My Sports

14 November 2019

Racing for Dummies: a beginner’s guide

By // Sports

For those who have never experienced the thrills and excitement of horse racing, understanding the rules and terminology can be difficult. This guide takes you through the key terms you need to know, how horse racing works and how to place a bet.

Thoroughbred Horses 

All of today’s racehorses can be traced back to one of three ‘foundation’ stallions. These horses were Arabian horses which were imported into England in the early 18th century and bred with English horses for their speed and agility. Flat racehorses can begin their racing careers as young as two years old, while jump racehorses usually don’t start racing until they’re four but their careers typically last much longer.

Types of Race

There are two main categories of racing – jump racing and flat races. Flat races are run on a flat racetrack without any obstacles, making these races a test of stamina and speed. Flat races are run on a variety of distances, from five feet to over two miles. Jump races, on the other hand, include obstacles that the horses and jockeys have to overcome, including hurdles and fences. Jump races can take place throughout the year but they’re more common in the Autumn, Winter and Spring. These races are often longer than flat races, spanning anywhere from two to over four miles in distance.

Race Day

Racing is a social activity that is a lot of fun. Whether it’s your first time attending or you’re a seasoned fan, the excitement never dissipates. Races are typically around 30 minutes apart, so it creates a natural flow to the day, with gates open around two hours before the first race for most events. Head to the Parade Ring around 20 minutes before the race begins to view the horses and see the jockeys discussing their last-minute tactics with the trainers. Once the bell rings, the jockeys will mount their horses and head to the starting line.

How Betting on Horses Works

Betting on horses is easier than you might think, even if it’s your first time at the races. First, get up to speed with overall tips for betting on horses, by reading a good guide to betting on horseracing so you have an understanding of the basics and the terminology you’ll see on the race card. Then you need to choose which horse you want to back from the race card and remember their name and number. Choose the amount you want to stake and be sure to pick a figure that you’re comfortable with – don’t be tempted to bet more than you can afford or that you’re not comfortable losing. Pick the type of bet you want to place and then take your pick of the bookmakers who are at the betting ring. Finally, tell the bookmaker the horse’s number, how much you want to bet and the type of bet you want to place. For example, you may say £5 each way on number 5”. You’ll be given a ticket when your bet has been placed but hold onto it, as if you are lucky enough to win, you’ll need it to collect your winnings. However, placing online bets at, for example, can be quicker and easier.


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