Go through the following information to get a basic understanding on how to read the racecard, what are the types and categories of races, what are classic races, what age horses run from, how to bet, what are subsidies and handicaps, who are the trainers, owners and riders or what you will find at the racetrack.
The horses are strolling in the paddock, you're flicking through the racecard - what race is it going to be now? How long will it be, how good will the horses be, who can take part? Not all the details may be apparent at first glance and you need to be able to read them.
Each race is listed in the racecard in a similar way to the illustration above. Let's now discuss the individual items.
The two numbers in the top left corner indicate the order of the race and the scheduled start time. There are between 6 and 10 races run on each raceday, at roughly half-hour intervals. The order of the race is often useful in betting as an identification of the race you want to bet on.
The full official name of the race follows to the right in big bold letters. Below that is the main information that tells you which race is being run.
Most often flat races are run on Czech tracks (as in the example above). In addition, you may come across an indication that it is run over jumps, steeplechase or steeplechase crosscountry. Again, an explanation will come in another article when we cover steeplechase.
The following details what category of race it is, what distance it is run over - in flat races the distances are usually between 1,000 and 3,200 metres - and whether it is a handicap or a stakes. It is not very common to say that it is a "Class I" race - only if too many horses have entered a particular race and the race has been split into several "divisions".
The bottom box starts with information about the prize money, i.e. how much money the first-placed horses will split between them, with the exact split for the horses in the respective order in brackets. In some races there is also the possibility of owner's premiums for Czech-bred horses (i.e. only horses that do not have another country's abbreviation after their name in brackets can qualify).
It continues with an indication of what age the race is for, followed by an explanation of how the weight the horse will carry is determined. In this case, three-year-old horses will carry what their handicap is minus 2.5 kilograms, whereas older horses will have 4 kilograms added to their handicap.
The last is more or less peripheral information for the viewer about the entry fee the owners had to pay when entering the horse in the race.
We're still at the paddock with the racecard in hand. But you, of course, want to know about the horses that parade in front of you. Nothing is easier, most of the information you need can be found in the racecard.
Below the information describing the race is information about the individual participants, similar to the picture above.
It starts with the number that the horse will wear in this race, which in Czech conditions also means from which starting box the horse will run. The higher the number is, the further it will start from the inner edge of the track.
This is followed by the horse's name. Just for information, the name can have a maximum of 18 characters, including spaces. The abbreviation of the horse's country of origin may be given in brackets after the name, if nothing is given, it is a horse from the Czech Republic. This may be followed by a few letters in italics indicating specific circumstances relating to that horse in the race. The horse Rumpl Cimpr Campr does not use any aids here, the explanations of the abbreviations can be found in the racecard in the section "How to read the racecard".
The other numbers refer to the weight the horse will carry in the race. The actual weight carried after all adjustments is shown in bold. How this weight is determined is given in the description of the race. The handicap rating of the horse is given in brackets. "0,0" for Rumpl Cimpr Campr means that the horse has a "0,0". David Liška does not use any riding relief in this race. The "+0,5" at the very end of the first line for Rumpl Cimpr Campr means that the horse will carry half a kilogram more than he should according to the rulebook, for the reason that David Liška simply weighs 56 kilograms instead of the 55,5 kilograms he should correctly carry.
The next line will tell us something about the horse itself and especially its origin. The number at the beginning represents the age of the horse. The abbreviation after it informs about his colour and sex. The horse is a bay (hd). For example, they can also be rustics (r) or whites (b). Rumpl Cimpr Campr is a gelding (v), a mare is abbreviated (kl). You would know a stallion by the fact that there would be no letter and the abbreviations would only describe the colour.
The line continues with information about the horse's lineage, in order of father, mother and mother's father, always with the country of origin of the horse in question. A little further on, the horse's breeder, i.e. the owner of its mother at the time of its birth, is then given.
Let us stay on the left-hand side. On the next line is first the horse's owner, followed by its trainer. Below these are the stable colours that the rider leading the horse will be wearing, first the jersey, then the cap. During the race itself you can best recognize the horse by these colours.
