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How to Pick a Horse at the Racetrack

Sure, you could just go with your gut. But if you want better odds, make your decision based on these factors.


  • : Make sure betting on horse racing is legal in your state.
  • Step 1: Scan their bios Research the horses that are running. See if any are related to previous racing champs and check out how well they did in their last few races. Take into account which weather conditions they run well in, and whether they excel at running on dirt or turf tracks.
  • TIP: The Daily Racing Form, which you can purchase at the track, and individual racetrack web sites provide much of this information.
  • Step 2: Check out the jockey Check out the track record of the jockey riding the horse; experienced jockeys can play a big part in producing a winner.
  • Step 3: Consider the trainer Find out who trained the horse. Like horses and jockeys, some trainers have proven track records, too.
  • Step 4: Find the favorite Find the checking the program to see how much weight each horse is carrying. The long shots are given a lighter load in order to even the competition. You can also look at the printed odds in the program: The horse with the best odds of winning is the favorite.
  • Step 5: See for yourself Visit the paddock, the area where the horses are kept before the race. Good signs include ears up, which indicate alertness, teeth grinding, which can signify eagerness to race, and a larger-than-average chest, which indicates a larger lung capacity. Bad signs include ears pinned back, which reveal anger, and a sweaty neck, which is a sign of nervousness.
  • TIP: Two or four bandaged legs are better than one: The former indicates the legs are being protected; the latter signals an injury.
  • Step 6: Watch how the horses act Watch how the horses behave in the mounting yard and on the way to the starting gate. The more relaxed the horse, the better their chance of winning. If the person leading the horse in the mounting yard has to hold the strap tightly, that's not a good sign. Another bad omen? If the horse requires handling by track officials before entering the gate.
  • Step 7: See what the experts say Take into account what racing experts think: Many newspapers carry their predictions in the sports section. Or, you can buy "cheat sheets" at the racetrack from handicappers, who give you their opinions on which horses have the best chances.
  • Step 8: Pick a name you like Consider picking horses based on names you like. It's often as good a system as any in this unpredictable sport.
  • FACT: Horses are descended from a prehistoric creature called an eohippus that was the size of a cocker spaniel and had four toes on its front feet and three toes on its hind feet.

You Will Need

  • Information about the horse
  • Information about his trainer
  • Information about his jockey
  • Your own observations
  • A newspaper with a racing column
  • Cheat sheets
  • A program

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