Betting On Horse Racing: Dos & Don’ts

Betting On Horse Racing

Horse racing is, quite possibly, the perfect spectator sport.

The races are short but packed with drama, the main athletes can’t complain about politics or salary, and you, the spectator, can turn a tidy profit if you bet properly.

However, that can be a big if! The barest nose can be the difference between going home wealthy and going home empty handed.

How can you maximize your chances for profit at the betting window? Read below about some common things to do and things to avoid.

Don’t: Compare Raw Times

“Raw times” refers explicitly to the number of minutes and seconds it takes a horse to run a particular distance. Seems pretty simple, right? Time is a constant measurement worldwide, is relatively easy to understand and obtain, and can be observed pretty concretely and objectively.

But Is It Really That Objective?

Well, yes and no. If two horses of the same quality and ability level run the same exact distance, only one is at a track on the east coast and one is on the west coast, you might end up with two completely different final times. Why is that?

Different tracks have different makeups. Even two tracks that are both labeled “dirt” may in fact be made up of different mixtures of sand and clay; turf courses may have different types or lengths of grass that are tended in different ways. This can cause the surfaces to feel drastically different when run over. Generally, tracks that are harder produce faster times than surfaces that are softer, which take more effort to push through.

Even if two horses run on the same track at two different times of the day, they might get different timed results. This is because as horses run over a surface, the mixture of ingredients may either shift to different parts of the track or become packed down. Weather events such as wind and rain can also affect the surface.

Instead of comparing raw times, interested bettors may want to check out speed figures, which experts calculate in attempts to nullify different track conditions and biases. There are several different speed figures to study; some of the most popular include Beyer Speed Figures, Brisnet figures, and Thorograph numbers.

Don’t: Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

There are many different angles a bettor can take when trying to analyze a race. Some people like to base their choices on a certain trainer or jockey, while others look only at speed figures in past races, and still others analyze a horse’s published workouts.

All of These Methods Will, At Some Point Or Another, Provide A Measure Of Success.

However, the most successful bettors diversify their angles. While you may feel most comfortable looking at a race from a particular angle, you should be aware of other major factors. For example, you might notice that a favored trainer such as Bill Mott might be having success at a meet, but if you see that one of his horses seems to be displeased with the track surface and struggling to get over it in morning workouts, you should factor that in when considering that horse’s chances.

It’s important to understand the odds in this sport, which is why we recommend you reading this guide:

Don’t: Bet Money You Do Not Have

A smart bettor sets a hard boundary on the money they are willing to play at the window. They plan out their bets for future races without counting hypothetical winnings from earlier races. Even if you believe a horse to be a sure bet, anything can happen in a race!

Instead, you may want to pull out cash totalling the amount of money you plan to bet on a given day if you are attending races in person. That way, you do not accidentally overspend at the window. For those betting online, make a single, secure transfer to your betting account at the beginning of the day, and use only the funds that you have in your account.

Do: Listen To Experts

Although you may not agree with everything they have to say, expert handicappers can do a lot of the work of analyzing a race for you.

Most horse racing publications, such as The Blood-Horse and The Racing Post, have several handicappers on staff that give detailed write-ups of races each day, highlighting talented racehorses that can provide good value.

Each handicappers has their own preferred angles and specialties, and so most bettors can easily find someone with opinions similar to their own.

Best of all, if you trust an expert and your pick wins, you can take the credit, but if your pick loses, you can just as quickly blame the handicapper!

Do: Research On Your Own

It is also important to build your own base of racing knowledge. For example, genetics play a huge part in what sort of races a horse will likely be most successful with, so a knowledge of Thoroughbred bloodlines is useful. A lot of information on pedigrees can be found online in databases such as, and much of it is available for free.

Information about racetracks and their biases is also key. Current information on races held at specific locations can also be found online or in print; The Daily Racing Form is an excellent source available in both formats.

Do: Be Whimsical (Within Your Means)

Sometimes it’s just fun to make a silly bet. If you have an extra two dollars at the end of the day, why not bet the horse sporting your lucky number or who shares a name with your best friend? You might win big and have a fun story to tell!

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