet total of $6.
  • Favorite: Is the horse the public bets on and everyone thinks will win the race.  The horse will also have the lowest odds.
  • Chalk: Known as the betting “Favorite” to win the race. The favorites win approximately 33% of the time, although usually at low payoffs.
  • Paddock: This is the area where you get a close-up look at the horses before they are saddled up prior to the race. Pay attention to the physical attributes of the horses and their behavior before the race even starts. Valuable clues can be picked up here!
  • Scratch: A horse who is was scheduled to race but was removed prior to the race.
  • Odds: Represent the Ratio of payoff between the amounts staked on the horse.
  • Winners’ Circle:  Where the horse and jockey go after the race if they won to get their picture taken.
  • Beyers Speed:  How fast the horse ran is their previous races.  Which is included in their Past Performances. 


Horse Racing Tote Board

Every thoroughbred race track has a Tote Board and it’s usually in the center of the track for easy public viewing.  You can find it by looking for a big digital display of numbers. lol

Horse Racing Tote Board

Tote Board provides the information you need to know about the race that is coming up.  Such as time to post, current odds, the number of horses and what race is coming up and much more. Pay attention to the racetrack Tote Board it can help you pick a horse based on the current odds or the “favorite”. 

The Tote Board displays some of the following pieces of information concerning the current race.

  • The Race number: The Tote Board shown above indicates that we’re in race #1
  • MTP: This important information is Minutes To Post. According to this Tote Board, there is 1 minute left to the start of the race, better hurry up to get that wager in.
  • Time of Day: Current time
  • Post Time: What time the next race will go off 
  • Track Condition: The current condition of the track
  • Approximate Odds: The current odds are to the right of the horses running numbers. In this race, there were 14 horses in this field.
  • Results: The order of finish will appear after the race from 1st to 4th.



How to Pick a Winning Horse?

Horse Racing Winner Circle

Winner’s Circle – This is where you want to see your horse.

Look at the Past Performances for each horse in each race. Purchase a Racetrack Program or Daily Racing Form at the track.

In the past performance of each horse, you will find the history of the horse’s career.  There are several numbers and symbols that represent how the horse has performed.  

If you are not at the track with computer technology, the same Past Performance information is streamlined and a lot quicker to research then the old-fashioned book.  There are several websites that offer everything you will need to place your first bet.  


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Final Thoughts

Welcome to the exciting world of Thoroughbred Horse Racing also know as the “Sport of Kings”.  This is the Beginner’s Guide to Horse Racing.  We hope this guide has helped you understand what you need to do once you arrive at the track.  If you are not heading to the race track and would like to wager online, there are sites that you can wager from anywhere.

Thoroughbred Horse Racing can be very exciting and profitable or upsetting and costly.  Be sure to bet wisely and don’t get caught up in wagering too much money.   Keep with the simple straight bets Win, Place and Show until you feel comfortable placing those bets. 

Once you’re comfortable with the straight bets then you should check out the more advanced wagering.  


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