Sunday, April 15, 2012

How To Have Fun at the Track (and maybe make some $$$)

1. Knowledge Is Power
Opening Day at the races, and I am lucky enough to be with a companion who has been coming to this track since he was a boy. He knows some of the horses, he is familiar with which jockeys are good; he knows some of the trainers and owners. He can also decipher what all the tiny numbers in the program mean: workout times, last race results... It was fun to be with someone who knew the answers to all my silly questions.

2. Know Your Limit...
This shouldn't even have to be said, really: DON'T BET MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD TO LOSE!You can have a blast at the track without spending a penny (and I have), but if you want to bet, pick an amount that you can safely kiss goodbye. I was there for the whole day, so I decided I could afford to lose $20. Even if I hadn't won a single bet, I could still have bet $2 to $3 a race, so it was a reasonable investment.

3. Protect Your Investment!
Once I made my $20 back, I took it out of the equation, and just bet with my winnings. That way I could win OR lose and I wouldn't actually have lost any of 'my' money.

4. Several Bets Per Race Can Pay Off!
Don't just bet on one horse! That was the most important thing I learned yesterday at the track. I still have lots to learn about betting, but my biggest payouts on opening day came from betting Exactor boxes, plus betting on one horse to win.

5. Don't Bet the Farm!
I think the most I spent on one race was eight or nine bucks. I was perfectly happy making small bets and winning or losing without too much heartache. Not as ballsy, but no chance I'd lose all my winnings on the next race, either.

6. Bring A Camera!
If you're a shutterbug like me, taking pictures at the track is one way you CAN'T lose! There are characters everywhere you look: hipster girls in vintage frocks; tall men in cowboy boots; old men, lovers, children... and then there are the jockeys and the horses. Every time the starting gate clangs open, there is a riot of colourful silks, rippling muscles, flying dirt and heartstopping action. Bet on it: you will ALWAYS walk away with at least one amazing shot.

7. It's a Game of Chance
This is gambling, pure and simple. You may know everything about a horse, including what the jockey had for breakfast, but at the end of the day, surprises happen, and fortunes (and careers) are made or lost in a fraction of a second. My companion and I were golden for a while, and then we weren't. No real logic or reason. You pays your money and you takes your chances. I got to the track with $60- allotted $20 for betting and spent $6 on food. At the end of the day, I walked away with $200 in my wallet- $140 pure profit. My companion had won over $400.Not a bad way to spend a sunny Saturday!

8. It's All About the Horses
Tense or sleepy-looking; lovely, high-strung, inquisitively staring at you in the paddock or thundering towards the finish line. The bell clangs, the gate opens, and these incredible athletes charge down the dirt track in just over a minute, handled by wispy men (and women) who look as if a puff of wind would knock them over. Cards bore me, I don't play the lottery, I don't like casinos, I don't even buy raffle tickets, but I will lay my money down and marvel at this amazing combination of luck and skill. I know there is a dark side; I am terrified of seeing a bad accident someday, but there is beauty and toughness and magic at the track, and one of the things I will miss this summer is the pounding of hooves in the mud on a sunny weekend day.

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