Horse Betting at the Kentucky Derby
John Velazquez riding Medina Spirit, right, leads Florent Geroux on Mandaloun, Flavien Prat riding Hot Rod Charlie and Luis Saez on Essential Quality to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Horse Betting Cheat Sheet


  • Win
    • The most common bet in horse racing. If your horse wins, you win. The price you are paid out are the closing odds on your horse
  • Place
    • Your horse finishes second or first. Will get paid less than the closing odds. Tough to calculate since payouts are all determined by total pool amount. Can typically expect between a 25%-40% discount from closing odds.
  • Show
    • Your horse finishes third or better. Best to play Show tickets on larger odds horses since the payouts are greatly reduced from the closing odds
    • You can combine Win, Place, and Show bets into single tickets. WP, WS, WPS, PS tickets are great ways to “diversify”. Just remember that you do have to pay for each bet, i.e. a $2 WPS ticket will cost you $6 since you are betting $2 each on the Win, Place, and Show.


  • Exacta/Exacta Box
    • Picking the horses, you think will finish first and second. If you go with a straight Exacta bet, you have to get the order of the horses correct. If you Box the ticket, they can finish in any order. But, like the WPS ticket, every time you Box an exotic you have to pay for each bet, i.e., a $2 Exacta box of the 1 and 5 horses would cost $4 because you’re betting 1,5 and 5,1.
  • Trifecta/Trifecta Box
    • Same deal as the Exacta and Exacta but you’re picking the horses that finish first, second, and third.
  • Superfecta / Superfecta Box
    • Picking the top four finishing horses
  • KEYS
    • You can bet the Trifecta and Superfectas and “Key” a horse. This means that the horse you specified finishes first and then it does not matter the order in which other horses chosen finish. For example, if you TriBox the 2,4,6 horses and Key the 6, you would win on finishes of 6,2,4 and 6,4,2 but not any result in which 6 does not win. Higher risk, higher reward.

Daily Doubles / Pick 3,4,5

  • Consider these to be the parlays of horse racing. You are betting on winners across multiple races. Daily double is across two races, and Pick 3, 4, 5 are across the named numbers. In horse racing though, you can select multiple winners for each race. With that, the price of your ticket goes up, but you “go short” on a pick 3 if the field in a race is small and that can give you pretty decent odds at winning a nice payout.

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