Having a Punt on the Horses in France
There are no bookmakers on French Racecourses, and all betting is done via the Pari Mutuel – the equivalent of the Tote in UK. At the hippodrome the betting is known as PMH, but if betting is for elsewhere it is PMU. There are a number of betting points around the course, with television screens that show the approximate odds for a win at the time that you placed your bet. Should you win, however, the actually odds you receive may be larger or smaller. The minimum bet is 2 euros and dividends are declared to a one-euro unit. Your stake is not returned. Once the dividends have been declared, the returns appear at the bottom of the TV screen displaying the odds as a continuously rolling display.
Win and Place Betting
The easiest way to bet is to back your horse to win (gagnant) or to be placed (placé). You can, of course, do both at the same time. Your horse has to come first for a win bet. It must finish in the first three for a place bet, unless there are between 4 and 7 runners when it must finish first or second. Obviously the dividend is less for a winning placé bet. You can, of course, do both at the same time, and this is known as à cheval and then your stake will be doubled.
There are 2 types of Forecast Bet, a win forecast (couplé gagnant) and a place forecast (couplé placé). A win forecast requires you to nominate the first and second horses. When there are 8 or more runners they can be in either order, but for races with 4 to 7 runners you must nominate them in the correct finishing order, which is designated as couplé ordre. For a place forecast, on races with 8 or more participants, you need to choose 2 horses to finish in the first three.
The trio requires you to pick the first 3 horses home. For races with 8 or more runners they can finish in any order, but for races with 4 to 7 runners you must nominate the correct finishing order (trio ordre).
The Ecurie System
One important difference between French and British racing is the écurie system. In France horses from the same stable or ownership are coupled for betting purposes. In a race, if horses 2 and 5 are in the same ownership they are said to be ‘écurie’. This is shown in the race card by both horses having E1 in the column detailing their names. Should there be another pair of horses in the race both owned by a single, different owner they will be designated as E2. For win bets only, if you back one of those écurie horses you are backing them both. So if in the example above you have 10 euros to win on horse 2, which comes in last, should horse number 5 win, then you will still collect. Unsurprisingly, this ‘écurie’ or coupling process will be reflected by you receiving a shorter price than if the horses were not coupled.
Placing your Bet
On busy days the queues for the Pari Mutuel positions can be long. The staff will get through the bets as quickly as they can, but it is important to bet early to avoid the disappointment of letting a winner go unbacked. Make sure that you know what you are going to ask for before it is your turn to bet. The three things you need are the type of bet you want, the number(s) of the horse(s) and the amount you want to wager. Let us suppose that in a particular race you wish to have 5 euros to win on horse number three. When it is your turn all you need to say is: Gagnant, numero trois, cinq euros s’il vous plaît.
Then, check the ticket to be sure that it reflects your intended bet. Mistakes cannot be rectified after the race!!
Article kindly supplied by Neil and Sue Spoonley