The COVID-19 pandemic touched every aspect American life. In the grand scheme of things wagering on horse racing rightfully took a backseat over the past year and a half to the essential tasks we all focused on to keep ourselves and our families safe and help our neighbors as much as possible.
Throughout the pandemic those who are passionate about horse racing had to pursue other options while racetracks prohibited attendance.
Thankfully during the pandemic, most tracks kept running races even without attendance, and fans and horseplayers were able to transfer their devotion to the complex and captivating practice of handicapping and wagering to an online format.
Over the past 15 years, ADW (Advance-Deposit Wagering) companies have established a permanent, and growing, foothold in the industry, constantly rolling out new technologies and promotions that have expanded the ways people can bet.
Most of the basic principles of handicapping horse racing are just as valid when using an ADW account as they are at the track, but there are other aspects that are unique.
Missing out on watching Thoroughbreds in the paddock and warming up before a race in person is a definite minus.
On the other hand, having your laptop or phone at the ready means a wealth of information is at your fingertips that can give you a big advantage.
As tracks welcome back fans, many folks are now accustomed to making online bets, and tracks such as the NYRA venues and Churchill Downs continuously promote their ADW as alternative options.
Online wagering will only continue to grow in the years ahead.
If you’re new to betting the horses online here is a brief primer to (hopefully) serve as a handy introduction for those who want an alternative to wagering at the track.
Use The Tools at Your Fingertips. Most wagering sites will not only offer rebates for past performances (which basically allows you to access past performances of horse for free) but most will also offer predictive data that can often be useful. On TVG, for example, you can find “Power Ratings” for each horse, as well as speed and class figures that you can factor into making your picks.
Those Tools Include Replays ! All legal US wagering sites also allow you unlimited access to race replays, which are extremely important in identifying horses who might be positioned to improve or regress off of the trips they received in previous races. The ultimate goal is to find a potential overlay (a horse who’s odds are higher than they should be) who had an excuse for running poorly in a previous race which you would’ve only spotted had you watched the replay.
Take Advantage Of Offers … To A Point. Most ADW accounts will offer a sign-in bonus, a limited amount posted to your account that you can use to bet. Sample the offers and read the fine print before choosing. Once you’ve signed in, the offers will keep rolling in – some offering bonus cash for wagering on certain tracks, others restricted to a specific bet such as the Pick 4 or Pick 5. By all means, take advantage of any offer coming your way that dovetails with your usual strategy and money-making goals – but always prioritize your best bets for the day over any promotional offer.
Stay Disciplined – Focus on Your Favorite Tracks. ADW accounts provide even more options than your local racetrack’s simulcast feed, offering practically every North American track holding a card that particular day, and many international tracks. Don’t be tempted: stay honed in on the racing circuits you know the most about and would bet on during a normal day at the track.
Don’t DWI While ADW: The D is for Deposit in the first acronym as well. It’s hard to resist imbibing at the track with friends, but in the online betting environment, concentration and discipline should rule the day. The goal is to find overlays and construct bets with a diamond-cutter’s attention, not to keep hitting the deposit button in a fit of booze-fueled bravado and slowly fall down the well when a bad beat or two (or three) occurs. There’ll be time to enjoy a glass of bourbon or whatever you prefer when the app is shut off – or better yet, when you’re back at the racetrack.
Nothing else matches the excitement of gathering with friends, enjoying a perfect-weather day, partaking in local/regional food and drink faves, and witnessing up close the beauty and intensity of racehorses competing.
Over the past few months tentative steps have been taken to get fans back to the track, and as of June 2021 many racing jurisdictions (NYRA) have either opened up completely or partially, allowing fans to return.
And while the Daily Racing Blog will continue to use ADW for some wagering, rest assured when at Saratoga this summer we will be going to the window to place the occasional bet, because there is nothing better than cashing in a Winning ticket and having the teller ask; “Will big bills be okay?”