To the right, under the rider's name, is a summary of the horse's results for this year and last year. It starts with the number of starts, followed by the number of wins, the number of placings on the board (i.e. up to fifth place) and the total prize money earned that year. We can thus learn that Rumpl Cimpr Campr started in 4 races in 2018, won none of them, finished in a valid position twice and earned his owners 10,500 crowns.
The other 4 lines are often referred to as "form". This is a brief description of the last four races in which the horse has started, which gives a very rough idea of how the horse is doing if you were to decide to bet.
It starts with the race identification number (only relevant if you wanted to look it up). This is followed by the date and an abbreviation if it was a handicap or a stakes. The next abbreviation stands for the track where the race was run. So we can see that Rumpl Cimpr Campr ran in Prague Chuchle and Karlovy Vary.
The following are the details we know from the description of the race. Firstly, whether it was a flat race (R) or another race, then what category it was and what distance it was run.
Next we are informed about which rider rode the horse in the race and what weight the horse was carrying. We then find out how successful he was - the number before the slash indicates the order in which he finished, the number after it the number of horses that took part in that race. A long series of relatively incomprehensible numbers and abbreviations represent the judges' verdict, a subject beyond the scope of this article.
We are nearing the end of the line, for clarity we will now take it from the end. At the end is the name of the horse that won the race, before that is the time our horse finished, and the number before that indicates the betting odds that were on our horse at the time of the start.
Perhaps a specific example is best. Consider the last line on Rumpl Cimpr Campr. The race was run on August 5, 2018 in Karlovy Vary, it was a Class IV flat race over 1600 meters. The horse was ridden in this race by W. Schou, the horse carried 59 kilograms and finished third in a field of 10 horses. He finished two and a quarter lengths behind the second horse in this race, bounced at a rate of 100:10, i.e. 10:1, finished in a time of 1 minute, 41 seconds and 11 hundredths and the mare Rolaliza won the race.
Otherwise, if you forget any of this flood of information, everything mentioned above is always briefly explained again at the beginning of the racingcard.
Here all the events that interest a visitor to the races take place. Orientation is not difficult, but for a beginner it can be a bit confusing where and when things are supposed to happen. We will use the racecourse in Prague as a model, the other tracks are similar.
You will of course be greeted by the ticket office. Entry fees are usually 100 to 180 crowns, getting more expensive for major races like the Czech Derby or the European Jockeys' Cup. At the ticket office you can also buy a racecard for 50 crowns and take a free sheet with up-to-date information and betting odds.
What you'll see as soon as you enter are the two most important components - the racecourse itself for the horses and the grandstand for the spectators. The track is grass (like all the tracks in the Czech Republic), about 2 kilometres long, has a straight of about 600 metres and is run in a clockwise direction. These are all essential details, different horses may suit different parameters and may run better elsewhere.
The grandstand will be of interest to us a little later, but it is important to know that from the higher rows you will have a better view of what is happening on the more distant parts of the track. There is also some advantage to sitting as close to the finish line as possible so you can see which horse will cross it first in a close race. However, if you want to watch closely, you don't have to go to the grandstand at all and can find a seat right next to the track. And for your convenience, there is also a large screen at the finish line where you can see everything without binoculars.
If you don't have your own binoculars, you can rent them on the ground floor (the price used to be 100 CZK with a deposit of 1000 CZK). Apart from several betting office windows, there is also another very important part of the racecourse on the ground floor of the grandstand, namely the refreshment stands. There is also a restaurant on the first floor.
The first floor of the inside of the grandstand also hosts additional betting reception areas (as well as the eventual payout of winnings). It is also necessary to pass through here if you want to get to the seats on the higher floors of the grandstand.
If you walk around the grandstand further back, you will discover two very substantial areas, namely the small and large paddock (small at the front, large at the back). In the big paddock, the horses circle around before they run out to race, so you can see them and possibly make a last-minute assessment of which has a better or worse chance, for example by their nervousness. In the middle of the large paddock, the owners and trainers of the horses stand and are then joined by the riders for final instructions. Then the trainer helps the rider into the saddle and after the last few laps, the starter gives the signal to leave the track.
