Horse Wheel Betting

Horse racing wheel betting acts as a smart way for bettors to get just what they want out of their wagers on specific horse races. The technique allows you to spread bets around depending on what you really like in a race. There are many different ways to do this, but you have to expect to wager a little more than you would if you were concentrating on single horses.

When you’re betting on horse races, the ideal strategy is one where you can get the most bang for your betting buck.

In other words, you should be trying to risk as little money as possible while still giving yourself the chance to win the bet and make as much money as possible. Wheel horse betting is one of the strategies that hardcore horse bettors use to get that done.

In the following article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about how horse wheel betting works. We’ll explain what bets are used with it and the different types of wheel techniques. We’ll also explain its advantages and disadvantages and answer your most frequently asked questions about wheel horse betting.

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What Is a Wheel Bet in Horse Racing?

If you’re a newcomer to horse racing betting, you might only think that you can only make bets on single horses in single races. But there are races where you can pick multiple horses in a single race or over multiple races. These are known as “exotic bets,” and they are the wagers where wheel horse betting comes into play.

Here are common exotic bets that can be found in the world of horse racing wagering for real money:

  • Exacta: Betting on the first two horses in the order of finish in a race
  • Trifecta (or Triple): Betting on the first three in the order of finish in a race
  • Superfecta: Betting on the first four in the order of finish in a race
  • Daily Double: Betting on the winners of two consecutive races
  • Pick 3, Pick 4, and so on: Betting on the winners of many consecutive races

Exotic bets are favored by many horse racing bettors because they can allow to win more money on a single wager than straight bets. Straight bets, like win, place and show, concern only one horse in a single race.

How Wheel Bets Work With Exotic Wagers

The simplest way to make an exotic bet is to only bet on the number of horses required to win the bet. For example, if you bet a 1-2 exacta in a race, that would mean that you would win he wager if the #1 horse won the race and the #2 horse finished second. Any other outcome in the race would mean that you would lose the bet.

The problem with this is that it is extremely difficult to narrow down a wager in this way.

Horse races are extremely unpredictable, and a lot of things can upend your bet and cause it to be a loser. That can be why many people avoid exotic bets.

Betting the wheel in horse racing solves this problem in a way because they allow you to cover more of the fields in a race or multiple races on your exotic bets. You have more chances to win these bets, which can pay off quite nicely, than if you were just limiting yourself to a small number of horses. Let’s break down exactly how to bet a wheel in horse racing.

Wheel Bet Example

Imagine that there is a race with eight horses competing, and you want to bet the exacta (picking the first two in the order of finish). You feel pretty confident that the #1 horse is the one who will win the race. But you aren’t quite sure which of the other horses is going to finish second.

You can choose to “wheel the field” with #1. That would mean that you would win the wager if the #1 horse wins and any other horse finishes second.

In other words, all of the following outcomes would result in your winning the wager:

  • 1-2
  • 1-3
  • 1-4
  • 1-5
  • 1-6
  • 1-7
  • 1-8

Wheeling the field in this manner will allow you to bet on what you’re sure of and kind of hedge on the aspect of the race where you’re doubtful. Doing this gives you a much better chance of winning your wager than if you were picking only two horses.

The Cost of Horse Racing Wheel Bets

Just based on that example, it might seem like horse wheel betting a no-lose proposition. Why wouldn’t you cover as much of the field as possible, giving you many more chances to win what can be an extremely lucrative wager?

Well, the problem with wheeling bets is that you have to pay for every part of it.

Let’s go back to that example above, where we wheeled the field with the #1 horse “on top” (meaning that you expect that horse to win the race).

When you wheel the field like that, you are essentially making seven different wagers. The 1-2 is a bet, the 1-3 is a bet, and so on. Even though you are only making what seems like a single bet, you are paying a much higher price to do it.

If you were making the $2 minimum wager that is common in the world of horse racing, that would mean you’d have to bet $14 to wheel this field. Why?

