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Play the ponies, put money in your pocket
Posted Sept. 19, 2008
Lesley Michaels
News/Web Editor

To most, the fall brings enthusiasm for the Los Angeles County Fair. Though I am a sucker for corn on the cob, my real excitement draws from the horseracing at the Fairplex.

Being at the racetrack incorporates many vices I support: enjoying a day outside in the sun (in the name of skin protection, this could be considered dangerous), low-risk gambling and cocktails in the afternoon. If you are lucky, sometimes you can catch a glimpse of Kentucky Derby style fans who still sport fancy hats and gloves.

Yes, the racetrack offers a great time to be had by all; yet, not many are aware of the inherent excellence that lies within the gates.

Learning new betting terms can be challenging, and even more so when finding oneself at the head of a line of hurried bet-placing fans. The first time I approached the teller, I became so nervous I forgot all the terms and formalities I rehearsed in my head and was asked to leave the line until I could better convey my bet.

Do not worry; there still exists a method and bet-placing etiquette one should be aware of in advance so as to avoid such an embarrassing first time.

First things first: obtain a program. Programs tend to cost only a few dollars, but the information within is vital.

The next step is to determine which horse you would like to bet on. Some may rely solely on witty horse names to choose their fate. Others rely on facts about the jockey and the horse, such as: age of the horse (the younger the better), the place of origin of the horse (some argue imported horses are bred under kinder and more effective systems) and the jockey/horse odds.

Next, determine the type of bet. The easiest and most effective bet to place is for a horse to “show.” Let’s say your horse, Company Secret (yes, a real Fairplex horse) comes in first, second or third. Regardless of the place, if you bet show, you win!

If you would like to try something more precise, bet “place,” which merits a reward when your horse finishes either first or second. Betting for “win,” in the logical progression, allows you to cash in if your chosen horse comes in first.

Derby-savvy gents and dames may throw around fancy lingo like “trifects” or “superfecta.” I find this is because they probably have disposable money for ridiculously difficult bets, whereas I am a broke student.

But more importantly, I rely on betting based on fun horse names rather than comparing the odds. Essentially, betting a “trifecta” entails picking the exact place—first, second and third—for three specific horses. A “superfecta” goes further and delineates the exact order of the first four horses. Not easy to do, but I bet the payoff is the reason they can afford those fancy hats and champagne.

It is hard to say how much a winning ticket is worth, since every rider has different odds and bets pay differently. But let me assure you, a $2 bet can yield a $140 payoff if you rely on my unprofessional betting method of picking by horse name, not odds.

If confused, resort to the beginning of your well-advised program purchase for a brief explanation of betting options.

Now, the part that still brings a rush of nervous excitement to me every time: placing the bet. In the hustle of the crowd, it is easy to become flustered, but simply remember—first: the amount (“I’d like $2”). Second: the type of bet (“on show”). Third: the horse number (“on No. 7”). Simple as that. Have them print out your ticket, and rush back down to the stands for an exciting race.

Aaaaand, they’re off!

In no time, you’ll be clutching your ticket, eyes glued to the track, yelling “Come on, seven!” And you just might go home a few bucks richer.

Lesley Michaels, a senior communications major, is news and Web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at lesley.michaels@laverne.edu.