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It’s coming up for that time of year again when Royal Ascot gets out the rule book and aims to explain to their female guests: how to be a Lady.
There are many rules relating to dress code and picnics are restricted to one bottle of bubbly per racegoer –
but here we attempt to answer a crucial point they seem to have missed out of their guidelines: is it ladylike to bet at the races?!
Few who have ever watched the film My Fair Lady will forget Eliza Doolittle egging on her horse in its run-up to the finishing post: “Come on, Dover! Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin’ arse!”, apparently demonstrating the epitomy of unladylike behaviour at the epitome of occasions for which the most ladylike behaviour was – and still is – called for.
Although her coach, professor Henry Higgins could not control her language on that occasion, you can bet he had not allowed her to have her own flutter on the horse!
So who do we look to for guidance? John Warren, racing manager for Her Majesty The Queen has said she never bets on her own horses, although apparently on Derby Day there is a sweepstake in the Royal Box, where everyone, including The Queen, puts in £1 (the winner gets about £16) – so she is not averse to a gentle gamble!
So we feel that having a gentle punt and cheering on your horse during the race could be acceptable – but presumably only if done in a Ladylike way…
William Hanson from The English Manner, when asked in The Telegraph newspaper to define being a lady, responded: “It’s all about elegance and confidence.”
So, to give you confidence when placing your bet at the races, here is our super-quick guide:
Where to Bet:
The Betting Ring
This area of the racecourse is a jungle of independent bookmakers who will price up the runners in each race.
Their prices will vary so hunt around for the best value for your horse. Most will take each-way bets (win and place) but some are win only so watch the signs.
All bookmakers have a minimum stake and will have a sign to tell you whether it is £5 min or £10 min.
This will give you a price according to demand rather than opinion. The screens will show the price for each horse according to its number but this price will fluctuate and may be longer or shorter by the time the race goes off.
You cannot ‘take a price’ with the Tote and are subject to market fluctuations but it often returns a better price, particularly on long shots, than the bookies.
Avoid the queues: most betting companies now have apps and websites where you can easily manage your horse racing betting using your mobile phone… to speed things up at the races it is best to set up an account in advance, and placing a deposit in advance is a great way to set the limits on your betting kitty for the day.
Which horse to bet on?
Betting is gambling and a gamble is predicting an unknown outcome. You can do all the research in the world and it will come to nothing if on the day your horse has woken up in a bad mood. Equally, even Dobbin the Three-Legged Horse has been known to play a blinder on occasion.
So, we say: you have as much chance of picking a winner if you a) pick your favourite number or b) pick your favourite colours or c) pick your favourite name as all those who a) read the form, b) look at the horse in the pre-parade ring and c) carry a pair of binoculars and a copy of the Racing Post.
Your stake is the money you are gambling. The minimum stake at a racecourse is generally £2 – however, be aware that if you do that, you will be immediately identified as a newbie.
Although, equally, standing out as a newbie will get you a lot of friendly advice and is a great way to meet people if that’s what you are hoping to do.
Bear in mind as well, that the £2 punt is referred to as ‘The Ladies Bet’ and as with many other racing rituals, the ‘unwritten rule’ is that a £2 bet is okay for a lady, but for a bloke, anything less than £5 is not particularly manly.
Also, note that you don’t get extra brownie points by betting more than £5 or £10 on a race.
Which Type of Bet?
The simplest way to bet is to pick a horse and bet on it to ‘win’ (aka ‘on the nose’) or ask for ‘each way’, i.e. to win or to be placed (check how many places your bookie will pay out for – it varies according to how many horses are in the race).
Note, if you are betting £2 to ‘win’ you hand over £2 to the bookie. If you are betting £2 ‘each way’ you hand over £4 as an each way bet counts as two bets (a ‘win’ bet plus a ‘place’ bet).
To place your bet you’ll need to tell the bookie:
- The horse’s name and number
- The type of bet
- Your stake.
Are you feeling Ladylike yet?
Hopefully you will now be feeling confident about placing a bet at the races and hopefully Lady Luck will line up on your side.
To maximise your chances of keeping your betting Ladylike we recommend you decide how much money you are willing to lose, stick to it, and then any wins are a bonus.
The bit about elegance we will have to leave to you…!
Allison is the Publisher of Eclipse Magazine. She loves going to the Races and is learning to bet (despite being officially the worst bettor in the History of the Universe), there’s a lot more to learn…