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Wagering (Betting) and Terminology Basics of Thoroughbred Horse Racing


Meeting and event planners who are organizing an event at a thoroughbred horse track should understand some wagering and terminology basics of thoroughbred horse racing prior to the program -- you'll probably find yourself in a position to offer some wagering tips or explain the betting process at the horse track.

While some people who attend an event at the race track will be familiar with wagering options, there will always be guests who may never have placed a bet. This is meant to be a fun event, so it’s important to help guests (and hosts) feel comfortable.

That means you, as the planner, must carry yourself as if you have some level of thoroughbred horse racing expertise.

Race Program

Every track will provide complimentary daily race forms that list each of the races for the day. The daily race form will provide several important pieces of information about each of the day’s races and horses.

The most obvious information is the horse’s name and post position number (which is the horse’s position in the starting gate, numbered from the inner rail out). But it also provides information about the distance of the race, estimated time to complete, purse (what is paid to the winner), how horses are qualified for race entry, and more.

It’s important to also pay attention to the statistics that are shared about the horse, including how the horse may have performed on different types of tracks.

Tip Sheet

Tip sheets are prepared by professional handicappers who offer their opinions about the horses scheduled for a race. It may not be as fun as trying to wager bets based on favorite names and/or a range of other horse selection rituals, the tip sheet is a helpful tool to share with guests of your event, as it may help increase their chances of winning.

It probably goes without saying, but one of the more successful ways to win is by wagering on the favorite, which will be the horse with the lowest odds or the horse that has the most money wagered.

Popular Wagering Options

The idea of horse track wagering may seem complicated, depending on one’s familiarity with the options. The minimum bet is $2, and it is helpful to ask wagering amount questions to the mutual clerk prior to placing a bet. The following explains some basic wagering options:

  • Win: Horse must come in first.
  • Place: Horse must come in first or second.
  • Show: Horse must come in first, second or third.
  • Across the Board: Horse may come in first, second or third.
  • Exacta: Top two finishers of the race in exact order.
  • Trifecta: Top three finishers of the race in exact order.

Horse Racing Lingo

It is helpful for event planners to be familiar with certain horse racing terminology to help with everything from creating invitations through race day itself. Some important terms include the following:

  • Furlong: Races are measured in furlongs, each measuring 1/8 of a mile.
  • Post Time: The time when the first race of the day begins.
  • Purse: Prize money for the owners of the first five or six finishers of a race.

Additional horse racing glossary items may be found from About.com’s Guide to Horse Racing or through the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

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