A Guide to the Different Kinds of Horse Racing Bets

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Four horses and jockeys are racing down the track.
BetMGM @BETMGM Jul 17, 2023, 2:19 AM

If you’re new to the world of sports betting and horse racing, or you just want to grow your horse racing betting knowledge, it’s important to know about the different types of bets you can make. In our guide, we explain the various wagers you can place so you can gain a better understanding of how to bet on horse racing.

Types of horse racing bets

Before we dive into each individual bet, we should explain that you’re not going to find horse racing odds explained here. This piece is going to focus solely on horse racing bets, which can be broadly sorted into three types: straight, exotic single-race, and exotic multi-race bets. We explain each category in further detail below, along with the sort of bets you can make.

Straight bets

A straight bet is the simplest wager you can make on a horse race. A straight bet only has one element that needs to be met for you to win. The three types of straight bets are a win, place, and show bet.

Win bet

A win bet is the most common and straightforward bet. You’re simply betting on a specific horse to finish in first place. If the horse that you wager on doesn’t finish first, you lose the bet. Of the straight bets, this usually offers the best payout, as it has the greatest risk.

Place bet

A place bet is considered safer than a win bet, as you’re betting that your horse will finish in first or second place. This means you have two opportunities to win, not just one, and the amount you win isn’t affected by how they place. That means if the horse comes first or second, you still walk away with the same payout. Of course, if the horse that you bet on fails to finish first or second, then you lose the wager. This type of bet has a lower payout than a win bet due to its lower level of risk.

Show bet

A show bet takes the concept of a place bet even further, with the wager being made on the horse finishing in first, second, or third place. This type of straight bet is the safest, and as a result, it offers the lowest return if you win.

Styles of straight bets

The two main styles of straight bets are “across the board” and “parlay” bets. An across the board style refers to a combination of a win, place, and show bet on a single horse in a race. A parlay bet is simply one where you take the winnings from one race and bet it on another horse.

Exotic single-race bets

An exotic bet is a type of bet where you wager on multiple horses. In the case of a exotic single-race bet, you wager on multiple horses for a single race. The five types of exotic single-race bets that we’ll cover are the exacta, trifecta, superfecta, hi-5, and quinella bet.

Exacta bet

An exacta bet requires you to accurately predict which horses will finish in first and second place, including the specific order in which they do so. If you do correctly predict the first- and second-place finish, your payout will be larger than if you bet on each horse individually. 

Trifecta bet

A trifecta bet requires that you accurately predict which horses will first in first, second, and third place. As with the exacta, your prediction must specify the order. It will also offer a greater payout than the exacta.

Superfecta bet

This is the same type of bet as the exacta and trifecta, but the number of horses involved this time increases to four. Your potential winnings also increases over the other two exotic single-race bets. This is because it’s so much trickier to predict the exact result across the top four places!

Hi-5 bet

Of the correct-order bets, the last one on our list is the hi-5 bet. While the name is different, it follows the same rules as the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta bets, but – as you may have guessed – this time, it’s for five horses.

Quinella bet

At first glance, the quinella bet may look like an exacta bet, but there’s one key difference: you don’t have to get the order correct. Simply place a wager on the two horses you think will finish in first and second, regardless of which order they come in, and if you wager correctly, you’ll walk away a winner.

Styles of exotic single-race bets

You can try to increase your odds of winning through a style of betting known as “boxing.” All this means is you choose all the combinations possible for a exacta, trifecta, superfecta, or hi-5 bet to improve your odds of winning. This can be tweaked slightly in a style that is known as a “keying.” With keying, you choose a preference for a specific horse to finish in a specific position, while boxing all the other options. 

This can be taken further through a style known as “wheel betting,” where you wager on a horse that you’re sure of, but then hedge your bets by making multiple wagers covering all the other horses, depending on the type of exotic bet you’ve made. For example, if you make an exacta wheel bet in an eight-horse race, and are confident the number-one horse will win, you’ll make seven wagers, each with the number-one horse finishing first, but then covering the second place finish with each other horse.

Exotic multi-race bets

Just as with the previous set of exotic bets, you bet on multiple horses, but where exotic multi-race bets differ is that you bet on multiple horses over multiple races. (You probably guessed that as well!) This type of wager also has larger payouts owing to the higher risk and greater odds. Here are a few bets you can place in this category.

Daily double bet

For this bet, you must correctly pick the winners of two consecutive races that take place on the same day. While this type of bet may only cover one place finish across two races, it’s possible to bet on two different horses, since you might choose a different one in each race.

Pick three, four, five, or six bet

This bet has a different name, but follows the same basic principle of the daily double bet. However, depending on whether it’s the pick three, four, five, or six bet, you need to correctly predict between three and six first-place finishes for three to six consecutive races.

Place pick all

Unlike the other pick bet, this bet allows you to wager on the first- and second-place finish for up to 10 consecutive races. (You’ll definitely need to give your crystal ball a polish for this one!)

Place your favorite bets at BetMGM

Now that you have a better idea of the different types of bets that you can make, hopefully you feel ready to place a few. And if you’re looking for one of the best horse racing betting sites with an incredible range of wagers, the good news is you’ve already found it! BetMGM has recently partnered with NYRA Bets to offer an amazing horse racing betting service to sports betting fans across the US.

To take advantage of our great odds and promotions, register at BetMGM.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.