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Most people do not win at horse racing. They do not study horse racing and handicapping information. They do not have a game play for handicapping and betting on horse races.
Get familiar with reading the race day program.
Your ability to successfully handicap horses will depend upon your ability to read the race day program. The program is crammed with information that you can use to make smarter bets.
Equibase, the company that creates all the race day programs for every track in the U.S., has a great interactive guide on how to read their race day programs. If you’ve never been to the horse races before, play around with it before you go.
Look at what class levels the horse has been racing at.
There are different levels of competition, or classes, in horse racing. As you go up in class, you’ll find better performing horses and higher purses. There are four race classes: maiden races, claiming races, allowance races, and stakes race
Past performance on surface type.
Racetracks have different surfaces that the horses run on. Some have natural dirt and grass tracks while others have artificial “all-weather” tracks. Horses perform differently on each type of surface. Some horses love dirt tracks, but don’t like the feel of artificial tracks and vice versa. The program tells you each horse’s past performance on the different surface types.
History with jockey.
I like to look at a jockey’s performance history in the program. If a jockey consistently places in first, second, or third no matter what horse he or she is riding, it’s a good indicator of talent.
Consider the odds.
For every race, each horse will have the odds of it winning next to its name in the program. The favorite to win is the horse with the lowest odds. While past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, the statistics show that over time going for the race favorite pays off. If you:
- Bet the race favorite to win, he pays off 33% of the time.
- Bet the race favorite to place (comes in 1st or 2nd), the favorite pays off 53% of the time.
- Bet the race favorite to show (comes in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd), the favorite pays off 67% of the time.
So if you’re looking for an easy way to handicap horses that gives you a good chance of a small return on your money, just bet the race favorite to show.
Watch the horse in the paddock.
Before every race, the horses are paraded around in an area of the track called the paddock. It gives you a chance to see how the horse looks and is behaving before the race starts.