Straight Bets

  • Win: Your horse must win for the bet to payoff.

  • Place: Your horse must finish first or second for it to be successful.

  • Show: Your horse must finish first, second or third.

Naturally out of these three the win bet is the most difficult to get right so generally pays off more, while betting a strong favorite to show will mean a very low payout given that the probability of this horse running in the first three is very high.

Combination Straight Bets

  • Across the Board (win/place/show): This is a combination of all three wagers, so if you bet a horse this way you are taking it to win place and show. If the horse wins, you collect on all three bets. If it is second, you collect on place and show and if it is third you collect on only the show part of the bet.

  • Win/Place or Place/Show: Simply a combination of win & place or place & show. There are two combinations, so a $2 bet would cost $4 in total.

Exotic Single Bets

  • Exacta/Trifecta/Superfecta: Picking horses to finish 1st and 2nd , 1st, 2nd, and 3rd or 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. More information is available below.

Exotic Multiple Bets

  • Daily Double/Pick 3/Pick 4/Pick 6/Pick All: These bets involve choosing the winners of consecutive races. More than one horse can be added into each leg of the bet, multiplying the cost.

Exotic Combinations

  • Straight: A wager with only one combination, i.e. one horse in a win bet or just two horses in an Exacta.

  • Box: Boxing a bet means covering all available combinations. In an Exacta there are 2 possibilities, a Trifecta has 6 and so on. You multiply the cost of your unit stake appropriately.

  • Key: Keying a horse means taking it on top by itself and adding others in behind it. So a Trifecta Key means choosing one horse you think will win then any combination of other horseo fill second and third place behind it.

  • Wheel and Partial Wheel: A Wheel means to take the entire field in one leg of a wager and a partial wheel is taking a given number of horses in one leg of a wager.

Types of Horse Betting Wagers and Calculating the Cost

Below we’ve shared some information on the various types of wagers available to you and what they’ll cost to place. You need to know how to calculate these or at least have this guide handy when you bet. Unlike ‘straight’ bets involving only one horse, when you have a more exotic wager you are essentially placing two or more bets on one ticket and so the cost is higher and thus, so are the potential returns.

Daily Double Costs

The Daily Double is a really popular bet in which you are tasked with choosing the winner of two consecutive, pre-selected races on a racecard.

In a $2 Daily Double in which you’ve selected horse 5 in leg 1 and horse 3 in leg 2 for example, this is just one bet so the total cost is $2.

You can choose do place a Daily Double Part Wheel, increasing the number of horses to give yourself a better chance of success. So, if you bet horses 1, 5 & 9 in the first leg and maybe numbers 6 & 10 in the second, the cost will be $10.00. To work this out, multiply the number of horses in your first leg by the number in the second and then multiply that by your unit stake cost, in this case $2 (3 x 2 = 5 x $2 = $10).

Exacta Costs

This bet is also sometimes known as a Perfecta, depending upon which track you are betting at, and it involves choosing the first and second horses home in the correct order.

This sort of bet is not as simple as it sounds as so often in horse racing even when a hot favorite wins there can be a surprise outsider filling second place, though the harder the bet is to get right the bigger the payoffs will be.

Once again you can play an Exacta Part Wheel in which you choose more horses to increase your chances of success, but always remember that by doing this you are also increasing the total cost of the bet.

A typical $2 Exacta is just one combination; your chosen two horses finishing first and second in the race so the total cost is $2. If however you believe you’re sure of one horse winning but unsure of what may finish second, you may throw in some extras.

Betting horse 1 with horses 5 & 7 for example would cost $4. This is because winning combinations 1 & 5 or 1 & 7 would do = 2 bets mean twice the stake. Putting horse 1 with 5, 7, 8 & 10 would cost a total of $8 as there are now four possible combinations and so on.

Exacta Box Costs

‘Boxing’ any bet means you are covering the available combinations, in the case of the Exacta that means choosing two horses as you usually would but this time they can finish first and second in either order, a solid bet when there are two clear horses against the field with better ability.

A basic $2 Exacta Box costs $4 in total as there are two combinations, i.e. horses 4 & 6 in a box means the finishing order could be 4-6 or 6-4.

Once again you can choose more horses if you wish then simply calculate the cost as normal, so betting horses 4, 6 & 10 in an Exacta Box means the finishing order could be 4-6, 4-10, 6-4, 6-10, 10-4 or 10-6 meaning there are now 6 combinations meaning a total bet of $12.

Quinella Costs

In terms of how you select this bet, a Quinella is essentially an Exacta Box under a different name. You choose two horses to finish first and second in either order but without the unit stake having to change or be worked out, i.e. a $2 Quinella costs the same as a $1 Exacta Box.

In theory the payoff should be the same, but as these are pool bets it doesn’t always work out this way. Some sharp-eyed horseplayers keep an eye out on the probably payoffs for both the Quinella and Exacta Box just to see if there is any slight advantage to one or the other before deciding which one to place.

Usually, the basic rule is that the Quinella often pays a lot more than a boxed Exacta if the favorite doesn’t win. To work out the cost, use the same calculations as the Exacta Box and the divide the total in half.

Trifecta Costs

This bet is like the Exacta but with one extra horse, so a basic Trifecta means selecting three horses in a race to finish first, second and third in the exact order. As there is one combination involved here, a $2 Exacta would cost a total of $2 but there is the option of placing a Trifecta Key.

