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Betting on Horse Racing in New Zealand

Nothing encapsulates the Aotearoa New Zealand penchant for gambling better than horse racing. That’s because the European settlers had brought the punting flutter with them at the turn of the 20th Century.

From the time Sir George Julius had installed the first totaliser machine at the Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland in 1913, the Kiwis have never looked back. It has blossomed into a $NZ2 billion industry despite efforts from the government to shut down smaller racecourses in an amalgamated exercise to whittle down the number of venues from 48 to 27 by 2030.

Horse racing — thoroughbred (or gallops), harness (trotting), jumps (including cross country, hurdles, and steeplechase) — remains the most popular sports code for gambling in New Zealand. Greyhound (dog) racing also comes under its umbrella.

Akin to winnings from sports gambling, online horse-racing wagering wins are exempt from tax, so punters can go to town on it either at the New Zealand-based and online TAB NZ sites or the numerous overseas digital platforms.

However, it pays to note that not every online sports betting operator offers a substantial horse-racing platform. Some sportsbooks tend to include horse racing to broaden the services they provide while using other popular codes, such as soccer (football), tennis, or basketball, as the emblem on their bonnets.

You can trust our reviews to make educated decisions on what sportsbook is ideal for placing horse-racing bets. As always, be mindful that what suits one individual may not necessarily be your go-to platform. That’s why we’re breaking down and listing as many key variables as possible for you to consider when picking a site that is tailor made for you.

New Zealanders are creatures of habit, so they tend to gravitate towards what they feel is safe and secure, even as digital platforms are thriving in the gambling world. For that reason Kiwi punters have found traction with the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB), a subsidiary of the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB), which administers online gambling. The NZRB — which runs and promotes thoroughbred, trotting and hound racing — operates the only licensed racing and sports betting agency in the country.

However, the government’s move to amalgamate and restructure the horse racing industry to remain viable a few years ago had led to an official disclosure that an increasing number of New Zealanders is growing in confidence to wager on online platforms. The NZRB backed that up in conceding that the TAB had been struggling to match the odds, product range and services in the face of what rival online sportsbooks are offering from abroad.

With that in mind, we’ve picked a medley of top-class online sportsbooks that ticks numerous boxes. We have included a nifty outline after each recommendation to give you some insight on what each one offers so as to save you time to do what you prefer — that is enjoy gambling.

Again, make sure you’re not just focusing on one aspect — for example best odds — but the convenience of other variables that suits your needs. Does it have live streaming of races if you live too far away to commute to a venue? Is PayPal among other key payment methods? How about sign-up bonuses? Do its markets offer Kiwi race meetings alongside Australian and other marquee overseas ones?

Online Horse Racing Betting From New Zealand

Here’s our list of some of the best online sportsbooks in New Zealand (in alphabetical order):

888sport

Yes, its daily odds are competitive and come with a guarantee for UK and Irish meetings only. 888sport’s orange-and-black site is alluring and easy to navigate. Sign-up bonuses and promotions are generous. Live streaming and other benefits, such as Betfinder, form book, tips, and a mobile app download, are always a given at the sportsbook. The “all markets available” claim doesn’t tee up Kiwi meetings. It does have Australia, UK, Ireland, and US meetings among other overseas ones.

Bet365

As the country’s most-preferred overseas online bookies, you’d expect Bet365 to have horse racing, especially thoroughbreds, at the forefront of its ample forest-and-gold-on-charcoal landing page. While soccer overshadows the running promos, the sportsbook does make horse-racing price promises, albeit at UK and Ireland meetings. What will please Kiwi punters is the “Australia & NZ” meetings. The Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival trilogy of the Tarzino Trophy, the Arrowfield Stud Plate (formerly the Windsor Park Plate), and the Livamol Classic fields makes a strong statement, among other bells and whistles, such as acca, bonuses, guaranteed odds, and live betting.

