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Tips on How to Bet Wisely on Your Trip to the Races

August 13, 1992|BRIAN ALEXANDER

Betting windows at the Del Mar track are located in the clubhouse, both on the second level and on the entrance level. Betting windows are also placed in the infield. To bet, know the number of the horse you've chosen and the number of the race. Simply tell the clerk something like "Two dollars on No. 3 to win in the third."

When betting an exacta, or if you're betting in the daily doubles, triples or pick sixes, you'll need to know the numbers of all the horses and races on which you are wagering.

The minimum bet in a straight wager is $2. You may bet any dollar amount above that. The clerk will give you a slip confirming your bet. It is important to keep close track of your betting slips and not discard them until you're certain they have no value. Many finishes end in photos, and tearing up a winning ticket before the race is official could cost you money. You may redeem a winning ticket at any window, and you do not have to redeem a winner immediately after the race.

There is no end of methods used to bet on horses, but Del Mar media specialist and racing handicapper John Hernandez has a few tips to keep your day at the track both exciting and fun:

* Have a clear idea of what you want to spend and stick to it. Note the use of the word spend . If you leave home thinking you can afford $50, don't bet any more than that.

* Never chase bad money. Once your preset bankroll is gone, don't bet trying to win some of it back.

* Manage your bankroll. If you feel a horse is a sure winner, bet a little more on that horse. If you are lukewarm on a horse, don't bet that race, or bet a small amount.

* If your bankroll is small, in the $20 to $30 range, place simple bets of $2 or $3 to win, or maybe play an exacta. When your stash is larger, say more than $100, playing a trifecta or triple makes more sense.

* Before you bet, do a little research. Buy a newspaper and read what the experts think will happen. Use this information as a guide only. According to Hernandez, the best handicappers will pick only two or three winners a day. "My theory is I want somebody to give me help, but I don't want them to hold my hand all day," he says.

* Tip sheets are fine, about as good as newspapers, says Hernandez, but players should not use telephone information services that "charge $30 for information you can get for a quarter."

* Look for horses "on the raise," ones that are being moved up to a tougher class of competition. This shows the trainer has confidence in the horse.

* Look for horses with strong trainer-jockey combinations. In other words, if Michael Whittingham often wins with Eddie Delahoussaye riding, consider the horse. Also, pay attention to what happened at Hollywood Park, where most of the trainers and jockeys, as well as horses, raced before coming to Del Mar. Hot tends to stay hot.

* Remember that favorites win about 30% of the time. But when you bet a favorite, the return is small. Those mathematics mean that if you bet $2 on the favorite in all nine races, you would need $18 back to break even. If three won and each paid between $2.60 and $7, you might just make it. Avoid long shots, but don't be afraid of big odds.

* Look for a horse that is prancing a little, is up on its toes in the paddock or in the track parade before the race. If a horse is flat, he's probably not ready to run. If he is wildly bucking, forget it.

* On most days, the best you'll be able to do is break even.

* Remember that the idea is to have fun.

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