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Guide to Horse Racing

Before you make that first trip to the races or settle down in front of Saturday`s extensive TV coverage with gambling in mind, you must learn the basics of betting and how to read a horse`s form, you can also read our Top Tips Horse Racing.


The odds (return) you get depend on the overall amount wagered and can change dramatically in the run up to a race. You can `take a price` at any time if you think it is good value or go for the starting price (SP), which may be less or more depending on the amount wagered since you placed your bet.

Basic odds - 3/1 or 10/1, for example - are easy to understand but there are some more complicated variations. 1¾ to 1 translates as 7/4 and 2 ½ to 1 is 5/2 and so on. Evens means you get back what you put down plus your stake. Odds-on is reserved for the really hot favourite, so at 1/3 you have to bet £3 to win a £1.


A `card` usually consists of six races and can be found in a shortened form in most national dailies. To the left of the horse`s name is their draw (the position they come out of the starting stalls) and recent record. After the horse`s name comes its age, weight carried, jockey`s name, a rating from the newspaper or online reporter and the odds.


There are many variables to consider when working out which horse has the best chance of winning and you`ll only be able to make a proper assessment by studying the full form. This is available in the daily Racing Post newspaper, at online sites or pinned up in a betting shop.

There are some important points to consider when studying the form.


Horses start racing as 2-year-olds and as they get older they specialise in their optimum distance. A sprinter races from 5 to 7 furlongs, a middle-distance horse from a mile to one and a half miles and a stayer at distances up to two and a half miles. Trainers may try their horses at shorter or longer distances depending on recent performance. Therefore it`s a good idea to look out for a runner steaming along at the end of a mile race who didn`t quite get there. If it then tries a slightly longer race, it`s worth a bet.


England has 53 oval racecourses. At some they race left handed and at others to the right and many horses have a preference. Look out for C, D or CD, which indicate if the horse has won over the course, distance or both.


In grade and listed races (for the best horses), runners carry the same weight, with allowances for fillies and mares and sometimes for younger horses. In handicaps (the majority of races), horses are weighted according to their past performances. If the handicapper has done his job they should theoretically finish in a line across the course!

As the assigned weight can be less than 8 stone, jockeys wear feather-light silks (the owner`s individual colours), paper-thin
riding boots and sit on the tiniest saddles.
Now all you need to do is place your bet and cheer your winner home at the racecourse, the betting shop or in a favourite armchair in front of the television.



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