Horse races are about more than mint juleps and jockeys in funny outfits. They are an exciting outdoor sporting event often taking place at a historic track and make great bachelor parties or weekends with the guys. They can be free or very cheap to enter and you can often bring your own food. Research tracks in your area or travel to one of the many classics such as Churchill Downs, Santa Anita Park or Saratoga Racecourse. You get extra credit if your group dresses the part with classy sports coats, derby hats, and spectator style shoes. And go ahead and have that mint julep while you are at it.
Betting on the Ponies
Horse race betting is half the fun and if you are conservative can be cheaper than going to a movie, you might even leave up some. Make sure to pick up a racetrack program that lists information on the horses, jockeys and owners.
There are straight wagers and exotic wagers. Start with straight wagers where you bet on one horse (minimum bet is usually $2). You can bet that your horse will win (1st), place (2nd) or show (3rd). If you bet that your horse will win he must come in first for you to get a payout. If you bet that your horse will show and he places or wins you still get a payout albeit not as much as in the previous scenario.
Once you are comfortable with that try some exotic wagers but be aware that they are more difficult to win and can become expensive but can also have bigger payouts. Exotic wagers are those where you bet on multiple horses in a single bet. In an exacta bet you bet on two horses to come in first and second in an exact order. A trifecta bet is one where you bet on three horses to come in first, second and third in an exact order. In a superfecta, you guessed it, you bet on four horses to come in first, second, third and fourth in an exact order.
At the teller booth (don’t use the machine) tell the teller the race number, amount of your bet, type of bet and horse’s number (from the racetrack program). Example, “Race 2, $4 to place on number 5.” Hand them your money and they will give you a printed ticket. Place the ticket in the band of your hat and make sure to wave it wildly while watching your race. If it is a winning ticket return to the teller with it to collect your not-so-hard-earned cash.
Do’s and Don’ts at the Track
- Do put on something nicer than your basketball shorts. The Kentucky Derby requests that attendees dress ‘smart casual’ and many people come out in their best summer outfits. Even if you aren’t at the Kentucky Derby look good for the ponies. A sports coat with different color trousers is a sure bet.
- Do have at least one mint julep.
- Don’t make fun of the jockeys.
- Don’t approach the teller booth unprepared to quickly place your bet.
- Do shout wildly for your horse.
- Don’t bet on every race.
- Do place some fun bets like betting on a horse because the jockey is wearing your favorite color.
- Don’t visit the ATM machine. Bring the amount of cash with you that you are willing to loose.
- Do wear a hat.