Horse Racing Essay

essay B
  • Words: 11108
  • Category: Animals

  • Pages: 41

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

The Breeders
Breeders of Thoroughbred racehorses have a motto: “Breed the best to the best, and hope for the best.” Farms from California to New York, Florida to Maryland, are all trying to emulate what breeders in the state of Kentucky have done for centuries — produce champions.
For breeders, the study of bloodlines is a way of life. The art of matching a dam (the horse’s mother) with a sire (the father) to produce a top foal is part art form, part science, and a great deal of luck. For instance, Alydar, who finished second to Affirmed in all the 1978 Triple Crown races, sired a pair of Kentucky Derby winners in Alysheba (1987) and Strike the Gold (1991); Affirmed has yet to sire a Derby winner.
After that colt (male) or filly (female) is born, the breeder puts in countless hours of hard work to get the horse ready for the races. While most thoroughbreds are born between January and June, they have a universal birthday of January 1. This standard was set up to simplify the process of creating races for horses of a certain age. (For example, the Kentucky Derby is restricted to three year olds).
During the young horse’s first autumn, they are separated from the mother and grouped together with other “weanlings”; continuing to grow and learn. The following Spring, the developing horses, now known as “yearlings” will begin to be taught the ways of the racetrack. Beginning with the first days of placing a saddle on their back, they are being trained for a career at the races. The young horses begin training at on their “home” farm or shipped to a training facility to be “broken” for riding and eventually racing.
Developing a good racehorse takes considerable time and patience. Training begins slowly, with light jogs and gallops around the track; developing a routine to get the horse accustomed to track life. Later, serious training begins; they start to put in longer gallops to build stamina, and work their way up to a “two-minute lick”, meaning a robust mile gallop in two minutes. As it gets closer to their second birthday, the casual farm life has been left behind. Horses at this age now begin workouts, usually starting with 1/8 of a mile, called their first “blowout”, and working their way up as the day of moving from training center to racetrack nears.
The Trainers
While the jockey is usually the person that the racing fans most identify with, the single most important player in a racehorse’s life is the trainer. Trainers generally earn their money in two ways: through a “day rate” they charge the owner(s) for day-to-day training; and “stakes” they earn when their owner’s horse wins a race, usually 10% of the owners winnings. The trainer is comparable to a team’s coach – continually trying to produce winners with a constantly changing barnful of talent.
For every horse in the barn, the trainer teaches them how to race, hones their speed, builds their endurance, sees to their care, and calls in help to heal their injuries.
All horses possess a certain amount of class; ultimately telling in the level of race at which they will be successful. As a trainer begins to work with a horse, they assess that class and train accordingly. For the fans, training is like practicing. Horses are trained almost every morning, when they are taken to the racetrack to walk, jog, gallop or workout, depending on their schedule. Workouts are the most noteworthy part of the training regimen. Shorter workouts (those a half mile or under) are designed to increase speed, while longer ones build stamina.
As with any athlete, horses experience physical problems. This is where the keen eye of an experienced trainer can significantly affect a horse’s career. Racehorses are by nature delicate, and by closely watching for and treating injuries before they become serious, the trainer will save his horse, owner and himself a lot of problems. For medical problems, trainers call in their veterinarian. At all racetracks, there are a group of vets who, usually working out of their vehicle instead of an office, travel through the barn area taking care of their clients’ horses day to day needs.
After all of this, the trainer still has to select the races in which the horses will compete. Trainers use the condition book, created by the Racing Secretary, to select the type of race for each horse in the stable. For example, if the horse has yet to win, it would be entered in a “maiden” race against other non-winners. An old horsemen’s adage is to, “keep myself in the best company and my horses in the worst”. Easier said than done, but some trainers have the knack.
For the bettor, it is essential to watch the trainers and see which ones are the most successful. The track program has a stats page for trainers, with all the information needed evaluate when they are most successful. Knowing the trainers and being able to pick up on their hot and cold spells is a top priority in making winning selections at the track.
The Jockeys
Jockeys generally get their mounts in races when the horses are training each morning. A jockey employs an agent, who, working for a percentage of their rider’s winnings, tries to secure the best horse for them in each race. The tricky part for the agent comes when several trainers want their rider for the same race. Now the jockey’s agent is like any bettor – they are handicapping the horses and putting their rider on the most likely winner.
Riding atop a Thoroughbred at speeds up to 40 miles per hour for a mile or more requires tremendous athletic ability and concentration. The best jockeys are skillful strategists and superior gamesmen. They are experts at bringing out the best qualities of their mounts. Top riders are also familiar with the characteristics of many other horses in the race. In addition to the athletic demands of racing, a jockey must maintain a certain weight for riding, normally between 100 and 115 pounds. Strict dieting and conditioning programs are a constant concern for most riders.
Handicapping jockeys is easier than handicapping horses. Here are the basic rules: Some jockeys are better than others. The better riders get to ride the better horses. Because they get the best horses to ride, the best jockeys win the most races. It’s a circle. As it is with breeding and training, success creates success. Next to the horse, in Thoroughbred racing, the public is most familiar with the jockeys. It’s important for bettors to know the top riders at a track. The best will win the most races. However, there are trends that bear watching. Like the trainers, the program has a stats page that lets you know what the trends are for that meet. But watch out, just like trainers, jockeys get hot and cold. Recognizing these trends can bring profits at the betting window.
The Horses
The Thoroughbred breed originates from the Middle East, where centuries ago Arab rulers bred their great stallions to select mares in the hopes of producing faster and stronger horses. The lineage, or family history, of a horse is known as its pedigree. Soon after a horse’s birth, the owner and/or breeder registers it with The Jockey Club, the official racing record keeping organization for the breed.
What’s in a Name?
Thoroughbred names can be classy, quirky, clever or just plain odd. Racehorse names can be no longer than 18 letters (this is so they can fit in the racing program) and must not contain profanity. All names must be approved by The Jockey Club.
To be approved, a horse’s name must be publicly available. Each year, thousands of names are released for public use by the Jockey Club. Some names, like Secretariat, are permanently retired and will never be used again.
To register a horse’s name or check on the availability of a name, use the Jockey Club’s online names database. To get ideas for your horse name from those released each year, check the Jockey Club’s list of recently released names.
Some Thoroughbred owners delight in thinking up clever names for their horses. Often they combine elements of the mother and father’s names; sometimes they’re just tongue-twisters. Owner Caesar Kimmel had track announcers all over the country tied up in fits when he named his top filly Flat Fleet Feet.
The Thoroughbred On The Track
Today, Thoroughbreds generally begin their racing career at age two (Remember, all racehorses have a universal birthday of January 1), and remain racing as long as they are main competitive or until retirement for breeding purposes. A Thoroughbred is not considered an adult horse until it is five years of age, so when they begin their career at age two or three, they are really just developing children and teenagers. Horses go through a lot of growing pains and changes during this time. Often you will see precocious two-year-olds that are touted as next year’s Kentucky Derby favorite that end up no where to be seen come that first Saturday in May.
Most everyone in racing will tell you that their dream is to see their horse in the Derby winner’s circle, but with some 35,000 foals born in the United States each year, and only 20 maximum make it to the race, reality sets in quickly.
So even if a horse doesn’t make the Derby, there are plenty of opportunities for a horse to be successful on the track. As a horse develops, it usually acquires a certain racing style; whether it is a front-runner or off-the-pace type, or maybe it prefers racing on turf rather than dirt. There is the rare animal that is comfortable no matter how the race develops or on any type of track, able to adapt to every situation. Whatever their style, the bettor needs to compare it to the rest of the horses in the field and see how the race might unfold.
Handicapping the horses and their styles is the toughest part of the game. If the animal could talk, handicappers would know exactly how every horse was feeling come race day, like a pro athlete in a pregame interview. Unfortunately, that luxury does not exist, so the bettors have to rely on their skills to pick a winner. Horses have tendencies, but they can be difficult to spot. Good handicappers don’t get overwhelmed when they are dissecting a race; they don’t bet every race, rather wait for the best opportunity, when they find a horse or two they really like. The soundest advice would be to look at a horse’s record, also known as his past performances, and determine their chance of winning today’s race.
The past performances are just that; they tell you what a horse has done his last several races. In addition, the program also has stats that tell you how they have performed on the dirt and turf courses, at the distance of today’s race, on an “off” track (one not listed as fast), their race record for this year, last year, and lifetime, and recent workouts. All this information is there to help compare and contrast the horses in each race.