Betway

 You know an online sportsbook isn’t just paying lip service when it incorporates “daily horse racing cards” among the quick links of the baseball, cricket, soccer, and UFC. That’s what the carbon black-and-shamrock green site of Betway offers Kiwi punters. Betway doesn’t discriminate in covering the Wingatui meeting in the township of Mosgiel, on the outskirts of Dunedin in the South Island, alongside the Auckland Cup or the Karaka Millions. We felt Betway should have the Melbourne Cup — which stops two nations of Australia and New Zealand every November — among the other prominent meetings such as the Grand National, Cheltham, and Royal Ascot it showcases at the foot of its horse racing page. Live streaming, myriad markets and form guides are a given. The Betway Insider blog offers tips and history. It doesn’t offer tote betting.

Ladbrokes

 Despite taking Kiwi punters to the Australian site, Ladbrokes finds traction with New Zealanders as trustworthy bookmakers offering competitive odds to the Southern Hemisphere for yonks. Founded in 1886, Ladbrokes’ blood-and-lipstick-red sportsbook knows what makes Kiwi gamblers tick. It sports PayPal on the top right-hand corner, alongside MasterCard and Visa, as its trusted payment methods. Whether it’s harness racing in Addington or Greyhound one in Cambridge, Ladbrokes groups Aussie and Kiwi meetings together to differentiate from international ones. Among the downsides is that Australian gambling rules prevent Ladbrokes from displaying its bonuses. Kiwis will have to log into their accounts to decipher that. Phones provide the live wagering platform and Ladbrokes only accepts the aussie currency.

Factors That Define Best Horse Racing Sites

To be safe, punters in New Zealand are encouraged to engage with online sites that come with the official backing of recognised gambling licences. Such platforms have the rubber stamp endorsement from regulatory bodies, including the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC), Curaçao eGaming, and the Gibraltar Gaming Commission (GGC), to name a few.

Nevertheless, several other variables must be considered in identifying and determining what constitutes the best horse-racing betting sites in New Zealand.

Here are some beacons that will guide you to choosing a horse-racing betting sportsbook that will suit your needs (in alphabetical order):

Bank, e-Wallet payment methods

Make sure what you opt for is in line with what the sportsbook considers to be an acceptable gateway to make life easy for everyone, regardless of whether gamblers are making deposits or withdrawing winnings. Do they accept kiwi dollars and what are some of the hidden fees if exchange rates kick in?

Betting odds

Do the punters offer tote odds or just fixed ones? While banking on the most competitive odds is advisable it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of betting. Most punters “guarantee odds” but check the time constraints. What can Kiwis make of “ante-post betting odds” (picked at least a day before the race day)? Read the terms & conditions for your peace of mind. Compare with other reputable sportsbooks to see what rocks your boat.

Bonuses & promotions

Who doesn’t want more bang for their kiwi dollar? If a sportsbook isn’t generous in making it an enjoyable experience, then New Zealand bettors will need to shop around. Bonuses and rewards make the horse-race betting experience more enjoyable. If a sportsbook is aligned with Australia (note, where bonuses cannot be displayed), Kiwi punters will be required to log into their accounts to view them.

Customer care

Just like online casinos, online sportsbook platforms should offer around-the-clock service to Kiwi bettors when they find themselves in a tangle. FAQs, emails, and website widgets are great tools, but nothing compensates for a freephone contact where New Zealanders can speak to a caring and knowledgeable support crew member.

Form guide/statistics

This is important for the hardcore punters who want to have an edge over the bookies. Knowing the history of not just the horse but also the record of jockeys and trainers go a long way in picking a winner. The pedigree of a former group 1 champion and mare can have a huge bearing on how their progeny will go in its maiden race. A Melbourne Cup-winning jockey can bring out the best in a rookie runner, all the way to the winning post. Ditto an owner or trainer.

Live streaming

To be able to see a race unfold in real time not only adds to the excitement of betting but also offers important clues at the height of racing to the punters, especially if tote odds are the preferred option. More sportsbooks are offering live streaming but that doesn’t mean they cover every race meeting. That’s where TAB and its Trackside coverage come into play when compared with overseas online rivals.

Markets

It’s all fine and dandy to have online sportsbooks offer marquee meetings from around the world with guaranteed odds. From the Kiwi perspective, the love and passion for horse racing begins at home. Do punters offer New Zealand meetings, never mind the fringe ones? That is often a mark of respect for Kiwi bettors. Australia is the next step up. If so, do they highlight the fields with clear “Australia & NZ” subheadings?

