A day or evening at the races is great fun and the perfect opportunity to get together and do something a bit different with family, friends or colleagues. Plus, other than at the major meetings, entry is free! Once you've chosen the Club or Course you would like to visit and a date that suits you (using our interactive calendar), you may be thinking ahead about what happens once you get to the races and what to do when you get there so we've highlighted some handy hints so you can get the most out of your day.
Preparing for your day
Generally there is no dress code at the races in New Zealand although at some of the major Festivals, racegoers do dress up with suits and hats aplenty. The main thing is to make sure you're comfortable as you do tend to spend a lot of time on your feet so it's important to have the right footwear. If it's a fine day, picnics are popular at the races, especially at smaller courses where catering options can be fairly limited. Other handy things to take are a pen for you to note down the horses you like the look of, a pair of binoculars and of course some cash to have a bet with!
When to get there
On average, there are around 10 races at each race meeting with the first one starting at around 12pm and with half an hour between each race. Racegoers tend to turn up around 20 minutes before the first race or earlier if they're hoping to get a good spot in the car park next to the racetrack.
Getting your bearings
When you get to the course it's helpful to buy a racebook (usually cost $3) so you can find out what races are on and at what time. Also, listen out for the race caller who will announce any non-runners and the state of the going. Take a wander around and work out the best place to watch the racing, you can switch between the grandstand where you can get the best view or by the rails so you can really appreciate the speed of the horses as they go past. Alternatively, at most courses on their bigger days, you can go across into the centre of course area which is often a good place to base yourselves with a picnic and let the kids run around.
Most racecourses have a Members Area, reserved for Club Members and offering extra catering and viewing facilities. Some Clubs offer a Day Members admission for non Members, please check the Club pages for details or contact them directly.
Around 10 minutes before each race, horses will enter the birdcage (parade ring area) giving racegoers the chance to see the horses close up before the race. This is worth doing so you can check out how they're looking before having a bet. Once you've placed your bet, take up a position to watch the race and then you can also go and see the winner and placed horses come in to the birdcage where they're greeted by their connections as well as any happy racegoers who've backed them! If you happen to be one of them, then you can go and pick up your winnings once you've heard the 'judges call' announcement.
Betting with the TAB
You will find numerous betting booths around the course which will display betting screens with the various odds displayed for the upcoming race.
Nothing beats the thrill of cheering home the horse you've backed and seeing him pass the winning post in front. It's always fun having a little flutter and here we guide you through the betting basics but don't worry, if you don't know anything about racing, you can always just pick the name or the colours you like!
Before you bet
Whilst there are no guaranteed methods of finding a winner, there are several things to take into consideration when you're having a bet:
- The odds (also know as the price) - Obviously shorter priced horses (e.g. 2-1) are more likely to win then longer priced horses (e.g. 20-1) and so therefore you will win less money when a favourite wins than if you've backed an outsider! Outsiders can win of course but if you want to play safe it's often best to back one of the favourites.
- Horse form - This is how a horse has run in past performances and obviously if it has won or been placed in recent races it is in good form. You can find a horse's form in the racebook on the day or by checking the Fields online or in the newspaper.
- Jockey/Trainer form - A positive indicator can be when a horse's jockey or trainer has had a lot of recent winners or has a particularly good record at a specific racecourse.
- Horse condition - If you're at the races, it's a good idea to take a look at the horses before the race. A horse with a shiny coat and long, relaxed stride is often a good sign. Some horses do sweat up or get worked up before a race which generally isn't a good sign although for some horses this can be entirely natural and won't affect their running.
- Going - This is the ground condition which can affect a horse's performance. You'll need to check the horse's form to see what type of going it has acted well on before. Another thing you can look out for is the horse's knee action as it canters to the start. Normally, if a horse has a high rounded front leg action it will go better on soft ground whilst when it has a quicker, 'flicky' action when the knees remain lower it is more likely to go well on firm, fast ground.
Types of Bet
There are plenty of bet types to play with depending on how many horses you like, how much you want to spend and how much you'd like to win. There is something for everyone. Here are few that more you might like to start with...
- Win - select the horse to finish 1st
- Place - select a horse to finish 1st , 2nd , 3rd
- Each Way - to win and to place
- Quinella - select the 1st and 2nd place getters in a race
- Trifecta - select the 1st, 2nd , and 3rd place getters in order in a race
- First 4 - select the 1st, 2nd , 3rd , and 4th place getters in order in a race
EASYBETS are the really easy way to bet. Just decide what meeting and race to bet on and decide what value and the computer will do the rest. Easybets are available in most values but the popular values are $3, $4, $8, $16 and $32..
Food, drink and other entertainment
Facilities at New Zealand's racecourses do vary greatly with the bigger courses offering a wide range of catering and bar options, often including a panoramic restaurant. Small, rural courses tend to offer only basic catering facilities providing a limited range of hot and cold snacks. Please check individual Club or Courses for further details. As for entertainment, other than the racing, some meetings are billed as Family Days or other Themed Days which are attractive for families with extra entertainment especially put on for the day. Check the Racing Calendar for specific meeting details.