The term Spring Carnival refers to the major Thoroughbred races that take place during the months of September, October and November in Australia.
The Thoroughbred racing season runs from August through July, so the Spring Carnivals lead off the season, with August serving as an appetizer and a chance for punters to watch horses resuming after spells and to try to ascertain which horses will be the big winners in Group 1, 2, 3 and Listed quality races.
Loosely speaking, Spring Carnivals are dominated by Victorian Metro tracks, namely Caulfield, Moonee Valley, and Flemington, although New South Wales does enter in the equation with major races at Randwick, Rosehill and Newcastle.
There are some others scattered about in Western Australian and Queensland, but say the words “Spring Carnival” to a dedicated racing punter and his or her thoughts will instantly conjure images of the Cox Plate at The Valley, the Caulfield Cup and the big one, the Melbourne Cup in November at Flemington.
Here are a few ways punters will wager on the races during the Spring Carnival. Most or all of these can also be used at the country and bush tracks, regardless of the magnitude of the race or the time of year.
The online corporate bookmakers in Australia promote race betting heavily, many of them make it their focus, and more than one bookmaker got its start by working the rails at the courses back in the days before the internet and mobile phones shook the status quo.
The reason for this bookmaker focus is obvious. Most races have no fewer than six horses and the Melbourne Cup heads the list with 24 runners. Picking a winner is much more difficult than the prospect of picking a winner in team sports markets.
Betting Odds and Tips
All the bookies’ primary thoroughbred bet type is the Fixed Odds Win, or the Fixed Odds Place bet. The horse with the best chance, in the eyes of the bookie, and the most punter backing, is the favourite and will carry the lowest price. A Fixed Odds, or All-In Win bet of $100 on a horse quoted at $3.20 will return a dividend of $320.00, less the bookie’s cut, known as margin.
As the competition amongst online bookmakers is ferocious, punters will often check multiple bookies for the best price. A punter might find, using the example above that another bookie is quoting the $3.20 horse at $3.22. That would increase the dividend to $322.00, not much difference for the one-off punter, but for some punters who make hundreds of bets per week, the small difference in odds can add up to a significant boost in winnings.
Since the corporate bookies also compete with the TAB agencies, it is quite normal to see them offer clients the chance to pick a winner and receive the best price of the toes, which is a nice convenience.
Racing punters who make a lot of bets and play the percentages will often select a runner and make their wager with an Each Way bet, that will pay the win dividend if the horse wins, or the place dividend if the horse runs second or third.
Follow the experts
Punters seeking a higher return, those who follow racing extensively, will go hunting for windfalls by picking the Exacta. This is where two horses are picked for the one race. The higher dividend is for picking the two horses to finish in the exact order. A lower dividend comes from picking the two to finish in either order. This second type is known as the Boxed Exacta.
There are bet types that build on the Exacta, with an increased level of difficulty and a corresponding higher risk and reward. They are all similar to the Exacta, except more horses are selected.
Almost every imaginable combination is possible. One popular market is to make a selection for every race at a Spring Carnival meeting. Many punters do bets of this type. You can spot them at the track getting more and more excited as the meeting goes on and their expectations rise as their bet slip fills.
The bookmakers offer many promotions during Spring Racing Carnivals, including some free bets, chances to pick a favourite and receive an odds boost and many more limited only by bookmaker creativity.