Santa Anita is an L.A. institution.
The erstwhile home of Seabiscuit and American Pharoah, it’s now also home to a $40M renovation, which includes the new 100 to 1 VIP Club.
Betting on the ponies is romantic. But like any romanticized thing — writing, surfing, growing a beard — it’s also not as simple as it looks.
First and foremost, if you’re seriously considering betting, pick up a copy of Betting on Horses for Dummies. It’s straightforward and cheap. Then pick up the Daily Racing Form and eliminate all of the horses with long odds. That’ll reduce the pool of horses you’re looking to bet on. Once you pick your favorite, place a straight bet.
But to give you even better advice, we talked to Tom Quigly, betting concierge at Santa Anita, for some true insider tips.
InsideHook: What are the biggest mistakes people make when betting on horses?
Tom Quigly: Playing the races is like any other financial investment you make in that you have to evaluate the risk vs. reward ratio. Too many horseplayers just want to cash a winning ticket, no matter the (measly) return they'll earn (compared to the risk).
IH: Are there any prop bets in horse racing?
TQ: There are no legalized prop bets for horse racing in most states, but if you wager in Las Vegas, there are head-to-head horse matchup wagers available that are simple to understand and fun to play.
IH: What is your betting strategy?
TQ: Bet a little to win a lot! Unlike casinos, where the odds are mathematically predetermined, in horse racing, the odds for every race are determined by the betting public, which leads to lucrative wagering opportunities if you're a student of the game.
IH: Are there horses/jockeys that we should be watching?
TQ: You've heard of the 80/20 rule in business? The same applies to horse racing. The majority of the races (80%) are won by the elite jockeys and trainers (20%), so find out who they are and pay extra attention to the horses with those connections.
IH: How do you assess the horses when they're walking to the track from the stables?
TQ: Most horseplayers (falsely) assume that thoroughbreds are machines, similar to automobiles. They're not. They're living, breathing animals that are athletes and as such, are constantly providing astute observers with body language signals that give a glimpse into how they may perform today.
IH: What's the worst beat you can remember taking at the track?
TQ: I invested $100 into a Pick 6 ticket (attempting to pick the winner of six consecutive races) and successfully identified the winner of the first 5 races, but lost the sixth race by the slimmest of noses, costing me winnings in excess of $100,000.
IH: Any early Derby favorites?
TQ: The Kentucky Derby is always run on the first Saturday in May, so it's hard to look into my crystal ball that far ahead. But I can tell you that Southern California-based horses have won four of the last five.