Here’s a quick and fun ready reckoner on all things racing related, from placing a bet to what to wear.
How to Read a Form Guide
Some punters choose a horse to back based on its name. Or the jockey’s colours. Or their lucky number. But if you want any real hope of winning, before you place a bet you might want to review a form guide. It’s the race goer’s ‘bible’ and contains all the important information you need to know about each horse: its age, breeding, past performances, total earnings and other vital statistics. Form guides can be found in plenty of newspapers – in the sports section – or online. Take it with you to the track so you can reference it before each race.
Another useful investment is in the race course’s Race Book. Most venues provide one – at a cost! – which lists the time of each race, information about the horses, trainers and jockeys and other helpful information.
How to Bet
Obviously we’re not encouraging you to place any bets: a day at the races is just as much fun without a wager. But if you do choose to have a flutter it’s probably best to know how to do it, and more importantly, what the different betting types are.
Let’s start with the single race bet types, that is, if you only want to bet on one race, or one race at a time.
WIN: As it implies, here you’re picking the horse that you think (hope?) will finish the race first.
PLACE: Slightly more cautious than an all-out winner, here you’re picking a horse to come first OR second OR third (any ‘place’ in other words). However, if there are less than five runners in the race, a payout will only be made on a win and if there are between five and seven runners a payout will only be made on a first or second place.
EACH WAY: This option combines the Win and Place bets – it’s like two bets in one. If your horse finishes first you’ll collect both a Win and Place dividend, or if your horse comes second or third you will just collect a Place dividend.
QUINELLA: Now it starts to get a bit more complicated – and ambitious. To place a Quinella bet, you need to predict two horses that will come first or second. The good news is that they can be in any order past the post as long as they’re your two gee gees.
BOX QUINELLA: Remembering how a Quinella works, a Box Quinella lets you improve the odds in your favour – for a price of course. Here you are able to select as many runners from the same race as you would like, and hope that two of them come first or second (in any order). Your outlay will be higher depending on how many horses you choose.
EXACTA: Similar again to the Quinella, an Exacta bet asks you to select the two hoses that will finish in first and second place, but this time they must be in the correct order.
BOX EXACTA: One step on from the Exacta, the Box Exacta allows you to choose as many runners in the race that you think will come first or second. If, for example, you select four horses, # 2, 4, 5 and 8, you’re effectively placing 12 Exacta bets as to which horses will come first and second; (2-4, 2-5, 2-8, 4-2, 4-5, 4-8, 5-2, 5-4, 5-8, 8-2, 8-4 and 8-5).
TRIFECTA: With a Trifecta you’re predicting which horses will finish first, second and third in a race – and they must be in order.
BOX TRIFECTA: Paying extra for a Box Trifecta means that your selected three horses can finish in any order, as long as they are all still the first three horses across the line. For example, if your selected runners were 1, 2 and 8, using a Box Trifecta would mean that they could finish in any order as follows; 1-2-8, 1-8-2, 2-1-8, 2-8-1, 8-2-1 or 8-1-2.
FIRST 4: One step further on from the Trifecta, the First 4 is exactly what its name implies; you must predict which runners will finish first, second, third and fourth, in the correct finishing order.
If you’re at a race meeting for a day and want to combine your bets across more than one race, there are a number of multi-bet options to consider.
DOUBLES: To win a Daily Double you need to pick the winners of two TAB nominated races at the same race meeting.
QUADRELLA: A Quadrella (more commonly known as a Quaddie) is a double up on a Doubles bet! You need to select four winners from four TAB nominated races at the same race meeting.
PARLAY: Now it starts to get complicated. With a Parlay bet, you ‘parlay’ (re-bet) your winnings from one race into the next or further races. ‘Parlay’ means you’re creating a single bet which links two (or more) individual bets together. Most importantly, the Parlay is dependent on all of those bets winning.
And finally, a word about betting odds. A Fixed Odds bet means that you get the odds as fixed by the bookmaker at the price displayed when you place your bet. In other words, if the odds are $3.75 when you place your $10 bet, you’ll return $37.50. But if you’d waited ten minutes the odds may have lengthened to $4.25 – but you’ve already placed your bet at $3.75. Starting Price (SP) on the other hand means that you don’t know what odds you’ll be getting until the start of the race. The on-course bookmaker calculates the average of the prices he’s offered prior to the race, and that’s what will be applied to your bet.
Of course, there’s plenty of additional information on placing bets and horse racing in general online. Some popular sites include Just Racing, Racing and Sports and Racenet as well as The Australian Turf Club (NSW) and the racecourses themselves: and Flemington Racecourse (VIC), Perth Racecourse (WA), Morphetville Racecourse (SA), Darwin Turf Club (NT), Thoroughbred Park (ACT) and Tasmanian Racing Club (TAS).
And for the “Race that stops a Nation”, visit the official Melbourne Cup site.
What to Wear
Well what an opportunity to get the glad rags on. Everyone – seriously, everyone – dresses up for the races. Doesn’t matter if you’re in the Member’s Stand or down with the crowds in the Public Enclosure, everyone is expected to turn out in all their finery.
The most important thing to remember when frocking up for the races, whether boy or girl, is to keep it classy. That doesn’t mean buying a full designer outfit – unless you want to use the races as an excuse for a bit of a shopping spree. But it does mean keeping skirt lengths not much higher than knee length, cleavages discreet, no midriffs on display, formal shoes rather than trainers or loafers, and a coat and tie for the blokes. Hats are optional, but if you’re going on a carnival race day, you’ll be the odd one out without one.
