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How to Introduce a Newcomer to Horse Racing

How to Introduce a Newcomer to Horse Racing

It might be known as the Sport of Kings, but horse racing is now accessible to anyone and everyone. Sure, it’s still not the easiest participation sport to pick up on an idle Saturday afternoon, but for spectators, the advent of the internet has opened it up to a wider audience than ever. 

If you’ve long been a racing fan but you have friends who have never understood the attraction, there’s never been a better time to educate them. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in introducing a newcomer to the sport is simply to take them along to a race meeting, hand them a racing card and tell them to get on with it and have fun.

Horse racing is full of nuance and has its own special terminology. Add that to the furious speed at which the action takes place, and it is little wonder that first timers can leave feeling that they have certainly been part of something, but still less than sure as to exactly what.

Here, then, we offer some guidance on how to make sure first-timers get the most out of their first race meeting and end the day looking forward to the next one.

Do the Groundwork

You can’t learn about horse racing from a book, but you can establish a basic foundation of knowledge so that there is something to build on when you are there at the race track. Las Vegas-based Richard Eng is one of the most highly respected tipsters in the business and spent more than 20 years as a writer and editor for the Las Vegas Review Journal. His 2005 publication Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies is highly readable and actually has some great advice for seasoned racegoers as well as newcomers. It’s only around $10 on Amazon, so why not buy a copy for your friend before you do anything else?

Ease in Gently

We all know how hectic a race meeting can get. The frantic excitement makes for an atmosphere like nothing else, so it’s understandable that you will want your protégé to get a taste of it as soon as possible. However, leaping in at the deep end is not always the right strategy.

Get in touch with your local race track and see if you can find out when there are workouts taking place. Typically, these are first thing in the morning, but if you put in the effort and make an early start, it is well worth it. There’s something particularly special about watching these magnificent animals running for the pure joy of it, with no finish line to aim for or competitors to worry about. 

Ideally, see if you can also be given a tour of the stables. Activities like these will achieve two things. First, they give an in depth understanding of the horses and riders. Secondly, they should allay any concerns regarding the ethics of horse racing, as your guest will see how lovingly the horses are cared for and how running as fast as they can is what they love to do above all else.

Understanding the Odds

This is where things are liable to get complicated, and that’s why we have worked up to it gently. At first glance, it seems simple enough if horse A is 3/1, horse B 9/2 and horse C 15/1. However, in this modern era of online bookmakers, there is more than ever to learn about sports betting odds, and not just when it comes to horse racing. In football, soccer, hockey, tennis and almost any other sport you care to name, there are more varieties of racing bets available than ever before, and the bet you choose to place will have a significant impact on the odds the bookmaker offers. 

Of course, the fact that you can bet on sports events online means it is also easier to sit down with a beginner in a calm setting and take your time going over everything, instead of shouting words of advice trackside. Still, avoid blinding your poor victim with too much science. Trifectas, yankees, flexis and the like can wait for another day. Run through the basics, and explain them in simple terms. 

Here’s a little cheat sheet to help you along: 

  • Explaining the odds – there are two things to cover here. One is that 3/1 means a $3 return on a $1 stake, plus the return of the original stake. The second is to point out the different odds formats used, for example 3/1 can also be expressed as 3.00.
  • To win bet – most newcomers want to start with a simple bet like this. It’s certainly the easiest to explain. However, it’s also a bet that is less popular among seasoned gamblers than newcomers might think. Once they progress to the next type of bet, they will understand why.
  • Each way bet – explaining the mechanics of an each way bet is one thing, and you need to cover the different interpretations of placing and how this will affect the payout. But where it really gets interesting is when you start to discuss when and why an each way bet is a superior strategy that simply backing a horse to win. The obvious example is where you have an odds-on favorite and then other runners at far longer odds. The more you discuss it, the more you will start to question your own strategies!

This is actually more than enough to get someone started, and with any luck it will leave them hungry to learn about more betting types after they’ve attended their first race meeting.

And They’re Off!

Now it is time to put the theory into action. Attend a race meeting that has several different races throughout the day, and avoid anything too huge where you won’t be able to hear yourself think. As the races get underway, don’t simply stand in one place. Try to get a spot near the start line for one race, and then move along to the top of the stretch to witness horse and rider at full speed and implementing different strategies for the final push. Follow these tips, and you’ll have recruited a racing fan for life. 

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