Ok so you’ve matched your hat to your brolly, you’ve emptied a can of Elnette onto your locks, and you’re en route to the races. But how about putting on a bet? Forget about the favourites and blow away your friends with your betting finesse as well as your style by winning big with this Ladies Complete Guide to Gambling at the Races, with horse-backer Patrick Lawlor.
Horses – Choosing the Right One
Let’s talk about horses. How do you judge if a horse will win? Do I base it on the trainer, the jockey, the number, its colours or just the look of the horse itself?
Well, the answer is its a combination of the whole lot that could play a part.
If the jockey is someone like Ruby Walsh or Tony McCoy then the chances are they are on a ‘good’ horse, trained by a top trainer, bought for more money by a top owner.
However, in many races, even the number of the horse factors into the outcome.
High and Low Weights
In most races, the horses with the best form are given higher weights. Therefore, numbers 1, 2 and 3 will carry the highest weight. The higher number horses are actually lower in weight. So in a 24-horse race, the ‘bottom weight’ horse will be the number 24.
Usually the lower-weight horses are young with little experience or experienced but going through a bad patch of form. Lowering their weight in the handicap. So, often young bottom-weight horses can last longer distances over classy higher-weight horses, especially if the ground is soft and sticky.
Not all races are handicapped and in many maiden or novice races each entry has the same weight to allow for fairness. Having said that, often really good horses will always win no matter how heavy the weight or the distance. Another variant I just mentioned is the ground. Horses’ history on different surfaces (hard, soft, good to soft) can determine how well it will fare.
The trainers and jockeys are also an indicator. If trainers are out of form it will usually be stated on the card. This could mean there is an illness in their yard affecting their horses’ performance.
I mentioned the silks earlier. The most distinctive ones to look out for in jumps racing are the green and gold horizontal stripes of JP McManus’s string and the maroon with white star of Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud.
Gambling on the Day
Now, on to the thorny issue of gambling. How much should you bet and what bets are value for money? Well, I always advise people to have a limit for their day at the races.
Have a separate pocket for your betting money and don’t dip into any other pockets because after all, betting is addictive and horse racing does give betters an adrenaline rush. See it as a day out you are paying for and if you win it’s a bonus.
Each-way bets are safe but you lose double your money if none of your selections come in.
A good-value bet, in my opinion is a Lucky 15. This allows for four selections, incorporating 15 possible permutations if all four win each of their races. However, even if you only get one winner up you will get something back. In fact, depending on the bookie, you will get twice or three times the odds for one winner.
A lucky 15 costs 15 times the stake you’re willing to place. I usually do a 50 cent lucky 15, which costs €7.50. If you imagine that a 20/1, a 5/1, an 8/1 and a 2/1 all win, you would roughly get about €3,000.
The higher the odds obviously mean the higher the returns. But the joy of the lucky 15 is that if the first, second or third horse loses, you still have one left. They don’t all have to win. And let’s say just the 8/1 shot wins, you still get get €12.50 back, a profit of a fiver.
There are plenty of other combination bets but they can be quite costly. A nice cheap one that rarely comes in but could act as insurance is an each-way accumulator. A €1 each-way accumulator costs €2 and can be scrawled on a separate slip or on the bottom of a lucky 15.
While you can do an each-way lucky 15, it costs double. With an accumulator all the selections must either win or be placed. If all are placed a quarter or a fifth of the odds of each selection is multiplied by the same fraction of the other horses. If one of your accumulator selections fails to be placed then you get zilch back, which is most often the case.
Placing a bet.
This is simple. Grab a slip and write out either the name of the horse or its number. Beside it write the meeting, eg. Fairyhouse, and the time of the race.
You then write the sum of money you are parting (hopefully temporarily!) and either the word ‘ win’ or each way/ew, depending on your decision. You can also take the price of the horse if you feel it may shorten in price. This means it will pay out on the higher odds you’ve taken it at by writing it on the slip if it comes in at shorter odds.
Choosing a Price
This a rough guide to the GGs, so that you at least stand some chance against the bookies (I hope), however ultimately there is a lot of luck involved in picking a winner.
First thing’s first, normally it’s quite hard to pick a lot of big-price winners because more often than not the favourite is the first past the post. I, myself, am not a favourite backer, unless a generous price is offered, and I fancy the horse in question.
Instead I am fond of an each-way bet, which offers a form of insurance if it is placed second, third and sometimes fourth and fifth. Before I go any further, I must explain odds. Straight-forward as they may seem, sometimes they can be confusing. Obviously, 3/1, 4/1, 5/1, 6/1, etc are easy to understand.
If you put €1 on a 5/1 shot and it wins, you get €5 and your euro back. If you wager €10, you get five times that, ie. €50, and your original tenner back. However, there are odds that look a little different, such as 1/5, 4/6, 6/4, 5/2, 17/2.
Basically, the same rules apply. With a 1/5 shot, you’d need to put a fiver on to win a euro and your fiver back. That makes this an odds-on favourite, meaning you’d have to wager a lot more to get a reasonable sum back. With 5/2 and 17/2, you’re basically talking about fractions. They are, in other words, 2.5/1 and 8.5/1. Odds are determined by the amount of money placed on the horse. The more money is bet on a selection, the shorter its odds will be.
Now, back to each-way bets. It costs double the stake placed for this kind of bet. For example, €5 each way costs €10. You can place an each-way bet in a race with five or more runners.
Between five and seven runners, you are only offered one place at a quarter of the odds. Between eight and 15 runners, you are offered second and third. 16 or more, you are usually offered fourth also and in particularly big fields, you are offered a fifth place. If a 10/1 shot comes second, third or fourth in a field of 16 horses or more, you get a quarter of 10/1, which is basically 5/2 (2.5/1). Meaning if you placed €10 each way, which costs €20, you get €25.
That’s a profit of a fiver even though the horse may have come fourth. But if the same horse won, you would get €125 (€100 plus the €25 place returns). I would generally advise each-way bets to be placed in races with a large amount of runners.
Caveat of A Gambler
Be warned, the bookie always wins, so don’t think you can beat him/her.
You might beat them every one in three times if you’re lucky, so keep the stakes low. There are other worthwhile bets, which I feel are often overlooked by the average gambler and these are combination tricasts and forecasts.
These are again hard to get up but from my experience are realistically achievable. I won’t go any further about these though because I believe you need a lot of experience to work them out.
There is method to the madness. I have been following the horse racing since I was right years old and I do believe the time put into this hobby/habit sometimes pays off.
However, if the odds drift some bookies will not give you the better price. There is a lot more I could add but they are the basics. Good luck and gamble sensibly!