Created on

There are few sports and activities as intimidating to bet on as horse racing, and much of this fear and misunderstanding comes from the wide variety of bets available to make on any given horse race. After betting on horse racing for over ten years, I've taken my current comfort level with wagering on races for granted.

After seeing your interest in my recent picks on several Breeders' Cup races and my introduction to racing styles, I decided to take a step back and describe the basic bets available on nearly any horse race.

Common Horse Racing Bets Explained

As you'll hear in the video above, there are a lot of betting types. I'll quickly outline them below as well. Please feel free to ask questions, and I hope this was helpful!

  • Win: You only win your bet if a horse that you have wagered on to win finishes first in the race. 
  • Place: A place bet wins if your horse finishes first or second. The payouts will be different. For example, a place bet will pay a smaller amount than a win bet if your horse does finish first. 
  • Show: A show bet will pay out if the horse you bet on finishes first, second, or third. These bets are not very profitable unless betting on an underdog, but they are also a safer bet to make if you're very confident in a horse. 
  • Exacta: An exacta bet includes the horses you believe with finish first and second in order. You can also "box" the bet, meaning that the horses in your exacta box and finish in any order as long as two of the horses in your bet fill the top two spots. 
  • Trifecta: For a trifecta bet, you need to pick the top three horses in a race. It's difficult but possible, and a winning .50 trifecta bet can be worth hundreds or even thousands. 
  • Superfecta: Superfectas are one of the most popular bets, and as you may have guessed, require you to choose the top four horses in order. Winning bets of $1 superfectas are often in the thousands, but many tracks allow bettors to place .10 or .20 superfecta bets which help keep the costs of a ticket down. When you use many combinations on your ticket, it can become very expensive. 
    • Example: Let's say you wanted to play a $1 superfecta ticket and box six horses, meaning you would win if all four top spots in the race were filled by any combination of your six horses. This bet would cost $360.00. 
  • Hi-5: A rarer bet, a hi-5 requires you to pick the top five horses in a race in order. These are often jackpot races and can pay five figures. 
  • Daily Double, Pick-3, Pick-4, etc.: Many skilled handicappers choose multi-race wagers, which include daily doubles, pick-3, pick-4, pick-5, and even pick-6 bets. To win a pick-6 bet, you need to pick every winner for six races in a row. With these very difficult bets, you can sometimes still win money if you are able to predict five of the six, but the big payouts come when you're able to choose all six winners. 

What questions do you have about betting on horse racing?