Safety & security

We believe this is the first point of engagement for Kiwi horse-racing bettors. Before you consider any of the other factors, make sure you have picked a licensed and regulated site. If it’s not trustworthy enough, then New Zealand gamblers will be akin to jockeys who have just lost their perch on their mounts about 15 strides from the winning post. Studying our recommendations is a great starting point for your health and wellbeing.

Wagering windows

What types of betting do sportsbooks offer? The outright win is often a good start for beginners before they contemplate “place” and “each way” betting. However, when punters become betting savvy they want to flirt with “exacta”, “first 4”, “quinella” and “trifecta” wagering. Are the sportsbooks sporty enough to offer Kiwi bettors flexibility in “boxing” their bets?

Different Types Of Horse-Racing Wagering Markets

The spectrum of horse-racing markets that online sportsbooks offer in New Zealand can be quite daunting for Kiwis who are entering the domain for the first time for a flutter. Those who are lucky enough to live within road-travelling distance of attending race meetings at centres around the country because of family involvement will have a better understanding.

However, the local horse-racing betting market can be quite complex because of the different types of race meetings. To have some knowledge of how the different races are grouped goes a long way in helping punters make informed decisions on where to place their bets.

In fact, that’s a great start before Kiwi bettors should start trying their luck across the ditch in Australia. No doubt, the bigger markets there will make it easy for them to traverse to the British and European markets as well as the lucrative Indo-China ones such as Hong Kong, India, Japan, and Singapore. American and Middle Eastern meetings with multi-million-dollar purses also attract attention from serious punters.

Therefore, we feel New Zealand gamblers must have a grasp of the local race meetings first to better understand what suits their betting requirements. The more common forms of horse-racing meetings in the country include Group, Handicap, Listed, and Maiden races.

Group races come in three categories with Group 1 fielding champion horses while Groups 2 and 3 have pedigree mounts that are still trying to establish themselves while coming up the ranks. A “Black Type” label is offered to a horse that has won a group 1 race and its name is often put in a solid black bold font type to distinguish it from the rest of the field. Group 1 races also boast a lion’s share of the prize money, some million-dollar ones luring horses from overseas.

Group races make allowances for horses with variables such as their age, distance, gender, and weight. Colts and fillies (male and female horses three years old or under) are restricted to their age groups to safeguard them from injuries against older mounts. It’s similar to pedigree boxers who are pitted against journeymen before they have garnered enough experience and strength to take on a world champion in any grade.

The majority of the mounts end up in Handicap races where a team of assessors rate them after each race to award them points. Same rules as those for Group races are applicable here but horses will carry varying weights (strapped on to belt bags hanging alongside their saddles) based on their previous outings to provide a fair field to compete against. If they reach 110 points, then they are deemed to be fit to be promoted to either Group or Listed races.

Listed races become the drop-off category for horses that have failed to make a mark at the Group level. Should they find form at the Listed level they can be considered for Group races again.

The Maiden races are for horses that have yet to eke out a victory. That doesn’t mean those mounts aren’t earning any money for their owners, trainers, and jockeys. Like journeymen in boxing, some horses can be locked into the maiden category for the rest of their career.

The distance of races also becomes a crucial factor in determining if a horse is capable of mastering any given track. Mounts that are specialists in sprints tend to cover 800m to 1000m races. Stayers are adept at endurance distances of 2,000m to 2,400m. The pedigree horses have the ability to fluctuate between sprint distances to stayer ones.

It’s vital to know that the method of racing, terminology, and types of races differ from one country to another. That the UK and US markets have marked differences in themselves despite similar broad categories puts the other overseas markets in perspective. Our advice to Kiwi punters intending to venture outside their comfort zone is to do some research to become familiar with the points of differences.

Now that Kiwi bettors have a better comprehension of the different types of races, they are ready to wager with confidence. Just because a horse excels on clockwise or anti-clockwise tracks on New Zealand soil it doesn’t mean it’ll emulate that feat in Australian conditions.

Variety Of Horse-Racing Betting Types In NZ

Bookmakers are always looking at ways to keep their products entertaining and fresh for New Zealand punters, so it’s a massive task to keep up with all the different types of horse-racing bets.