As with all formal occasions, there are some rules to stick to in order to avoid a fashion faux-pas, so, what, specifically, should you wear?
Let’s start with basics – whatever you wear, it has to have a skirt. No trousers on ladies at the races, ever. You’ll make a statement if you do wear trousers, but it won’t be a welcome one. You’re going to be seen and admired, so make the most of it.
A dress is a favourite option. Depending on the weather and time of year, it could be a strappy, chic sundress or a flowing frock with a smart jacket over the top. A two piece suit is also a good stand by, just not as feminine as a dress. Separates, however, even if they include a skirt, are not really acceptable. You don’t want to look like you’re heading off to work.
What really sets a good race outfit apart are the accessories. Let’s start from the top down. Your crowning glory should be a hat, whether a full blown wedding-style millinery concoction or a simple fascinator. Do make the effort, you’ll be amongst hundreds if not thousands of other women wearing hats and you will feel underdressed without one. The general rule of thumb when choosing a hat to match your outfit (and always buy the hat after you’ve selected your frock), is to keep the hat simple if your outfit is flamboyant, or be extravagant with the headpiece if your outfit is conservative. And remember, straw hats should only be worn to the spring/summer carnivals – autumn onwards and your hat needs to be felt or wool.
The other two most important accessories are shoes and handbag. Ideally your handbag should match your shoes but this is a slightly old fashioned belief and not mission critical. What IS critical is that the bag is appropriate to the occasion. No scruffy holdalls that you use every day for the office. No enormous sacks that will not only let your outfit down but will weigh you down throughout the day. And no tiny evening-style clutches that don’t have room for all your essentials, which should only involve make-up, phone, wallet, sunglasses, keys and form guide. A medium-sized over the shoulder bag should do quite nicely, and will keep your hands free for holding champagne in one and barracking for your favourite with the other.
Now, shoes. This is where it gets a little bit tricky. You must wear heels. No frock looks complete without heels. But it’s often a long day at the races and you’ll be standing for most of it. So those heels need to be, if not perfectly comfortable, at least tolerable. But stilettos are probably a step too far, so to speak. If you’re used to wearing them, go for gold, but remember that there may be occasions when you’re walking across the grass and it will be a slow and delicate negotiation on tiptoe with those spiked heels.
And one final observation. Whilst many fillies can get away with tanned, toned, stocking-free legs, some of us could use some
- Wear anything denim (shorts, jeans, dress in denim etc.);
- Display too much skin;
- Wear anything wool (jumper, cardigan, duffel coat) unless it’s a wool suit or dress.
You’ll be wearing a suit. No ifs, no buts, you need to wear a suit. But if (see what I did there?) you don’t have a suit, there are some alternative approaches.
If you’re opting for the suit approach, make sure it’s a dark one. Beige linen works nicely on the French Riviera but not so well at the races. You need something a little more formal, preferably in conservative tones of navy or grey. It can be plain or pinstriped, just as long as it’s not
If you’re suitless, an ensemble will suffice comprised of smart trousers with a blazer or sports jacket and tie.
As with the ladies, accessories are important and in your case they comprise your tie and shoes. Choosing the right tie to go with your outfit is of course subject to personal taste, but there are some pitfalls to avoid. Without wanting to state the obvious, don’t wear a novelty tie, please? Even one you think is ironic. Bright is fine, designs are fine, but the taste-o-meter starts to waver at loud florals or fluorescent ties. Pop a matching kerchief in your top jacket pocket if you like – never use it of course, it’s only for show. Your trousers should always sport a belt, and as with the ladies and their shoes / handbag combo, your belt should match your shoes. No black belt / brown shoes or vice versa. Speaking of shoes, they seem to be the one item most overlooked and undervalued when men put together their outfit. Racing attire requires formal shoes, preferably polished. There is a lo.o.o.ng list of unacceptable footwear, and most racetracks will uphold this requirement (and they have the right to turn you away even if you have a ticket). So do not wear thongs, sandals, joggers, sneakers or anything without socks. Like the ladies, this is an opportunity for you to look as smart as possible and your effort will return rewards – in glances of approval if not monetary returns!
Your trousers should always sport a belt, and as with the ladies and their shoes / handbag combo, your belt should match your shoes. No black belt / brown shoes or vice versa. Speaking of shoes, they seem to be the one item most overlooked and undervalued when men put together their outfit. Racing attire requires formal shoes, preferably polished. There is a lo.o.o.ng list of unacceptable footwear, and most racetracks will uphold this requirement (and they have the right to turn you away even if you have a ticket). So do not wear thongs, sandals, joggers, sneakers or anything without socks. Like the ladies, this is an opportunity for you to look as smart as possible and your effort will return rewards – in glances of approval if not monetary returns!
Other Racing Tidbits
- There’s a tradition that says wearing green to a racetrack is bad luck. Up to you whether or not to fly in the face of that superstition (but we don’t recommend it).
- Derby Day in Melbourne, part of the Spring Racing Carnival, is traditionally themed Black & White. You’ll be an unpopular standout if you wear anything other than monochrome.
- And finally, never, ever, ever believe someone who knows a ‘sure thing’! They may know more than you but nothing’s ever certain other than that eggs don’t bounce.