The Trifecta Key means nominating one of your horses to finish first but the other two to finish second and third in any order and of course you can add more horses in behind to this to increase your chances of success.

So, a $1 Trifecta Key with horse number 2 nominated as the winner and runners 5, 6 & 9 to fill the other two positions would mean 6 combinations, therefore a cost of $6 and so on.

Much like the Exacta, you can place a Trifecta Part Wheel whereby you can have one or more horses in first position, one or more in second and one or more in third.

So if you’re unsure of the winner, you may go horses 2 & 4 with 1, 2, 4 & 5 and 2, 4, 5, 6, & 8 meaning 24 combinations and a total stake of $24 to a $1 unit stake.

The amount of horses you nominate for first, second or third is up to you so to figure out the cost simply multiply the number of horses in first position by the number in second minus 1, multiplied by the number of horses in third position minus 2.

Trifecta Box Costs

As explained with the Exacta, you can box your Trifecta meaning that your three nominated horses can simply finish first, second and third in any order and you’ll be paid out.

Choosing horses 2, 4 & 5 in a Trifecta Box means the successful winning combination could be 2-4-5, 2-5-4, 4-2-5, 4-5-2, 5-2-4 or 5-4-2 and therefore there are 6 combinations in this case, meaning a $1 Trifecta Box would cost a total of $6.

Choosing four horses means 24 combinations, 5 horses is 60 combinations and so on, times by your unit stake. Watch out for the total cost in this case, as a 5-horse $5 Trifecta Box would cost $300!

Superfecta Costs

The Superfecta involves you picking the first four horses to finish in the exact order. As the basic bet is one combination, a $2 Superfecta costs just that, $2.

You can place a Superfecta Part Wheel under the same rules as above or a Superfecta Key meaning you can nominate one horse as your "sure thing" combined with a number of horses to finish second, third and fourth.

If you place a $1 Superfecta Key with horse 5 nominated first along with horses 2, 4 & 8 then you have 6 combinations for a total of $6. This is because horse #5 has to win, so the only possibilities are 5-2-4-8, 5-2-8-4, 5-4-2-8, 5-4-8-2, 5-8-2-4 and 5-8-4-2. The more horses you nominate, the more combinations there are and the more you will pay to place the wager down.

You can play a Superfecta Part Wheel with one or more combinations in each of the four positions using the same math as in the Trifecta Part Wheel but, given the huge combinations often involved with this bet, some tracks may offer the Dime Superfecta meaning your unit stake can be just 10 cents. In this case, a $0.10 bet with 72 combinations would cost just $7.20.

Superfecta Box Costs

Boxing your Superfecta of course means a simple bet, but with lots of combinations depending on how many horses you choose to include.

A normal $1 Superfecta Box with four horses means a $24 total cost. Four horses to finish 1-2-3-4 in all available combinations has 24 possibilities and this quickly ramps up the more horses you add. Throwing in a fifth means 120 combinations and a sixth would be 360 so keep an eye on that overall ticket cost.

Pick 3 Costs

Placing a Pick 3 wager means picking the winner of three consecutive races. Choosing only one horse in each race means naturally one bet, so a $2 Pick 3 is exactly that cost, $2. You are allowed once again to choose multiple horses though so as usual simply multiply the number of horses in each leg times by your unit stake.

Betting a Pick 3 Part Wheel then with horse 2 in the first leg, horses 1 & 7 in the second and then 2, 6 & 8 in the third would mean 1 x 2 x 3 for a total of 6 combinations and a cost of six times your stake, a $1 bet in this case costing a total of $6.

Pick 4 Costs

Much like above, the Pick 4 means betting in consecutive races but this time four of them. The math is exactly the same, so horses 2 & 5 in leg one, then 3, 6 & 7 in leg two, horses 1, 4 & 8 in leg three and finally runners 1, 5 & 10 in the final leg would mean 2 x 3 x 3 x 3 for 54 combinations or a total bet of $54 for a $1 Pick 4.

It can be an expensive bet, but getting it right just that one time can mean a very attractive payoff.

Pick 6 Costs

A Pick 6 is picking the winner of 6 races in a row. This is an incredibly difficult bet to get right but more pertinently the combinations involved are massive if you decide to choose multiple horses in each leg.

The Pick 6 is a pool in which carryovers will be involved should there be no winner on a given day, with all the money in the pool added onto whatever is put in the following day or at the following meet with consolation costs taken out.

The consolation payoffs involved in the Pick 6 are for those having the most winners out of six if nobody hits the Pick 6 jackpot and there is even a consolation for hitting 5 out of 6 winners when the Pick 6 has been won by someone.

The cost can really spiral here, so imagine playing a Pick 6 with three horses in each leg then the combination would be 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 for a total of 729 possibilities and therefore a total cost of $729 to a $1 unit stake.

Pick All Costs

Rather than having a number assigned as above, these bets are known as Pick All’s as it depends on how many races there are at a given track on a given day. These bets are mostly offered in California and it means if there are 9 races you need to pick the winner of all 9, 12 races you bet 12 horses and so on.

The math remains the same and even choosing only two horses in each leg of a 10-race Pick All would mean 512 combinations.

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