Many Kiwi punters, even newcomers, are familiar with the straight-out victory or placing. However, we’ve done some ground work to cherry pick types of betting that will excite New Zealand bettors seeking not only thrills but also a chance to boost their returns from wagers.

It is important to note that betting can also vary, depending on whether it’s a harness race, jumps, or thoroughbred. Here are some of the betting types we’ve highlighted to help Kiwis in their bid to select sportsbooks best suited to their needs (in alphabetical order):

  • Ante-Post: This form of wagering is ideal for Kiwi punters who have some inside knowledge on how the horse is doing via track reports and who the trainer and jockey are. That means they can place bets well before the actual race day. Good sportsbooks tend to have up-to-date forms and related statistics posted on their sites.
  • Boxed: This type of bet is pertaining to quinella and trifecta wagering. In a quinella one, a boxed bet means you need to pick more than two horses, but you will still have to have your first and second picks to finish in that order to collect. As for the boxed trifecta, the punter can pick three horses that can finish in any order for the top placings. Pay a little bit extra to be able to boost your chances of winning on more horses.
  • Distance: Bookmakers love nothing more than punters who can put their money where their mouth is. Consequently, if punters believe their mount is so slick that it is capable of not only finishing first past the post but also blowing away the rest of the field, then they have the opportunity to predict their combination will scorch its rivals by a certain number of lengths.
  • Each way: On this one punters can opt for a combination of a place and win wager. That equates to your mount coming up trumps but also giving you a chance to collect if it places — that is, finishing runner-up or in third place. You can see why this is popular among many Kiwis, especially those who are novice bettors.
  • Exacta: It’s exactly what the name of this bet states. The first two placings in a race must finish exactly in that order for a pay-out.
  • In-running: Also referred to as in-play betting, in-running wagering is when you can plump for a mount during the height of the race, based on its performance. This is an ideal form of betting for Kiwi gamblers who suspect their horse may be a little temperamental before the gates spring open. As much as this is a great offer from bookies, be mindful that if you’re relying on live streaming for updates then you should make sure the sportsbook’s service is sharp and up with the play.
  • Matched betting: A couple of accounts and a handle on fundamental mathematics are all that you require to place bets here. It is a risk-free method of wagering to boost your returns by taking advantage of free bets and promotions that sportsbooks offer but also laying a stake on losing on a betting exchange. In having a foot in both camps, how can you possibly lose? Bookies don’t like that, so not all sportsbooks offer this. Form, knowledge, and odds are key for punters in this type of betting.
  • Pick 3, 4, 5: To collect here, Kiwi bettors must select the corresponding number of mounts to win from as many races. Two out of three or four out of five won’t cut it.
  • Place: If you’re wagering on a horse to claim a place, then you’re expecting it to finish first, runner-up, or third. Another basic type that’s popular with Kiwis.
  • Quinella: That’s when bettors pick two mounts they believe will cross the finish line in first and second places, irrespective of which order. Easy to understand and anyone can wager here.
  • Superfecta: Needless to say, this type of bet isn’t for the faint-hearted New Zealanders. It may seem like a tall order to pick which horses will finish in the exact top-four placings but nail them and the average pay-out is in the ballpark figure of $NZ25,000.
  • Trifecta: Kiwi bettors simply need to select the runners they think will come in first, second, or third in a race. No doubt, a fair amount of experience and knowledge are required here to claim a trifecta, but luck plays its part for a handsome windfall.
  • Win: Another no-brainer akin to each way and place bets. Just back a horse to cross the finish line first and collect.
  • Without favourite: Quite often you’ll see a field of horses where one is an outright favourite in the days leading up to the race day. Why not back a mount you believe will finish second. In other words, the bookmakers will treat your pick as a winner to finish behind the favourite for a pay-out.

Marquee Horse Races To Follow

Horse racing in New Zealand is in a unique position when compared with the rest of the world, even the United Kingdom. Those who carve a niche in the industry do it in the knowledge that success may mean spreading their wings to neighbouring Australia to build on incremental gains.

