Horse Racing Betting Explained

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With the Kentucky Derby approaching, beginners and casual horse racing bettors alike could use a refresher on what types of horse racing bets you can place on America’s most prestigious thoroughbred racing event. Thanks to the expert knowledge you are about to gain, you will know all about the types of bets not only on the Kentucky Derby, but on all of this year’s thoroughbred races.

Horse racing betting has been around for over a century and remains the oldest of all betting venues. Horse racing gamblers who get their value-laden selections often receive a great return for just a small investment. Now, let’s look at all the different types of horse racing bets you can wager on.

Here’s a closer look at horse racing bets explained

Win, place or show

Simple horse racing bets feature the traditional win, place and show bets (first, second and third). A win bet is exactly that … betting on a horse to win the race. A place bet means betting on a specific horse to finish second or better, while a show bet is betting on a particular horse to finish third or better.


Betting on a mount to win, place or show is the most traditional way to bet on ponies. The biggest winnings, however, come with exotic bets. Exotic betting means betting on combinations that occur in a particular race or in several races. The most traditional exotic bets are the daily double, exacta, trifecta and superfecta.

Daily double

Many racetracks offer bettors to roll “daily doubles” and that means you can pick the winner of two consecutive races. Most tracks still offer the traditional daily double and the late double. The traditional daily double requires horse racing players to pick the winners of Race 1 and Race 2. The late daily double features bettors selecting the winners of the last 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 bet. The daily double is also known as a horse racing vertical bet.


When you bet on the top two finishers in a single race it’s called making an exacta bet. Let’s say you like the 6 and 7 in Race 3 at Belmont Park. You place a $2 exacta box bet on the 6 and the 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. If the race finishes with the 6 first and the 7 second, or the 7 first and the 6 second, you win the bet.


Betting on each of the first three finishers in a single race is called making a trifecta bet. For example, let’s say you like horses 5, 7 and 8 in Race 8 at the New Orleans Fair Grounds and you make a $2 trifecta box bet. 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 hits on the race: 5-7-8 or 5-8-7, 7-5-8 or 7-8-5, 8-5-7 or 8-7-5.


This bet means you are betting on the first four finishers in a single race. Superfecta bets can be quite expensive, but also plentiful. A $2 four-horse superfecta box will cost $48 as there are an incredible 24 combinations that could develop. Superfecta can also be very difficult to nail down.

Most of the time, horse racing handicappers prefer to use a key horse. Let’s say 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 think horses 5 and 6 will finish third or fourth in the race.

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