At the track, the horses first complete a trial gallop - usually to the starting boxes, located according to the distance they will be running in the current race. Then in front of them, horses and riders wait for the race committee's instruction and then the starter's instruction to enter the boxes. When all horses are successfully in the boxes, the starter will start the race and the horses will go on the track.
Up to this point, betting is allowed. Between the big paddock and the track are the last betting windows and it is at these that the biggest last minute queues form. After placing your bet, you then escape to a convenient or favourite spot to watch the race from.
After the run, the small paddock comes into its own. This is where the relegated horses that have placed (i.e. the first five or seven horses in the race) are led in. There they circle again for a while, or cool down with water, so that at the end only the winner remains, whose rider, trainer and owner receive a prize and are applauded for their performance.
When you start racing, you have to process an overwhelming amount of information at once. Get a basic overview of what's going on in the sport of racing. This will help to contribute to your orientation.
Two-year-old horses: sort of a junior year, horses that have never run before and are just being introduced. Other spectators won't know much more about them than you do (which is a debatable statement), but more importantly - if you've been involved in racing for longer, these will be the horses you'll be seeing in the years to come. They start with short sprints in the spring, with distances getting longer as the year progresses. Important races include the summer Masise Stakes in Karlovy Vary and especially the autumn climax of the one-mile season in the form of the Winter Queen Stakes for fillies again in Karlovy Vary and the Winter Favourite Stakes in Most.
The year in which the most famous classic races are run and when it is shown what class a horse really has. In addition to the Triple Crown races, other races are run purely for three-year-olds, but in addition to that, they are already starting to get involved in racing in races for three-year-olds and older horses, where these relative newcomers measure their strength against the experienced ones. Many of the big races are of this type, such as the richly subsidised EJC Million.
Sprints: races over shorter distances, usually 1200 metres, where the fast horses are most successful. The highest class sprint (Listed) in this country is, for example, the St. Wenceslas Stakes, currently run at Most.
Miles: 1600 metres plus or minus 200 metres either side. Class I races are, for example, the Tattersalls Mile on Czech Derby or the autumn Prague Grand Prix. The aforementioned EJC Million has a distance of 1400 metres.
Medium distances: Distances of around 2 miles that require horses to have reasonable speed and endurance. This includes, for example, the EJC Middle race over 1800 metres as part of the European Jockeys' Cup.
Endurance distances: From the distance run at the Czech Derby, 2400 metres, races are considered endurance races, where horses and riders must distribute their strength correctly and endurance becomes essential compared to speed. Races from 3 kilometres upwards are called super endurance races. Such long distances are relatively rare and include, for example, the autumn President of the Republic Stakes in Prague.
Jumps races: the course of these races contains obstacles that horses must overcome without exception. There are several types:
Steeplechase - The steeplechase course is laid out on a grass course and includes, in addition to the wicker fences, fixed fences whose bounce and rebound are at the same level.
Steeplechase cross country - The steeplechase-cross country course runs over a grass, sand or plowed course. Horses and riders often change direction and must negotiate high obstacles whose bounce and rebound are not at the same level and require a reduction in speed, climbing and descending, etc. One of the most important cross country races in the world is the Velka Pardubicka.
Hurdles - Only wicker hurdles built on a grass track are included in the course of these races.
Just as in football, opponents of more or less equal levels are pitted against each other, in horse racing there is a way to (figuratively) distinguish whether it is the World Championship, the First League or the District Championship.
In the descriptions of races, one of the essential pieces of information is which category of race it is. The lowest quality races that are run in this country have a class V (Roman numerals are usually used), and as the numbers go down to I, the expected quality of the horses taking part increases. Unfortunately, it won't be that simple.
Races of the highest category are called group races. There are three groups and again, the lower the number, the more prestige and quality the race will have. Races of this category have the greatest reputation and there are not many of them.