Bearing that in mind, we feel it’s important to highlight the marquee horse-race events in the country before listing the key Australia and overseas ones when Kiwi punters want to have a flutter. The bettors who follow a horse, trainer, or jockey in New Zealand often bank on them when the latter ply their trade off shore.

That owners, trainers feel compelled to bring their horses to New Zealand to clinch a six to seven-figure prize money endorses the theory that this country is an important thoroughbred racing destination, albeit not among the major ones.

Here are some of the marquee races and meetings in New Zealand (in order of the biggest prize money):

Karaka Millions

The 2-year-old and 3-year-old races, both restricted ones, are run for a $NZ1 million prize money each. The premier Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland hosts these races in January each year, competing over 1200m (2YO) and 1600m (3YO), respectively. Only horses bought at the Karaka Horse Sales during summer for these races. Aussie owners/trainers and bettors aren’t shy to be involved with the Karaka Millions.

New Zealand Derby

This is a set-weight Group 1 for 3-year-olds that dangles a $NZ1 million prize money. The stayers’ race, run over 2400m, is scheduled for March each year at the Ellerslie Racecourse. The Derby shares the premier status with the Karaka Millions and slots into the annual, week-long Auckland Cup Carnival. Raced at the Riccarton Racecourse since 1860, the organisers had amalgamated the Derby with the Great Northern Derby before shifting it north to Auckland from 1875. Run traditionally on Boxing Day, the event was rescheduled to March as of late to create a pathway for successful combinations to make the most of the race meeting windows abroad.

New Zealand 1000/2000 Guineas

The NZ 2000 Guineas sets the tone with a $NZ500,000 purse while the 1000 Guineas chimes in with $300,000 prize money. Both of them are Group 1 1600m races, staged annually at the Riccarton Racecourse in November. The 2000 Guineas is for set-weight 3-year-olds while the 1000 Guineas, which includes the City of Auckland Cup in its week, is for fillies of a similar set-weight age group. The races, run over two weeks, are part of New Zealand Cup Week hosted in Canterbury. The cup week also features key harness and Greyhound events.

Auckland Cup

The Auckland Racing Club hosts this $NZ500,000 race at the Ellerslie Racecourse in March each year. Run on a flat course since 1875, the 3200m event used to be staged on Boxing Day before organisers had shifted it to New Year’s Day in 158. However, since 2006 it was moved to every second Saturday of the Auckland Cup week in March. The Auckland Cup has lost its status from Group 1 to Group 2 since 2022, albeit maintaining a lucrative prize money. Once the richest cup in New Zealand, the open, set-wright penalties event now plays second fiddle to the $NZ1 Million Karaka Millions and NZ Derby.

New Zealand Oaks

This is a $NZ240,000 race that is run over 2400m on the third Saturday of March each year at the Trentham Racecourse in the capital city of Wellington. The Group 1 race was traditionally run at Riccarton until 1972 over 2000m before it was moved to Trentham and, two years later, 400m added to the distance. It’s a set-weight race for 3-year-old fillies. The shift in timing from the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) has teed up the NZ Oaks for winning mounts to compete in marquee races in Australia, including the $A1 million ATC Oaks three weeks later in Sydney as well as the Caulfield Cup and the Cox Plate staged in Melbourne.

New Zealand Trotting Cup

A $NZ1.2 million race in 2008, the purse had shrunk to $NZ631,500 in 2021 for this standard-bred 3200m race staged at the Addington Raceway in Christchurch. Also known as the NZ Pacing Cup, this Group 1 harness event had its inaugural run at the turn of the 20th Century. Steeped in history, the event for 3-year-old and upwards horses has yielded winners who have beaten American champions and upstaged Aussie favourites at the Inter Dominion in Cardigan Bay. It draws up to 20,000 punters on race day where overseas runners vie for the trotting cup.

