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Here's how to bet on the horses: an essential guide

Are you a racing newbie? We’re here to help.

WHEN YOU BREAK it down, horse racing is incredibly simple – a load of horses line up and whoever gets to the finishing line first is declared the winner.

But for racing newbies, everything from what you wear to how you place a bet can seem frustratingly confusing. In truth, you don’t actually need to know any of the information below to enjoy a day at the races – but it can’t hurt, can it?

Allow us to break it down for you.

What do I wear?

Horse Racing - 2015 Investec Derby Festival - Ladies Day - Epsom Racecourse Steve Parsons Steve Parsons

If it’s your first time at a racing festival you are definitely going to find yourself asking one question – what’s with the silly hats?

There is no dress code for most racing meetings so dress in whatever is comfortable. There is, however, a certain understanding amongst people that you should dress up for the races. For the most part, men wear suits or shirts and women wear dresses.

Some of the bigger festivals have a ‘Ladies Day’ and that’s when all the silly hats come out. There are prizes for the best dressed and it can be just as competitive as the actual racing.

Okay, I’m in. How do I pick a winner?

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How do we separate the men from the boys, the mares from the fillies, the……basically how do we pick a winner? First things first, get yourself a program and check the horse’s ‘form’.

And how exactly do you tell a horse’s ‘form’?

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‘Form’ is the terms used to describe a horse’s previous performances in races. It can often be used as one method of judging the horse’s chances.

Newspapers and betting websites, like Paddy Power or Ladbrokes, often use particular shorthand notation to describe a horse’s form. It looks something like this – 680U54.

It’s not as complicated as it looks. It is basically the horse’s previous results and you read it from left (oldest) to right (newest). A number between 1-9 tells you where the horse finished. So in that example, the horse came fourth in it’s most recent race.

The main ones for you to know other than this are – a zero (0) indicates the horse finished outside the top 9, F means the horse fell and P means the horse pulled up or stopped racing.

What do all the numbers mean then?

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The numbers are the ‘odds’. Very simply, the odds indicate the chance which the bookies feel that any given horse has of winning a particular race.

Here’s the easiest way to explain the figures. They are usually shown in form of A/B (e.g 8/1), which is read or spoken as “A-to-B” (or “eight-to-one”).

So how do I know how much money I’ll win?

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What this means is that if you stake a bet of amount B and your horse wins, you will win amount A from the bookie….AND you will also get your initial stake back.

Okay, that might still be confusing. Let’s say you start with €10, which you place on a horse which has odds of 8/1. If that horse wins, you will win €80 and you will also get your original €10 back. So your initial €10 has become €90.

I’m ready to place a bet……how exactly do I do that?

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It may seem scary when you first walk into a bookies but this couldn’t be simpler. First, find a betting slip. Don’t panic! They are literally everywhere.

Here’s what you need to write down: the race you’re betting on, the horse you’re betting on, the odds and how much you want to bet.

So, for example: 15:00 Cheltenham, Shergar, 2/1 and then write your stake in the box given.

It’s race time

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In horse-racing, races are usually measures in measured in miles and furlongs. There are eight furlongs in a mile. The most entertaining races are short distances, which are usually run at a much faster pace.

Make sure to check the distance of your race. The majority of the races are between two and three-and-a-half miles but the one you’ve bet on could be four miles and that means you have a looooot of waiting to do before you can start shouting “go on!”.

What happens afterwards?

If you’ve won….

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You’ve still got your betting slip, right? Then head back to the bookies and cash in your winnings.

If you’ve lost….

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Win some, lose some. It’s back to the drawing board.

Either way, it’s time to move on to the next race and start the whole process all over again.

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