Saturday when I was growing up was always a day for betting on horses. Not that my parents were big gamblers but little bets of a shilling or two would be made in the local bookies especially for big races like the Grand National. And sure I had to join in for the fun of it. Mostly at the beginning I picked a horse because
I liked the name or liked the colour. But as I got to know the jockeys and the trainers (particularly if they had delivered a winner for me before 😂), I started to back a jockey or a trainer. I remember the jockey Lester Piggott was a particular favourite with my Mam Peggy to be replaced in later years by Ruby Walsh. If Ruby rode a three-legged donkey, she still had faith in him to be first past the post!! 🤣 As well as learning about the jockeys I also learned to study form. And I learned about cross-doubles and trebles and accumulators.
Above: Jockeys Ruby Walsh (left) and Lester Piggott (right)
The newspaper would be put down on the floor so we could study the form of the horses on the racing page. The newspapers back then were big broadsheets. Neighbours would pass on tips. My brother Martin used to place bets from an early age for our elderly neighbour in Mass Road, Martin Sheehan……there was no issue back then for the bookies taking a bet from a child. Mr. Sheehan would write out the horses for him and give him the few shillings to place the bets in the bookies down at the Old Bridge. The evening results on the wireless would deliver the inevitable losses but the occasional winner. And we kept our fingers and toes crossed for those elusive winners. But I learned quickly that the bookie pretty much always wins and never to back what I couldn’t afford to lose!
So, when Peggy started to spend Christmas with me in Dublin after Mickey my dad passed, because she still liked the old flutter, I brought her out each year to the Leopardstown Christmas festival. This is usually a 4-day racing festival that starts on St. Stephen’s Day, Dec 26th. This week’s blog is about our trip to that racecourse for the Lexus Chase on 28 Dec 2012 and how to bet at the races. We booked a package in the Pavilion where we could sit in comfort, eat and drink our fill while watching the horse races up close. We could also pop out to the parade ring to see the horses before the races and place bets at the bookmakers.
Charlie and Martin came with us on that December day in 2018. The atmosphere was electric and it seemed like half of Ireland was there. For many it is an annual tradition to attend the Dublin track for a day of entertainment. An unmissable highlight of the Irish horse racing calendar, the annual Leopardstown Christmas Festival is the perfect venue to see prime horses competing in National Hunt racing at its best.
Above: Us in the Leopardstown Pavilion - 28 Dec 2012
We didn’t ever go hungry or thirsty at Leopardstown! We could continue our Christmas celebrations and experience the thrills of horse racing while soaking up the unique Christmas atmosphere that the venue offers. The best bit for Peggy was getting to see her beloved Ruby win the Lexus Chase in an exciting finish on the gelding Tidal Bay!! The perfect end to a perfect day!
How to bet at the races
For many people, having a bet – or a flutter – is part of the excitement of a day at the races, but it can be an intimidating experience until you feel like you’ve got a basic understanding of odds.
It’s easier than you might think to place a bet at the races. You simply need to:
What to do if you win
After a race, the winning and placed horses enter the winner’s enclosure. Jockeys dismount and return to the Weighing Room complex to weigh in with their kit and saddle. Once the raceday officials are happy with the weights, you will hear “Winner alright, winner alright!” over the Tannoy to confirm the official result of the race.
At this point, you can hand over your betting slip to the bookmaker you wagered with to receive your winnings. Then feel free to do a little dance!! 😂
If you placed a bet online, your account should be automatically credited.
The only time this might be delayed is when a Stewards’ Inquiry is called and officials need to look into a specific part of the race to ensure that no rules have been breached by a jockey and/or trainer.
What are the common terms and phrases in horse racing?
In many cases, the jargon behind the racing is the main barrier to understanding how to place a bet, but it’s not as complicated as it might sound.
If a horse has ‘long odds’, for instance, it simply means that it has a low chance of winning based on a number of factors that you’ll find on the racecard, but it also means that you’ll get more back for your stake if it wins.
Find out more about horseracing jargon in the guide here from racingexplained.co.uk.
How to read the form
If you want to get more familiar with the racecard to inform your bet, you can try to pick a winner by reading the form. This gives you a series of numbers and letters next to each horse’s name to indicate how it has performed in recent races. If there are more 1s, 2s and 3s than there are 7s, 8s and 9s next to the horse you like, you might have a better chance of winning.
Tips for betting at the races
And I'll leave you with some photos of the racing action on our day at Leopardstown:
Above: Some of Charlie's photos from the day at Leopardstown - 28 Dec 2012
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog 94
Number 30 - Entertainment/ Sporting Event
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Blog 30 - Alaska
Blog 31 - Everglades, Florida
Have you ever bet at a racecourse? Tell me about it in the comments section below.
If you liked this post, please share. Sharing is caring 😊
My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!