How to Get the Most out of Your Race Track Visit

By Ben Hamill - November 30 2015

Horse Racing

Race track betting is one of the most popular forms of gambling entertainment in Canada. There are race tracks in almost every province, ranging from Woodbine, Mohawk, Ajax, Grand River and Hanover Downs in Ontario to the Hippodrome-de-Quebec and Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres in Quebec, the Truro track in Nova Scotia, the Northlands Park track in Alberta, the Assiniboia Downs in Manitoba and the Hastings Racecourse and Fraser Downs in British Columbia.

Everyone, it seems, loves to get in on the horse racing action in Canada. But unless you’ve been part of the horse-racing scene for a while you might not know how to get the most out of your visit to the horse racing track.

That shouldn’t stop you. Betting on a horse race is one of the most exciting forms of gambling entertainment. With a little guidance you’ll be able to enjoy a fun-filled day at the Downs and maybe even come home with a bit of cash earnings.

Placing a Wager on a Horse Race

It’s not hard to place your bet on a horse race. In general you’re given a ticket and invited to place your bet. If you place your bet without doing a bit of research beforehand, you’ll probably lose the bet since betting on a horse race isn’t like playing the slots — there’s a lot of skill and strategy involved in determining which horse has the best chance of winning. If you can’t be bothered to research the horses and odds beforehand and you rely on luck to win, you deserve to lose.

Get Started

Before you place your bet you should consult the Daily Racing Form (DRF) which gives data about the past performances of all the horses running along with some informative horse racing articles and information about the handicapping. You should also review the public handicapper selections in which a handicapper makes daily horse selections. Take a look at the handicapping tip sheets which are daily race track handicappers’ selections. You can find all of these items at the track.

To place your bet, fill out your ticket by stating the number of the race on which you’re betting and the dollar value of your bet. State the type of bet — you can bet on a single horse to win, to place or to show. You can also wager on a combination of horses (see below). Check your ticket and place your bet.

Types of Bets

There are numerous types of wagers ranging from simple bets on a single horse in one race to wagers on the winning horses for six consecutive races. The most basic betting types include show bets in which the horse must finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd, place bets in which the horse must finish 1st or 2nd and Win bets in which the horse must finish 1st. Payouts are determined by the odds

Additional types of bets that combine the different elements of a race include Quinella bets, Exacta bets, Trifecta bets, Superfecta bets, Daily Double bets, Pick 3 bets, Pick 4 bets and Pick 6 bets.


Part of the process of placing your bet involves computing the odds of your wager. If, for example, you placed a $2 win bet, you can take the odds on your selected horse and multiply the first number by 2. Divide the result by the second number and then add your $2 to determine your horse’s odds.

For instance, on 1/9 odds, there will be a $2.20 payoff on a $2 bet. For 1/5 odds there will be a $2.40 payoff on a $2 bet. On 2/5 odds there’s a $2.80 payoff on a $2 bet. As the odds decrease, the payoff increases. So, for example, if you have 14/1 odds you’ll receive a $30 payoff on the $2 bet, for 15/1 odds you’ll get a $32 payoff on the $2 bet and for a bet with 16/1 odds you’ll receive a $34 payoff on your $2 bet.

Show Parlay Bets

For groups of horse track visitors, a group show parlay is a fun way to engage in the race together. Everyone makes a contribution to the “pot” — a typical bet is $5 per person. Then, each person is given the chance to pick one race and one horse on which to bet — the bets are “to show” meaning that the horse will win one of the top places. Every time a successful bet is made the group parlays it to the next race and horse. The winnings add up quickly.

If, for example, four people want to parley their bet and each contributes $20 to the pot, a $3 show price win will result in $101 after only four races.

Watch the Race

Now you can go find a seat and watch the race. You should collect a racetrack program (generally costs a few dollars) which provides information about the horses, the jockeys, the trainers and the owners.

General Horse Racing Facts

There are some good tips to remember when you’re betting on horse races at the track.

  1. Statistics show that the top ten jockey standings riders win about 90 percent of the races run during a specific meet
  2. Statistics show that favoured horses win about 33% of the time, though the odds are high so the payoffs are low.
  3. There’s a TV simulcast commentator who handicaps between the races at every racetrack. These commentators often offer good tips — pay attention
  4. The morning line refers to the racetrack odds-maker’s prediction of how the public will bet the race. It’s worthwhile to place some money on a horse that goes off at odds between two to three times higher than its morning line.

If you’re still a bit confused, spend some time observing at the racetrack before you start making bets. Talk to other race track visitors and ask questions. You’ll be ready to enjoy the races in no time.