So you have never bet on a horse race, but you want to try this year at the Alameda County Fair?
Betting on the horses can make for an enjoyable day at the fair and it is not as difficult nor as intimidating as it may seem.
Let’s go through the basics first, then get a little more involved in “betting the ponies.”
Don’t hesitate to print this out and take it to the race track.
The options on how to bet can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. Here are the basic ways to make a wager.
- Win: Betting on a horse to win the race.
- Place: Betting on horse to finish first or second.
- Show: Betting on a horse to finish first, second or third.
Those are the three basic wagers. If you bet to win, then your horse has to win the race in order for you to get paid. If you bet to place, you get money back if your horse finishes first or second, and if you bet to show, you collect money if the horse finishes first, second or third.
Since you have a better chance to win money with a place or show bet as compared to a win bet, they will not pay as much as a win bet.
There are two basic ways to make a wager at the track. You can use the automated machines or go to a clerk (a live person).
If you have never placed a bet or are a beginner, I highly recommend going to a clerk. They will help you make your bet and will answer questions. I also recommend going to the window (that’s where you make your bet) at least 10 minutes before the start of the race so you have plenty of time to make your bet and can avoid upsetting anyone rushing up to the window at the last minute.
Once you are at the window, here is how to place your bet.
For starters, you say the name of the track you wish to bet. Even though you are at Pleasanton, there's racing at other tracks across the country and you are able to bet on those tracks as well. By telling the clerk “Pleasanton,” you are ensuring you have the right location.
Next, say the race number you want to wager on. You can bet any upcoming race at any time, so once again, do not assume the clerk knows you want the next race.
Third, tell the clerk the amount you want to wager. This is followed by telling the clerk the type of bet (win, place or show) and finally, the number (not the name) of the horse.
For instance, a bet would be like this: “Pleasanton, third race, $2 to win on No. 4.”
It’s that simple. Give the clerk your money and he in turn will give you a ticket, which you should not lose until you are sure it’s no good.
After a race is over, the race officials (they are called stewards) will make sure all the rules were followed, then will deem the race official. Once the word “official” is posted on the toteboard (a scoreboard in racing), you will know if you have a winning ticket.
If you do, go back to the window, hand the clerk your ticket and he or she will slide some cash across the counter to you. The other option—if you want to use your winnings to make another bet—is to turn in your ticket, tell the clerk you want to make a bet, and then proceed through the betting protocol.
While you are at the track, you are likely to hear people talking about other types of bets. These are known as “exotic” wagers and are going to have bigger payouts, but they come with a bigger risk as well.
Following are the “exotic options”:
- Double: Picking the winner in two straight races
- Exacta: Picking the horses to come in first and second, in that exact order.
- Quinella: Picking the first two horses in a race in any order.
- Trifecta: Picking the first three horses in a race in finishing order.
- Superfecta: Picking the first four horses in a race in the correct order.
- Pick Three: Picking the winner in three straight races.
- Pick Four: Picking the winner in four straight races.
- Pick Six: Picking the winner in six straight races.
For those looking for advanced wagering, there are ways to wager on more than the minimum of horses in a specific wager. For instance, when betting an “exacta,” you can make sure you are covered and have the chance to win with either of the two horses as long as they come in first and second.
Here are the various ways to “hedge” your bet.
- Box: If you have two or more horses you think will finish in the top spots, but you are not sure of the order, you can box them.
- For an exacta, if you box two horses, you win your bet as long as those two finish first and second, regardless of what order.
- In a trifecta, you can box three horses and as long as those three finish in the first three spots, you win your bet.
- Wheel: A bet on one horse with all of the other horses in a race. For instance, if you think one horse will win the race, but are not sure about who is going to finish second, then you can “wheel” your favorite horse. This means as long as your horse wins the race, you will get an “exacta” win because you have bet on every other horse in the race to finish second.
Finally, here are some helpful statistics from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association:
- Favorites win 33 percent of the time.
- Favorites place 53 percent of the time.
- Favorites show 67 percent of the time.
- The average “Exacta” pays about $85 for a $2 wager.
- The average “Trifecta” pays about $655 for a $2 wager
- The average “Superfecta” pays about $3,850 for a $2 wager.
- The average “Double” pays about $96 for a $2 wager.
- The average “Pick Three” pays about $600 for a $2 wager.
- The average “Pick Four” pays about $3,480 for a $2 wager.
- The “Pick Six,” although very difficult to hit, paid $3 million at the 1999 Breeders’ Cup!