When you have a day at the races you might go for a good time, especially when it’s Ladies Day, in which case find a bar near with easy access to the finishing post, and have £5 on each race. If you are going there to bet, then buy the best tickets you can afford, stay away from the bar, and start each race half an hour before in a good position where you can see the runners come out of the stables and make their way to the paddock. This is the big betting advantage of being on course.
Look for stable negatives. Anything to do with sponges and buckets of water is a bad sign. So are doors that open then close again as minds are changed. Watch out for people being called in (especially trainers or vets.) Horses with prolonged blanketing compared to the other runners might be a cause for concern, as might be horses that are last to leave by a long way. Be particularly concerned about odds-on favourites that you notice in this way. There is always strong pressure against withdrawing an odds on favourite just before a race starts because it messes up the odds (how many 50p rule 4’s have you ever seen?)
Fine so then move as close to the Paddock as you can. Firstly if it is a National Hunt race have a look at horses heavily bandaged, this might indicate injury or fragility. Horses that start sweating –up in the Paddock should be a cause for concern. It’s easy to see the sweat on their necks, and attendants are likely to be keen to wipe it away. On the other hand you want to back something that “looks up for it” and is showing interest in events at least.
Unless you are a vet or a horse whisperer, you can’t probably glean much from its size or the way it walks (unless it winks at you.) A casual interest in which horse wins the best turned out should be shown.
Right so now we need to look where we can constructively analyse things. Watch the jockeys approach the paddock. Positive hand gestures to children seeking autographs is usually a good sign. Watch for trainer instructions, hand gestures by the trainer (particularly if they are foreign) and positive affirmation headshakes by the jockey (of course the instruction may be to come second.)
The most important thing that happens is when the jockey gets on the horse. If a previously agitated one suddenly calms down, run for the bookmakers. If a previously calm one gets agitated look closer. Does the jockey keep getting on and off (bad sign.) Watch tack adjustment. The jockey might be fine tuning his sports equipment (which would be a good sign,) or if it keeps happening he might be unhappy with it, (which isn’t.)
The ability to do the above varies from racecourse to racecourse and is can be difficult without expensive tickets. Also you are not going to learn anything useful for the majority of races. However if you want an occasional “big priced gift” or want to avoid “losing a short priced big stake bet” the paddock is the place to be.