There are so many different ways to bet and a lot of things to consider before making your bet, but wagering doesn't have to be intimidating. Simple win, place, or show bets are fun and easy. First, you must understand the difference between the three. Win = first place; Place = second place; and Show = third place. Once you've decided what position you think your horse will finish, make your way to the betting window. Most tellers are more than happy to help you place your wager even if you have no idea how to communicate it. The people in line behind you, however, may not be too happy if you're holding up the line because you don't know what you're doing. You need to state the name of the track, the race number, the amount of the wager, the type of bet, and the number of the horse. For example: "Churchill race three, $2 to win on number five." In this example, if the #5 horse wins, you'll cash a ticket. If the #5 horse comes in second or third, you will not cash a ticket. For this type of wagering, $2 is the minimum bet. To cover a horse in any position, you would bet it "across the board." This is three bets rolled into one, so it will cost you three times the amount you're betting.
Although exotic wagering is, well, more exotic, it doesn't have to be complicated. The most common exotic wagers are exacta, trifecta, and superfecta.
An exacta is when you pick the horses that will finish first and second in a race. If you're unsure which will finish first and which will finish second, you can box your wager. For example, stating, "$2 exacta box on numbers 5 and 7," will cost you $4 because you're making two $2 wagers (5+7 or 7+5) and you will win as long as both the 5 and 7 finish either first or second. A straight exacta would be making only one bet for the exact order of finish. For example, if you bet a straight exacta on numbers 5 and 7, you would only win if the 5 won and the 7 finished second.
Similar to an exacta is picking the first three finishers, which is called a trifecta, or picking the first four finishers, which is called a superfecta. These wagers can also be boxed so that you win as long as you have the correct three or four horses regardless of their order of finish. Again, you are making several different bets at one time, so your cost will increase as the number of possible combinations increases. A $2 trifecta box will cost $12 and a $2 superfecta box will cost $48. Most tracks will offer trifecta wagering for as low as $0.50 and superfecta wagering for as low as $0.10. When placing a wager less than $2, watch the payout on the tote board carefully to see what the minimum wager is to return that payout. If you feel strongly about one horse and think it will definitely finish in one position or the other, you can "wheel" the horse against the other horses in the field or bet a "part wheel" in which you select one horse to finish in first, second, third, or fourth position and a few other horses in the remaining positions.
There are also daily doubles in which you pick the winner in two consecutive races. It used to be that this wager was offered once a day (daily), but now most tracks offer rolling doubles in which you can pick any consecutive races. Pick three, pick four, pick five, and pick six wagers are similar in that you pick the winner in consecutive races. Most tracks will offer rolling pick threes, but pick four, five, or six are designated races and not necessarily offered every race day or at every track.
Pari-mutuel wagering is the type of betting offered in horse racing. This means that all bets of a particular type are placed together in a pool. The odds are set at the time the race starts, which is when the pool closes. After the track takes its cut, the payoff amounts are calculated by sharing the pool among all winning bets.
Approximate Payoff to Win on a $2 Bet
If The Odds Are If The Odds Are
ODDS PAYS ODDS PAYS
1-5 $2.40 8-5 5.20
2-5 2.80 9-5 5.60
1-2 3.00 2 6.00
3-5 3.20 5-2 7.00
4-5 3.60 3 8.00
Even 4.00 7-2 9.00
6-5 4.40 4 10.00
7-5 4.80 9-2 11.00
3-2 5.00 5 12.00
Of course there are other wagering options, but these are the most common. For on the go betting guidance and wager calculators, check the iPhone and Android app stores. There are several handy apps available for free, like the newly released Kentucky Derby app.
Tomorrow is Opening Night at Churchill Downs, so go out and try your handicapping and wagering skills!
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby