Types of Horse Bets Explained

With so many different types of horse wagers, bettors are more apt to succeed once they find a comfort zone. Successful players must understand the intricacies of each bet and finding a wager that is commensurate with their bankroll. Yet, we advise beginners to stick with simple win, place and show bets while learning the ropes before branching out into the more lucrative, yet complex world of exotic wagering. 

Online Horse Wagering in Canada

Major Canadian thoroughbred racetracks such Woodbine and Fort Erie offer some of the best racing anywhere in North America. A player new to the nuances of betting horses, should first understand the rudiments of pari-mutuel wagering. All bets – whether win, place, show, exactor, triactor, etc – are grouped into a separate “pool.” All funds from players making a win bet, for example, are grouped into the win pool. The track extracts a percentage of the pool of the top called “takeout” and this is how racetracks make money from wagering.

The remaining money in the win pool is returned to bettors who select the winning horse. The amount of money wagered on each betting interest in a given race dictates the odds. Obviously, a horse that is well-supported by the betting public pays less than one less fancied because there will be more players holding winning tickets. The same concept applies to all individual betting pools. In horse racing, players are really playing against one another, rather than the house.

Conventional or Straight Betting 

While win, place and show betting has been around since the inception of the sport, the bets still merit consideration in today’s wagering climate. Let’s quickly classify what each bet means. A “win” bet simply means the bettor must select the winner of a given race. As with all conventional bets, players can bet as little as $2 on a win bet. While some bettors occassionally make more than one win bet on a single race, this is rarely a good strategy as it assures the player will be holding losing tickets at the end of the race. The odds dictate how much a win bet will pay.

A horse that goes to post a 3/1 odds, for example, means that a bettor supporting that horse will earn $3 for every dollar wagered. Thus, a $2 minimum bet on a 3/1 shot means the player will make $6 profit plus the original $2 bet. In other words, the bettor would collect a total of $8 at the window or through an online account.

A “place” bet means that the player must select a horse to run no worse than second. If the player bets the 5-horse to place and the horse ends of winning the race, the player is still holding a winning ticket. However, if the 5-horse ran third or worse, the bet would be a losing one.

“Show” wagering means the horse must run at least third. Unlike the win bet, the payouts for place and show betting are more difficult to calculate, but horses with higher odds obviously still more more than horses with lower odds.

The factor that makes place and show betting more difficult to pinpoint in terms of payout, is that players are at the mercy of who else happens to finish among the top three. For example, a bettor placing a show bet will earn more money if the favorite in the race happens to run worse than third. This is because the favorite also accounts for the majority of the show betting pool in most cases. Thus, when the favorite happens to run worse than third, those bettors still holding winning show bets profit more because there is more money in the pool left to be distributed. 

Exotic Betting 

While it is probably advisable for beginning bettors to start with a simple “win” bet, once players become more comfortable with selecting horses, the exotic bets can be quite enticing. Exotic bets often produce more lucrative payouts and present a greater degree of difficulty.

In Canada, the exotic betting menu consists of the exactor, triactor, superfecta, double, pick 3, pick 4 and pick 6. The exactor, triactor and superfecta are known as intrarace or vertical exotic wagers because they are determined in the outcome of a single race.

The exactor requires a player to pick the top two finishers in order, while the triactor requires the top three finishers in order and the superfecta goes a step further requiring the top four in order. Each of these wagers may be bet as a “straight” bet or “boxed” wager.

A straight exacta for example would be bet using just a single horse to finish first and a single horse to finish second. Let’s say the player bets a $2 exacta on the 5-horse and 3-horse. This means the number 5 horse must win the race and the number 3 must run second in order for the player to cash a winning exactor. No other combination would work. Such a bet is simple and would cost only $2. If the same player wanted to expand the number of winning combinations, he might “box” the 5 and 3, meaning that either horse could finish first or second.

In this bet, the 5 could win or run second and ditto for the 3. As long as both horses completed ran in the top two, the bet would be a winning one. This $2 exacta box would cost $4. The mixing and matching of combinations works in a similar manner with the triactor and superfecta, but with more rungs of the bet and possible combinations, the cost of the ticket can increase sharply. A $2 triactor box using three horses costs $12 for example. 

The double, pick 3, pick 4 and pick 6 are known as interace or horizontal wagers. The object is to select the winners of two, three, four or six consecutive races. This bet allows players to use multiple combinations and is simple to calculate. All of the bets are based on a $1 minimum except for the pick 6 which is often a $2 minimum.

So let’s say a player likes the following horses in this three-race sequence:

  • Race 1: 4,6,10
  • Race 2: 2,8
  • Race 3: 6,9,11

Because the player has three betting interests in the first race, two in the second and three in the third, the cost of this pick three would be $18 (3x2x3 x $1 base minimum base bet). Doubles, pick 3’s, pick 4’s and pick 6’s range from moderately difficult to hit to extremely difficult to hit.In general, a pick 6 is best left to deep-pocketed players, while the other bets lend themselves friendlier to small and mid-size bankrolls.

In general, a pick 6 is best left to deep-pocketed players, while the other bets lend themselves friendlier to small and mid-size bankrolls. There is no magic bullet for betting the races, but those looking to get involved in the sport of kings should give themselves a primer before diving in and enjoying the full range of bets offered at the track. 

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