In our country, two races are referred to as "group" races - the Czech Derby and one of the European Jockeys' Cup races, both run at the Prague racecourse in Chuchle. But even these are not recognized as group races internationally, because the racing in the Czech Republic is not of the same quality as in the west of our borders.
The next category is Listed races marked L, which are intermediate between group races and races marked by categories - this includes a large part of the more important Czech races.
For the sake of simplicity, here is the theoretical order of importance and quality of the race in order by groups and categories: Gr-1 > Gr-2 > Gr-3 > L > I > II > III > IV > V.
It is also worth mentioning a piece of information that may or may not be obvious - the better the category of the race, the more money is at stake. It's not a 100% rule, but it's not surprising that millions won't be rolling in the county championship like in the English Premier League.
Classic races is one of the biggest events in turf and will probably catch your attention right from the start. If you know any flat race by name, it's probably one of the classics - the Czech Derby.
The term "classic" in this case is a technical term. Often people talk about "classic" yearlings, meaning the three-year-olds for whom classic races are designed, implying that each horse can only take part once. So don't be surprised if, for example, no one has ever won the Czech Derby more than once.
The origins of classic races are, as in many similar cases, in England. It starts in the spring with the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket over 1 mile or 1600m, followed by the Derby at Epsom Racecourse in June over a mile and a half or 2400m, and the Classic concludes with the St Leger at York in the north of England over 2800m.
To keep things simple, both shorter races are run with a filly variant, i.e. a race over the same distance but designed exclusively for fillies. It is the 1000 Guineas at one mile, the Derby variant for fillies is then called the Oaks. In England these races are always run on the same course, here they are run on different courses and on different dates.
In the Czech Republic there are five races:
The classics tend to be closely watched and evaluated and much of the racing action in the first half of the season revolves around them. These are the highest category races, very heavily subsidised. Sometimes the winners of the classics go on to successful careers, but it is not uncommon for them to drop out of sight and for horses to come to the limelight that have failed or not even participated in the classics.
There are always preliminary races before the main event, the so-called pre-trials or trials. These races are usually a bit shorter, e.g. a few weeks before the Czech Derby the June Grand Prix at 2200 metres is run in Prague. In these races the horses "test" how they will do and if the distance is suitable for them, and they show who will be the favourite when the bread is broken.
The maximum a horse can achieve in the classic races is the so-called Triple Crown - this is awarded to the horse that manages to win all three classic races of the season. The Triple Crown in horse racing is therefore more or less the same as the Grand Slam in tennis.
Like many athletes, the racehorse performs at its best early in life. Some horses run their best at two or three years old, others' time comes later. After his racing career is over, the stallion can become a broodmare stallion and the mare the mother of successful offspring.
Foals are usually born early in the year. The exact date is not entirely irrelevant, because whether a horse is born earlier or later will partly determine when it is ripe to start racing. Yearlings do not race yet and often do not even get a name, they are sold at auctions only under a number and are identified by their father and mother.
The first races for two-year-olds are held from about June onwards and start at short distances, 1000 or 1200m, which only gradually get longer. The main races for two-year-olds are run in autumn and are 1600 m long (the Winter Queen Stakes in Karlovy Vary and the Winter Favourite Stakes in Most), but no race for two-year-olds in our country exceeds a distance of 2 kilometres. This is due to the fact that the growth of the horse is not yet complete at this time (it is said that the skeleton does not mature until around the fifth year of age).
The three-year-olds represent a classic year. In a sense, this is the year when the most happens for them. If they are good, they may take part in any or all of the Classic races and depending on their success, expectations will be placed on them in the future. In England or the US, many successful horses end their careers at three years old - partly to maintain their aura of fame, partly to be included in the breeding programme. Other horses shine in the Derby, for example, and then are never heard from again. And others, such as Nagano Gold, one of the best Czech horses today, do not succeed in the Derby (or do not even start in it) and become successful only in later years.
