Three Types of Beginners
There are three types of beginners when it comes to horse racing. Type 1 is the individual going to the track and wanting to have fun with their friends but still put in a wager or two to increase the excitement of the day. Type 2 is the person that has already had the first experience and wants to increase their background knowledge of the sport and participate in the gambling aspect in a more efficient way. Type 3 is the person that knows someone that is into horse racing and wants to join in on the fun.
Type 1: One Day Fun
If you choose to place wagers during your day of fun at the track and you are new to horse racing the best thing you can do is keep the wagering very simple. Concentrate on "Win" bets and "Across The Board" bets only. Figuring out what horse you want to bet on and actually how to place a wager are very intimidating if you have never done it before. Utilizing one of the two strategies listed above will lessen that initial anxiety a lot.
A "Win" bet is when you only pick one horse during the race and that particular horse has to finish the race in first place. Since you are new I would suggest picking a horse with a name that you connect with, your favorite color, or your favorite number. Remember, we are trying to keep things simple to maximize the fun. This bet is a little more difficult to win than the "Across The Board" strategy described next.
An "Across The Board" bet is when you only pick one horse, but instead of the horse having to get first place it can get either first, second, or third. The downside to this bet is that it is three times more expensive than a win bet but it also increases your chances of making some money.
Example 1: You love the #3 horse in the 2nd race today at Churchill Downs. You would walk up to an individual at the betting window and say "I would like $2 to win on the 3 at Churchill - Race 2." This bet will cost you $2 and the #3 has to win the race.
Example 2: Same scenario as above. You would say "I would like $2 across the board on the 3 at Churchill - Race 2." This bet will cost you $6 but the #3 horse can either finish in first, second, or third place and you still make money.
Don't feel like you have to be restricted to $2 bets as in the example above. $2 for these types of bets are typically the minimum but you can bet whatever denomination you choose. Just remember, don't bet any more money than you are willing to lose. If you happen to win then that is just a bonus.
Gamble Smart. Make Money. Have Fun.
Type 2 and 3: Entry-Level Knowledge
If you have been to the track a couple times and you are still trying to get familiar with some of the most basic information around the sport and you are looking for a little more in-depth information without becoming overwhelmed. Keep reading.
Basic Horse Info:
Male - Colt or Gelding (snipped)
Female - Filly or Mare
Typically horses will start racing when they are either 2 or 3 years old. Their racing careers can last several years but age 6 or 7 is reasonable.
1 lap around the track = 1 mile
1 mile = 8 furlongs or 1 furlong = 1/8 mile
Typical Race is between 5/8 mile (5 furlongs) and
1-1/4 miles (10 furlongs).
Dirt, Synthetic, or Turf (Grass)
Race Types (with variations within each):
Maiden - Horse has never won before.
Claiming - Horse can be purchased before the race starts by another stable.
Allowance - Horse cannot be claimed, probably broken its maiden, typically for a higher dollar amount but not yet ready for a stakes race.
Stakes - This is the best type of race a horse can run in. These are typically high dollar races ($75,000+).
Beginner Wager Types:
Win - Horse has to finish in first place.
Place - Horse has to finish in first or second.
Show - Horse has to finish in first, second, or third.
Win, Place, Show (aka Across The Board) - Horse can finish in either first, second, or third place and you get paid more than a regular win, place, or show bet. This bet is 3x the cost of a win bet.