Wagering Quick Guide
The Traditional Wagers
Bet typeDifficultyAverage PayoffDescription
ShowEasiest $2.10 – 4.00Finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd and you win.

The most conservative wager and best chance to cash a ticket.

PlaceEasy $3.00 – $8.00Finish 1st or 2nd and you win.

Pays a little more than show. A hedge bet on your win money.

Win Varies $4.00 – $40.00+ You must finish 1st to collect.

Most traditional wager and still the best.

Daily Doubletough$20 – $200+Select the winners of two races in a row.
Your grandfather’s bet. The first and oldest exotic wager.

Usually the first two and last two races.

Exotic Wagers
Bet typeDifficultyWinning PayoffDescription
Exactatough$15 – $150+ Your horses must finish 1st and 2nd in order.

The best chance to win a reasonable amount without betting a lot.

The most popular bet in racing. Boxing the Exacta will help your odds of winning.

Trifectatougher $50 – $1,000+Your horses must finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in order.

A very difficult bet but a chance at a home run.
Superfectatoughest$100 – $10,000+ Your horses must finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in order.

The grand slam. Extremely difficult, but it can pay great.
For risk-takers.

Bet type Difficulty Winning PayoffDescription
Pick Threetougher $50 – $1,000+Select the winners of three races in a row.

A purists’ bet. Essentially three win bets parlayed in a row.

Pick Four toughest$200 – $2,500+Select the winners of four races in a row.

Rapidly gaining in popularity. A good chance to win a lot with a little.
Pick Six Like lotto$1,000 – $1-million Select the winners of six races in a row.

The most difficult wager in racing.
204 – WIN
The win bet is the most traditional bet and definitely one of the best. Very simply, your horse must finish first to collect.
Reading the Tote board
To determine your winning payoff, multiply the odds on the Tote board by 2, and then add $2. The chart below lists odds and winning $2 payoffs.
Odds-on favoritesLow-priced winnersMid-priced winnersLonger pricesLongshots
1-5 $2.40 6-5 $4.405-2 $77-1 $1615-1 $32
2-5 $2.80 7-5 $4.803-1 $88-1 $1820-1 $42
1-2 $3.00 3-2 $5.007-2 $99-1 $2025-1 $52
3-5 $3.20 8-5 $5.204-1 $1010-1 $2230-1 $62
4-5 $3.60 9-5 $5.605-1 $1211-1 $2450-1 $102
1-1 $4.00 2-1 $6.006-1 $1412-1 $2680-1 $162
Win betting strategies
Because win betting is so simple, most win betting strategies revolve around which bets to combine with win, if any. Remember, the more different bets you make, the more losing tickets you will likely have at the end. The simplest (and sometimes the best) strategy is to bet your money on the winner.
Betting Win and Place
As a backup, some players prefer to bet to win and place. This way if their horse runs second, they will collect the place payoff, which will hopefully pay for the losing win bet and a bit more. The problem with betting to win and place is that if your horse wins, you have just diluted your payoff when you could have bet twice as much to win. If you can’t decide between betting $10 to win or $5 to win and place, one part of this decision factor should be how big your bankroll is and how long you can go between winners.
By betting to win and place, you are going to be more likely to cash some tickets along the way which can be more fun and will keep your bankroll afloat. Some players will bet to win and place simply because they will get too frustrated if they run second and this might affect their betting the rest of the day. Another backup strategy to win is to use the exacta as a place bet.
Win, Place and Show – Betting “Across-the-board”
A popular wager is betting “Across the board”. This is similar to the win and place bet. If you think your horse will win, then you are actually lowering your payoff if you are right. However, if you think there is an equal chance your horse might finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd, then the “across the board” wager makes sense. You call this bet out as “$2 across the board on #5”.
Two Horses to Win
Some expert players will recommend betting two horses to win in cases where you like two horses at a mid-priced range or higher. The net effect of this is to lower your odds on both horses, but you increase your chances to win.
Don’t Forget to Bet to Win
Today there are so many great exotic wagers to take advantage of, but it is important to remember to bet to win. Especially if you think you might have a winner at a good price. For instance, you might try for an exacta, trifecta or a Pick 3 with a 10-1 horse. If you miss those payoffs, you might be kicking yourself if you don’t at least have a $10 win bet, which will return $110 and pay for a lot of those losing exactas, trifectas and Pick 3’s.
Using Win Odds as a Barometer
The win odds are the most widely seen odds at the track. These are the odds you see on the televisions and tote boards. Most all players judge which horses they wager in all other bets looking at the win odds. Keep this in mind as you look at other wagers. For instance, a 30-1 shot might be the longest price on the board to win out of 10 horses, and for many players it will be the last horse they use in the trifecta. But just because he is the lowest rated horse to win, doesn’t mean that he automatically has the lowest chance to run third. The 30-1 shot could be a late runner that is likely to run 3rd or 4th, just unlikely to win.
203 – PLACE
Next to the win bet, the Place wager is one of the oldest and most traditional. With a place wager, your horse must finish first or second. The wager pays the same whether your horse wins or not.
The place wager is a conservative wager, as you are giving yourself room for error since your horse can finish first or second. However, the payoffs are a bit lower since you are sharing the place payoff with another horse. Place wagers are most commonly used along with other wagers, such as “win and place”, “across the board” or “win, place, and show”, or “place and show”.
Place payoffs and results
Place payoffs typically pay between $3.00 and $10.00, but can pay more with longshots and less with overwhelming favorites. Since the money you win in a place bet is generated by all of the money bet on the losing horses, the more horses in the race the greater your chances for a larger place payoff.
Below are the win, place and show payoffs for the 2004 Kentucky Derby:
2004 Kentucky Derby payoffs $2 Win $2 Place $2 Show
15 Smarty Jones10.206.204.80
3 Lion Heart 8.205.80
10 Imperialism 6.20
For reference, the win odds were 4-1 on Smarty Jones, 5-1 on Lion Heart, and 10-1 on Imperialism.
Reading the Tote Board
One important distinction is that the Place pool is an entirely different pool than Win. This means that horses may be bet differently in each of the pools. In a place wager, because you don’t know which other horse will place, it is difficult to predict your potential place payoffs. But, by comparing the place dollars to the win dollars, you can check the percentage of dollars on your horse to place.
For example, looking at the #1 horse below, we can see that he has approximately 10% of the win pool, with $2,011/$20,000 = 10%. If we use the Win odds to as a yardstick, we would expect that the #1 would have about 10% of the Place pool bet on him, or $1,000 of the $10,000 Place pool. However, we can see that #1 has only $622 bet to place, or closer to 6% of the pool. This means that the #1 is paying better odds in the Place pool. The #1 is 8-1 to Win, but he is being bet like a 14-1 in the Place pool and will pay more accordingly.
This is like bargain shopping, when we get the value of a larger payoff when it “should” offer a lesser payoff. The “should” is based on the assumption that the Win odds are more correct that the Place odds. This is a logical assumption, however, since the Win odds are easier to see and more attention is paid to them, it is more likely that the Win odds are a truer reflection of the horse’s chances. Keep in mind that if the #1 wins he will still pay more to win than to place (because Place has to be divided with another horse), but the #1 is a good value in the Place pool. In this case, it might make sense to bet the #1 only to Place.
204 – Calculating Place (and Show) Payoffs
In horse racing, the odds are determined by the betting public. The track takes in the money for all horses, takes a cut for the track, owners and state, and then returns the rest to the winners. The money bet on the losers is used to pay the winners. Place money is allocated in three basic steps:
1) A tax, usually about 16% is taken out of all place money bet.

