It's safe to say that horse racing and wagering on horse races are inseparable.
Without the one, there would be no reason for the other. The money channeled into racing through gambling is the main source of revenue responsible for every aspect of modern day horse racing.
Bets provide the financial resources that pay for Thoroughbred purchases, wages for all the people that depend on racing for jobs and income, fund overhead costs for racing venues and cover numerous other expenses involved in supporting punting.
Betting on races has evolved spectacularly from the days when nobles would pit their horses against one another in head to head competition.
Billions of dollars change hands annually from punting, which flows into the economy in ways that are difficult to conceive, all the way from the purses owners earn for their investment down to the punter that buys an extra round after a good day at the track.
There are now numerous ways in which to place wagers, some of the most common being bookmakers, totalisers, and even internet betting exchanges.
Understanding the different types of bets, the odds they present and how to work them favourably fills the pages of books, magazines, gazettes and web pages too numerous to mention.
Whatever wagering method is chosen, let's look at some of the available bets and gain a basic knowledge of how to use them to advantage.
Win Betting - Very simple in the aspect that the wager is placed on a horse in anticipation of that horse winning the race. Not so simple due to the reality that runners can be fickle and unpredictable. Even an odds on favourite returns a win on average one out of three instances.
Tote Bets - Wagers from a group are pooled and winnings paid out as dividends to pool members. Many tote methods offer better odds than the individual can get from a bookmaker, one reason being that a small wager, when pooled with others, can be used to cover more races than is otherwise possible.
Fixed Odds Bets - Nice if a wager is placed early, if the odds lower close to the start of the race, the wager is still paid in the event of a win at the original odds. Not so nice if odds increase and your winner would have paid more.
Laying - Basically betting on a horse not to win. Considering the earlier example of a favourite coming in only 33% of the time, this bet has a two out of three chance of winning, but the payout will be commensurately less.
Quinella - A bet that requires the punter to pick the first and second place horse in a race. It doesn't matter which is first and which is second as long as the correct two are picked.
Exacta - One step up difficulty from the quinella. Two horses are chosen and must finish in the exact order picked.
Trifecta - Three horses are picked and must finish in correct order. If your winner comes is second, your pick for second comes in first, and your third place horse finishes in the spot you picked, this bet does not win. This is a difficult bet to pull off, but you will get paid well.
First Four - Picking the order of finish for four horses. Save this for the last race of a winning day when you can play with the track's money. Double - A day's racing programme will generally pair two different races and provide the opportunity to pick the winners of both.
Treble - Similar to the double except three races are combined.
Common Sense Advice
There are many more ways to wager than discussed here. Some key things to keep in mind are that what works well one day may perform poorly the next, horses have personalities that influence how well they will perform regardless of what they have done in the past.
Don't wager with money you can't afford to lose.
Every payout in you favour, commit to taking some, most or all of it out of the equation and save it for another day. Nothing beats the feeling of showing up on a fresh day with track money in your pocket.