Another opportunity for these horses to show off and compare their strengths with older rivals are races called comparative trials, designed for three-year-old and older horses. And those who are not so successful are placed in the regular racing operation, represented by handicaps of lower categories.
Few flat horses run beyond their tenth year. Older horses are more likely to appear on endurance or obstacle courses. There is generally a higher average age at jumps races and horses start running them at the earliest at three and more likely four years of age.
The last part of the career is the introduction to breeding. This means, of course, that the stallion must not be gelded - a lot of the participants in the races are geldings, gelding can bring an increase in performance. There are not many stallions in the Czech Republic, there are usually 10 to 15 stallions in one breeding season.
It is not common to make a lot of money from owning racehorses, with a few exceptions. It costs money to care for and train a horse, and at least some of the cost can be recouped by owners through the rewards for winning and placing in races called subsidies.
The description of each race indicates the associated subsidy. This is a sum to be divided among the first five horses to finish, or exceptionally, in the case of a big race like the Derby, among the first seven. The winner will get the largest part - half - and the other horses will get a correspondingly smaller amount depending on their order.
The most richly subsidised race in our country is the September race aptly named EJC Million, the prize money in this case is one hundred thousand euros. The best horses from the Czech Derby in June will share a little less. In our conditions, a race subsidy of half a million crowns or more is considered high. Races of lower categories can count on a maximum of several tens of thousands of crowns.
In general, the more subsidised a race is, the higher its category, but the proportion between these two characteristics is not entirely direct and necessary. According to the international rules for the marking of minimum group races, their category is determined by the quality of the horses that have taken part in them in the last few years. Subsidies therefore serve precisely to attract such horses and to give the race prestige. Conversely, a higher category race can be expected to attract more attention from spectators and the media and therefore from sponsors, whose contributions are the main source of subsidies.
From time to time, race programmes also mention owners' and other premiums. This is to support Czech owners and horses of Czech breeding, who are the only ones entitled to these premiums. Similar incentives are common all over the world.
The term "handicap" tends to be very confusing to beginners, if only because it means several different things at the same time. To deal with it, let's first discuss how the weight a horse carries in each race is determined.
The way a horse is loaded is not random, or rather, it is not simply that how much the rider weighs is how much the horse carries. In every race there is an exact load for each horse, which includes how much the rider weighs with all his equipment, including the saddle. If this weight does not reach the prescribed value, lead plates are added to the pockets under the saddle to bring the weight up to the prescribed one. It must be said that if by chance the rider weighs more with his equipment, nothing can be done, nothing is deducted and the horse simply runs loaded more than the prescribed weight.
There are basically two types of races - stakes and handicap. In the first type, the weight carried is determined by specific criteria. For example, mares or younger horses carry less weight, while horses that have already won a race are given more weight. However, these are always the exact numbers that are stated in the race regulations.
In races called handicap, a rating with the same name - handicap - is used to determine the weight. This can lead to some confusion as it is possible to say that a horse has a handicap (rating) and at the same time that this horse is running in a handicap (race).
The handicap is determined by the so-called handicappers after each race in which the horse takes part. If he was successful and ran better than he did before, his handicap (rating) will be increased. If, on the other hand, he has fallen behind his previous results, his handicap will drop.
The result is that handicaps (races) tend to be much more balanced than other types of races. A horse that can be expected to run better carries more weight, which equalizes his chances with paper-weaker rivals. If handicappers are accurate, handicap races tend to be very close, these races are very exciting and more difficult to bet on.
The specific weight a horse carries then depends on his handicap and the length of the race. The last little wrinkle concerns a category of riders called apprentices or amateurs, who are given a so-called relief, so that their horses can carry a slightly lower weight than would otherwise be prescribed in a given race. All of these details can be read out in the programme.
Czech racing is a small world. After a few visits you will find that you meet the same people over and over again. And not a few of them won't just be spectators, many familiar faces will be directly or indirectly part of the action on the track.
