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Published on March 15, 2011 | by cgenna01     Photography by


Off to the races!

Correction: The original version of this article posted on March 15 incorrectly described the horse in the image as ‘standardbred.’

Having a great time at the track is possible even on a student budget


Betting on horse races when you’re a student can seem impractical if you’re trying to save on expenses. On a student budget, it can be hard to eat at a restaurant let alone gamble your money.

Thoroughbred races at Woodbine Racetrack

Just down the road from the University of Guelph-Humber is the Woodbine Racetrack. Known for horse-racing, Woodbine is home to many enjoyable activities that students find themselves looking for on any given weekend. Betting on the horses is only one of many activities to take part in.

“There’s a place to eat and drink on every floor,” says Cheryl Henderson, a customer service representative. She also emphasizes the 24 hour casino contains more than 2,000 slot machines, free parking, and coat check along with your visit.
Be sure not to let Woodbine’s size intimidate you. Watch for the signs that point you in the direction you want to go. Of course it’s almost impossible to miss the track itself, but the building can be confusing.

The first thing you should do when you get there is visit the programs counter and grab yourself a program. The programs are there to purchase for $2 each, which may sound unnecessary, but the program is integral to betting properly.

It contains information about each horse that is running in each race, including its position in previous races.

Although you may not know much about the horses, by placing a small bet you can start to understand how racing works.

“There are usually a total of 10-12 races,” says Henderson, “so keep that in mind when placing your first bet. Decide how much money you are comfortable with spending and divvy it up amongst each race.”

Depending on which race you choose, the minimum bet requirement will change anywhere from 20 cents to $2. You can compete with your friends and bid the minimum amount possible to pool your money with friends to split winnings.

Once you’ve chosen your horses and the amount you are betting, you must pick what type of bet you will be placing. There are several different types to choose from.

“Your three basic bets are win, place, and show,” says Henderson. “These mean the horse you choose must place first, first or second, or first, second, or third.” Choosing show increases your chances of winning, but decreases the earnings if you win.

After that, the betting criteria gets more complex. Other bets to choose from include exactor (where you must choose the two horses that will place first and second), triactor (choosing the horses that will place top three), and superfecta (which is top four). Daily double requires you to choose the first place winner of the first and second race, and the late double requires you to choose the winner of the last two races. The two final types of bets are called pick3 and pick4 which involves choosing the winner of three or four races consecutively. Henderson suggests you “stick with the basic betting until you’ve gotten the hang of how the racing works”.

You can place your bet at any teller located throughout the entire building, but for beginners, I would recommend sticking to the self-serve terminals so you can take your time and browse through all your betting options. Go through every race and place bets on all of them at once, or choose your horse before every race. Henderson says that most people choose their winner before every race so they are able to redeem their winnings, kill time between each race, and also receive the latest updates on the horses’ statistics.

After the bets are placed, and before you find your seat, you may want to grab something to drink or eat.
“There are four places to eat while watching the horse races,” says Jessica Munroe, an employee at the programs stand. She suggests that students visit the Champions Bar and Patio.

“Champions” is located on the third floor and offers a table to eat, drink and watch the races. The bar requires a $5 cover charge but the prices are reasonable. “Champions” also offers a party menu for groups of 12 or more people to help students save on meal costs.

Woodbine offers indoor seating with a great view of the races. For the more passionate viewer who is willing to bear the cold, there are bleachers outside that are closer to the track.

Grab a cold beverage, the seat that calls your name, crack open the program, and repeat. It seemed to me that the more often this cycle was repeated, the more fun I had.

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