2) Every bet on one of the two place horses get their $2 returned.

3) The remaining money bet on all the other losing horses is split up equally.
If the winner is a longshot, there is a lot of money from the other horses to contribute to the winning share. But if the winner is a favorite, there is a lot less losing money to spread around to the winners. So if your horse places, the place price you get will depend somewhat on that other place horse. The less money bet on the other horse, the more money there is to split up both ways.
The pie below represents the amount bet to place on each of the 7 horses in the race. We can see that the #4 (yellow) has the most bet to place ($6,855), while the #6 (black) has the least ($798).
Low payoffs: For example, if the # 4 (yellow) and #3 (blue) both place, we can see that together the yellow and blue slices take up nearly half the pie. This only leaves half the pie to pay back to those who bet on #3 and #4, and the track still has to take out a tax.
High payoffs: If #5 (green) and #6 (black) both place, see how there is much more of the pie to spread around to much fewer winners. This combination will create a higher payoff.
Calculating Place Payoffs – Step by Step
Let’s assume #1 and #4 run first and second. The order does not matter.
1) First the tax is taken out. Let’s assume it is 16%.

a. Multiply the tax by the total pool. $20,000 x 16% = $3,200.

b. Subtract the tax from the total pool. $20,000 – $3,200 = $16,800.

2) Subtract the money to pay winners their $2 back.

a. Add the winning place bets, $2,317 (bet on #1) + $6,855 (bet on #4) = $9,172
b. Subtract $9,172 from the remaining money. $16,800 – $9,172 = $7,628
3) Split the remaining money equally between both horses.

a. $7,628 / 2 = $3,814 for each horse
4) Allocate the winning money for each horse to the dollars bet
a. For #1:
i. Divide $3,814 by the $2,317 bet on #1 = $1.64. This is the winnings odds for a $1 payoff.

ii. Next, we multiply $1.64 by 2 to get a $2 payoff. $1.64 x 2 = $3.29.

iii. Next, we add back the original $2 bet. $3.29 + $2 = $5.29.

iv. Finally, the payoff is rounded down to the nearest 20 cents, to get $5.20.

b. For #4:
i. Divide $3,814 by the 6,855 bet on #1 = $0.56. This is the winnings odds for a $1 payoff.

ii. Next, we multiply $0.55 by 2 to get a $2 payoff. $0.55 x 2 = $1.11.

iii. Next, we add back the original $2 bet. $1.11 + $2 = $3.11.

iv. Finally, the payoff is rounded down to the nearest 20 cents, to get $3.00.

Place Payoffs – For each possible outcome
Looking at the second chart below, note how place payoffs for your horse can change depending on which horse it places with.
Note: The order of the place horses has no bearing on the payoffs. If #1 and #2 finish first and second, the order does not effect the place price.
Note, the lowest paying combinations are the #3 and #4 (highlighted in red), and the highest paying combinations are highlighted in green.
Show Payoffs
Show payoffs are calculated in the same way as place payoffs, except there is one more horse. Show payoffs pay less due to three main reasons:
1) The addition of one more winning horse
2) One less losing horse’s money to split up
3) The remaining money is split three ways instead of two
Overwhelming Favorites
The presence of overwhelming favorites (usually even money or less: odds of 1-1, 4-5, 3-5, 1-2, 2-5 or 1-5) can often drastically drive down the price of the other horses that place or show. The reason is simple.
Let’s say a horse is 2-5 and 75% of the place money is bet on this overwhelming favorite, but you are considering a place or show bet on a 30-1 longshot. The problem is that if the favorite places or shows, only 25% of the dollars are bet on other horses. So by the time the entire pool is taxed and the winners of both horses are returned their $2 bet, and then the remainder is split, there is very little left to go around. In these cases, a 30-1 longshot that would pay $62.00 to win, might pay only $4.00 to place and $2.40 to show.
The end result is that place and show bets against overwhelming favorites is a bad idea IF you think the favorite is likely to place or show.
205 – The Exacta
The exacta has overtaken the win bet as the most popular bet in racing. The exacta is a tougher bet than win, but it is still easy to play and easy to understand and it can pay very well.
Description:Your horses must finish 1st and 2nd in exact order.

