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W.T. Bishop, the late general manager and vice president of Oaklawn, would say, "Come to the track to be entertained. Have an afternoon of enjoyment and, if you should happen to win a little money in the process, consider it a bonus."

Winning at the track has never been easy, but it can be made less difficult. A major point with new fans is not to be intimidated by so many things going on around you - cheering crowds, multiple bets, simulcast races mixed in with those live and a vocabulary of terms such as top wheel, bottom wheel, track variant, three-horse box, overlay, morning line, eighth pole, inquiry, holy ghost, bug waive and chalk.

George "Pittsburgh Phil" Smith was a young man working as a cork cutter when he left home for the race track to become a player. He eventually became America's most celebrated horse player and died a wealthy man in 1940.

Phil lived by a number of maxims, a few being: "Cut your bets when in a losing streak and increase them when running in a spasm of good luck", "Winners often repeat whereas the defeated are apt to be beaten almost regularly", "Good race track knowledge is not a special talent. It is acquired by study, observation, hard work and the will to succeed", and finally, "To succeed beats working."

An early lesson for the new player is that he, or she, is not competing against the track. Opponents are the other players. The track merely acts as a broker.

A takeout, or "take", is removed from each betting pool and distributed according to state law, among the state, race track and horsemen. On average, 17 percent is withheld from win, place and show pools, with 83 percent being returned to the winning players. On multiple bets, the take is higher.

Oaklawn offers various bets. Besides win, place and show wagers, there are daily doubles and exactas, in addition to Pick3, CLASSIX® and trifecta. The betting format expands a bit more on simulcast wagers.

It augurs well for the new fan to confine himself to the basics of betting, until he gains confidence in his play. One needs to learn which races contain the higher class of horses. These are the most formful. He should shun systems and tips, while learning speed, pace and class.

It isn't a bad idea to note the selections of professional newspaper handicappers and to avail themselves of program choices and insight offered by in-house television.

New players are better served to make their bets with regular tellers before testing the stand alone machines. Tellers can guide the novice through the wagering procedure, avoiding the costly mistakes that persons might make computing a ticket on the new touch-screen machines.

An official track program in a necessity. Among its vast information are trainer and jockey standings. A player should be aware of winning percents. Fifteen percent and above is very good for jockeys and trainers. Those with the highest percentages are usually the ones on a hot streak and doing the most things right. Of course everyone else knows that as well, so you will often see these jockeys and trainers are those associated with the majority of the public favorites.

Establish a bankroll and stop loss for the afternoon and adhere to it. If you are fortunate to cash a few tickets early, lock up a portion of the winnings.

Develop a plan for the day and don't try to bet all kind of wagers, jumping hither and yon, with no goal, or objective, in mind.

Managing your money and betting it wisely are as vital as horse selection.

A boat without a rudder can't survive very long in the pari-mutuel pool.

There are unlimited teaching aids available, so an alert individual can readily become a sophisticated bettor.

"Being a good player will make you the envy of some of your friends," laughs John Searcy, retired director of pari-mutuels at Oaklawn, "and bug heck out of a few of your others."

Types of Bets

Your horse must finish 1st.
Your horse must finish 1st or 2nd.
Your horse must finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
Across the Board
You are making 3 equal win, place, and show bets.
  • If your horse wins: you collect on all 3 wagers (win, place, show).
  • If your horse comes in 2nd: you collect on the place and show bet.
  • If your horse comes in 3rd: you collect on the show bet. For example: "$2 Across the Board on 1" simply means: $2 to win on #1, $2 to place on #1 and $2 to show on #1 which will cost you $6 total.
Your horses must finish 1st and 2nd in either order.
Your horses must finish 1st and 2nd in the exact order.
Your horses must finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the exact order.
Your horses must finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the exact order.
Daily Double
Your horses must finish 1st in each of the two races that comprise the Daily Double. Wagers must be made before either race has begun.
Pick 3
Similar to a Daily Double, but applies to three consecutive races.
Pick 4
Your horse must win each of the three races comprising the Pick3. Wagers must be placed before the running of the first of the Pick3 races.
Classix (Pick Six, Super Six)
Similar to a Daily Double, but applies to six consecutive races. If no one picks all six winners, those picking five out of six will split 25% of the total Classix pool. The remaining 75% "carries over" to the next racing day, and will continue to do so each day until someone correctly selects six out of six.