Sunday, April 30, 2000

Amateur bettor? Some tips for Derby Day

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — Will the 126th Kentucky Derby be a “maiden” day for you, the amateur bettors?

        If you have never won before or tried your hand at earning some cash from the Sport of Kings, Derby Day may be as good a day as any.

        Whether you're crowding the rail at Churchill Downs in Louisville this Saturday, watching a simulcast at Turfway Park or tuning in by TV at a Derby party — here are a few betting basics you ought to know.

        “Remember, the guys at the window are never guilty if you lose,” said Robert Hoffman, who doles out information, cash and a quip at Turfway Park's information window.

        His advice: Read the betting books and guides. Set a spending limit. And go home with any profits; don't “reinvest” them.

        Brush up now. Turfway will begin taking Derby bets on Friday.

        Most tracks offer handy betting guides that explain the different types of bets and define prevailing horse racing lingo. Churchill Downs even offers “beginners' windows” for novice bettors.

        Some of the basics:

        • A “win” bet means you think the horse will finish first; “place” means first or second; and “show” is first, second or third.

        • The minimum bet is $2.

        • Know the odds. Odds are based on actual betting, which means the bigger the odds, the bigger the payoff if your horse “comes in the money” — meaning it wins, places or shows, depending on your bet.

        A horse with odds “over 20 to 1” is a long shot. A horse favored to win will have low odds.

        For example, the early odds for Derby favorite Fusaichi Pegasus are 3-1, which means a $2 win ticket will return $8 if the horse wins.

        On the other hand, a $2 win ticket on a winning horse with 20-1 odds would return $42.

        Once you master the basics, you may want to try venturing into the world of exotic wagers and handicapping. It can bring larger payoffs, but it requires more knowledge.

        Handicapping a race means a bettor knows and pays attention to a horse's fitness, class, distance record, post position and pace; as well as track conditions, how the jockey and trainer pair up, and how the jockey and horse pair up.

        Many avid fans say “knowing the numbers” makes the sport a fun mental challenge. That's why Fort Mitchell residents Roger and Wanda Quinn, both 62, like it.

        “I wish I could say there is something special you can do, but I don't think there's any magic to it,” Mr. Quinn said last week as he pored over a racing schedule at Turfway Park. “You can bet because you like the way a horse looks or because you know the stats.”

        If you are handicapping, try these bets:

        • Exacta betting is selecting the first two finishers in a race in their correct order.

        • An exacta box allows a flip-flop of two horses, used when the bettor is not sure of the order the horses will finish.

        • Trifecta betting is choosing the first three finishers in their correct order.

        • A trifecta box works the same way as an exacta box; you bet the three winners in any order.

        There are many more kinds of bets you can make — quinella, double, superfectas — but at the end of the day, the important thing to know about betting the horses is how to have fun, Mr. Quinn said.

        “I never expect to win a million, and I won't lose a million,” Mr. Quinn said.

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