Winning payoff: $15 – $150+
Popularity: The most popular wager. About 30% of all wagers are exactas.
Frequency:Every race
How to say the bet:”Arlington Park, Race 3, $2 exacta 5-8″
Why bet an Exacta? As the Exacta is the most popular bet in racing, there are many good reasons and strategies for playing the exacta.
Typical Exacta strategies:
A fun, easy bet with good chances
The exacta is fun! If you bet an exacta box, such as a $1 exacta box with three horses, you have many chances for only $6! With three horses in a box, you have some margin of error to be wrong with one horse. And best of all, the $2 exacta usually pays around $50 or $100 so you are giving yourself a chance to win big. If you include some long shots in your wager, you could be in line for even greater payoffs.
I don’t know who will win
If you don’t have any good feelings on who will win, an exacta box of three or four horses can inexpensively give you a chance to win with several different combinations.
Typical Exacta Strategies
A fun, easy bet with good chances
The exacta is fun! If you bet an exacta box, such as a $1 exacta box with three horses, you have many chances for only $6! With three horses in a box, you have some margin of error to be wrong with one horse. And best of all, the $2 exacta usually pays around $50 or $100 so you are giving yourself a chance to win big. If you include some long shots in your wager, you could be in line for even greater payoffs.
I don’t know who will win
If you don’t have any good feelings on who will win, an exacta box of three or four horses can inexpensively give you a chance to win with several different combinations.
I like more than one horse
If you like two or three horses equally well, betting them in the exacta can be a good strategy. If you pick only one horse to win, you will lose if one of your other horses wins. You could also bet two horses to win, but that ensures that one ticket will lose. With an exacta box you are risking more because you need to finish 1st and 2nd, but the payoff will be greater if you are right.
Win more for less
The exacta is essentially a Win bet, plus correctly selecting the second horse. If you think you have the winner identified, you are risking what you could win, but by limiting the horses that can run 2nd you are risking more to win more.
Advanced Strategies
I think I know who will run 2nd
If you like a horse but think he will run second (maybe it’s not your day!), you can always bet him in second place in the exacta. If the #4 is the favorite that looks
The favorite is low-priced
If the favorite is obvious and it won’t pay much to bet him to win, many players will use this as an opportunity to hit the exacta if they think they have a horse that will finish 2nd. In this case, if you expect the favorite to win, you would not box the exacta. You would only bet the combination one-way or “straight”. (For example, $20 exacta 2-5; Total cost = $20.)
Exacta as a place bet
Some players do not like to bet to place, and will use the exacta as a place bet. The strategy usually starts with a horse that you bet to win. However, instead of betting win and place, you bet a few exactas with the horses that you think can beat you. For example, if you bet $20 to win on #3, and a $10 exacta 4-3, you are really making a back-up bet in case the #4 beats #3. This essentially removes the #4 as a horse to beat. As long as #3 beats everyone else in the race, you collect. If he beats the #4, you win, and if the race finishes 4-3, you hit the exacta.
Exacta Box
Many people get confused by the different types of exacta bets – boxes and wheels. But, boxes and wheels are nothing more than a quicker way of shouting out the individual bets. A straight “exacta 3-8”, has only one combination. The #3 must win, and #8 must run second. If you also bet an “exacta 8-3”, you have done the same thing as an “exacta box 3-8”, which gives 3-8 and 8-3. If you bet 3-8 and 3-9, you have done the same thing as an “exacta wheel 3 with 8-9.”
The exacta box is the simplest and most popular way to bet the exacta
Bet What combinations you get Cost
“$1 exacta box 1,2″1 or 2 must win and finish second. Total cost = $2
“$1 exacta box 1,2,3″1, 2 or 3 must win and finish second.Total cost = $6
“$1 exacta box 1,2,3,4″1, 2, 3, or 4 must win or finish second. Total cost = $12
The exacta box is just a simpler way of saying all the combinations with your horses. It is easy because all numbers are covered in both first and second equally.
The Exacta Box covers all combinations of your numbers
Short way to say itLong way to say itEither way, Total cost
“$2 exacta box 4-7″”$2 exacta 4-7” and “$2 exacta 7-4″$4
“$2 exacta box 1-2-3″”$2 exactas: 1-2,1-3, 2-1, 2-3, 3-1, 3-2″$12
Exacta Wheel
With an Exacta Box, all horses are weighted equally and played in the same number of combinations. The Exacta wheel, is typically a more advanced strategy, where some horses may be limited to either first or second place.
For instance, if you really like #4 to win, you can save money by only using #4 in the win spot. Where a “$1 exacta box 1,3,4,7” has 12 combinations and costs $12, a “$1 exacta wheel, 4 with 1,3,7” costs $3. This gives you less combinations, but saves a lot of money.
“Exacta wheel 4 with 1, 3, 7”
If you really liked #4, you could play an exacta wheel “4 with 1, 3, 7”. This means that #4 must win, and either 1, 3 or 7 must run second. This bet has three combinations. A $1 wheel costs $3 in this example.
“Exacta wheel 1,4 with 1,3,4,7”
We could add the #1 to the first spot and #4 to the second spot: 1, 4 with 1, 3, 4 and 7. In this case, either 1 or 4 must win and any one of 1, 3, 4 and 7 must run second. This bet has six combinations. A $1 wheel costs $6. A $2 wheel costs $12.
How much does a winning exacta pay?
The exacta prices are determined by the betting pool, but here are some guidelines:
The more horses in the race, the more difficult the exacta is to predict and the better the payoff.
The relative prices of the first and second horses. If they are favorites or low-priced contenders, the exacta will be more logical and there will be more winners thus reducing the winning payoff.
If the two exacta horses are of greatly different odds, such as 3-1 and 12-1, the exacta will pay much more with the longer priced horse winning. This is because that combination is was seen as less likely with fewer winning combinations.
The Exacta payoff grid
The exacta grid below shows payoffs for an actual race. The grid is read with the first place horses listed in vertical columns and the second place finisher listed in rows. Notice how the lowest priced exacta of $15, highlighted in yellow, is the combination of 5-1. Looking at the win odds at the left, the #5 is the lowest-priced horse at 2-1, and the #1 is the second-lowest priced horse at 3-1. The highest paying exacta is the 3-6, which is paying $150 and highlighted in green.
First Place Horse
#Win odds2nd place123456
Here are a couple charts to see how the number of possible combinations goes up with the more horses in the race:
This chart lists the number of possible combinations in a six-horse race: This chart lists the number of possible exacta combinations depending on the number of runners:
Possible 1st-2nd combinations in a six-horse race
1-2 2-1 3-1 4-1 5-1 6-1
1-3 2-3 3-2 4-2 5-2 6-2
1-4 2-4 3-4 4-3 5-3 6-3
1-5 2-5 3-5 4-5 5-4 6-4
1-6 2-6 3-6 4-6 5-6 6-5
Total possible outcomes = 30
Number of horses in racePossible exacta combinations

