I had never been to a horse race before I moved to Arkansas. While there were a lot of horses where I grew up in Iowa, there were not of the horse-racing variety.
There are no horse tracks in South Dakota, either. The rodeo is more of the sport of choice that involves horse.
I have seen the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes on television, of course, but I also knew that seeing a race in person is a whole different experience like any other sport.
So when I went to Oaklawn in Hot Springs to cover the Arkansas Derby, it was quite the experience, one of which I enjoyed.
Before I left, one of my coworkers asked me if I could put money down on the Derby, and I was confused because I did not think reporters could money down on the races, so I declined.
Once I got there and saw a couple of races, I noticed the other reporters and columnists in the press room kept going up to a man set up in the corner. They were placing bets and it was a special place set up in the press room to take the bets.
I was hesitant at first. Since this was my first horse race that I have been to, this would also be the first time I would place a bet on the horses.
However, it would not be my first time placing a bet in general. A new casino resort was just finished in the county that I grew up in Iowa. Plus I was introduced to Texas Hold’Em my freshman year at college at Iowa State.
In high school, one of my former teachers and I would place bets on sporting events, but the pot would also be just a pop. No money was ever involved.
So this would be my first time ever betting on a sporting event. Needless to say, I had no idea what I was doing, let alone would I know what horse would be the correct one to place money on.
Yes, I had Charlie Cooper’s picks with me and I heard in the press box which ones were the favorites. By the fourth race, I placed my first bet, which was just $2 as were most of my bets. My highest bet topped out at $4 for one race.
I lost that first bet, but I decided to keep going. I looked at some of the trends that were developing with who was riding which horse from the previous four racers.
Now I know that there is no real set-in-stone way to bet on the horses. Everyone has their favorite ways, from what I know. I figure some pick a horse on their favorite names, they may go for the “sure shots” or go for a long shot and hope to hit one race to make their money.
My system of seeing which jockey and owners got hot worked for me. The first race that I bet on was the only race I lost. I did not bet on every race, but the ones I did bet on I came out in the money.
That system worked for me that day, but I figure another day it could place me in the red.
The main thing is I had fun with it. I did not put big money out on the table, which did not stress me out. Placing a small bet on the horse and allowed me to actually enjoy the races more and I learned more about the sport.
Now if a horse race is ever on the schedule or something big is happening in the sport, I get a little more excited because I sort of know what is going on now.
Just another part of my Southern education, right?
Justin Rust is a sports writer at The Commercial. Email him at email@example.com.