How to Bet On Horses

Horse Racing Bet Types

Whether its simple win, place, show betting or picking the future winner of the Kentucky Derby five months before the race, there are plenty of unique ways to have fun and make money betting on horses.

What is a Win Place Show Bet?

A win place show bet is basically a straight wager, which is the most common form of horse betting, especially for newcomers (and those who just NEED to have a wager on the Kentucky Derby each May).

Win Bet – Bet $2 to Win – you collect only if your horse wins the race
Place Bet – Bet $2 to Place – your horse must finish first or second in order to win. However, you get the Place payoff – not the Win payoff – which is usually smaller
Show Bet – Bet $2 to Show – you win if your horse finishes first, second, or third. Again, you get the Show payoff, the lesser of the three payouts in this form of horse wagering

What Is an Exacta Bet?

Exacta betting is picking the two horses you feel will finish first and second in a race. Also called a perfecta, it is simple to bet but also has some variations. You can bet the Exacta for $2 as #1, #2 but in that case, the horses must finish in that exact order. Or you can box an Exacta for $4, in which case you win your wager if the horses run first and second in either order.

You can also use an Exacta key to expand your possible winning options to include four horses, but that starts getting more complicated for beginners and the folks at can help you along!

What is a Trifecta Bet?

Trifecta betting is simple to understand if you just got the hang of the Exacta bet, because Trifecta implies you are betting three horses. A straight Trifecta means picking the first three horses in order. Like the Exacta bet type, boxing your bets gives more opportunities to win for a bit more investment.

Our friend Mike Dempsey at lists this Trifecta betting strategy as a great way to get started.

Here are a few ways to get good coverage with modest investments:

#1,#2 with #1,#2,#3 with #1,#2,#3,#4,#5,#6 = $16

#1,#2 with #1,#2,#3,#4 with #1,#2,#3,#4,$5,#6 = $24

#1,#2,#3 with #1,#2,#3,#4 with #1,#2,#3,#4,#5,#6 = $36

What is a Daily Double?

A Daily Double bet is like an exacta bet but it covers two races, not just one. You are trying to pick the winner of consecutive races, usually the first two races of the day at a track or the final two races. This is sometimes a better value wager, as you might find big favorites on back-to-back races.

What is a Quinella bet?

A Quinella bet involves picking two horses to win the race and you win if they finish first and second in any order. The payoff is the same regardless of which horse wins. You can also bet a Quinella box which is selecting a group of three horses from which the winner and Place horse must come from.

The payouts can be bigger with Quinella bets and, again, the folks at have all the answers for customers.

What are Horse Futures?

If you are familiar with betting on Super Bowls odds early in the NFL season before you even know which teams will play in the big game, then you get the idea of horse futures. Most prominently, Kentucky Derby Futures are the odds many horse fans enjoy.

Each year, as soon as the Breeders Cup Juvenile race is run, most racebooks will post Kentucky Derby Futures. Usually, the winning horse from the Juvenile race (crowning the best two-year-old for one year) is made the favorite for the Derby, which is the de facto crowning of the best three-year-old for the following year.

Often there are dozens or even a hundred horses on the Derby Futures betting list. And for those new fans who want to automatically bet the Breeders Cup Juvenile winner, a word of caution. The Kentucky Derby winner has only twice been the Juvenile champion.