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Horse Racing Types

Thoroughbred Racing

Items to consider when wagering on thoroughbred racing

Here are some simple tactics which may be helpful to a new bettor:

1. Wager on the favorite

The favorite is the horse with the lowest odds or the one on which the most money has been wagered. Favorites win approximately one-third of the time. This is not necessarily a sound wagering strategy as favorites can pay very little.

2. Purchase a tip sheet or handicapping aid

These are prepared by professional handicappers and may provide useful wagering selections

3. View the horses

Watch the broadcast signal while the horses are in the paddock and in the Post Parade.

Following are some handicapping factors that can be used to aid in placing a wager:

1. Class

Class is difficult to define, but it is unmistakable at the racetrack. Horses seem to sort themselves into competitive levels.

2. Pace

"Pace makes the race". This old racing expression points to another element to consider when placing your bets -- the pace of the race. A horse generally can't have it both ways. That is, he can't run extremely fast early and still have enough left in reserve to run fast late in the race. A fast pace generally means that the horses on the front will tire out and thus help the runners that are closing ground. If the past performances indicate that there are several speed horses in a race, it might be a good idea to consider a horse that likes to rally in the stretch. On the other hand, a slow pace will help the horses near the front because they should have something left for the end of the race. In studying past performances, you might find only one legitimate speed horse in a particular race. If that horse gets loose on the front end and has the pace all to himself with no pressure being applied to him, he figures to have something left for the home stretch and should be hard to overtake.

3. Trainers and Jockeys

It's always wise to take into account the human factor. Some trainers do well with 2-year-olds while others are particularly adept with horses shipping in from long distances. Some jockeys seem to ride better on the front end, and others are better known for their come-from-behind style. A good idea is to check the standings, which show the leading trainers and jockeys at the meeting.

4. Changes in equipment

Blinkers are used on horses to limit their vision and to prevent them from swerving from objects or other horses. It's worth noting changes in blinkers - a horse wearing them for the first time (or for the first time in a number of starts) or racing without them for the first time. Mud calks are used for off tracks. Calks, pointed extensions or cleats on a horseshoe, are designed to prevent a horse from slipping. Certain other equipment worn by the horses is noted in the past performances.

5. Trip

It is important for a bettor to watch his horse during the running of the race and again on the replays after the race to observe what kind of trip he had. Was the horse squeezed back at the start, or carried wide on the turn, or blocked at the quarter pole? A horse who loses a race because of a troubled trip might be a good bet in his next start. Usually, trouble encountered by a horse in a race is shown in the past performance lines.

6. Weight

Weight, the old saying goes, will stop a freight train, so it's especially important to notice when horses are carrying considerably more weight than they did in their last start. Conversely, it's just as significant to watch for horses that are carrying much less weight than they did in their last outing. One theory is that weight plays a bigger role in long races, but another line of reason is that weight is every bit as important in sprints.

7. Breeding

Breeding is an inexact science, but a careful study of pedigrees can enhance a bettor's chances at the races. Some horses are bred for speed, others have inherited stamina from their sires and dams and are able to run long distances and certain horses are bred for grass racing.

8. Condition

The condition may be the most difficult handicapping factor to master. It is defined as the fitness of a thoroughbred - how prepared he is to run a particular race. The dates of the horse's most recent workouts and races and the probable effects of this activity on his current condition are highly important. If a horse is racing for the first time in a month or so, a steady pattern of workouts is a good indication of fitness. A good time for a workout generally is when a horse covers the distance in 12 seconds or less for each furlong - 36 seconds or less for three furlongs, 48 seconds or less for four furlongs, etc. A "short" horse is one not trained up to the last ounce of his energy and thus not fit enough for the race he's running in. He'll tire, and his stride will shorten before the end of the race.

9. Medication

Lasix and Butazolidin are medications administered to racehorses. Lasix, a diuretic, is used to control bleeding (certain horses bleed from a ruptured vein - or veins - in the nostrils, the pharynx, or the lungs), and Bute is an anti-inflammatory medication. Some handicappers pay close attention to a horse racing on Lasix or Bute for the first time, believing that these medications might enhance that runner's performance.


  • Entry - A horse entered in a race is called an entry. And on rare occasions, two or more horses are said to be "coupled" and run as an "entry," comprising a single wagering unit. A wager on one horse of an entry is a wager on both.

    Furlong - One-eighth of a mile or 220 yards. Races are measured in furlongs.

    Morning Line - Approximate odds printed in the program and posted before wagering begins. This is a forecast of how the morning line maker believes wagering will occur In a particular race.