Not everyone who sits on a horse when racing is a jockey. We'll talk more about the division of riders elsewhere, but they will all have one thing in common - they won't exactly be big. The aim is for the horse to carry as little as possible (although even that has limitations) and for the rider's centre of gravity not to be set too high. During the race, they choose tactics based on the trainer's instructions or the situation and help the horse ride as best as possible.
People who prepare horses for racing. They set training doses (called work) and, in agreement with owners, enter horses in races they feel they might have a chance in because they are comfortable with the distance and the opponents (i.e. the category of race) and because they are ready for them at that moment. Before the race they give advice to the riders on how to ride the horse, and quite often they are the ones who help the riders into the saddle. However, the head trainer listed for each horse in the programme is not always present at the race, and sometimes they send a deputy for themselves.
They actually own the horses, they pay the trainers for their training, and the rewards for any wins go to them (although of course the rider and trainer get a portion of the reward). They also have access to the paddock, and along with the rider and trainer (and other family members) go to collect prizes if their horse wins a race.
The people who bring the horse to the parade ring, take it to the track and return with it to the stable after the race (with a possible stop in the small paddock for the prize giving). Most of the time it is stable staff. They then often spend the course of the race in the grandstand, from where they passionately support their horse.
The vast majority of races are run under someone else's auspices, usually a company that wants to raise its profile for marketing reasons. However, many races are also sponsored by stables or related companies, the towns in which the races are held, various institutions, etc. A representative of the sponsor is then usually the one who presents the prize for the win to the rider, trainer and owner of the horse.
He manages the action around the start and then starts the race itself, which in normal cases means that he waves the flag and at the same time presses a button that opens the box door and the horses can go forward. He has many helpers at hand, including booters whose job it is to get the horse to enter the prepared box. It is up to the starter to make sure that everything goes as quickly as possible, the horses spend as little time in the boxes as possible and the race starts when it is supposed to, or at least with as little delay as possible.
These are people you will probably never see, but you will hear a lot about them from the commentator. The race committee instructs the starter to start the race at the right time and, above all, judges whether everything has been run in an orderly manner. It also determines the order of the horses by means of a finish photo if there has been a close finish.
He will accompany you through all the action on the racecourse. He sits somewhere on high ground to keep a good view of what is happening on the track and informs you of everything from the condition of the track to horses being withdrawn, before each race he talks about the sponsor, the participants in the race or the current betting odds, after the start he describes what is going on, what the current order of horses is, and at the end he tells the spectators first the unofficial and then the official result. The commentators have different speeches and you soon start to tell them apart. And sometimes they can make a great show out of commentating.
Always before a race starts, between when the horses are led from the paddock to the track and the start of the race itself, there is a long queue outside the bookmakers' windows, full of those who want to use last-minute horse-watching combined with knowledge of their previous form to try their luck at predicting which horse will finish. I'll cover the betting in more detail elsewhere, though.
In the racecard for each horse, three people are always listed besides the rider - the breeder, the owner and the trainer. We have already mentioned the owner and trainer in the section about people around racing, here we will discuss the links between them, which can be a bit confusing, in more detail.
The owner is the owner of the horse, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails, whose colours are worn by the rider when racing. The owner is either the breeder of the horse himself, i.e. the owner of the mare that bore the horse, or he has purchased the horse from the breeder directly or through an auction. The trainer is then entrusted by the owner to prepare the horse for racing.
Confusingly, a trainer may train horses for more than one owner and, conversely, the owner may have them trained by different trainers if he owns more than one horse. While the trainer is always one specific individual, the owner is quite often a so-called stable, but often there is only one person behind it.
Just briefly about breeders. The breeder is the first owner of the foal, i.e. the owner of the mare that gave birth to it. This mare is either bred to a stallion that also belongs to him or he sends her to another owner's stallion for a certain fee, often it is a larger stud - in our country the most famous and largest is the Napajedla Stud. A large number of breeders sell their foals on, most often at the age of one year. Those whose origin suggests potential quality are sold at auctions.
