A Newbie Racergoer's Guide To Betting and racing

Engaging in horse betting can be a thrilling venture. Although there’s no assurance of selecting a victor, we aim to streamline the procedure, providing insights into what to consider when choosing a horse, guiding you through the betting process, and familiarizing you with the common racing terminology heard at the track.


What’s Required?

Upon reaching the race venue, you can obtain a racebook, available at various stands and concierge locations throughout the course. These racebooks contain essential details about the races and participating horses, offering insights into the day’s events and identifying the jockeys matched with each horse.

Understanding the Form Guide

The form guide, found within the racebook, assists in making informed betting decisions. It provides key information about the horse, including its recent race record, jockey, trainer, and owner. The silk colors of the horse are also indicated for easy identification during the race. Most racebooks include a dedicated section at the front on how to read the form guide, a valuable resource on race day. Pro tip: Pay attention to the form figures, representing a horse’s finishing position in previous races.

Assessing Horses

For those who prefer evaluating a horse’s appearance over the form guide, visit the parade ring 15 minutes before the race to observe the contenders. Assess their fitness and attitude, looking for alertness without excessive restlessness. White patches of sweat, unless on a hot day, may indicate excessive pre-race energy use. A sleek and shiny coat often signals good health.

Choosing a Bookmaker

Once you’ve selected your preferred horse(s), it’s time to choose a bookmaker. Bookmakers provide odds, representing a dollar figure for each horse in the race. Generally, more successful or popular horses have lower odds. To potentially win big, consider backing an outsider and hope for a favorable outcome.

Selecting a Bet

Opt for a ‘place’ bet for a safer option, granting bragging rights if your horse finishes first or second. Feeling confident? Choose a ‘win’ bet, requiring your horse to finish first for a win. If you have two favorites, a ‘Quinella’ bet ensures a win as long as they finish first and second in any order. Feeling lucky? Try a ‘Trifecta’ by predicting the exact order of the first, second, and third-place horses.

Remember, while gambling should be enjoyable, it’s important to be in it to have a chance at winning!


The “going”
You may hear this term thrown around and it basically describes the quality of the race track. This is affected by weather leading up to and on the day, and the horse’s performance can go either way depending on this, so it’s an important factor to consider.

Track conditions
Track conditions refer to the racing track surface prior to a race meet. The conditions are determined by the amount of moisture in the ground and is assessed by a steward on the day of the race meet. See below:






Dry, hard track



Firm track



Track with good grass coverage and cushion



Track with some give in it



Track with a reasonable amount of give in it



Moist but not badly affected track



More rain-affected track that will chop out



Rain-affected track that horses will get into



Wet track getting into a squelchy area



Heaviest category track – very wet, towards saturation

Below is a list of common Australian glossary of horse racing terms

Allowances – is when weight is permitted to be reduced because of the conditions of the race, or because an apprentice is on a horse. Fillies and Mares are also granted an allowance when racing against males.

Apprentice – generally a young rider who has been riding for less than 4 years. Apprentices can claim allowances in races until they have ridden a total of 80 winners.

Black type – either a Group or Listed race that attracts horses of the highest performance. A horse with Black Type is one that has either won or been placed in a Black Type race. These horses become valuable for breeding.

Blinkers – the purpose of blinkers are to direct the focus of the horse’s attention directly in front of them and ignore what is happening behind them. Blinkers are used on horses that are wayward or have the ability to lose concentration.

Chute – an extension of the main racecourse to permit a straight run from a starting position.

Classic – race of traditional importance.

Clerk of scales – an official whom has the duty of weighing the riders before and after a race to ensure proper weight is carried.

Clocker – a person who times trackwork and race meets.

Colours – the racing silks/jacket worn by jockeys to differentiate from other horses/riders in a race.

Colt – a male horse under 4 years of age.

Correct weight – is announced when there is confirmation that all riders in a race have weighed in at the correct weight and results have been confirmed by race day stewards.

Dam – mother of a thoroughbred horse.

Damsire – the sire of the dam.

Dead-heat – two or more horses having their nose cross the wining post at exactly the same time.

Disqualification – when a breach of the Rules of Racing has taken place.

Distanced – a horse in which is well beaten, finishing a long distance behind the winner.

Dwelt – late in exiting from the starting barriers.

Farrier – a person who is responsible for attaching shoes on a horse.

Field – the horses in a race.

Filly – a female horse under 3 years of age.

Foal – newly born horse. Can be either male or female.

Gallop – the fastest pace of speed in which a horse can do. Horses will gallop during a race meet.

Gate – the starting barrier in which the horses in a race commence from.

Gelding – a castrated male horse.

Granddam – grandmother of a horse.

Grandsire – grandfather of a horse, sire of the horse’s dam.

Group race – highest standard of race. Group races are divided into four categories. Group 1, Group 2, Group 3 and Listed. Group 1 has the highest amount of prize money, the prize money then descends across the rest of the group races.

Hand – the unit used in measuring the height of a horse from withers (the highest point of a horse’s shoulder) to ground. One hand = 10 centimetres.

Handicap – a race for which a handicapper assigns weights to be carried after considering the race form of a horse.

Head – the margin between horses. E.g. One horse leading another by the length of its head.

In foal – a pregnant mare.

In the money – a horse finishing first, second or third.

Judges – the officials whom determine the order in which horses reach the finish post.

Listed race – in the same category as a Group race. The race quality listed below a Group race.

Maiden – a horse who has not won a race

Mare – female horse 4 years or older

Scratch – a horse is scratched when it is taken out of a race for whatever reason.

Sire – father of a horse.

Stallion – entire male horse.

Stewards – officials who oversee all race meetings and enforce the rules of racing.

Tongue tie – made out of either stocking, a leather strap or large rubber band to eliminate the possibility of the horse swallowing its tongue, or playing with its tongue throughout a race taking away it’s concentration from the race.

Trial – a trial is used as a training session for thoroughbreds. In NSW all horses must go to trial before they are eligible to race.

Now you should be ready to take on a race day like a true regular racegoer. Happy punting and don’t forget to have fun!

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