Quick Guide

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Quick Guide

For the first time wagerer or the experienced handicapper, Oaklawn offers world-class thoroughbred racing live and simulcast. Simulcast racing lets you wager on and watch races from across the nation live via satellite.

This guide contains everything you need to enjoy a day or night of playing the horses and greyhounds. A few general rules to get you started:

Minimum wagers are traditionally $2, unless otherwise noted. Each track usually allows 30 minutes between races. But with satellite races, there's almost always a race about to start somewhere, no matter what time it is. If you have any questions, you can find the answers at our information booths located throughout the grandstand.

So take a few minutes to study this guide and you'll be ready to play. Good luck!

Placing Your Wager

1. Pick Your Horse

You can either rely on luck or consider factors such as the horse's racing history and track conditions. For the most handicapping information, start with the Official Program and the Daily Racing Form. Both are available near the entrances to the park.

Also, watch the monitors for the most up-to-date information from Terry Wallace.

2. Place Your Wagers

The odds for each race are shown on the two large Tote Boards located in the Infield during the live season and on over 500 television monitors throughout the track. The odds are constantly changing because they are determined by the amount wagered on each horse. Odds reflect what the crowd thinks of a particular horse. If the odds are low - say 3-1, a large number of people in the crowd think the horse will win. If high, say 40-1, very few think it will win. The less total money wagered on a particular horse, the fewer people there are to split the winnings if that horse wins and, therefore, the larger the payoff.

To place your wager, the clerk will need the following information:

  • The track
  • The race number
  • The amount you wish to wager
  • The horse number
  • The type of wager

For example, "At Oaklawn, in the fourth, two dollars to win on number five."

All wagers must be placed before the horses leave the gate or you'll be "shut out."

3. Watch and win

Either from the track or the TV monitor, watch your horse run for the money. Once the race has been declared "Official," you can collect your winnings at any window.

Types of Wagering

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.

Understanding The Odds

Approximate Pay to Win Based On A $2.00 Wager
Understanding the Odds

Factors Affecting Handicapping

While predicting the winner of a race is not an exact science, taking into consideration the following variables can increase your skill in predicting the winner.


As with humans, horses can't run their best if they aren't in top condition. Many players look for horses with recent race dates or morning workouts.


What class of competitors has the horse raced against in the past? If its performance has been just adequate against a weaker class, then it may not have the ability to win against a higher class of thoroughbreds.


Track Map 



Most horses are only good at either short distances (under a mile) or long distances (over a mile), not both. Consider a horse only if he shows good past performance at the distance that is being run today.

Post Position

Different tracks favor different post positions, but generally far outside post positions (10 and up) produce fewer winners. Inside posts are usually favorable, but are not enough by themselves to help a weak horse.

Running Style

This usually falls into one of three categories: pace-setters (either a front-runner or less than two lengths back) ; stalkers (never more than four lengths back); or closers (horses who are never closer than five lengths from the pace).

If there are few pace-setters, go with one of them. Seek out a stalker if front runners are either numerous or non-existent in the race and if there are no closers. Closers are preferable when an abundance of early speed exists, but are generally the riskiest.


Pay attention to the trainer. While they don't guarantee a win, you are probably safe throwing out a horse from a low-ranking trainer.


Don't underestimate the importance of the jockey. If the rider doesn't have an acceptable record, eliminate the horse.

Present Form

Horses tend to enter a period of peak performance and then gradually slide down. Look at the most recent races to see if the horse is still at peak. If not, then chances are it won't return to peak for this race.


A good recent history isn't enough unless the horse is consistently a quality performer. So examine a horse very carefully to see if that recent win was a fluke or part of ongoing excellent performance.


While some handicappers feel this is important, others think that 10 pounds will hardly affect a horse that weighs more than a thousand pounds. If you do consider weight as a factor, look at it more closely in longer races where the extra weight is more likely to weigh the horse down.

Speed Figures

There are many speed figures available (Beyer, for example) that reduce a horse's past performance to numbers. These figures are determined by combining factors such as running times and track conditions. They can be useful, but should only be used in conjunction with other factors.

Where Your Money Goes

Horse racing is a form of pari-mutuel wagering (French for "to wager amongst ourselves"). The difference between pari-mutuel wagering and other forms of wagering is that in pari-mutuel , you compete against other players, not the house. People who select winning horses get the money of people who select losing horses.

In casino-style wagering, however, the winners' money comes from the house. Therefore, the only way the house can make money is for players to lose. That is why all games in a casino are set up to favor the casino.

Oaklawn, on the other hand, receives a small commission for staging the race, keeping up with all the wagers and distributing the winnings to the proper parties. The track has no interest in the outcome of any race, or whether the players win or lose.

Here's how it works: When you place a Win, Place or Show wager*, your money goes into a pool, with each type of wager having its own individual pool. The pool is then divided between the winners, the racetrack and other entities as shown below.

17¢ Horsemen's Purses, State of Arkansas, Breeders' and Owners' Awards, Oaklawn Jockey Club

83¢ Winning Bettors

* Payout varies for exotic wagers