It's assumed that jockeys ride horses, and in a way that's actually true. However, horse racing terminology is a bit more specific, so you may see other variations in the racecards.
Officially, a rider who wins 50 races becomes a jockey. This is quite a big number for Czech conditions and the number of races organized. In the program we recognize jockeys by the abbreviation "ž.".
If someone intends to become a professional jockey from a very young age, it is very likely that they will be trained as a jockey. It is possible at high school in Prague - Velká Chuchle. Then he has the status of a so-called apprentice and appears in the racecard with the abbreviation "jockey". This status is also connected with the so-called handicap relief, when a horse led by an apprentice can carry less weight. The more victories a given rider has, the smaller this relief is.
Another abbreviation that can be encountered in the program is "am." or amateur. This refers to riders who do not receive financial remuneration for their participation in races.
From time to time, races are held just for students or for amateurs only. Female riders do not have any special category in their programmes and in many respects are not far behind the men. On the other hand, they are not often entered in big races and that is why the great legend of the Czech turf is Míla Hermansdorferová, who won the Czech Derby in 1972 as the first woman.
It is of course possible to come to the races and not bet, but if you don't save every penny you will miss out on a small piece of what there is to experience. On the other hand, it's not good to have exaggerated expectations.
How to bet
The very basic procedure: you walk up to the bookmaker's window and say:
Bets are accepted until the start of the race, any winnings can be collected after the official results are announced (i.e. not immediately after the race). The official announcement will usually take place within about a quarter of an hour of the finish if there are no complications.
It is essential to know the odds on the horse when betting. This tells you two things - firstly, how likely the horse is to succeed in the race, and secondly, how much money you will win if your bet is correct.
The odds are determined by a ratio, usually X:1. Sometimes the X is given as an odd on its own, without the one at the end. The rule is that the lower the X, the more favoured the horse is. It also means that if you get the correct pick, you will get X times the amount of money you bet. For example, if you bet 10 crowns at odds of 4:1 to win, then if your horse wins, you will get 40 crowns.
If you bet on the placing, any winnings decrease accordingly. This is because it is more likely that a horse will finish in, say, one of the top three places than that it will win. All of this has to be considered when you are faced with the dilemma of whether to bet on the favourite and not win much, or risk an outsider who will bring you more money if successful.
If you're coming to the races for the first (or tenth) time, don't expect to take home any riches. On the other hand, if you place a bet, you'll be motivated to cheer while watching the race, and putting a few crowns into a bet is no worse than buying a sausage from a stall.
While I'm sure many an "expert" would roll their eyes, there's nothing wrong with kids betting - either because they liked a horse in the paddock or simply because they find the name of the horse likeable. Chances are you're betting on a complete underdog with no chance of running far behind, on the other hand if that same underdog happens to push through you'll be able to buy quite a few sausages. And if you were to bet exclusively on the favourites, even they can have a bad day.
At the races, you must have noticed how the announcer, when announcing the official result, does not only say the names or numbers of the horses on the respective standings, but also the judges' statement regarding how the horse that finished first won and what the distances were between the remaining horses.
The winning horse may win after a stiff fight, after a fight, surely, lightly, very lightly and restrained. It expresses how easily he achieved victory or, conversely, how difficult it was for him to achieve it. Easy victories show that the horse was significantly higher in class or form than the participants, while races in which the fight is fought to the end are exciting and interesting for the spectators.
The naming of splits is due to tradition, so may not be entirely clear. The basic unit is the length of the horse. If one horse loses length on another, it means roughly that at the time of the run, his nose was about level with where the horse in front of him had his butt. Usually lengths are divided into quarters, so you can say that a horse lost by 3/4 or maybe 3 1/2 lengths.
It is a little different when the spacing is less than half the length. Then the horse is said to have won by nose, short head, head or neck (the latter is equivalent to about 1/4 of the length, only when the spacing is short is a verbal indication used). The terms are fairly unambiguous, describing by what part of the body one horse had the edge over the other.
