Exotic Horse Racing Betting

Exotic betting refers to an extremely popular group of horse racing wagers that all include a component where you must wager on multiple horses. This can take place during one race or over a span of multiple races. Many bettors love exotic wagers because you can make a lot of money in a short period of time with them.

If you’re a horse racing fan, chances are you’re a fan of betting on the races as well. Many people like to keep it simple with straight win, place, or show bets. But those who like a little more bang for their betting buck can utilize exotic wagers, which can be a way for you to win a lot of money in a mighty hurry.

In the following article, we’ll take you through the world of exotic betting. We’ll get into how the different bets work and what advantages you have from betting them. On top of that, we’ll get into some good strategies that can help you maximize the value of your Exotic wagers.

What Are Horse Racing Exotic Wagers?

There are two basic groups of wagers available to you in the world of horse racing. There are single-horse bets, which are sometimes called “straight bets,” that take place in a single race. Of these, the most popular are win, place, and show (picking a horse to finish first, second or third, respectively).

But exotic betting goes beyond that by allowing you to include multiple horses in your bets. Some of these bets (exacta, trifecta, superfecta) take place within the confines of a single race. And others (Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4) will take place over several races, usually on the same program at a single race track.

There’s one other general distinction between straight and exotic wagers in horse racing. Straight bets, which are easier to win, don’t pay as much. Exotic betting often pays off much more than straight wagers, but that’s because they are generally much harder bets to hit.

Types of Exotic Wagers

Let’s break down the main types of wagers that can be found under the exotic betting banner:


With an exacta wager, you’ll be trying to pick the first two in the official order of finish in a race. As an example, if you wager on a 2-4 exacta, you’ll win with the following result:

  • #2 finishes first, #4 finishes second

As far as exotic betting goes, the exacta is one of the most popular. It’s one of the easiest to understand for novices, and you’ll have a better chance, percentage-wise, of hitting it than of hitting any of the other real money exotic horse racing wagers. The downside is that it is the most modest-paying of all the exotic bets.

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You’ll sometimes see a trifecta referred to as a “triple” or a “big triple,” but the concept of this exotic wager is the same no matter the name. To win, you have to pick the first three in the official order in a single race. As an example, a 3-2-1 would be a winner if

  • #3 finishes first, #2 finishes second, and #1 finishes third

Trifectas are wagers where you really need to do a good job handicapping to win them. You’ll probably need a little bit of luck as well. But you could be looking at an excellent payback if you get lucky, with many trifecta bets paying hundreds of dollars or more.

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You might be able to guess, based on the exacta and trifecta, what the superfecta requires. You have to be able to predict the first four in the official order of finish in a race, which can be quite difficult, but also quite lucrative if you can pull it off. As an example, you would win a 7-2-4-5 superfecta if the following takes place:

  • #7 finishes first, #2 finishes second, #4 finishes third, #5 finishes fourth
Please Note:

Keep in mind that for the exacta, trifecta, or superfecta, you must have the horses in the exact right order. That will change when we talk about boxing these bets below.

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Daily Double and Pick 3, Pick 4, and Beyond

The Daily Double is an exotic wager which has become synonymous in the larger culture with any kind of successive accomplishment. In horse racing betting, you win a Daily Double if you can pick the winners of two races in a row. For example, if you bet an 8-3 Daily Double on the first two races of a particular race track program, you’ll win the wager if the following occurs:

  • #8 wins the first race and #3 wins the second race

The Daily Double is a wager which often pays a little bit more than exotic betting, even though they both require picking two horses. That’s because, with the Daily Double, you have two races full of horses from which to choose, which gives you more possibilities than an exacta. Many tracks feature Daily Doubles at the start (Early Double) and end (Late Double) of their racing programs.

The concepts behind Pick 3s, Pick 4s, and so on is pretty simple. Whatever the number in the bet, that’s how many winners you have to pick in a row.

Imagine that you bet a 5-7-2 Pick 3 on the first three races of a program. You would win if the following occurs:

  • #5 wins the first race, #7 wins the second race and #2 wins the third race

You can push this concept as far as you want to go. Many tracks have Pick 5s and Pick 6s as well. The more races that are included, the harder it is to hit these exotic wagers, and the more they will pay back on average.

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The Odds and Payback for Exotic Wagers in Horse Racing

Most horse racing bets are subject to a style of betting known as pari-mutuel wagering. This is a system where your odds are always changing, even after you make the bet. Exotic betting odds aren’t final until all bets are in and the race gets underway.

Let’s talk about a single exotic bet to make this concept easier to understand. Imagine that you bet on a 4-5 exacta in an eight-horse race and are wondering how odds are determined. Well, the track in question begins by pooling all of the money from a particular bet together.

It then takes out a certain percentage based on predetermined rates of takeout. After that, each individual combination of two horses are split up based on the money bet on it.

For example:

Let’s say the 4-5 that you bet has $50 in its individual pool. And the total exacta betting pool sits at $10,000.

$10,000 divided by $50 equals 200, odds for the 4-5 exacta are 200 to 1.

That system is in place for every one of the Exotic wagers that we listed above. There will be more pools for the bets that include more horses, since there are more possible combinations. And that’s why the bets that include more horses will generally pay back the most of all the exotic betting possibilities.

How to Make Your Exotic Wagers

When you’re betting on a sports betting website, it’s a relatively simple process for making any kinds of horse racing wagers, including exotic bets. It’s just a matter of navigating among all the possible horses and races available to you. You should also be able to pick your numbers by checking boxes for the respective numbers.