301 – Turf or Dirt; Short or Long?
One of the key handicapping tools is determining if a horse is racing on their preferred surface, at their best distance, and on their favored track condition. While it’s the trainer’s job to figure this out before he or she enters their horse in a race, the bettor is the one that has to determine how good a job the trainer has done at “spotting” their horse. Assuming the horse is in a race where they are competitive, then surface, distance, and condition become huge factors in picking a winner.
Tracks might come in all shapes and sizes, but no matter where you go worldwide; there are only two types of racing surfaces: dirt and turf. This doesn’t mean all dirt or turf courses are alike, however. Dirt courses’ composition can vary widely, and if you ask most track superintendents, the person whose job it is to oversee the course’s condition, they’ll tell you it’s dependent on the environment and weather. Likewise, a turf course can be made of all types of grasses, again depending on what grows best in a given climate.
No matter what surface, a trainer also has to figure out what distance each of their horses prefers. They might have an idea from watching them train each morning, but until they see them racing, it’s really a big guessing game. Breeding can and does play a big part in this, but some horses “outrun” their breedlines. You usually hear this when a horse runs further than they’re bred to: for example, Smarty Jones, a son of the sprinter Elusive Quality, was downplayed as nothing more than a miler by plenty of experts; that is until he started winning at longer distances. Bottom line: Bred to go long or short, almost all horses become more proficient at certain distances in their career.
The final factor in “track” handicapping is track conditions. A sudden rainstorm can change a track from “fast” to “sloppy” in a matter of minutes, and should change the way you look at the race. Some horses love wet, muddy tracks, other don’t. Some horses love soft turf courses, others like them firm.
Let’s look at each of these surfaces a little closer and see how to put them into play.
Dirt racing makes up the majority of the races held in the United States, somewhere in the neighborhood of 85% of the total races held annually. If you were to ask a group of trainers what makes the best dirt course, you’re likely to get all kinds of answers – mostly depending on what type of horses they have. Speed-crazy front runners tend to need a surface they can get over without sinking to deeply into it; one that has less cushion, or give. Closers, on the other hand, can usually handle a deeper course.
Generally, a track is made up of four layers: the racing surface, or cushion; the base, the sub-base, or drainage layer, and the native soil. The depth of the top three layers is usually around 24 inches.
Within the cushion, there are normally a mix of sand, clay, silt, and organic materials. The cushion runs from three to six inches in depth. Check out the chart below to see how a few tracks mix the percentages of these ingredients differently.
Del Mar86932
Churchill Downs752230
As you can see, sand is the primary ingredient, to varying degrees. Track superintendents are constantly tweaking their racetrack to keep the mix consistent and safe for the horses. Continual changes in the weather, particularly any form of precipitation, can wreak havoc without careful attention.
Let’s look at a scenario of how knowing track composition might give us a handicapping edge. Suppose a horse runs well over the Laurel surface with its 85% sand. If the same horse ships to Arlington, it might not take to their track that has a lot greater amount of silt and clay than Laurel’s, but take the horse to Del Mar, and it could well like the sandier loam of the seaside track.
Below the cushion lies the limestone base and then a substrate for drainage. Limestone, present in much of the ground in Kentucky, has long been known to have many benefits for horses’ health, and coincidentally drains very well – a big help when the track needs drying out. These two layers usually measure about 18 inches in depth, combined.
Turf courses are newer to American racing than their dirt counterparts, but they’ve become very popular with the horsemen, as turf is usually kinder to a horse’s legs, and the betting public likes the challenge.
As we said before, horses are usually bred for the turf. With the globalization of the breeding industry, main European runners spend at least part of their stud or broodmare career in the States. Consequently, plenty of turf influences show up in American horses.
Turf courses are made up of a mixture of grasses on a sandy loam base, and like the dirt, have a drainage layer beneath that. Again, a chart of a few tracks and their turf mixtures.
Del Marbermuda24″ sand
Laurelfescue, rye, bluegrasssand
Arlingtonfescue, rye, bluegrasssand
Churchill Downsfescue and bluegrasssand
Just like taking care of your lawn at home, certain grasses grow better in certain climates: the dry and warm California climate is conducive to Bermuda, while traditional grasses grow better in the Midwest. How a horse gets over the turf course is a matter of their personal preference as much as anything.
Sidelight: Tomlinson Ratings for Turf Horses
The Daily Racing Form includes a Tomlinson number in their past performances. The Tomlinson number was developed by handicapper Lee Tomlinson to help foretell a horse’s affinity for a particular surface. The Form includes a rating for a horse at today’s distance, on a wet track, and on the turf. For more on how to use Tomlinson numbers, click here:
There’s an old saying that says, “there are horses for courses”, meaning that certain horses like certain tracks better than others. However, there are also horses that take to certain distances better than others. In fact, this is probably the stronger handicapping factor of the two. Rarely do see you a horse that is proficient at seven furlongs suddenly turn into a mile-and-a-half horse.
So, how do you figure out at which distance will be best for the horse? As usual, it falls back to the trainer. Like we said, breeding is a big factor, but just because a horse is bred to win the Kentucky Derby, that doesn’t mean he can do it.
