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How to bet at the races
Manas Chakravarty
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May 07, 2005

After a tiring week of speculating in stocks, what better way to unwind over the weekend than to trot along to the lush green environs of the local racecourse and punt on the horse races?

The first thing to do is to buy a copy of the racing programme for the day, easily available outside the race course.

The form book contains details about the races, the names of the horses in each race, their ages, their pedigree, the handicaps (the weights carried by horses to theoretically level the playing field -- the better horse carries more weight), the jockeys, trainers and owners, the races that qualify for the jackpot and so on.

The back of the book will have information on earlier races at the centre, with weights, ranks, timing, distances etc. The first few pages will usually have the horses' recent track work, or how they've been doing at their morning practice runs.

Which horse do you choose? Check out its pedigree, whether it is right for the distance over which the race is being run (some horses are sprinters, others are stayers), whether it is carrying the right handicap, whether it has beaten the other horses in the race in previous races and under what conditions (the weight it carried then, the jockey, underfoot conditions, the distance and the margin of victory), and whether the horse is running in the same class (classes range from 1 to 5B, with the best horses running in class 1; horses also get promoted from lower classes).

Once you have decided which horse you fancy, go and place a bet on him. You could do that either on the totalisator or tote, or with the bookies.

The tote is a betting system run by the racecourse management. Here's how it works: suppose there are five horse in a race and punters have bet Rs 10,000 on "Win" on the horse they think will win the race.

Suppose horse number three, on which there are 10 winning tickets, wins. The Rs 10,000 pool will then be divided among the 10 winning tickets. Alas, taxes have to be paid -- this varies from state to state and centre to centre.

For instance, if you place a bet with the bookies, you pay Rs 126 at the Royal Western India Turf Club in Mumbai on a Rs 100 bet, the rest being taxes.

You can bet for as little as Rs 10 on the tote, and Rs 100 with the bookies. The advantage of placing your bets with bookies is that the odds are fixed in advance, so you know exactly how much you will get if you win. To illustrate, if you have bet Rs 100 at three to one with a bookie, and your horse wins, you'll get Rs 300 plus your Rs 100 back.

There are many different ways to bet. If you bet on "Win", you get paid only if your horse comes in first. If you bet on "Place", you get paid if your horse comes in either first or second or third, depending on the number of horses in the race.

In a quinella, you win if the two horses you choose come in first and second, in any order. In a forecast, you have to choose both the horse that comes in first and the one that comes in second. Then there's the treble, in which you choose the winners in three races.

To win the jackpot, you have to predict the winners of five races. In short, there are a variety of ways to test your luck or your horse sense.

And finally, if all your studying of the form book doesn't deliver winners, try betting on horse number six in the sixth race running in lane number six...

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