Betting on thoroughbred horses is a fun hobby for many people and selecting the right horses to wager on involves a process that is commonly called handicapping. Understanding the ins and outs of handicapping and some of the basic steps the better should take to pick horses can not only lead to winning selections, but also to the thrill of having a winner and also the vindication of feeling right in our opinions.

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Competitive thoroughbred horse racing is a popular sport throughout the world and betting on horses in general has been around for millenium. The novice horse racing handicapper may be overwhelmed by the process, unfamiliar with the horses, jockeys and owners, when first making a bet. For this reason, one of the key starting points for the novice is to familiarize with the horses that are racing on the given day at the track. Certainly, the pure amateur player may just want to have some fun wagers, and therefore pick horses based on their name or the colors of the silks the jockeys are wearing. However, the player who wants to develop his skills at selecting horses, studying the program becomes an important first step in learning how to bet.

The horse racing program is sold throughout the track and can be purchased by a visitor, and in some cases it may even be free. The program contains all the crucial information one needs to know, such as the race card, which states which horses are running in which races. Included within is also important information, which can be crucial for selecting a winner, such as which jockey is riding which horse, who the jockey of the horse is, as well as the horse’s past records in racing. In many cases, for certain races, horses may be carrying different weights, which are determined by the racing office. These different weights are meant to make a potential race more even, for example, the best horse in the race being assigned a higher weight, so that the playing field is more level. In this case, it can be crucial to understand how the horses are being weighted. Another key piece of information that is found in many programs is speed numbers, which have shown how fast the horse has run in a previous race. The novice handicapper should also pay attention to this information, since horse racing clearly is about how fast a horse can run. The novice can also familiarize himself in the program with other crucial data, such as the jockeys who are most successful at the track, as well as which horse trainers are most successful. Piecing all this information together is the key to making a successful wager.

But after the bettor has selected a horse, there is another key step in the process which needs to be decided on, and that is what to bet. In the past, horse racing had a very small number of possible bets, such as win, place, and show, which correspond to selecting a horse that finishes in first, in the top two or top three respectively in the race. However, betting menus have evolved over time, so as to attract more interest from the bettor. The betting menu varies from track to track, but at most tracks one can also bet in a single race an “exacta”, which means selecting the exact order of finish of two horses in the race, a “trifecta”, which involves the top three, and a “superfecta”, which involves the top four.

There are also what are called multi-race wagers, such as “Pick 3s” and “Pick 4s”, where the winning horses from consecutive races need to be selected. An important factor in selecting which bet is correct is to understand the odds on the horses. This is one of the most crucial processes. Odds at tracks are displayed in fractional format, such as 2/1, 5/1, and 9/2. The expected payout can be calculated by taking a hypothetical 2 dollar wager and multiplying it to the fraction. Value of odds can clearly affect decision making processes. If someone likes two horses equally, but one pays more than the other, it is clearly better to take the higher paying horse. Selecting the horse is therefore only one part of the process puzzle: one must also determine the type of wager as well as calculate the expected odds.