When a horse first comes to the racetrack, usually as a two-year-old, they don’t have the stamina to run in longer races. That’s why you see horses generally making their first start in the four to six furlong range. Like a human running a marathon, they have to build up endurance to go that far. And then the trainer will try and “stretch them out” in longer races to see if they are ready for it. One of the keys for a route horse, one that likes to go long, is the move from one to two turn races. Most races run in the States at under a mile (sprints) go around one turn, while those over a mile (routes) are two turn races. Some horses take to the two turns, while others want no part of it. When you’re handicapping a race, take a look at the record of each horse at today’s distance. You’ll see it in the top right of the past performances in both the program and the Form.
What happens when a horse has never run at today’s race distance? That’s when you look to a couple other areas of your past performances. We’ve covered breeding and how it influences a horse, as well as the Tomlinson numbers, which are in the Racing Form. With a horse that’s just beginning their career, both of these factors can weigh in pretty heavily. With a horse that’s run a good number of races, check their past performances closer. For example, it could be that today they’re running at six and one half furlongs for the first time, but they’ve run several times at both six and seven furlongs. See how they fared at those distances to come up with an idea of how today’s race might suit them.
Track Conditions
Prior to each day’s races, the track is given a “rating”, or condition, by the track superintendent. Obviously, this can change at any time due to the weather.
When you go to the track on a nice dry, sunny day, the fast track will usually have a “rough” look to it. This is from the harrows that the tractors drag behind them to “turn” the surface, keeping it uniform throughout. If it’s dry all day, the tractors will be out harrowing between races to maintain that consistency. You might also see the trucks putting water on the track so it doesn’t become too powdery. On the other hand, if rain is in the forecast, the tractors will be out “sealing” the track to keep the rain from getting into the cushion. A sealed track will have a very smooth look to it. And if you’ve got a sloppy or muddy track, you’ll see the tractors “floating” the track. Floats are boards that the tractors pull that pack the dirt, forcing the water to the top, so it can run off of the surface.
Take a look at the chart of all the track conditions used for both dirt and turf. Both lists start with the “best” condition and work their way down. Note that the Heavy and Slow conditions, once used for “off” tracks, are obsolete. Also, Wet Fast is a relatively new term; used when a track first gets rain, but it hasn’t penetrated the surface.
Dirt ConditionsTurf Conditions
Wet FastGood
*Heavy and Slow are no longer used.
As with our previous topics in this section, you can look at a horse’s past performances to see how they’ve done on a fast or off tracks in the past, or if there’s no data for them yet, how their Tomlinson number stacks up versus their opponents. Beyond a horse’s preferences, there are some tracks that favor horses with a certain running style depending on track conditions. For example, say you have a horse that usually closes with a late run from far back in the pack. On a fast track, they’d be getting dirt thrown into their face from those in front. On a sloppy track, that dirt is now mud. If you look at the past performances and that usual kick isn’t there, it could be what’s hitting them in the face as much as the track itself. To sum up: There’s no steadfast rule that says any particular surface favors a horse with a certain running style, but be aware of how track conditions affect each horse individually.
Turf course conditions are a little different than dirt. As a turf course gets more moisture in it, it generally becomes softer, with more give to it. Also, horse hooves tend to tear up the sod. You can see this in any race over an “off”, or one not rated firm, course. Like dirt races, some horses take to turf courses of all conditions. As a rule, European horses like turf with more give to it, so a “soft” or “yielding” course might favor them.
However, once they become acclimated to the firmer American courses, particularly those in California and the Southwest, they are usually comfortable running over them as well. South American imports also tend to like the California tracks. When your looking at the past performances of a turf, take a look at which horses have performed well on turf courses that are similar to today’s track.
Over the years thousands of various ‘systems’ have been devised in man’s never ending quest to “beat the horses”. The systems vary in the weight given to the various factors it considers (speed number, earnings, win percentage, last race result, etc.) but have one thing in common. None that we know of has proven to be successful over time. The reason is simple. Racing is too complex to be reduced to a standard mathematical formula.
Computer handicapping programs are nothing more than the old-fashioned systems that have been automated. Granted, computers are capable of processing huge amounts of information in lightning speed so the systems can be much more sophisticated, but they are incapable of subjective reasoning so the same fatal flaw still exists. It is simply can’t take into account the nuances that separate the successful handicapper from those who don’t do so well. It may know that a trainer is changing jockeys, for example, but it doesn’t understand its significance. Not all changes to a higher-ranking rider are positive.
Should a successful system ever be devised, it is a pretty good bet that we won’t hear about it. That’s because widespread knowledge of its ability would negate its effectiveness. Everybody wants a winner so the horses the system selected would be bet down to the point that they would become underlays. It would still generate the same number of winners, but the mutuels won wouldn’t be sufficient to make the user a winner over time.
Despite their shortcomings, there is a place for good computer programs in the successful handicapper’s arsenal. The idea is to modify their conclusions for the things it was unable to consider. For example, the computer might say that “Sureshot” was the horse to back in a particular race not realizing that the trainer would be unlikely to make the jockey change that he was making, if he was of the same opinion. In other words, the computer’s conclusions should be used as simply another tool in our deliberations.