    Post Position - A horse's position in the starting gate, numbered from the inner rail outward.

    Purse - The amount of prize money distributed to the owners of the first five or six finishers in a race (varies by state).

Quarter Racing

Items to consider when wagering on quarter horse racing

Following are some handicapping factors that can be used to aid in placing a wager:

Straightaway American Quarter Horse racing is an all-out burst of speed from the starting gate with every horse trying to put a head in front at the finish. There is no time to maneuver for position or come from behind in the final stretch run as in Thoroughbred racing. Therefore, the experienced handicapper can concentrate on speed, class, jockey/trainer combinations, and track conditions without having to spend time trying to predict how the race will be run.

The American Quarter Horse may be America's most consistent athlete. In 1993, American Quarter Horse wagering favorites finished in the money (first, second or third) 71% of the time, while winning 35%. Those are figures that can't be claimed by Thoroughbred or Standardbred racing! But that's not saying American Quarter Horse racing lacks the excitement of winning long shots. With 39% of the horses finishing first, second, or third going off with odds of 5-1 or greater, you know the exotic wagers must have paid some handsome rewards.

The key is knowing how to cash in on those rewards yourself. But how? The answer is knowledge. If you're a smart handicapper you'll do your homework by learning everything you can about the horse, its rider, trainer, bloodline, competition, and even the surface the horse will run on.

1. Class

Class is probably the most important factor in handicapping. Analyze everything you see, hear, or read in the context of the class. In the most basic sense, class refers to the ability to win, produce winners, and develop high quality, competitive races. Class not only involves racehorses but sires and dams, owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, races, and even tracks. Think of class in terms of levels of excellence and a competitive edge. Here's an example of a class in a racehorse compared to other athletes. During the 1987 National Football League strike, many talented athletes replaced striking players. The replacements made for some exciting Sunday afternoons. But only a few of the replacements were able to keep their jobs when the striking players returned. The reason? They were simply not up to the superior play of the regulars. In other words, they were outclassed. The same can be true of a racehorse. For instance, a horse that may win with a fast time in claiming races would probably lose when going against horses that regularly participate in stakes race competition with similar race times. Here's how class relates to a racetrack. A horse with a 96-speed index and first-place finish at Sunland Park is not necessarily the same as a horse with a 96-speed index and first-place finish at Remington Park. Although both are two of American Quarter Horse racing's finest racing facilities, Remington Park emphasizes American Quarter Horse racing, carries many more graded stakes and the average purse structure is significantly higher, thus attracting more of American Quarter Horse racing's premier performers.

2. Before Race Day Preparations

In order to evaluate the entrants in any race, you'll need historical data or past performances, as they are called.

3. Reading between the lines

The past performance information for each horse in a race is there in black and white for everyone wagering on the race to follow. The only way you can out-handicap the competition is if you can read between the lines.


As many as 10 of a horse's past races are listed by date beginning with the most recent race. TIP - Look for excessive or irregular layoffs between races which could indicate a fitness problem that could keep the horse from running true to form. Conversely, look for a history of regular layoffs with an immediate return to peak form.


Weather can change a track's condition quickly. Dirt tracks are rated as follows: ft-fast; sy-sloppy; m-muddy; gd-good; sl-slow; hy-heavy; fr-frozen. TIP - Horses that performed well in conditions similar to today's could have the edge.


There are three types of races in American Quarter Horse racing: short sprints of 220, 250, 300, 330, and 350 yards; long sprints of 400, 440, 550, and 660 yards; and distance or races around one turn of 770, 870 and 1,000 yards. TIP - Determine the horse's suitability to today's distance. A horse that performs well at short distances could fade during a longer race. And conversely, a horse that breaks slowly but performs well in the stretch may need the extra distance to win. In some cases, American Quarter Horses, which have not been top performers at short or long sprints, may become competitive at 870 yards.


Maiden, Speed Index, Trial, Claiming, Allowance, Handicap, and Stakes. You'll find a more complete description later and in the glossary. TIP - Think of race classifications as levels of the class of horse they attract with stakes races being the highest and $2,000 maiden claiming the lowest. The conditions of a race (non-winners of two, three or four) or claiming prices ($2,000-$20,000) are significant differences in the same type of race.


