Some Basic Questions

Horse racing can be a confusing sport, regardless of how long you’ve been following the game.

In an on-going effort to continue educating both the racing neophytes as well as railbirds, here are a few things you may or may not know about The Sport Of Kings.

1. Where does a horse go after the race? After a horse is unsaddled near the Winner’s Circle, the horse’s groom leads it back to the barn that the horse lives in, or to the van to head home. Horses generally are walked for 30 minutes after a race or morning exercise to cool down.

The Winner and some other horses in the race take a detour to the test barn, where samples are taken for testing to make sure the race was fairly run and no rules were broken. (see Bob Baffert)

2. Where do the horses live? Many horses live in a barn at the track at which they they race. Tracks have a backside or barn area where there are several barns in which the racehorses reside. Some horses live at a farm or training center, and some live at other tracks in the area.

3. How do horses move from one track to another? Horses are transported by horse van or trailer on the ground. A horse van is a large truck, sometimes even a tractor-trailer, specially equipped to transport horses. Horses are flown by chartered flight on planes that are, again, specially equipped to move horses. One such company cleverly calls itself AIR HORSE ONE.

4. How are horses prepared for a race? Just like humans, horses require time and training to reach their best physical condition. Most horses train every morning, at varying speeds and distances depending on the kind of race they’re pointing for and their fitness level.

5. What is a Maiden? A Maiden is a horse that has never Won a race. The majority of horses start out their careers against other Maidens, running in Maiden special weight races.

When a horse gets his/her first Win, it is often referred to as breaking his/her maiden. Most horses take more than one start to earn their first Win.

6. How can a big favorite lose badly? Horses aren’t machines. Sometimes they just run a bad race. Maybe they don’t like the track, woke up on the wrong side of the stall, or just had a bad day.

Plus, favorites are determined by the betting public, so it’s possible the public picked the wrong horse to bet on.

7. Who is in charge of the starting gate? Each track has a starter and a team of assistant starters that is in charge of safely loading a field of horses into a gate. Once all the horses are in and ready, the starter, who usually watches from just inside the inner rail near the gate, presses a button that opens the gate.

The gate-workers have one of the most dangerous jobs at the track, second only to the jockeys.

8. How much money does a horse owner make when his or her horse Wins? Since the owner paid for the horse and pays all the bills, including training costs, jockey fees, feed and veterinary care, the owner gets the purse money when a horse Wins. At most tracks that amount is 60 percent of the purse.

From that purse the owner pays the trainer and jockey a percent, usually 10 percent each. So if a race has a purse of $50,000, the Winning owner will actually pocket $24,000 after giving the trainer and jockey each $3,000.

9. Who sets the odds for horses in a race? No one sets the odds. Odds are determined by the amount of money that is bet on each horse. The more money bet on a horse, the lower its odds.

Morning-Line odds, published in the program, are set by a track’s oddsmaker, who handicaps the races and makes an educated guess at the odds each horse will go off at.

However, these odds have little bearing on the actual odds and are usually not completely accurate.

10. How do I know how much money I’m going to make if I bet on a horse and the horse Wins? That depends on the horse’s final odds. Odds of a horse to Win can be found on the infield tote board, on video monitors, or on a track’s mobile app, depending on what track you’re betting on. Odds change until post time as money continues to be wagered.

To calculate an approximate payout on a $2 Win wager, double the odds and add your original $2 wager. So a horse that’s listed at 4-1 on the tote-board will pay out approximately $10 on a $2 Win wager if the odds don’t change before the race.

You can never have enough knowledge in the world of horse racing. We hope you found these Q. & A.’s both helpful and educational.

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