Longshots, exotics, exacta boxes? For first-time bettors lining up before the teller at the Preakness, horse racing and handicapping terminology can be overwhelming. In a gambling game that is more than probability, learning the ins and outs of horse betting can also be exciting — and profitable.
We're here to help. Well, Preakness handicapper Gabby Gaudet is here to help. Gaudet offers expert tips on how to choose the right steed and lists some common betting mistakes to avoid. A recent Towson University graduate, Gaudet, 23, was selected as the Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park racing analyst last fall.
1. If a horse likes the Pimilico turf course, it is better to have a horse play at the Pimlico turf because they always stay true to form. If you have a horse that has four wins out of five starts at Pimlico on the turf course, it is probably going to stay true to form and that is not always true of different tracks, but here it is.
2. When it rains and the turf is a little bit softer, horses who run in the lead tend to be very tough to beat.
3. The best way to optimize your money is to pick creatively. Pick three, four or five sequences; that is the best bang for your buck. You have to pick the winner in each race, you can pick a winner in each of the consecutive races but you can pick different horses, which is cheap and you get more money for it. I am really promoting exotic wages, like the pick 3s and exactas, which can be a hard concept at first to know, but you get more money back rather than picking one horse.
4. In order to get more money, instead of betting the favorite, find three horses that you like and play them in an exacta box. That means any three of your horses have to finish first or second in any order.
5. For maiden races, which are for horses that have never won a race before, sometimes it is best to look at the horses. Who has the shiniest coat? Who is not sweating? Who visually looks good? A lot of times that won't lead you astray.
6. If you go to the races and you're going to spend your money on betting a horse, you should probably find out more information about the program — don't just bet on a horse's name that you like or your favorite number. Sometimes that works, but most of the time you are just going to lose money. Talk to someone local or ask someone at the track to help you make a decision before spending your money at the window.
7. A big thing I look for when betting a horse is if the horse has had really bad races previously and they have an equipment change, like they are on a medication for the first time or have blinkers on, which you will notice in your program. That often times can be night and day of a horse — he could finish last in his last race and then they put blinkers on and he can win. If you are stuck on who to bet, look for a horse that has an equipment change listed in the program and bet on that one.
8. The best way for novice handicappers to learn is through trial and error, learning through experience. Before you get to that, just ask someone at the races. I know it can be intimidating going up to the teller, especially if there is a line behind you, but there are often kiosks and guest services where you can go and ask about terms. There is also a layout in the front of the program that will explain what everything means, so I think that would be a good place to start.
9. Things that helped me learn were figuring out strategies that different trainers use, different patterns that work with horses. It just takes time to make the right choices. You might lose money in the beginning. If you keep paying attention, when you get your picks to why the horse won or lost and adjust your picks from there, that is how you will get better.
10. There are different types of races, there are lower level types of races and then there are really nice horses who are in the Preakness. I would say if you are betting a lower-level race, around $5,000, short price horses are usually a toss; most of the time, they never win. Those types of races are always good to find value picks, horses who aren't the favorite. This concept does not apply to $25,000 and beyond races.