Understanding How To Bet Horse Racing

Horse racing is has been around for a long, long time. It's one of the most exciting forms of sports out there. There's nothing quite like going to a track and watching these beautiful animals speed around the track, the entire crowd cheering for their horse. And ever since its start, people have been placing bets on their favorite horses. In fact, horse racing is one of the oldest forms of sports gambling. And if you ask any bettor, they'll have their foolproof way of picking a winner. It could be the horse's name, the time of day, the horse's racing number, the jockey's name, or about a million other superstitious "can't lose" ideas. That's what makes betting on horse racing so fun. It's already an exciting sport, but when you add in that extra bit of excitement by wagering real money on a race, you have one of the most popular forms of sports gambling out there. So today, we're going to take a look at how to bet on a horse race, the type of bets you can place and what to look for. So let's get right into it!

Betting on horse racing

There are dozens of races going on daily from all around the world. If you're at a land based sportsbook, you'll want to know the name of the track, the number race and the horse's name before placing your bet. An online sportsbook will have all of that information listed and you can easily select the horse or horses you want and put them on your ticket.

So you have your track, the race and your horse. So what kind of bets can you place? We're glad you asked. Let's take a look!

Win, Place or Show

Win, place or show bets are probably the most popular bets you can make on horse racing. These are essentially straight bets, albeit with a little variation. Let's examine them a little more closely…

  • Win

This is the most straight forward of the three. When you place a 'win' bet, you're picking a horse to win the race outright. That means your bet will hit if your selected horse finishes the race in first place. Anything other than a victory for your horse and your ticket is a loser.

  • Place

A 'place' bet gives you a little more flexibility when betting on a horse. If you place a 'place' bet, your horse needs to finish in either first OR second place. It doesn't matter which. If your horse finishes first or second, you are a winner. A 'place' bet is only available in races that have over 5 horses racing.

  • Show

The last of the three, a 'show' bet gives you even more coverage by allowing your horse to finish either first, second or third. If your horse finishes in any of those positions then you are a winner.The 'show' bet, because it covers 3 different positions, comes with the lowest odds because the chances are winning are greater.

  • Across the board

And if you want even more coverage, you can place an 'across the board' bet. This type of bet basically combines a win, place and show bet onto one ticket. If your horse WINS the race, you receive a payout on ALL THREE bets. If your horse places, you receive a payout on the place and show portion of the ticket. And if your horse shows then you only win the show portion of the ticket.

Exacta and Exacta-box

The exacta or exacta-box are specialty bets and really fun to place. Let's take a look…

  • Exacta

An exacta bet has a hint in its name - exact. This is where you pick two horses and pick them to finish in first and second place. So you would bet on Horse A to finish 1st and Horse B to finish 2nd. If they do so, you're a winner! Any other combination means your ticket is a loser.

  • Exacta-box

And exacta-box gives you a little more coverage and cost a little more but can pay out huge if you hit. An exacta-box is when you pick 2 or more horses to finish in a selected amount of places. For example, if you place an exacta-box on Horse A and Horse B, then you would need both horses to finish in the top 2. It doesn't matter which horse wins and which horse finishes 2nd. But since you have two chances at winning this bet, it will cost you double.

To find out the different combos for your horses, just multiply the number of horses to be boxed by the next lowest number. So if you did a 5 horse exacta-box, multiple 5×4 and you get 20 winning combos. A $2 base bet would cost you $40.

Trifecta and Trifecta-box

These two bets come with the biggest payouts - but are also the toughest bets to hit. Isn't that always the case!

  • Trifecta

A trifecta is where you bet on three horses to finish a race first, second and third. They HAVE to finish in the order you pick in order to win. So if you bet on Horse A to win, Horse B to place and Horse C to show, they must finish 1-2-3 in that order. Otherwise, your bet is a loser.

  • Trifecta-box

Like an exacta-box, a trifecta-box gives you more coverage but will cost you more on your ticket because it comes with more winning combinations. A trifecta-box is picking three horses to finish in the top three positions. It doesn't matter which horse wins, which horse place and which horse shows. If your three horses finish in the top three, you're a winner!

You can place more than 3 horses as well, but just know that will cost you more.

Superfecta and Superfecta-box

These bets come with another potential for huge payouts - but again, are tougher to hit.

  • Superfecta

A superfecta bet is picking 4 horses to finish first, second, third AND fourth. And in the exact order. Any other combination will result in your ticket being a loser. So you can see how tough that is to hit.

  • Superfecta-box

This gives you more coverage, as your 4 horses can finish in any of the top 4 positions, but because of the number of winning combinations, this bet will cost you a pretty penny. But - if you're lucky enough to hit - can pay out handsomely.


So there we have it! Our breakdown of some of the more popular bets available for horse racing and how to place them. So the next time you're ready for a sportsbook section, take a look at the races being run that day, pick your favorite horse - or 3 - and ride them to big wins!