Speed number handicapping became very popular in the early 1990’s when it was championed by the ill-fated Racing Times. Much of its popularity is due to its simplicity. It is easy to learn and it only takes a few minutes to handicap a race. Speed numbers have become a part of virtually all past performances published. They are simply a numerical measure of how fast a horse ran that is more consistant than actual times. Actual times can be deceiving because track conditions vary from day to day. A 1:11 over six furlongs on one day might be very quick while on another it might be a bit on the dull side. That is true even though the track might be rated as “fast” on both days.
Speed numbers are computed as follows:
1.- A par time (or average) is established by class for each distance run.
2.- A variant for the day is established by accumulating the difference between that’s day’ actual times and the individual par times for those races and dividing that total by the number of races run. Separate variants for dirt and turf races, sprints and routes are generally computed.
3.- The actual time of a race is then corrected by applying the variant which is then converted into a speed number based upon a table constructed for the purpose. This becomes the winner’s speed number. The others is the race are assigned numbers based upon how far behind the winner they finished.
There are a number of technical reasons why these numbers are not absolutely accurate. Even their strongest adherents agree that a one or two point difference doesn’t mean very much.
There are several ways to use the numbers. Some simply back the horse who ran the higest number in his last race. One race often doesn’t mean very much, however, so others use a horse’s average number for his last three or four races. The problem with that method is that the horse will usually run well but will often be beaten by a horse who “jumps up” and runs a big number. Both methods will select quite a few winners but the odds will be generally short. Using the highest number that each horse has run in any race run in the last 60 days will produce less winners, but those winners will pay much better mutuels.
The stretch run may be the most exciting part of a race, but the run to the stretch may be more important. That’s because thoroughbreds, like humans, do have limited energy. Most (if not all) cannot run “full throttle” for more than about a quarter of a mile without tiring badly. How wisely a horse utilizes those limited energy reserves generally dictates how effectively he will run.
In the early part of a race (the “pacing” portion) horses trade energy for position with the idea of getting to the top of the stretch in position to win with enough energy left to get the job done. It’s a balancing act. One without the other isn’t good enough. A ten length lead may not be safe if a horse is so tired that he can barely walk to the wire. Conversely a “full tank: won’t do him much good if he is so far behind that he can’t possibly catch the leaders.
Conventional handicapping wisdom suggests that a fast pace favors the closers. That isn’t always the case, however. It doesn’t help them much unless it causes the leaders to tire. Many quality horses are capable running under control and finishing well despite fast fractions. They may appear to be dueling but in reality they are simply running side-by-side. Some lesser animals can relax while setting a fast pace and save plenty of energy for the stretch run so long as they aren’t pressured.
Horses who weaken or tire after pressing or contesting a very quick fast pace are often much better than they appear. They may appear to lack stamina, but that isn’t necessarily the case. It may simply be a case of the pressure and the faster than normal pace taking their toll. That is particularly true with lightly raced horses and those of moderate or lesser ability. How much they tired in the stretch is generally irrelevant. Just like your car can’t run without gas, a horse can’t run without energy. Brought back in better circumstances they may be able conserve energy early and surprise their detractors by finishing strong enough to win.
A slow pace doesn’t help the early leaders unless they capitalize on it by saving energy. That doesn’t always happen. A slow contentious pace can be tiring, particularly to horses a bit short on class. The pressure causes them expend energy without forward purpose and they are apt to tire despite a slow pace. Others simply haven’t learned to relax and squander the energy that they will need later. Some racing surfaces, particularly turf course, are tiring in nature so that the front runners weaken despite what appears to be a slow or moderate pace.
Pace may not make the race, but it sure plays an important role. .
There are many traps that can easily lead the trip handicapper astray. Before discussing them we should have a clear understanding of what constitutes a good trip. Just like a car is most efficient when on “cruise control” a horse runs best when he is able to relax and run free and easy. A bit of slack in the reins is a good indication that he is running on his own.
It’s best if he encounters minimal traffic but that isn’t possible very often. So long as he continues to relax and isn’t forced to change gears, a horse can have a good trip despite traffic. A horse’s position during a race is important. Horses are creatures of habit and most seasoned horses have adopted a preferred racing style. Asked to change they may become uncomfortable and needlessly squander energy that would be better used down the stretch.
The shortest way home is along the rail but that isn’t always the best path. If we are lucky a horse will be able to gain a clear early lead in one of the first few races. He can race anywhere he likes so notice where his jockey takes him. If he moves outside a bit it is a pretty good tipoff that inside might not be the place to be that day. Before deciding that a horse who took the turns wide had a poor trip consider whether his jockey chose that path or if traffic caused him to either race outside or lose position. The former might be an indication that horse can’t handle the turns inside and is likely to be wide again his next time out, while the latter suggests that the horse might benefit from a better trip when he races again.
It’s best, of course, if a horse relaxes in the starting gate and breaks well. A poor start, however, doesn’t always impact a horse’s trip as much as many believe. Much depends upon his normal racing style and what he does after breaking poorly. If he is the type who needs the lead to run his best a bad start is a virtual death blow. Even if he rushes up to gain the lead he has wasted energy that would be better used later when he will be asked to fend off challengers. In fact any horse who rushes up to gain position after breaking poorly has comprised his chances. The stalker, for example, may have used the energy he will need to overtake the leader late.
If a horse doesn’t rush up after breaking badly but accepts his fate instead, his poor start is apt to hurt his chances much less than most realize. He may have spotted the others four or five lengths but much of that distance can be made up during the rest of the trip. Alone in the rear his jockey can put him on cruise control’ so that he will have plenty of energy left when it comes time to make his move. So long as he isn’t force to go wide on the turn to overtake horses, the damage caused by his bad start may be minimal.
Another area that is widely misunderstood involves horses who swing wide into the stretch. Just because they lost some ground doesn’t necessarily mean that their trip was adversely effected. Spinning’ out of the turn creates a certain amount of centrifugal force so swinging wide takes less out of a horse than cutting’ the corner. That is particularly true with larger less nimble horses, and on the turf course where the turns are sharper. After swinging wide a horse generally has a clear path to the wire so his jockey can put the “pedal to the metal” in an all out drive to win. That is much better than trying to weave through traffic or spitting horses to make racing room.
Thre are many other factors that enter into good trip handicapping. Young lightly raced horses, for example, generally don’t like to be pinned inside between the rail and another horse, so those who find themselves in that position are usually having a poor trip even when it appears as if they are having a good one. Tactical considerations can also adversely impact a horse’s trip but is a whole new topic.
302 – Off Tracks
“Off” or “wet” tracks refer to a dirt track rated anything other than “fast”. These conditions tend to create added uncertainty, but they also can be rewarding with large payoffs. There are several factors that add to the uncertainty of off tracks:
Only a small percentage of races are run on off tracks, providing limited history to make decisions from. Some horses have never run on off tracks.
A percentage of horses improve on off tracks
A percentage of horses decline dramatically on off tracks
Off tracks often are biased in one way or another
Off tracks give many handicappers lots of trouble. Much of this difficulty is caused by misunderstandings. They look for a horse that has run well on similar tracks and assume that he will run well again. Horses that ran poorly are discounted. In our opinion, this approach is deeply flawed. It assumes there was a cause and effect relationship between how the horse ran and the fact the track was “off”. That may or may not have been the case. About 80%-90% of horses handle both wet and dry tracks the same. Only a few move way up over off tracks, and those who can’t handle them at all are often scratched. Most horses that ran well on an earlier wet track should not be expected to repeat their performance unless they are just as fit, well-placed and well-meant as they were before. Similarly, bad performances on wet tracks when a horse was not as 100% fit, poorly placed, or not particularly well meant should not be interpreted as suggesting he can’t handle an off track in different circumstances.
Three tips for playing off tracks:
1. Study the horse’s previous performances on off tracks.

