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All bets are placed based on the numbers assigned to a horse by the track. These numbers are printed beside the name of the horse on the race program. Some tracks use the post position as the horse number. Irrespective of the method used by the track, you should always use the program assigned number when purchasing bets.
"Scratches" are horses that have been withdrawn from the race. No bets are sold on these horses. Bets are refundable on late scratches unless the bet specifically states otherwise (eg. off time favorite substituted).
Simulcasting is the acceptance of betting on a race that is being conducted at a different track.
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Odds are an approximation of how much a horse will pay to win a race. You will notice that as betting on a race progresses closer to post time, the odds will change. Why is that you ask? The monies that are wagered in a race are counted up and put into Pools.
What is a Pool? A Pool is where the total amount of money that is wagered on a specific type of bet is held to be redistributed to patrons that have correctly selected the outcome of the specific wager they have placed. Out of these pools certain percentages are subtracted. Why is that you ask? The reason being, a percentage of all money wagered go to governments, racetracks, and Horseman. The Government receives a percentage (for tax purposes) for allowing conduct racing in a certain jurisdiction. The Racetracks receive a percentage for promotions, maintaining the racetrack, and paying employees. The horsemen receive a percentage that makes the Racetracks able to offer purse money to the owners and trainers for racing horses. If there were no money, there would be no races. After the percentages are removed, the remaining money is paid out. This is where we get our payoffs for winning tickets.
The odds are usually of the form x/y (e.g. 5/1, 9/5). Dividing x by y gives a ratio to 1. The smallest ratio or the largest amount of money on a number represents the favorite.
Winning odds of 2/1 will pay $6.00 for a $2 bet, while 5/1 will pay $12.00 for a $2 bet. Payout is calculated by (odds ratio to 1) x bet amount + bet amount.
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