At certain times or conditions, tracks might have surfaces that favor the inside, middle or outside post positions. Most programs list the percentage of wins from each post position. Some horses also favor certain post positions. TIP - On races around the turn, unless a horse has a great deal of early speed to go to the front and take the inside rail, an outside post position is definitely a disadvantage. A fast-breaking horse that usually wins when it breaks first can have an edge when positioned with room to run. Look for horses that break well with a post position between two horses that generally do not get away fast. In straightaway races, the one hole is generally a disadvantage, while the outside might be an advantage.


A horse's position during a race and its lengths behind the front-runner are generally described at four locations along the race: the break call at two strides or ten yards from the starting gate; the first stretch call at the 1/8 pole or 220 yards from the finish; the second stretch call at the 1/16 pole or 110 yards from the finish; and at the finish. TIP - Positioning and ability to make up ground can reveal a lot about the horse you're evaluating; his suitability to today's distance; and a pattern of improvement as the race progresses.


The two types of legally permitted medications are Bute and Lasix. Bute is an anti-inflammatory drug used to reduce stiffness. Lasix is a diuretic used to treat respiratory bleeding some athletes experience. TIP - If a horse is on the first-time Lasix list and has shown good early performance in past races but has faded toward the end, the effects of Lasix might make a difference in his next race.


The symbol "b" indicates the horse wore blinkers during a race. TIP - A horse that has been running erratically and shows to be wearing blinkers for the first time might be a good wager.


The total amount of weight a horse is required to carry (including jockey and tack). TIP - In American Quarter Horse racing, weight is not a major factor in the shorter races. However, in races of 440 yards or more, it does have some importance. The horses with the best performance records may be required to carry the most weight in an attempt to make a more even contest. Look for a horse's ability to carry more weight in his previous races.


The time of the race (the winner's time) and the time of the individual horse are shown in seconds and hundredths of seconds. TIP - Use best recent times at today's distance, conditions, and racetrack. Keep the different elements of class in mind while making your comparisons.


The speed index is an evaluation of a horse's speed in a race versus the three fastest winning times for the same distance each year for the previous three years at the same racetrack. TIP - An average of the best recent speed indexes is a good basis for comparison. Again, keep the elements of class, wind, and track condition in mind.


At any given track, there is a broad range of talent. Generally speaking, the best horses will have the best riders (ones who can be found on the leading rider list in your program). TIP - Jockey changes can affect the outcome of a race. For instance, if you note that a leading jockey has been taken off his regular mount and switched to another, you could have a better chance of a winning wager on his new mount.


As with jockeys, any given track will have a broad range of trainers, with varying degrees of expertise and experience. TIP - Pay attention to their winning percentages, not just their total wins, as a good trainer with a few horses will never lead the trainer's list. Try to keep track of a trainer's ability with different classes or ages of horses. Some trainers are better with claiming horses, while others concentrate on stakes performers.


A listing of horse's sire, dam and dam's sire. TIP - As a general rule, pedigree has a significant influence on a horse's natural ability to run. Keep note of the leading sires and dams as well as breeders and owners when considering class. This is especially true when handicapping two-year-olds and first-time starters.


The number of starts wins, places (second), shows (thirds), and purse money won this year and last year. The lifetime total of wins and in-the-money (first, seconds and thirds) and lifetime purse money. TIP - Can be an indication of improvement or deterioration and class. Compare percentages of wins, in-the-money or average money earned per start.

Glossary of key terms

  • Blanket Finish - Or photo-finish in which two or more horses are very close at the finish (one can "Throw a blanket over them"). Very common in American Quarter Horse racing.

    Bullring - A racetrack with either a half-mile or 5/8ths mile oval.

    Register of Merit - A Register of Merit is designed to establish a record of outstanding performance. There are three Registers of Merit- one for racing, one for halter, and one for performance events- but not a separate Register of Merit for each performance event. A horse has received at least one official Speed Index Rating of 80 or higher in racing. Qualified horses registered with the Jockey Club of New York City will be listed and treated as racing Register of Merit qualifiers for all purposes except that they shall not receive a certificate of Register of Merit or year-end awards. Until 1956 a Grade A was a 75 or better speed index, 1957 to 1975 Grade AA was an 85 or better. From 1976 to 1985 a Register of merit could be earned by an 80 or better speed index or by earning 10 racing points. From 1986 to THE present a Register of Merit could only be earned by a speed index of 80 or better.
  • Schooling Race - A non-pari-mutuel preparatory race, which conforms to requirements adopted by the state racing commission.

    Tongue Strap - Strap or tape bandage used to tie down a horse's tongue to prevent choking in a race or workout.

    Trial - Race in which eligible horses compete to determine the finalists in a nomination race.

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