2. Compare his odds on off tracks to his performances.
3. Look to see if he has run well on an off track at this racetrack.
302 – Off Tracks continued
Start by looking at the odds of the prior off track performance. The odds give a good indication how fit, well placed and well meant the horse was in the prior race. That should be considered a general indication, however, as bettors have been known to be wrong. For example, just because a horse was a badly beaten favorite over a wet track doesn’t conclusively prove anything. He might have been a badly beaten favorite even if the track were fast. Perhaps he got caught up in an unexpected speed duel or failed to get an anticipated easy lead. So long as he ran about as well as would be expected in those circumstances we should be reluctant to conclude that his disappointing finish was caused by a wet track.
Even if a horse at long odds runs surprisingly well on an off track it doesn’t mean he “moved up” because of an off track. Longshots run much better than expected every day when the track is fast. A good race over an off track does suggest, however, that he can handle an off track. In fact, any first, second, or third-place finish suggests that a horse can handle at least some off tracks even thought he has run poorly over them on several occasions.
Common dirt track ratings:
FastA normal track
GoodAlmost fast. The moisture has nearly dried out.
Wet-fastA watery-wet track that horses skip over.
SloppyWater, puddles and mud.
MuddyAfter a sloppy has started to dry out and thicken
SlowAfter a muddy track has thickened and dried out
The wet history contained in the program and Daily Racing Form contains worthwhile information, but like any statistic it can be misleading. Often the horse hasn’t run over an off track enough times to give the wet data the validity necessary for it to be used as a basis for general conclusions. Any statistic with a small sample should be considered suspect. The fact that a horse is 2 for 2 over off tracks can lead us astray. Perhaps he is a speed horse that got to the front each time over a sloppy track that favored those on the lead. That won’t help him much if he is in a field where he is too slow to make the lead, or if today’s track favors those coming from behind. Instead a closer whose wet history indicates he hasn’t hit the board in 2 or 3 off track races might be the one to beat. Perhaps he hadn’t done so well earlier because he was at a significant disadvantage.
307 – Trip Handicapping
Long before there were Beyer Speed Figures, Ragozin Sheets, Tomlinson Ratings, and other present-day numerical rating systems, the “art” of trip handicapping existed. In the most basic sense, a trip handicapper takes notes of the type of journey each horse has in a race. Examples they look for are: any trouble horses may incur, particularly at the start or in the turns, what path, or how far from the rail, they take, if they are in a stressful spot with regards to the pace, and how they finish up.
In reality, trip handicapping is probably the least scientific and most subjective of all serious handicapping methods. What one person sees as “trouble” could look completely different to another. And in the days before television replays, the trip handicapper had to rely on their own keen eyesight and ability to take good notes during a race, no easy task with a full field or less than ideal weather. However, in today’s market of endless replays available on the internet, you can literally watch a race as many times as you wish to make thorough trip notes. The goal of the trip handicapper is to spot horses, that for whatever reason, were compromised in a race, and as such warrant watching next time they run.
Let’s take a look at how trip notes are made from start to finish and how everybody has access to thorough trip notes without having to do the detail work.
Charts and Past Performances
Equibase and the Daily Racing Form produce charts of every race run at a thoroughbred track. They have a team of two people that are basically trip handicappers: One watches the races and calls out the running order at certain points, and the other records the info. After the race is made official, and they’ve entered all the pertinent data, they beam the chart off to their central database via computer. Take a look at a typical chart below.
1st Race
6 1/2 Furlongs Dirt MAIDEN CLAIMING PURSE $21,000 F & M (fillies and mares)
Value of Race 21,000 Value to Winner 13,020 2nd 4,200 3rd 2,100 4th 1,050 5th 630 Mutuel Pool$114,765.00
Exacta Pool $98,137.00 Trifecta Pool $77,020.00 Superfecta Pool $21,377.00 Quinella Pool $4,269.00
PNHorseM EqWtPPSP1/4 1/2 StrFinJockeyOdds
5Isabella’s Crown(JPN)L113531hd 1 hd 1 1 1/21 5 3/4 Hernandez B J Jr 2.10
4White OakLf 118444hd 4 2 2 2 2 5 1/4Bejarano R 2.40
7Stage GlitterL118766hd 5 1 1/2 4 2 3nk Martinez J R Jr 19.50
1Classical DellaLbf 120122hd 2 1/2 3 2 45 Castanon J L 3.00
6MalfoyLb 1186577 7 9 1/2 6 4 5nk Mojica R Jr 64.40
3Royal BaubleLf 1183752 1/2 6 1 5hd 616 1/2Martinez W 3.80
8Peaceful PresenceL1108131 1/2 3 1 7 6 71 1/4 Farrell J 29.00
2Puddles Reflection120288 8 8 8 Adam M G 41.30
Off at 1:15 Start Good for all . Won Driving.Time , :23, :47, 1:12 4/5, 1:19 1/5, Rainy 64. Track: Sloppy.
5 – Isabella’s Crown(JPN) ……6.20 3.002.80$2 Exacta 5-4 Paid $15.80
4 – White Oak ……3.20 2.80$2 Trifecta 5-4-7 Paid $146.60
7 – Stage Glitter ……4.80$2 Superfecta 5-4-7-1 Paid $270.40
$2 Quinella 4-5 Paid $8.40
WINNER- CH f,3,by Forty Niner – Mom’s Crown by Chief’s Crown
TRAINER-Asmussen Steven M. Bred By Heisei Farm (JPN)
ISABELLA’S CROWN (JPN) went up between horses early to contest the pace, gained a slim lead, moved clear entering the upper stretch and was going away at the end under strong hand urging. WHITE OAK, never far back and three wide early, came out five wide leaving the turn, angled to the rail for the last eighth but couldn’t menace the winner as second best. STAGE GLITTER, within striking distance to the stretch and five wide most of the way, was empty when the test came. CLASSICAL DELLA broke in front while drifting out, battled with the winner and PEACEFUL PRESENCE while inside them and weakened leaving the turn. MALFOY, three or four wide, improved position but wasn’t a threat. ROYAL BAUBLE raced in contention near the inside for a half and gradually weakened. PEACEFUL PRESENCE forced the pace three abreast until nearing the stretch and tired. PUDDLES REFLECTION, slow to begin, raced three or four wide and always was outrun.
There are four sections: The top section is the race conditions, the second shows all the running lines for each horse, the third the time, payoffs, and other pertinent information, and the last is the trip notes. This is what the chart caller saw during the race, and will ultimately end up in the past performances as part of the abbreviated comment line the next time the horse runs. The charts and their comments are a good way to see how a race is turned into a narrative.
Reading the narrative can give you clues on which horses may have been compromised by their trip. In the above chart, White Oak, the second place finisher, raced either three or five wide for most of the race. The further a horse is away from the rail, the more distance they are covering. Perhaps with a little better trip, she would have given the winner a little better run for her money. This is just one example of what could be termed “mild” trouble. Racing luck being what it is, many things can happen that cost a horse all chance for the win. The table below shows some standard terms that you’ll see in the program’s comment line and their meaning.
Comment Meaning
checked rider had to halt his momentum at some point
lost iron rider’s foot came out of the stirrups
broke in air jumped high at the start
stumbled start fell or tripped breaking from the gate
waited caught behind a slower horse
bumped came in contact with another horse
forced in horse to the outside forced him to the rail
dueled was in a speed duel with another horse
steadied similar to checked
ducked out horse veered to its outside; usually on their own
fanned out wide had to go very wide entering the stretch
bothered 1/4 was in some trouble at the one-quarter

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member