Why Horse Racing?
If you’ve never been to the races before, you’re missing out. Not only will this make your celebrations stand out from the run-of-the-mill stag do, but you could earn yourselves some cold-hard cash in the process – which means more beer money (potentially). Ideal. Attracting a huge mixture of clientele – from poker faced gamblers, to the pleasure seeking playboys, to cool, sophisticated, suited and booted gents – race meetings have something for everyone.
Pick the Right Event
With 59 racecourses across the UK, each with their own huge calendars of major events throughout the year, you’ll be spoilt with race meetings to choose from. And, you don’t just have to settle for your nearest racecourse – check out the biggest and best meetings from all over the country, and really make a weekend of it. Famous meetings such as York’s Ebor, Newcastle’s Northumberland Plate Day, The Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and the Grand National at Aintree draw the world’s finest racehorses, as well as thousands of punters each year – it’s seriously buzzing.
Some bigger events have serious rules and regulations, where smaller meetings tend to have a more relaxed atmosphere – so whatever your preference, make sure you pick the right event, and book tickets early to avoid disappointment.
Brush up on Your Knowledge
Whether you’ve got a top tip, or need to take a look at the guides within the racecourse itself – get a rough idea on what you’re splashing the cash on. It may be fun to pile the cash on a horse purely because of its name, but we’d recommend checking it out first. You’ll be able to find out everything from the horse’s odds and heritage, to its weight handicap and previous form. Although this won’t guarantee a winner, it will ensure you get a good run for your money. And, whilst the whole appeal of gambling is the thrill that you might win, remember to be prepared to lose graciously, too (a sore loser does not maketh the man).
Horse Racing Jargon Buster:
Accumulator Bet – A bet involving more than one race. Each winning selection goes onto the next horse. With this type of bet, all selections must be successful in order to return winnings.
Double - A double is one bet involving two selections in different events. Both selections must be successful to get a return, with the winnings from the first selection going on to the second selection. The return winnings are calculated by multiplying the odds on the two selections. For example: a £10 double on a 2-1 winner and a 7-1 winner pays £240 (£10 on a 2-1 winner = £30, then that £30 on a 7-1 winner = £240).
Draw - A horse’s starting position in the starting stalls in races on the Flat. A horse with a seemingly advantageous draw is said to be "well drawn". Stalls are used for Flat racing only.
Each-Way Bet - Consists of two separate bets: a win bet and a place bet. For the win part of the bet to give a return, the selection must finish first. For the place part of the bet, the horse must finish in the top three (sometimes in the fourth or fifth if there is a large field), and half the odds are returned.
Filly - Female horse four years old or younger.
Forecast - A bet where the aim is to select both the winner and second place in the race. A straight forecast is the winner and second in the correct order. A dual forecast is the winner and second in either order.
Furlong - One eighth of a mile (220 yards). The numbered posts on British racecourses count back the furlongs from the winning post.
Going - The term used to describe the racing track surface prior to a horse race or meet. For example ‘good to firm’, ‘soft’ and ‘heavy’.
Handicap - A race where each horse is allotted a different weight to carry, according to the official handicap ratings determined by the BHA Handicappers. The theory is that all horses run on a fair and equal basis - the ‘perfect' handicap being one where all the runners finish in a dead-heat.
Home Straight - The length of track from the final bend to the finishing post.
Length - The unit of measurement from the horses’ head to its tail, used to measure distance between horses during the race.
Maiden - A horse that has never won a race.
Mare - Female horse aged five years old or above.
Novice - A horse in the early stages of its career after it has won its first race.
Paddock - Area of the racecourse incorporating the parade ring (where horses are paraded prior to the race) and winner's enclosure.
Soft (Going) - Condition of the track when rain has left the ground ‘soft’.
Treble - A three part accumulator. All three selections must win to get a return; the winnings from the first selection go on to the second and then on to the third.
Under Starters Orders - This means that the race is about to begin, and that all bets should be placed in order to be accepted.
Yankee - Multiple bet consisting of 11 bets (six doubles, four trebles and one four-fold). At least two selections must be successful to get a return.
What to Wear
We know that no stag do is worth its salt without a spot of fancy dress. But, as racecourses are rather fancy places, not every venue will allow costumes in. So, we’d recommend leaving the sexy nurses and chaps from the 118 adverts in the wardrobe for now, and getting suited and booted in your finery to fit in with the rest of the crowd. Prepare to don your finest Saville Row tailored suits and designer shades, puff on fat cigars and splash the kitty like wealthy aristocrats/racehorse owners/members of the monarchy. But, some fancy racecourses such as Royal Ascot, have an extremely strict dress code – with gents being kindly reminded to wear either a black or grey mourning dress, including a waistcoat and tie (no cravats), a black or grey top hat and black shoes.
How to Act
Racecourse etiquette is essential, and it’s a good idea to know how to behave before getting lairy at the races. First things first, trackside behaviour is important to bear in mind. Streaking along the track when your horse wins is a big no-no – just reign it in a little. It’s also a good idea to find an area where you can spread out and be loud without the risk of annoying people, if you’re a large group. And, when it comes to alcohol, remember to pace yourself and get enough to eat during the day, as race meetings can be lengthy. Different racecourses tolerate different levels of rowdiness, so, research your race meet beforehand, in order to pick the right one for you.
Thanks to My Racing for helping put this guide together. At myracing.com you can find free tips, racecards and the latest results.