An integral part of any day's racing is having a bet, and many youngsters are introduced to betting through a day with their parents at a Point-to-Point, or the ritual of the annual punt on the Grand National, the nation's favourite race. In that respect, Andoversford is no different to any other day's racing.
However, unlike at a professional racecourse, the betting options are rather more limited, but no less entertaining. Andoversford offers only bookmakers, providd by the Midland Area Pitch Committee, that supports all fixtures in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. The Committee ensures a vibrant market for each fixture, and choice enough for you to select odds and a bookie to your liking.
Here are some basic rules to follow:
Buy a racecard & research the form
You won't find the runners and riders in any newspaper, and final declarations do not take place until 45 minutes before each race, so the only way to discover who is running is to buy a racecard, and to keep alert to PA announcements of the declared runners, or to see these at the Numbers Board by the Weighing Tent. Alongside each horse in the racecard are listed its racing weight, previous form and days since last run, owner, trainer & rider, together of course with the colours you'll be looking out for on the course. In Point-to-Point races, choice of rider is often a critical factor, more so than on a professional course. Experience and previous recent success are key factors, so do your homework.
You can also find the entries on the sport's web site. A uselful tip here is to subscribe to the weekly e-zine - fabulously produced, and with a preview of each meeting every week to steer your punting ideas. You'll find the same preview material in the news section of this site too.
Check the horses in the paddock
Next step is to view the horses themselves, which are obliged to parade in the paddock for 10 minutes before each race. Look for a horse that walks well (a "good" walker will extend his hind legs to virtually cover the print of the front feet on the ground), has a shiny coat and an alert eye. Heavy sweating is not normally a good sign, either behind the saddle or on the neck, although there are exceptions in every case! Is your horse trained to the minute or has he a little too much belly? No-one wins races when not in the peak of condition.
When the jockeys come out, size up how comfortably your rider sits on his horse. Does he look natural? When the horses go to post, does your horse move well, and does the combination look settled, awake and ready to do you justice?
Survey the odds and select your wager
Andoversford's bookmakers are conveniently sited right by the paddock, so you can often check the odds as horses are paraded. It's a long held truism that a bookmaker's book should always balance; that is, all runners are priced in order to balance out takings and what is paid out, with a small margin for servicing the bet. The more experienced punters will identify what is known as the "overround" - the size of the margin. In some big races, like handicaps, this can be very significant. However, the size of the margin also affords individual bookmakers the chance to extend odds on certain horses in order to draw people to bet. There is often a choice of odds between a bookmaker at one end of the line and the other.
At Andoversford, you'll be able to bet Win only with a general minimum £2, or Each Way, which will offer one fifth the odds on your horse finishing second or third as well as the Win bet. So £1 EW will give you two bets: a £1 Win bet and a £1 Place bet. If your horse is priced at less than 5/1, the Place bet will pay less than even money; ie: if the horse comes second at 5/1, you would receive in return £1.20, being your stake returned, plus one fifth the odds on £1 at 5/1. The Win bet stake would be lost.
Don't forget to collect your ticket and retain it until after the Weighed In announcement. If a jockey omits to weigh in after the race, he/she will be disqualified and you'll be searching the course for your discarded ticket on the runner-up! Make sure to collect your winning bet immediately after the race. It's not unusual for bookmakers to hurry away after the last. they're as keen to get home for tea as everyone else.
You won't find Point-to-Point races available to bet online just yet, although for many, the excitement of having a bet on racing, or more frequently nowadays football, means that an early sampling at Andoversford leads to the occasional flutter with an online bookie. And in this instance, the principals around betting are very similar. Choosing the right online bookmaker is equally essential, not only allowing you to bet from wherever you are, but also providing you with bonuses and offers that add more value to your wagers. When deciding on a casino or sports bookie for horse racing, pick one who has an extensive portfolio of events they cover and ensure they have an excellent mobile site as well.
Online casinos like Karamba that have both games and sports betting options are the perfect choice that leaves you with multiple money-making opportunities. Those bonus offers drive a great deal of brand switching when it comes to events like the Cheltenham Festival for example. Many bookmakers also run bonus schemes to allow you to recirculate winnings. This is one major advantage of betting online rather than at the course, where the range of multiple bets is much more limited. And of course, in sports with significant news coverage, there is always a team of experts waiting to predict the optimal outcomes or preferred bets, also known as Naps. The annual Naps table shows a return to a £1 stake from one daily prediction for horse races across the season and is archly competitive between jpurnalists and tipsters.
Above all, don't bet more than you can afford to lose. Set yourself a maximum amount you're prepared to lose, and stop if you reach it. There are plenty of stories of those that have chased their losses, only to make them bigger still. Remember Nick Leeson, who chased his losses in stock trading, and brought down a bank! So manage your finances.
There are times when things get out of hand for numerous personal reasons. In the case of gambling, authorities have been working on ways to help players by letting them self-exclude themselves from online betting and casino options. Moreover, the government is making sure that betting sites and casinos that are not on Gamstop this year, join the programme. While there are still a few loopholes here and there, this has been hugely successful since its launch early last year.
Remember, betting is for fun. If the fun stops, STOP.
Andoversford Races is 6m east of Cheltenham near Dowdeswell Manor. Follow signs from the reservoir out of Cheltenham on the A40, or from the A436.