California Chrome's rags-to-riches quest to become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years Saturday at the Belmont Stakes is giving more and more Americans racing fever, and the itch to put down a wager.
For all you inexperienced bettors out there, here's a quick guide to betting on the Belmont that'll have you sounding like a serious handicapper by the time California Chrome approaches the starting gate.
DECODING THE LINGO
Odds-on many racing newcomers may not know what the odds actually mean. Whenever there are two numbers (e.g., 3:5 for California Chrome at time of writing) displayed on a tote board at a racetrack or on a list of wager options, the first number (3) denotes the minimum amount of profit the wager will pay. The second number (5) is the amount you need to wager to win the first amount.
Once the final finishing places of a race are official, the track will post the prices of the winning wagers. In the above example, the horse will pay $3. The track will then add the $3 profit and the $5 wager together to derive the payout: $3 + $5 = $8.
If a horse is quoted with only a single digit, it is implied that the missing second number is a 1. In other words, a 7 on the tote board means 7:1. So if you made a $2 wager, a bet on a horse with 7:1 odds would pay $16. That's because 7:1 is the same as 14:2, so $14 + $2 = $16. (In betting on horse races, payouts are generally based on a $2 wager.)
Now that the odds makes sense, it’s time to decide the type of wager you want to make. Here are some of the most popular bets:
Win Your horse must finish first to collect.
Place Your horse must finish first or second to collect.
Show Your horse must finish first, second or third to collect.
Exacta You play two horses, and they must come in first and second in the exact order specified in order to collect.
Exacta Box You play two horses, as above, but here they must come in first and second in either order to collect.
Trifecta You play three horses, and to win, they must come in first, second and third in exact order to collect.
Trifecta Box You play three horses, and they must finish first, second and third in any order to collect.
Superfecta You play four horses, and they must come in first, second, third and fourth in exact order.
Superfecta Box You play four horses, and to win they must finish first, second, third and fourth in any order.
But novice bettors need to take into account more than just the odds for the Belmont Stakes. To further boost your chances of making a winning bet this Saturday, you should also consider the following, according to the Belmont Stakes:
Distance: The Belmont Stakes is run over a distance of a mile and a half. Few three-year-old colts will have had prior experience in such a long race. Some horses are bred for distance and are usually better candidates than one without a lineage of success at long races that place a premium on endurance.
Schedule: The grueling schedule of the three Triple Crown races is one of the most significant reasons that it's so rare for a horse to win the Triple Crown. While the ideal layoff between races varies from horse to horse, most high-level equine competitors race fewer than 10 times per year. In most cases, thoroughbreds seldom race without breaks of three weeks to a month. Triple Crown aspirants, however, must win three very competitive races — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes — in just a five-week span. Many horses sit out one or both of the first two races to rest, unless they’re in contention for the Triple Crown. It’s worth giving special consideration to rested horses at Belmont.
Weather/Track Condition If there is a chance for bad weather and/or an off track, it’s essential to consider that when handicapping the race. To measure a horse’s ability in this type of race, take a quick look at his past performances, and see if he has any experience on a muddy or sloppy track.
Coverage of the Belmont Stakes will air live Saturday starting at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC.