APR 19 - Horse Racing Bets Explained

Horse Racing Bets Explained

With the Kentucky Derby approaching, brand new beginners and casual horse racing bettors alike could likely use a refresher on just what kind of horse racing bets you can make on the most prestigious thoroughbred racing event in the United States. Thanks to the expert knowledge that you’re about to get, you’re going to know all about the types of horse racing bets you can make, not only on the Kentucky Derby, but on every thoroughbred race this year.

Wagering on horse racing has been around for well over a century and remains the oldest of all betting venues. Horse racing gamblers that nail their value-laden picks often receive a large return for just a small investment. Now, let’s look at all the different kinds of horse racing bets that you can make.

Here’s A Closer Look At The Horse Racing Bets Explained

Win, Place or Show

Simple horse racing wagers feature the traditional win, place and show (first, second and third) wagers. A win wager is exactly that ….betting on a horse to win the race. A place wager means betting on a specific horse to finish second or better while a show wager is betting on a particular horse to finish third or better. The minimum amount that can be wagered for any win, place or show bet is $2.

Across the Board

An ‘across the board’ wager is wagering on a horse to either, win, place or show. For example, if you like the No. 2 horse in the second race (Race 2) at Delaware Race Track. You bet $2 on the 2 horse across the board. The total amount of the wager is $6. The horse finishes second and pays $5 to place and $2.60 to show. You get back $5 on the $2 place wager and $2.60 on the $2 show wager. You get back nothing for the $2 win wager since the horse finished second (place) and not first (win).

Betting on a mount to win, place or show is the most traditional way of betting on the ponies. The biggest profits, however, come with exotic betting. Exotic bet mean wagering on combinations to occur in any particular race or in multiple races. The most traditional exotic wagers are the daily double, exacta, the trifecta and the superfecta.

Daily Double

Many race tracks offer bettors rolling ‘daily doubles’ and that means that you can pick the winner of two consecutive races. Most tracks still offer the traditional daily double and the late double. The traditional double requires horse racing gamblers to pick the winners of Race 1 and Race 2. The late daily double features bettors selecting the winners of the final two races of the day. The daily double is similar to betting a two-team parlay in football. If both horses win, you win the wager. The daily double is also known as a vertical horse racing wager.


When you wager on the first two finishers in a single race that is called making an exacta wager. Let’s say, you like the 6 and 7 in Race 3 at Belmont Park. You make a $2 exacta box wager with the 6 and 7. The exacta box suggests that the 6 horse can finish first and the 7 can finish second or the 7 can finish first and the 6 can finish second. The wager will cost you $4. If race ends with the 6 first and 7 second, or 7 first and 6 second, you win the wager.


Betting on each of the first three finishers in a single race is called making a trifecta wager. For example, let’s say you like the 5, 7, and 8 horses in Race 8 at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans and you make a $2 trifecta box wager. The trifecta box will cost you $12 because there are six different combinations and you are betting $2 on each combination. You win if any of the 6 combinations hit in the race: 5-7-8 or 5-8-7, 7-5-8 or 7-8-5, 8-5-7 or 8-7-5.


This wager means you’re wagering on the first four finishers in a single race. Superfecta wagering can be quite costly – but also bountiful. A $2, four-horse, superfecta box will cost $48 since there are a whopping 24 combinations that could play out. Superfecta’s can also be very difficult to nail.

Most times, horse racing handicappers prefer to use a key horse. Let’s say that you like the No. 2 mount to finish first or second and the No. 3 horse to finish first or second in Race 5 at Churchill Downs. You also believe that the 5 and 6 horses will finish either third or fourth in the race. You would then key the 2 and 3 horses in the first two slots (win and place) and put all four of your choices in the third and fourth slots. Your wager would look like this 2, 3 with 2,3,5,6.

This wager provides a dozen (12) different possible combinations. A $2 wager on a superfecta will cost you $24. By using a key horse, you’ve cut your investment in half for this kind of wager.

Pick 3 and Pick 4 Wagers

Many race books also offers other vertical horse racing bets in addition to the daily double. A Pick 3 wager requires picking the winner of three consecutive races in a row. For example, betting a Pick 3 that starts in Race 1 will cover Race 1, Race 2 and Race 3. Betting a Pick 4 that starts in Race 6 requires picking the winner of Race 6, Race 7, Race 8 and Race 9.