Livamol Classic

When comparing prize money, the annual $NZ250,000 Livamol Classic in the city of Hastings gives way to the $NZ260,000 to $NZ400,000 races such as the Herbier Dykes Stakes, the Wellington Cup, and the Levin Classic. However, we feel it’s important to include this Group 1 Livamol Classic here because it’s part of the provincial trilogy hosted in Hastings as the Hawke’s Bay Spring Racing Carnival. The weight-for-age (WFA) Classic, which is raced over 2040m in October, is the third and final leg of the carnival. The $NZ220,00, WFA, 1400m Tarzino Trophy is the first leg and the fellow Group 1, WFA, 1600m Arrowfield Stud Plate (formerly the Windsor Park Plate) the second leg raced in August/September. Combined the carnival offers a great build up to the other lucrative races in the country. At the turn of the 21st century, the Livamol Classic had boasted a $NZ1 million purse and was seen as a stepping stone to fielding winners at the $NZ14 million Melbourne Cup carnival. The Hastings course is ideal because of its drainage, considering other major venues around the country are too boggy. That has prompted calls to NZTR to help establish artificial turf race tracks.

Great Northern Hurdle & Steeplechase

In the same vein as the NZ Trotting Cup, we have included this iconic race not because of its recent, upgraded $NZ150,000 prize money but owing to its prestige in the country. Faithful Kiwi racegoers gamble on such events because of their tradition and the love of the sport, although they would love to boost their profits. The Te Aroha racetrack is earmarked for the Great Northern Hurdle & Steeplechase from the Ellerslie Racecourse. Having outline the marquee local events, we can now look at a handful of iconic events around the world that hardcore Kiwi bettors consider when gambling. It’s not always the lucrative purses that grabs their attention. New Zealand punters trust their instincts in following elite horses, jockeys, and trainers to overseas venues.

Here are some of the horse-racing events that Kiwis follow with passion in terms of popularity:

  • Melbourne Cup: Without doubt this is the multi-million-dollar race that brings two countries to an abrupt halt as punters converge at racecourses, hotels, bars, offices, and sports clubs to wager on. It’s not about the amount of money — although serious gamblers put on their game faces — on the first Tuesday of November. The annual $NZ4.4 million, Group 1 race is run over 3200m for 3-year-olds on a handicap format of the left-handed Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne.
  • Royal Ascot: This five-day racing extravaganza at the Berkshire racecourse in England has an affiliation with New Zealanders because of its early settlers’ history. A British colony and the prestige allocated to the Royal Ascot through the late Queen Elizabeth II make the multi-million-dollar event the next best port of call for Kiwi punters. The Gold Cup headlines eight Group 1 races among its 18 graded stakes. King Charles III will continue his mother’s tradition of attending the Royal Ascot each year in June.
  • Breeders’ Cup: The international field of runners is difficult for Kiwi bettors to overlook when the iconic annual American event comes into play in November. It maintains the Kiwis’ adrenalin levels within a week when they’re still buzzing from the Melbourne Cup in Australia. A relatively young flat-race event started in the 1980s, the Breeders’ Cup had reached a staggering $US30 million in prize money and had enticed up to 118,484 racegoers to the “Grade 1” (equivalent to NZ Group 1) thoroughbred event at the Santa Anita Park over two days in 2016. The purses of its marquee races vary from $US1 million to $US6 million. Venues change from year to year. Thirty-five Irish and 23 Great Britain mounts have won marquee races there.
  • Cheltenham Festival: This is the world cup equivalent of the jumps discipline in horse racing. The annual Cheltenham Festival is staged over four days at the Prestbury Park racecourse in Gloucestershire, England, in March. It may be hosted over five days from 2023. However, the festival features 28 races, including 14 Grade 1 ones, with the Gold Cup as the emblem on its bonnet. Akin to the Royal Ascot, race-day punters are expected to be in formal attire. The Cheltenham roar signals the start of the event when more than 70,000 fans, crammed in the grandstands, cry in unison as the starter raises the tape for the maiden race to begin.

Glossary Of Horse Racing Terms

Jargon is a dialect that makes perfect sense to those who are immersed in a particular industry. Specific words and phrases saves the profession time and energy in explaining things and frees them up to go about their daily business.

The horse-racing industry also is steeped in jargon, like the business world. That can make life difficult for New Zealand bettors — especially newcomers and those who are into gambling as a form of entertainment — who won’t take kindly to losing money through misunderstanding.

