Gambling: Betting on Horse Racing

Bookmakers provide an alternative method of backing a horse in Britain.

It is frequently better to prefer the tote when backing outsiders in large fields (where the bookmakers usually lump outsiders together as, say, '33-1 others', odds which are often much shorter than the true ones).

Or, when backing 'unfashionable' stables or jockeys, who tend, for some reason, to be ignored by tote backers, the dividends consequently being higher.

Betting on the American tote is slightly different. A horse can be backed to win only, or it can be backed, for a place, which means it must finish first or second, or it can be backed to show, which means it must be first, second, or third.

A bet on all three--- backing a horse to win, place and show--- is known as a combination bet, or a bet across the board.

In Britain, a bet that a horse will win or be placed is known as an each-way bet. The tote also operates a quinela bet, which is the equivalent of the British dual forecast: the bettor names two horses to finish first and second in either order.

There is also a daily double, usually operated on the first and second races, but sometimes on another pair of races.

The number of tickets is restricted to twelve on the American tote, so if there are more than twelve runners in a race, two or more are bracketed together as 'the field'.

On the French pari-mutuel, horses in the same ownership are bracketed together. This is a convention never used in Britain, but it is a good system, because whenever a backer finds his horse beaten by a longer-priced horse in the same ownership, he is inclined to shout 'fix'.

This cry from the pocket can be silenced for ever by the simple adoption of the French system.

The most popular bet with French punters is the Tierce, an off-course pool similar to the British Tote Roll-up.

Each Sunday, and sometimes on other days, a race is selected, usually a large-field handicap, and bettors are asked to name the first three in the correct order. Consolation dividends are paid to those who pick the first three in the wrong order.

In Britain, the amount of betting handled by bookmakers is several times that handled by the tote.

Betting on big races starts with the ante-post book. On races such as the Derby, prices will be advertised in the newspapers before the season begins, and there will be a well-defined winter favorite.

The odds quoted are 'all-in, run or not', which means that the backer loses his money if the horse is scratched before the race. Prices are therefore on the generous side.

On the ante-post book, a professional backer, or one with stable connections, can make profits. If he knows a horse is being trained for the race, he might obtain 50-1 several weeks beforehand.

The odds might contract to 10-1 just before the race, when the backer can 'lay off' all or part of his bet (known as hedging), and be in pocket whatever the result.