The cultural side of horseracing

| March 19, 2018

Racehorse ownership in Australia is widespread and syndication has made it affordable for many people.

In Japan, in contrast to Australia, horseracing is seen as an exclusively male activity that exists primarily to give men something else to bet on. Horseracing is not a mainstream sport in Japan. Here, it is enjoyed by men and women and is not necessarily a vehicle for betting. Many people suffice with small wagers and enjoy the speed and power of the horses and their majestic beauty.

Australia is a veritable hotbed of horseracing with more tracks than any country including the United States, Great Britain, and all of the Muslim countries whence horseracing is said to have come. In only the US are there more race horses than in Australia. Given our well-known love of gambling on pokies and the many other Australian online casino real money games, it seems a bit odd that we love horseracing to the extent that we do.

We should keep this cross-cultural comparison in perspective. After all, Australia is not exactly a hotbed of sumo wrestling enthusiasm.

Betting Tips

Just as we are normally open to betting tips on casino games, we’re also generally open to tips on how to bet on horses. At the racetrack, you have the chance to look at the horse as it approaches the gate. If a horse looks particularly fresh and frisky, or the opposite—tired and pekid looking—you might bet accordingly.

There are other ways to choose a horse. Here are a few:

  • The opposition. You should always evaluate the other horses in the race before you settle on one to win.
  • Jockey (Tip # 1). Many horses race with the same jockey but many race with whichever jockey is available. Some jockeys work best with younger horses, fillies, trotters and so on.
  • Jockey (Tip # 2) Some jockeys are better than others. Jockeys may be short and wiry but they are immensely strong and are athletes in the fullest sense of the term.
  • The quality of the track. Some horses run extremely well in the mud and some lose a lot of sure-footedness when the track isn’t dry and smooth.
  • The horse’s history. A horse is like any athlete. It reaches its peak and then starts to drift downward in its performance.
  • Length of the race. Some horses thrive on short races and others on long races.
  • The pace of the horse is also important. Horses that run fast out of the gate often fade at the end. A horse that runs evenly throughout the race and starts far from the rail will likely be boxed out of a chance to move up in the race.
  • Until you become quite good at evaluating horses, stick to the three primary bets: win, place, and show and at the beginning of your handicapping experience, stick with show bets for real money and simulate bets on win and show. These can be called “offline” bets. Keep a chart of your “offline” win and place bets. Your progress as a handicapper will become very clear as you make better offline bets.

The whip question

A recent poll questioned over 1500 Australians and fully 75% said they supported a ban on whipping thoroughbred horses. Of the large majority that favour a whipping ban, almost all said such a ban would have no effect on their betting habits regarding horse racing. It is somewhat remarkable that Norway banned horse whipping back in 1982 and Australia is still in the infant stages of polling horseracing fans to determine if a whipping ban would be accepted here.

Studies and polls have shown that most of the people who still favour whipping horses are those who most often frequent race tracks and bet on races. They retain the assumption that horses run faster whilst being whipped. It is a demonstrable fact, that whipping horses does nothing to make them run faster. As much as these racing fans still support whipping, they overwhelmingly have said that they would continue to attend races and bet on them.

An interesting side aspect of the whipping controversy is that as personal income rises, the willingness to ban whipping rises as well. It may be that our least educated citizens simply need to be educated as to the unnecessary custom.

Retired racehorses

Here is one area where the need for regulation is undeniable. Horses are expensive. The owners accept the cost of maintaining a horse whilst it is being trained and raced. Horses are an investment some of which pay off quite handsomely. Most horses either make a moderate amount of profit for their owners or lose money.

No one can fault an owner for putting a horse out to pasture if it is losing money as a race horse. And it is well-established that for many owners, horseracing is a passion—a labour of love— regardless of profit. A horse that has finished its career as race horse still has years to live a normal life even though they have little or no value as a stud horse.

All horses, fast or slow, deserve a comfortable and healthy life after their careers are over. As an industry, we must ensure that all retired racehorses live happily for the remainder of their lives.


Category: Special interest

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