That’s why we’re doing the digging here for Kiwi punters to create a glossary of commonly used words and phrases to ensure their wagering time is a seamless and enjoyable one:

  • Action: The manner in which a horse moves around the racecourse or at a track workout. An animal’s body language speaks volumes to savvy punters.
  • Backup: To have a mount back at the starting gates immediately after its previous outing. That can help in picking a possible winner based on fatigue after a tough or easy outing.
  • Barrier: The positions that horses line up in at the starting stall before the gates flick open. What barrier a mount starts can have an impact on where they finish. It’s no different to athletics sprinters preferring an inside line but not wanting the rest of the field to crowd them (boxed in in horse racing) along the home straight.
  • Blacktype: Bold lettering often denotes in form guides and sale catalogues of horses that have won major races, such as Group 1-3.
  • Blinkers: Punters need to know that adding a headgear to a mount prevents the racehorse from distractions on either side of its vision. It tells gamblers that the animal has a chance of changing its fortunes.
  • Classic: This a global term that refers to flat races involving 3-year-old thoroughbred horses.
  • Correct weight: Officials make a point of inspecting the weight allocated to a racehorse before and, especially if they make it to the winner’s circle of the birdcage, after a race as placegetters. Bookies will not pay out on any wagers until after this process is rubber stamped.
  • Field: That constitutes the list of runners for any given race. Those punters who “take the field” are signalling that they are backing every horse in a line up.
  • Group races: In New Zealand, they are rated from 1 to 3 with the former ranked the most important. It pays for Kiwi bettors to know that in the UK, US they refer to the top-ranked races as Grade 1. The prize money starts from six-figure sums and enters the millions per race.
  • Half-brother/sister: It’s important for punters to know the pedigree of racehorses when placing bets on relative newcomers. This term is for horses born out of the same dam (mother) but different sires (fathers). Be mindful that it isn’t applicable to foals born out of one sire from different dams.
  • Handicap: This is a form of racing where horses in a field will carry varying weights. The better mounts tend to be heavier based on what rating the handicapper places on them. Therefore, the heavier racehorse will be added more weight on its saddle cloth to give the lesser rivals a chance for an even run. The system is similar to golf where better handicappers receive fewer shots or points for each hole. Skilful bettors know which pedigree horses will overcome the disadvantage of the extra weight.
  • Home straight: It’s the straight stretch on a racecourse track after the last turn before charging to cross the finish line, also referred to as “the post”.
  • Maiden: It has a two-pronged application. Either a mount that has yet to clinch a race or a maiden race where all the contending horses have yet to claim a title.
  • Non-runner: That is a classification for a horse that is withdrawn, usually shortly before the start of a race. However, punters receive a refund on their stakes but those who make ante-post bets will forfeit it.
  • Stakes: Again, a double application to this term. It’s the sum of money that betting parties guarantee as a wager. It also refers to the total prize money that is allocated to place getters, depending on what order they finish.
  • Stayer: A horse that has the stamina to compete over longer distances, starting from 2400m. In human athletics, long distance starts from 3,000km races to 42.2km marathons. Horses are also categorised in the same way, although Kiwi gamblers should be mindful of horses that can race at 1800m to 2000m and make the transition to more than 2400m.
  • Steward/stipend: Officials who have a hawk eye for spotting any jockey breaking rules on the tracks on race day. They review cases, entertain protests, and ask a panel of judges to deliver verdicts based on slow-motion replay of TV footage or live-streaming material. Kiwi bettors must check to see if bookies refund bets if their winner is penalised and loses its placing. Some bookies pay out on the first-past-the-post result while others don’t, based on the official ruling.
  • Totalisator: Also referred to as the Tote board, it is based on a French system where all the money wagered on a race forms a pool from which the winning amount is calculated before it is divided among victorious bettors. The bigger the number of winning punters, the smaller the pay out, and vice versa. That means the gambling public set the odds, rather than the bookies. Tax and charges are deducted from the winnings, too.
  • Weigh-in: This is important for punters because officials check jockeys, armed with their saddles and other accessories, to ensure they are not lugging any additional weight to give their mounts an advantage in an established handicap race.

Horse Racing Strategy & Tips

While we’ve attempted to highlight key areas to make your horse-race betting enjoyable and safe, we emphasise that there aren’t any hard-and-fast strategies or tips.