Betting Site Exotic Box Options

It’s important to understand each component of an exotic wager so that you can make that bet at horse racing tracks or off-track wagering facilities. Even if you do plan to make all your wagers online, it’s still a good idea to have a grasp of the elements of the wager.

Race Track

You’ll have to identify which track you’ll be betting. There are horse tracks from all over the world that you can bet if you have them at your disposal at gambling sites. If you want, you can choose between Thoroughbred, harness, or jump racing, all of which include exotic bets.

Race Number

Each track will generally have a certain number of races on a given day or evening. They number the races for those programs based on when they occur. Make sure to identify these numbers so you don’t end up betting on the wrong race.

Amount of Bet

Most American horse tracks require a minimum $2 wager. You can go above that amount, which would amplify your payback if you do manage to win. There are some tracks which go below that minimum, which would, in turn, lower your payback should go that route.

Type of Bet

We listed all the exotic bets above. You can make more than one type of bet if you choose to spread things out a bit.

Number of Horses to Bet on

While online sites may (or may not) list the names of the horses involved, it’s a good idea to have the numbers of the horses in your mind (i.e. the #1 horse, the #2 horse, etc.) when you make your wager. If you are exotic betting at a track, you’ll have to know the number of the race. The tellers won’t be able to identify the horses by name, since there are so many races for which they’ll be taking bets.

Exotic Betting Strategy

So far, we’ve only told you the basic way of making your exotic real money wagers. In actuality, there are many different ways that you can change up the basic structure of the wager. By doing this, you can narrow down your possibilities and give yourself a better chance to win by still keeping the size of your bet manageable.

Exotic Boxes

Boxing your wager comes into play with exactas, trifectas, and superfectas. It allows you to win the bet if the horses you’ve included come in any order. For example, a boxed 1-3-5 trifecta would win if any of the following results occurred:

  • 1-3-5
  • 1-5-3
  • 3-1-5
  • 3-5-1
  • 5-1-3
  • 5-3-1

You can box more than the number of horses that is required to win the bet as well. For example, you might want to play an exacta with the four horses. If those four horses were the #1, #3, #6 and #8, any of the following results would make you a winner:

  • 1-3
  • 3-1
  • 1-6
  • 6-1
  • 1-8
  • 8-1
  • 3-6
  • 6-3
  • 3-8
  • 8-3
  • 6-8
  • 8-6

What you have to realize is that a box is actually many bets, not just one. As a result, you’re responsible for covering all those bets. For example, the four-horse exacta box above would cost you $24.

Remember :

That exotic betting can often pay out a substantial amount of money. As a result, you might want to risk the extra money with boxed bets for the potential reward.

Partial Exotics

By partial exotic bets, we mean ones that are made for below the $2 minimum. Examples of partial exotic bets found at tracks throughout the country include the $1 exacta, the 50 cent trifecta, or the 10 cent superfecta.

You only have to pay the amount listed for one of the bets above. But most tracks will still require you to play the $2 minimum overall. As a result, you’ll have to make enough of those partial bets to get to that level.

Doing this gives you the chance of playing multiple combinations and improving your chances of winning. For example, with a 10-cent superfecta exotic vet, you can play 20 different combinations for the minimum $2. Just keep in mind that your pay will be limited as well to a percentage of the full amount when you hit one of those bets.

Wheels and Keys

You’ll see these techniques called different things at different tracks. But the basic gist is that you play different combinations of horses in one spot on the ticket then maybe just one or two on another.

For example:

Wheeling the field might mean picking one horse to win the first half of the Daily Double and then picking all of the horses in the other half. If the horse you picked wins the first half, you are guaranteed of winning the Daily Double. And the payback for a bet like that can be much more substantial than if you had just bet the favorite to win.

Keys allow you to pick one horse in one part of a bet and then multiple horses in another part. For example, you might want to bet a Pick 3 with the 2# in the first race and the #5 in the second race keyed with the 5, 8, and 9 in the third race. Here are some possible winning combinations:

  • 2-5-5
  • 2-5-8
  • 2-5-9

Advantages and Disadvantages of Exotic Betting

  • Much more of a chance to win big on a single wager
  • Many different ways of narrowing or expanding your choices to get the wager just right
  • Great excitement if you can hit on one
  • Can be a more expensive wager if you try to cover a lot of combinations
  • More difficult to win than straight wagers
  • Takes very good predictive skills or a lot of luck to win

Exotic Horse Racing Betting FAQ

Many tracks attach carryovers to exotic betting, like Pick 5 or Pick 6, that are difficult to hit. If no one hits those wagers in a given program, the money in the pool can be carried over to the next program. When that continues over several days, it can lead to a big jackpot at the end of it all.

Most race tracks will include a listing of their takeout amounts for each particular bet either on their websites or as part of their broadcast. You can then start to narrow down the most advantageous tracks for you based on which bets you want to make. The takeouts for each track might differ only slightly, but that slight difference can make a real impact if you’re doing a lot of wagering at a single track.

Most race tracks do not have any kind of fixed-odds component, whereby your odds stay where they are the second you bet a horse race, for any kind of wager. You might have a little luck, however, with sports betting websites, particularly for major races like the Kentucky Derby. In cases like these, you might be able to get fixed-odds exotic bets on certain horses well before the race in some kind of futures betting scenario, but your choices might be limited.