And They're Off!
Horse Racing Simulations for the ST
Do you enjoy going to the tracks and betting on your favorite thoroughbred? Only if you win, right? START presents the following reviews of two horse-racing simulations that will only cost you the price of the software. Odds are that after a few simulations, you'll be handicapping your own horses.
A DAY AT THE RACES
reviewed By Ken Warner
A Day At The Races by Team Software is a well-thought-out horse racing simulation/game that includes all of the standard handicapping aids, exotic wagers and pari-mutuel payoffs of the real racetrack environment. Where the game differs from the real track, at least for the vast majority of us, is that it also lets you own and operate your own stable of horses, which greatly increases or decreases your bank account as the game progresses.
|Team Software's A
Day At The Races
includes a compre-
hensive horse race-
track simulation, a
database that tracks
up to 500 horses,
50 jockeys and 15
players and a sepa-
rate database that
maintains past per-
formances of the
Before you go to the races in "ADAR," as the manual calls it, you must first act as your own Racing Secretary and establish the parameters for the racing session. Your options include the number of races, track conditions, number of horses in each race, amount of each purse and other details that make up the day's racing card. You can either let the computer set the options randomly or you can set them yourself. A small database of horses and jockeys is provided to fill the races. However, you may find it more entertaining to create your own database, with room for up to 500 horses and 50 jockeys. This database will then be updated after each race, to provide the players with statistics and standings on horses and jockeys alike.
Once you've selected the players for your day at the races you're ready to enter the track and start playing the horses. Each player begins the meet with a $1,000 bankroll that can be used to bet, buy horses through auction or claim a horse. This last option allows you to claim a horse at a set price before the race is run. The horse, with all ensuing stable expenses, becomes yours after the race, with any winnings from the race going to the previous owner.
After all players pay the $3 entrance fee, they must use the standard handicapping tools to help them make their betting decisions before each race. These tools consist of the Racing Program, which lists each race including horses, jockeys, weights and the "morning odds," the Racing Form with the past performances of each horse in detail and The Greek's Cheat Sheet with The Greek's "picks of the day." All of these options are accessible from the same screen that shows the tote board and the changing odds of each race.
If you've decided how you want to place your bets, simply click on the betting window. A second screen will prompt you for the name of the player betting, and allow you to place wagers in any amount on all the different types of bets available for that particular race. After verifying your bets, it's back to the track for the actual race.
The race takes place when the clock on the tote board runs down to post time (the amount of time can be set by the players) or when a player clicks on the flag outside the window of the clubhouse. At this time all wagering is halted and the race animation begins.
The animation itself is no great work of art with ADAR, but then again it doesn't have to be. Your view of the race is similar to what you would see from ground level on the straightaway portion of the track, with only the lead horses visible as the race progresses. A scrolling function lets you roll to the back of the pack if your horse is nowhere to be seen, and details elsewhere on the screen provide you with current positions by the horses numbers. And just as at the real track, a closing horse can nip yours at the wire, you can lose a photo finish or the inquiry sign may light up and your horse gets dropped out of the money due to your jockey's riding infraction--each and every one a horse player's nemesis!
At the conclusion of the race the results board is displayed, showing the official results and payoffs on all winning bets. Players who wish to verify winning tickets can click under the bars of the ticket window on this screen to see which of their tickets paid off and which wagers were lost. Click anywhere else on the screen and you'll return to the Tote Board for the next race.
Wrap-Up and Recommendation
A Day At The Races is more exciting when played with more than one person. Aside from the obvious pleasure of watching your horse edge your opponent's at the wire, beating a competitor in a photo finish or stealing a come-from-behind victory, there is the strategy of claiming or buying particular horses to build your bankroll and beat your opponent. Since the owner of the horse gets a good share of the race purse, this strategy can be the most lucrative.
All of the handicapping information for each racing session can be printed out, but beware. Although it's a real convenience to have the Racing Program, Cheat Sheet and Jockey Standings printed out, the Racing Form details are too lengthy and difficult to decipher. If an experienced Racing Form "student" (like myself) can't read it, the beginner will be hopelessly confused.
