An Introduction to Horse Wagering
If you’ve never bet on horse racing, and you’re feeling a little intimidated, just remember one thing: even the experts had to make their first wager at some point. There’s no need to be intimidated by all the numbers and terminology. The fact is, you can make wagers, win some money, and have one heck of a good time if you just know some of the basics.
Understanding the Races
Though many races appear to be similar, each race has “conditions” that specify which horses may compete. Conditions include the horse’s age, sex, and other classes of information about the horse. Important race types to know include Maiden, Claiming, Allowance, Handicap, Stakes, and Graded Stakes Races.
A Maiden Race is for horses that have not yet won a race. A race in which every horse participating is for sale at a stipulated price (the “claiming price”) until shortly before the race begins is called a Claiming Race. Allowance Races are highly competitive contests where horses entered cannot be purchased. The purses in Allowance Races are usually higher than purses in Claiming Races, but are usually lower than those of Stakes and Handicap Races.
In a Handicap Race, weights are added to the horses prior to the race in order to make all horses more evenly matched. Stakes Races are where the top horses compete. They carry the most prestige and have the biggest purses. To be entered into a Stakes Race, the horse’s owner must pay a fee, which may add more money to the total purse amount. Selected top-level Stakes Races are assigned one of three grades, with Grade I being the highest level of competition. Races that are considered Grade I include the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and all the races that make up the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Get to Know the Odds
The odds for any particular horse are not based on the horse’s abilities. Rather, they are based on how much money is bet on the horse. Win odds are posted on TV monitors and the infield tote board at Prairie Meadows. These odds are updated every 30-60 seconds and will fluctuate from the time you wager until betting ends. When you win, your payoff is determined by the closing odds.
Choose Your Horse
Some people spend years developing a strategy for selecting winners. They look at things like bloodlines, past performances, and track conditions. But if you want to keep it simple, you can choose based on your favorite number or color, a name you like, or just go with your gut feeling! No matter how you make your selection, it can be just as much fun – win or lose.
Learn Basic Wagers
The basic wagers include Win, Place, and Show. When you bet a horse to Win, you win if your horse finishes first; if you bet a horse to Place, you win if your horse finishes first or second; and when you bet a horse to Show, you win if your horse finishes first, second, or third.
Place Your Bet
The Prairie Meadows’ staff understands what it’s like to be a first-time bettor, and they’re more than happy to give you the assistance you need, but here’s six easy steps to get you started.
1) Go to a mutuels window or wagering kiosk. These are located on every gaming floor and outside near the racetrack. (To earn Prairie Gold Rewards points on your wager, swipe your rewards card at the wagering kiosk or present your card to the mutuel teller prior to placing your wager.)
2) State the name of the track.
3) Give the teller the number of the race you’re betting on.
4) State the amount you wish to wager. ($2 is the minimum)
5) Tell the teller the type of wager you’d like to make.
6) Give the teller the number of the horse as listed in your program.
Here’s an example: “Prairie Meadows, third race, two dollars, to win, on number five.”
Now that you know the basics, let’s spice things up a bit with exotic wagering. Exotic wagers add one or two more elements to the mix, such as a second or third horse or additional races. There are both single race exotics and multiple race exotics.
Single Race Exotics
Common single race exotic wagers include, Exacta, Quinella, and Trifecta bets. To win an Exacta bet, you must choose the two horses finishing first and second in exact order. In a Quinella bet, you choose two horses in a race, and you win if your horse selections finish first and second, in any order. You must choose the first three finishers in exact order to win a Trifecta bet.
Multiple Race Exotics
Popular multiple race exotic wagers include the Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4, and Superfecta bets.
To win the Daily Double, you must choose the winners of two consecutive races. All you have to do is pick which horse you think will win each race and place your bet prior to the running of the first of these races.
In a Pick 3 bet, your wagers must also be placed prior to the start of the first of the three races. To win, you must choose the winners of three consecutive races. Similarly, in a Pick 4 bet your wagers must be placed prior to the start of the first of the four races, and you must pick the winners of four consecutive races to win. If no wagers correctly select all four winners, a portion of the money wagered is placed into a carryover pool. This pool is added to the next available Pick 4.
To win a Superfecta bet, you must choose the first four finishers in exact order. A Superfecta wager can be made for as little as 10¢, making it a fun and inexpensive way to delve into exotic wagering.
You’re now armed with all the wagering knowledge you need – just in time for Prairie Meadows Live Racing season. Join us all summer long, and get out there and make some wagers. Good luck!
Questions? Please visit the Racing Center on Level 4 or call 515.967.1345.
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