When you first arrive at the Del Mar Race Track, it may seem as if everyone around you is speaking a foreign language, talking about trifectas and quinellas, parlays and posts. They have a good time with it, but if this is your first horse race, you just need to know a few things to have some good fun.
First, you don't have to bet at all. We didn't, and we had a great time just picking our favorites, rooting for them and letting the winner gloat. My sweetie's track record on three races: second, first and third place. Mine: last, next to last and last again. Our methods? I picked names I liked and he picked names that reminded him of favorite foods.
That brings up an important point. We've been told that even the professionals only get their bets right about half the time, so we suggest a laid-back, fun approach instead of over-thinking your first race.
The minimum bet at Del Mar is $2. The "win price" is what you get back on that $2 if you make the right pick. Bet $2 and if the win price is $4.75 and your horse places where you bet it would, that's what you win. After that, just multiply. Bet $20 with a win price of $4.75 and you get $47.50.
For the simplest bet types, this is all you need to know:
- Win: You're betting that your horse will finish first and you get a payout only if it does. According to the Del Mar website, the favorite horse in the race finishes first about 30% of the time.
- Place: This is a bet that your horse will come in first or second and you'll get paid if it's in either place (but a lower amount than for a win bet). About 45% of the time, the favorite will "place."
- Show: You've probably got it by now - this one is a bet that the horse will be in the first three. It has the lowest payout, but the highest chance of success. Favorites "show" more than 60% of the time.
You'll find a brief analysis of each race in the front of the program you get at the gate, including which horses are the favorites. You'll find people all over the place having long, technical discussions about what horse to bet on, but that's too complicated for a first visit. Just for fun, choose your horse by its name, number or the color of the jockey's uniform. They're all listed in the program.
Placing Your Bet
It's very simple and there are several betting counters and machines all around the track. You do need to know a bit of lingo, though. After you've picked that nice black horse because you like his jockey's green and purple shirt, don't go up to the teller and say "I want to bet $2 to show on the black horse whose rider is wearing green and purple." If your horse is #7 in the third race, you need to say it this way: "Del Mar, Third Race, $2.00 to show on #7." The teller will enter your bet and give you a ticket. If you win, take it back and collect.
If you need help, Del Mar has assistants on each floor of the Grandstand and Clubhouse. They wear teal vests and khaki pants or skirts. They're there to help people like you.