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Del Mar Horse Races: Horse Racing Tips for the Beginner

Del Mar Horse Racing Tips

The Del Mar Horse Races are almost here. Opening Day is right around the corner on July 19th. Horse racing is a unique and specialized sport in that spectators can become a part of the experience through placing bets on races and cheering on favorites. The Del Mar horse racing season is a beloved local pastime that runs July 19th-September 4th. If you’ve never been to the Del Mar races, it’s a great idea to take along a friend who knows their way around and can help you navigate the track and betting. If you can’t take someone with you, then you’ll want to have at least some horse racing knowledge. Here are a few horse racing tips to help you get by.

Betting for Fun vs. Serious Betting

If this will be your first time at the races, you might want to keep the day light by betting low dollar amounts on several races. Races are broken down into graded stakes based on several factors including age of the horse, distance of the race and whether it’s a conditions race or a handicap race. Using the daily racing form, decide which races you are going to bet in and what horse you want to bet on. Before a race begins, you’ll want to visit the paddock at the race track to get an up close look of the horses racing in the upcoming race.

How to Bet

When you’ve decided what race and horse you want to bet on, you are ready to make your bet. When you go to the window, you’ll want to make sure you tell the clerk 3 key things and in a certain order. This is the order:

  1. The amount you want to bet.
  2. The horse’s number in that race (not the horses name).
  3. The bet you want to place (to win, place, or show).

For example, let’s say you’ve visited the paddock before the race to see the horses up close and you choose Nechez Dawn, who is horse #4, to win that particular race. And you want to bet $5. So then, you’ll tell the teller/clerk “5 dollars on #4 to win.”

Betting Terms

When making a bet, choose how you think the horse you are betting on will place.

  • To win: You are betting that the horse will place first.
  • To place: If you bet your horse to place, then you are betting that it will come in first, or second.
  • To show: If you bet your horse to show – then you are betting that it will place first, second, or third.

Here are some more adventurous bets:

  • Exacta – You win if you select the 1st and 2nd place horses in a race in the “exact” order.
  • Trifecta – You win if you select the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place horses in a race in the correct order of finish.
  • Superfecta – You win if you select the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place horses in a race in the correct order of finish.
  • Across the board: You are betting that the horse will win, place and show.

Where to Sit?

It’s important to note that entry to the Del Mar race track, seating, and dining are all sold separately or in packages. The various admission tickets will get you access to certain areas. For a detailed list and seating locations, see the ticket guide. A more serious and seasoned better might not have time to sit for too long, so he or she might opt for a ticket without reserved seating.

If you are going to just have a fun day at the races without breaking the bank, then there are several seating and dining options. Red Star Café at O’Brien’s Pub is a great place to eat and watch the races while you dine. No reservations are required, but you will want to get there very early to get a seat because it fills up fast.

If you want a little bit of a closer view to the action and are willing to pay more for dining, there are a variety of trackside restaurants. These require advanced reservations. The race track website has provided a fantastic video demo on how to go about making online restaurant reservations. This is a pleasant and relaxed (albeit pricey) way of experiencing the races. Of course, there are also a variety of concessions for those wanting a more casual dining experience. Seating without a restaurant reservation is arranged in a variety of options as well. For a complete list and view, see the ticket guide as well as the interactive map found on the race track website.

A few miscellaneous tips:

  • Bring cash, you won’t want to stand in an ATM line.
  • Buy a Daily Racing Form. This is your guide to the races and horses.
  • Traveling to and from the Del Mar area during race season can get very crowded and make for a stressful start or end to your day. A great way to make it stress free is to take the Coaster. There is a shuttle at the coaster station that will drop you off right at the entrance.
  • And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The staff at the Del Mar Race Track is very friendly and always will to help you with whatever you need.

For information and to purchase tickets, visit

Photo courtesy of Kellinahandbasket via Flickr Creative Commons License, 2.0

Photo courtesy of Lin Mei, via Flickr Creative Commons License, 2.0

Michelle Sybert: Michelle also writes at her blog Be Brave, Keep Going and lives in the North San Diego area with her husband and two children. When she's not writing, Michelle loves to go hiking, discover new breakfast spots, and photography. Follow Michelle on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram