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Wendy Reuer, Published July 12 2012

Wanna bet? Here’s a few tips

FARGO – When it comes to picking a winner in horse racing, the only sure thing is there are no sure things.

But the unpredictability and chances for a payoff certainly make it fun.

Professional handicappers may spend hours poring over workout times and past performance records, while those who step up to the window the first time may be more inclined to pick the “pretty one” or the “one with the funny name.”

I’ve done both – with fairly equal results.

So, for those new to the game of horse racing, here are a few helpful hints to get you started:

E Both American quarter horses and thoroughbreds will be racing in Fargo during the four-day meet. There are many differences, but the simplest difference is that quarter horses are sprinters and thoroughbreds are distance runners. Named for running a quarter mile, quarter horses race on the straight away, the races lasting 17 or 18 seconds.

Be sure to be watching once they are in the gate because in less time than it takes to read the average tweet, the race will be over.

• The names of quarter horses are usually produced by saddling parts of the parents’ names.

For instance, a derby entry on July 21 is named “Painted Lies.” He is the son of “PYC Paint Your Wagon.” PYC Paint Your Wagon prodigy have been doing well across the country. Entries with a name that contains “PYC, “Paint” or “Wagon” are ones to look for.

• Programs will be available at the North Dakota Horse Park gates. A short synopsis of past performances for each horse can be found in the program. A horse that has been closely behind at larger tracks may make it to the winner’s circle easily in Fargo.

• Prior to each race, the post parade gives betters a chance to check out each horse’s race day behavior.

A horse that seems lethargic may signal a disinterest and therefore may not perform at 100 percent. Or they may also just be a cool cucumber with focus.

• A good indication of a horse that is “on their toes” for the race is one that is alert, possibly a bit fidgety. It’s OK to see a little excitement in the racehorses, but if they become lathered up (covered in sweat more so than the others) it may be a sign the horse is spending all its energy on pre-race jitters.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

Know the lingo


In order to cash, the horse you choose must finish first and first only.


This is a bet on a horse to finish second. However, if the horse finishes first or second, there is a payout.


The safest bet and cheapest bet of all. A $2 bet to show places money the horse will run third. If the horse runs third, second or first, there is a payout. Show payoffs are substantially less than win and place bets.


Quinella betting requires you to pick the first- and second-place finishers in a race in either order. For example, if you play a $2 Quinella 2-3, you win if the final order of finish is either 2-3 or 3-2. This is also sometimes known as “boxing an exacta.”


Exacta requires you to pick the first- and second-place finishers in a race in exact order.


The first-, second- and third-place finishers in a race must be chosen in exact order.