But don't let this minor inconvenience scare you away. A Day At The Races is an absorbing simulation with its faithful and detailed recreation of horse-racing handicapping information. The attention to these details is fine enough that the game could easily be used as a tutorial for anyone desiring to play the horses, but not quite ready to go to the track and risk their money. As for Team Software's claim that once you play you won't care if you ever go to the real track again, well, I'll still take the challenge and excitement, risks and rewards of the real racetrack over a game that merely requires me to "put my money where my mouse is"!
DAILY DOUBLE HORSE RACING
reviewed by Rick Teverbaugh
It's often been called the "Sport of Kings," yet for substantially less than a king's ransom, you can get a taste for the color and strategy of thoroughbred racing, even if the sound and the excitement are left on the real track. Daily Double Horse Racing from Artworx gives you all this and more.
|Daily Double Horse
Racing from Art-
worx. Though the
chooses the length
of races and the
horses involved, you
can decide whether
the races will be run
an a dry or muddy
track, or a turf
There's a lot of variety in the Daily Double package. Each "day" there are 10 races, with six horses competing in each one. Since there are a total of 180 mounts that come with the game, simple arithmetic reveals that you'll use only a third of the horses in any one sitting. The game randomly chooses the length of races and the horses involved, but you can decide whether the races will be run on a dry or muddy track or a turf surface.
I've heard that Artworx ran about 400 races on the Daily Double track before they released it to the public. The results of those races are printed on a broadsheet racing form of sorts that comes packaged with the instructions for gameplay. You can use this form to research each horse's racing history. The game's instructions are mostly a rehash of real track-betting rules, and Daily Double provides most of the same betting options that you'll find at the track. These include win, place, show, daily double, exacta, quinella and parlay.
Place Your Bets, Please
Though it is very easy to place a bet in Daily Double, trying to figure out which horse to wager on is another matter. With just a click of the mouse, the horses can be listed on the screen, but you'll get dizzy moving your head back and forth from the racing form to the computer screen as you search for each horse's racing history.
You can place up to 10 bets in each race and up to four people can play Daily Double at the same time. Each player starts with the same amount of money (player-selectable from $100 to $500). When you go to place your bet, you'll see a teller on the left side of the screen ready to take your money. On the right side of the screen are your menu options. These options let you do anything from viewing each horse in each race to placing the bets to setting the race in motion.
Out of the Gate!
Perhaps the race itself is Daily Double's weakest moment. The horses are drawn in fine detail and are colorful. But no matter whether the race is four or eight furlongs, each horse runs in a straight line. In other words, the No. 6 horse always stays on the outside closest to the screen. Since the TV camera's point of view is from just beyond the outside rail and moves with the lead horses, it gives the impression that the horses are on a drag strip rather than a circular or oval track. Thus post position has little impact on the outcome.
Even though there are several factors to consider before placing bets, such as the length of the race, track conditions, past histories and even the jockey (there are 12 in the game and their past records are also listed on the form), it would still take a real luckless individual to go home broke. On my first try I started with $400 and ended up with $840, and I live in a state that doesn't have thoroughbred tracks!
There is a conspicuous lack of realism in Daily Double Racing. In the races I've run there have been very few headlong dashes for the front. In general, the horse that is ahead at the halfway mark is the one that wins. I've also noticed that the favored horse tends to win. Even though this is realistic to a degree, it happens too often for my taste--there's no room for longshots.
Another disappointing feature was the fact that the horses' histories remain unchanged no matter how many races you run. The ones that are printed on the sheet are the ones you'll have forever. Since that information is available only on the included race form and not within the program, it isn't possible to update the horse's records with the races you run.
There is an option early in the game to use a data disk instead of the game disk to enter the data on the horses. Perhaps Artworx will use this to create a disk of real horses instead of another disk of fictional mounts.
Despite some areas that could stand improvement I found Daily Double Horse Racing enjoyable to play, especially with other people. In fact, I see it as more of a party game than a sports simulation, but I still like the intellectual challenge of studying the racing form and figuring out the right horse to bet on.
Ken Warner is an account representative for Antic Software and an experienced horse player. Rick Teverbaugh is a sportswriter and veteran game reviewer for several computer magazines.
A Day At The Races, $39.95. Team Software, P.O. Box 7332, Washington, DC 20044, (703) 533-2132.
Daily Double Horse Racing, $29.95. Artworx Software Company, Inc. 1844 Penfield Road, Penfield NY 14526, (716) 385-6120.