A day out at the races is always a terrific occasion with many visitors enjoying a flutter with family and friends and taking in the sights and sounds of the track. If things don’t go to plan, however, it can be a costly afternoon for punters. Putting in the work prior to a trip can help improve your chances of winning and there are a number of things to consider before placing on-course wagers.
Some racegoers will occasionally get lucky. It’s part and parcel of visiting a racetrack that one member of the party will simply make a selection based on the name or select a 20/1 shot completely at random but this is far from an effective method and luck does tend to run out. Others simply repeatedly wager on the favorite in each race but with roughly only 35% of favorites successful and many of them beginning at short prices, this is another flawed technique.
Following the action on a daily basis is the best way of increasing your chances but very few punters can dedicate that much time to it. There are many free resources online such as Equibase which can be used to view the previous form of each horse. These can be used to view the horses’ appearances, style of running and quality/level of each race. Familiarise yourself with jockeys and trainers and ask questions such as: Do they have regular winners here? Have they sent just one horse halfway across the country for this race? If you can get into the mindset of the trainer, this will help.
If possible, find out where each yard is based. If a horse hasn’t run for a year, they may simply send it to the nearest track in a bid to increase its fitness with very little hope of it picking up the purse. Top jockeys can be absolutely key and they tend to be sought after with some trainers offering big incentives to secure their services for key races on the card. For example, if Tyler Gafflione has been riding horse #6 in the race on its last five appearances but is now on board #3 representing the Bob Baffert stable for the first time, this is a good sign. The Baffert yard clearly fancy their chances in the race and as a result have splashed the cash in order to secure one of the best jockeys around.
Never ignore the market in maiden races. Thoroughbred horses are required to get a win under their belt before they can progress to better and more prestigious contests. Races which contain winless horses are called ‘Maidens’ and there will be at least one on every racecard. In these events, it often pays to follow the money. Very little is known about the majority of these animals with occasionally only trainers and owners having seen them in action previously and the weight of their money can often affect the market significantly. If large sums have been placed on them, the price is likely to shorten and this is often a good sign. Latching onto decreasing odds is not just unique to US racetracks with racing fans in the UK recently significantly shortening the price of On the Blind Side ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in March. As Oddschecker explain, this follows it’s all-conquering at Sandown which helped preserve its unbeaten record.
Finally, always check the underfoot conditions. The climate can change very quickly at many tracks and if the ground is described as ‘sloppy’, this is key information. Some horses perform better in these kinds of treacherous conditions whilst many others, who previously fancied their chances may find it difficult to gain any kind of rhythm. It’s always worth siding with any horse who has performed admirably in similar conditions previously.
There are many factors to consider when wagering at a racetrack. It can be an unpredictable sport and there is no surefire way of ensuring a profit but knowing how to narrow down the selection process is invaluable.