Different bookies, conditions, gamblers, horses, and other such factors make it a complex exercise to put in a nutshell. Some racegoers out to have an entertaining time will pick a winner based on the name of a horse or jockey that appeals to them or opt for eye-catching silks (costume colours jockeys wear).

Nevertheless, New Zealand bettors who want to profit from their flutters must do their homework before backing their instincts. A plan they plot for one horse at some venue may not work at another. A change of jockeys from one race to another can have an impact on an outcome, too.

On that note, here is a list some of our broad suggestions on variables that may have a bearing on a strategy (in alphabetical order):

  • Form: We consider this to be the most important, no matter what the breed of a horse. Children are awarded scholarships based on their class reports. Racehorses are no different. That said, there’s little money to be made on favourites. That’s where your class comes through as a punter. If a horse has had three top-four finishes in its past six outings, is it due for a win in the next one? Your call based on its form and statistics sportsbooks provide on their sites.
  • Gear: What accessories a horse wears is in the hands of the trainer working in collaboration with the jockey. Should they use blinkers and cheek plates to cut out the mount’s distractions? Will they make the horse focus or throw it off its stride? Eventually, you’ll have to be the judge, based on the horse’s temperament.
  • Jockey: Like horses, some riders perform better than others. The good ones are able to bring the best out in their mounts. Unfortunately, some jockeys use the whip too often and, as intelligent animals, horses work them out. Riders’ records speak volumes. It’s not just about who claims the most winners. Astute punters are able to differentiate between talented riders and those who bank on sheer determination and grit.
  • Track character: In 2008, NZTR had adopted an 11-scale track rating system after a six-month trial and public feedback. All of that means Kiwi bettors should be making more educated decisions from one venue to another, based on how any horse finds traction compared with its performances. A fast track starts at No.1 and takes in the good, dead, slow, surfaces before ending with heavy ones at No.11.
  • Trainer: Akin to jockeys, trainers also have philosophies in preparing their mounts when an owner brings them for mentoring. Sure, some trainers have the Midas touch, and their records speak for themselves. However, good Kiwi punters do their research on what methods they employ. How they are able to match a jockey with a mount in a short turnaround time from one meeting to another. Do trainers give their top performers a spell after a big season with lucrative purses beckoning? Overall, it’s always a collaboration with punters joining in the party. An integral component of any successful strategy is the ability of gamblers to latch on to any tips they can find from horse racing-savvy players in the industry. Whether it’s from a reliable source or how a mount behaves in the lead up to a race, they all add up to creating a sound strategy.

Here is a list of tips we recommend to Kiwi bettors (in alphabetical order):

  • Birdcage watch: Keep a hawk eye on how the horses are behaving as the handlers walk them around in the birdcage with or without the jockey in the saddle before the race starts. Are they calm and perky or yanking their bridle in discomfort?
  • Don’t push your luck: Keep your horse-racing betting in perspective, especially if you’re new to the game. Place your wager on the odds-on favourite even though the profit margin is slim. Going straight out for a rank outsider can hit your pocket and well-being hard. Do that when your confidence and knowledge are high.
  • Expert advice: No matter how good anyone is at anything in life, they have picked up lessons from listening and watching other professionals in a chosen industry. In the horse-racing domain, identify commentators and scribes who have a proven record from track reports to previews to race reviews.
  • Fun factor: Always wager on account of entertaining yourself because that’ll determine how clear a head you’ll have in making rational decisions. Those who lose the plot also lose their money. If gambling is an addiction then seek help from Safer Gambling Aotearoa for an 0800 helpline, free text number, and free support services near you.
  • Gauge odds: That’s usually a smart starting point at a sportsbook but be mindful that bookmakers have many other variables to consider in trying to work out if you’re backing the right horses. Don’t be shy to compare bookmakers’ odds across different sites.

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Ijeoma Esther is an iGaming content writer and editor with over a decade of experience in the New Zealand mobile casino industry. While initially diving into online casino gaming as a hobby, she soon found herself immersed in the enthralling world of mobile slot and live casino games.Through the years, she discovered that writing about her favorite pokies was just as fun as playing them.

Last updated: 10/6/2022