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A Little Horseracing History

Professional bookmaking for horseracing emerged in England during the 1800's. During this period, bookmaking was conducted by various individuals and regulation as we know it did not exist. Correspondingly, it was subject to much abuses.

In response, M. Pierre Oller invented a machine that conducted a new kind of auction pool that was less subjected to cheating by operators, it was privately operated and allowed anyone to bet on any horse. During this time in France, many of the big races were held in Paris and bettors there referred to "auction pools" as "mutuels". As this was the case, when M. Oller's machine arrived in the Americas, it was labeled the Pari-mutuel.

Definition of Pari-mutuel is best done by example, a bettor who wants to participate in a race picks the horse they think will win. After the race, all the winners of the race get a share of the money but it is not divided up equally. First, they will receive their return for their initial investment.

The rest of the pooled money is then divided among the winners based on units of $2. For example, a person who bets $2 will get back one unit while a person who bets $50 will get back 25 units plus their initial investment. There is also mention to a horse's "odds'. These odds are determined by the percentage of the pool wagered on the particular horse. These odds are then used to determine the payoffs. With the Pari-mutuel system, it makes no difference to the track which horse wins since it's not their money that is paid out but the money of the people holding the losing tickets.

The Tote

The term "tote" was derived from the Totalisator Co. which operated majority of the betting systems in North America. This machine is the scoreboard one sees at the racetrack. If you watch a horserace on television, you will also see this on the corner of your screen. At a minimum, the tote board will include the following information:

  • Time of day, post time to the next race
  • Approximate odds of each horse in last race
  • Results and payoffs of last race
  • Approximate odds of each horse in the next race

Tote boards at the high-end range will also include information such as weather conditions, track condition, equipment or jockey changes and pools or potential payoffs for exotic bets.

The information on the tote is tied directly to the computers that keep track of the money that is bet. The figures are constantly changing and so they are not in sync with the real figures. You will not know the true size of the pools and the actual starting odds until the race is over.

Types of Betting - Definitions

Straight wagering - betting for a horse to win, place or show.

Daily Doubles - asked to pick the winners of two consecutive races.

Exactas - have to pick the first and second finishes in one race in the exact order.

Quinellas - requires you to pick two horses to finish 1st and 2nd in any order.

Trifectas - pick the 1st three finishes in the exact order.

The term "Boxing" in horseracing occurs when you cover every combination of 2 or more horses with separate bets. This can happen with Exactas, Quinellas or Trifectas.

The term "Handicapping" refers to the assessment of relationship between the speed of the horse and other factors that affect a race's outcome

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