The following are some general guidelines followed by many pros which will give you a 'leg up' on many other bettors (first four tips out of 11 basics):
1) When betting straight, restrict your bets to win and show only.
2) As a general rule, bet horses you like with odds of 5-1 or greater to win and odds of 5-1 or less, to place.
3) Pay close attention to horses' recent performances. Form handicapping has a lot of merit, and you face your best chances with a horse in top condition.
4) Horses backed heavily by touting services and computer handicappers may win more, but so many bettors are placing their cash on them, they give poor value for the money. Try to find the 'dark horse,' one that has a good shot at the post but is not overly backed.
5) Be wary of the 'smart money,' bets placed at the last minute by supposedly, those in the know. There isn't much smart money at the tracks.
6) Go with your gut feelings. If there's a horse you fancy, by all means bet on that horse. There's no worse feeling than not doing what you felt you should have done, and it working out - without you.
7) Pay special attention to fast starters on slow courses. It is more difficult to maneuver on a muddy, slow or heavy course, and these conditions will favor the horse that takes the early lead.
8) Avoid horses moving up in class. They may have looked good against lesser horses, but the move to better competition may reveal different colors.
9) Avoid horses that have not raced in the past four weeks. They may be recuperating from illness and the owners are using the race as a tune-up. The winning percentages of long-idled horses are way below average.
10) Bet only winners. If you see a horse that has been around but never won a race, why figure that today's race will be any different? Instead, choose a horse that has some background of winning.
11) Bet only horses you feel have a good chance of winning. If you had eliminated all the horses you've bet in the past but have not really believed in, you would be sitting with a much higher winning percentage. If you don't like a horse, don't bet on it.