The Beginners Guide to Following Horse Racing
Horse racing is a sport that's enjoyed almost everywhere in the world, from Australia to Zimbabwe, you're almost certainly going to find a racecourse somewhere when you visit a new country. It is different from many other sports though, as fans won't typically support a single horse or jockey. Instead, most will simply pick a new horse that they want to win for each new race.
This different approach means that horse racing can be a little daunting or confusing to fans that are just starting to follow it. If you are one of these people, then fear not, here's a handy guide to get you up to speed.
How to Bet on Horse Races
Betting on sports, in general, has become much more popular in recent years thanks to the growing prevalence of mobile bookmakers, however, horse racing continues to be the most bet-on category. This is partly because wagering is part of the tradition of spending a day at the races, far more so than when attending a football game, watching a cricket match, or standing trackside at a Grand Prix.
Most racecourses have their own bookmakers who stand at the side of the track and publish odds for each horse in the next race. They'll then take bets in cash and hand you a printed betting slip in return. However, for many fans, it's now much easier to use their smartphone while remaining in the stands as they can compare the odds from a whole host of different bookies and use different payment methods to make their bets. Using their smartphone also means that they can go online to find horse race betting tips from professional pundits that can help them to make better and more informed decisions.
No matter whether you choose to bet online or in person, there's plenty of help available. Online sports betting sites often have guides you can use to better understand all of the terminology while bookmakers at the track can usually explain the different types of available.
How to Dress at the Races
Most sporting events don't have a dress code, but this wasn't always the case. 60 or so years ago, fans would watch a football match while dressed in a shirt and smart trousers, some would even wear a tie and formal jacket. However, as fashion has evolved and more of us have gained access to different types of material, the outfits worn at most stadiums have become more casual. In fact, most fans choose to wear the jersey of their team to show their support for the players from the stands.
In horse racing, the old tradition of dressing smartly has been retained. To what degree typically varies from country to country and from racecourse to racecourse, but there is nearly always at least some level of dress code enforced. It is, therefore, important to always check the racecourse's website to see what the dress code is before you attend. There will be nothing more frustrating and embarrassing than arriving for a day at the races and being turned away because you're not wearing the right type of shoes.
As a general rule, most racecourses don't allow sportswear or outfits that expose too much skin. Therefore, tank tops, shorts, and some dresses are likely going to be unsuitable. On the other hand, even if a suit or smart dress isn't a requirement, you won't look out of place if you decide to wear one. Many people enjoy the pageantry of dressing up for the races, so you'll be in good company if you want to take advantage of the opportunity.
At some venues, certain enclosures may enforce incredibly strict rules for the attire of patrons. For example, the Royal Enclosure at Ascot Racecourse requires guests to wear top hats and prescribes the exact colours of suits that can be worn.
Understanding the Terminology of Horse Racing
Every sport has a unique set of words and phrases that can be confusing if you haven't heard them before. In Formula 1, drivers will attempt an "undercut" in the pits to gain track position over their rivals, while in basketball, players will be guilty of a foul if they are caught "travelling".
Horse racing is no exception here. There are hundreds of words, phrases, and terms that are exclusive to the sport of kings, and this can be a little daunting for new fans. It makes sense to brush up on at least some of these before you attend your first race so you can better understand what is going on.
Here are some key terms you'll likely need to know.
There are many more terms, but these basic ones should be enough for you to get by as a beginner and understand what is happening.
- Boxed in - When a horse can't get a clear run during a race because it is surrounded by other horses and/or the guard rail, hampering its ability to make progress.
- Mare - A female horse.
- Chase / National Hunt - Races that require horses to jump over "fences" or "hurdles".
- Flat - Races that don't have any types of jumps and are run on flat ground.
- Clerk of the course - The person responsible for managing the course on race day.
- Draw - The position in the starting stalls that the horse will have.
- Going - The conditions of the running surface (terms vary from country to country but generally refer to how wet it is).
- GoingStick - A device used to measure the going
- Maiden - A horse that hasn't won a race yet.
- Pulled up - A horse that is stopped on the track by the jockey.
- Photo finish - A race that is so close, a photograph of the horses crossing the line needs to be checked to declare a winner.
- Racecard - The printed programme that contains information about all the races scheduled at that event and a list of the horses running in each.
- Stallion - A male horse.
- Under starter's orders - The period before a race where the starter brings the horses into the order they need to be in for the start.
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