On the other hand, if the spacing is more than 20 lengths, the statement is that the horse in question ran far and it is not examined in detail by exactly how much.
If you look at the results, whether in the form of a horse in the racecard or on our website, the same information is there, just expressed in shorthand. So, for example, if the 2019 Winter Favourite Stakes results have the statement "FIGHT-neck-1 1/2-head-2 1/2-head-2 1/2-12", it means that Albatross won after a fight, the second horse Fraga lost a neck to him, the third horse Planteur's Whiskey lost a length and a half to Fraga, the fourth horse lost a head to him, etc.
A short or longer gap between the first and second horse generally tells you how certain the win was, but it is not necessary. Sometimes a horse will win by a neck, for example, but it is obvious that the second-placed horse had no chance of threatening him. That is why this is a statement by the judges and not just a dry statistic.
In other words, in terms of numbers, one length corresponds to about one sixth to one fifth of a second. So if, for example, in a handicap there is a very close race, where the first five horses fit into one length, it is clear how short the climax of that great and exciting spectacle called a race lasts.
And what good is this information to you? If you wanted to place a bet, for example, and you saw a horse finish fifth, you might be inclined to turn up your nose at the result. But after examining the splits, you might find that he was perhaps only a length behind the winner, at which point it is worth including him in further considerations.
The season in the Czech Republic consists of one-day meetings at various racecourses, where usually one or more races of a higher category are run, according to which the meeting is called, e.g. the Czech Derby (race) is held as part of the Derby Day (meeting).
The racing year in the Czech Republic traditionally starts in April with the Gomba Handicap and ends in October with the President of the Republic Stakes or the Prague Winter Favourite Stakes. The space in between is filled with regular racing traffic and various important top races.
The regular racing traffic is mostly represented by handicaps of III. and lower categories for three and four year olds and older horses respectively. Even at the most important meetings, such as the Czech Derby or the European Jockeys' Cup, several of them are run. They represent an opportunity for horses who do not have the opportunity to run in the top races or to run before such races.
Another part is the races for two and three year olds or the classic year. At the beginning of the year, roughly until July, special races are organized especially for three-year-olds, in which they can either try a real race after months of training or measure their strength before the upcoming classic races in the so-called pre-trials. Much of the first half of the season revolves around them.
From June onwards, the two-year-olds, i.e. complete novices, start to enter the game. Gradually, they get up to speed and show what they have, and then at the end of the season they show their skills in the two-year-olds' highlights, the Winter Favourite Stakes and the Winter Queen Stakes, which is for fillies only.
Although there are a few big races for older horses in the spring, the main ones, the top category races, also wait for them in the late summer and autumn. This is when they get the opportunity to compete against the best three-year-olds in races that often foreshadow who will have a chance in the polls for the best horse of the year.
October is traditionally dedicated to the Velka Pardubicka, which is synonymous with Czech steeplechasing. It is always held on the second Sunday in October at the Pardubice racecourse. It is the most watched and most visited raceday of the year, with a history dating back 131 years and is one of the oldest sporting events on Czech territory. It is one of the toughest cross country races in Europe, i.e. a competition where the surfaces change, the horses and riders often change direction and have to overcome height obstacles such as the Irish Bench. The course of this race is 6,900 metres long and has a total of 31 fences. Only horses aged six years and older can compete in the Grand Prix, and they must qualify in one of the four qualifying races.
One of the most important events in Czech turf, the European Jockeys' Cup or EJC, has a relatively recent history. This is an effort to link the Czech and European or world turf by inviting riders from different countries to compete in several well-funded races. Even though most of the races at this meeting have no long tradition, they have quickly gained prestige and for the spectators the whole meeting has an atmosphere that they otherwise experience only during the Czech Derby.
The programme doesn't change much between years, although occasionally changes are made to ensure that the dates of the top races don't clash too much and are close together so that as many top horses as possible can take part. This is how the St. Wenceslas Stakes was moved back a month. Similarly, the locations where specific races are held sometimes change, for example the Czech 1000 Guineas has only been run in Most for a few years.