  • 7 bets
  • $2 per wager
  • 7 times 2 = $14

And that’s why betting the wheel in horse racing might not be for everyone, especially for those on a stricter betting budget. If you lose the bet, you are taking a much bigger hit than someone who was only playing a simple two-horse exacta wager. And even if you win, you are cutting into your profits with the size of the wager.

Different Ways to Use Wheel Bets in Horse Races

The example above for horse wheel betting is a bit of an extreme, in that you are wheeling the entire field. But there are different ways to use wheel bets that aren’t quite as expensive and still give you some great value. And the way to do that is to narrow down the field.

Let’s go back to our sample race with eight horses. You still love that #1 horse to win, but aren’t sure who you think will come in second. And you’d like to make a wheel bet, but don’t want to make as high of a bet as it would take to wheel the field.

You could make what’s known as a partial wheel bet. Instead of picking every horse as the second part of the bet, you could narrow it down to a few horses. That would drop the size of the bet.

For Example
Let’s say you think that the second-place horse will come down to the #3, #5, or #7 horses in the race. You can have the wheel include only those horses, and you would win with the following outcomes:

  • 1-3
  • 1-5
  • 1-7

As you can see, there are only technically three bets here, which means that you would have to bet only $6 to initiate this partial wheel. Compare that to the $14 in our example above.

Partial wheels can be deployed in many different ways. And you can use them in exotic bets where you are using more than two horses. Read on to find out how.

Creative Wheel Horse Racing Betting

Up to now, we’ve kept it simple in talking about wheel bets. But as we showed above, there are many different types of exotic wagers. And you can use the wheel in all of them.

Let’s move on to trifecta wagers, where you have to pick the first three in the order of finish. This can be a very lucrative wager, since there are more possible combinations and the pari-mutuel betting pools will be spread out more. But it’s a difficult wager to hit because of you have to have a lot go right to win.

Imagine that you want to make a trifecta wager on an eight-horse race, you want to cover as much of the field as possible, and you want to limit the size of your bet. You look at the race, and you feel pretty confident that the #5 is going to win and the #3 is going to finish second. But you aren’t sure how the rest is going to shake out.

You can simply involve those two horses and wheel the rest of the field. If you do, you would win the bet if the following outcomes occurred:

  • 5-3-1
  • 5-3-2
  • 5-3-4
  • 5-3-6
  • 5-3-7
  • 5-3-8

You can see that there are six wagers above. That means you’d need to make a $12 wager to enact this wheel bet. But considering that payback for trifectas can often run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, this can be quite well worth it.

Multiple Horses in Different Parts of the Wheel

You can also get a bit more intricate with your wheel wagers by including multiple horses in multiple parts. Again, it’s just a way of narrowing the field and limiting your wheel horse racing betting while also still giving yourself the best chance to win.

For example, let’s say you want to bet the Daily Double at a particular track. In the first half of the Double, you narrow the field down to the #2, #4 and #7. And in the second half, you think the race will come down to either the #1 or the #7.

You can make a wheel up with all of those parts included. If you do, you would win if the following outcomes occurred:

  • 2-1
  • 2-7
  • 4-1
  • 4-7
  • 7-1
  • 7-7

As you can see, there are six bets there, which means you’d need to wager a minimum of $12 (6 times 2) to make this happen. Still, it’s not an astronomical bet, and the return that you get can really be quite impressive.

Keying Horses

A key bet is not really separate from a wheel bet. It’s just a different terminology used by some bettors to make it clearer what they’re doing. When you key a horse, it simply means that you are including it in every part of the exotic wager, with other horses kind of orbiting around it in the bet.

For example, imagine that you wanted to bet a trifecta where you were sure that the #6 would finish second in the race.

You could then play different horses in the first and third parts of the trifecta where you weren’t quite as sure.

Let’s say you though the #1 and #4 had the best chances of finishing first and the #5 and #8 had the best chances of finishing third. You could key the #6 in between, which would leave you covered if the following outcomes occurred:

  • 1-6-5
  • 1-6-8
  • 4-6-5
  • 4-6-8

Keyed horses can be an effective way to wager if you really feel strongly about one part of the wager. You can be as imaginative as you want with them, keeping in mind that the cost of the bet will increase the more horses you include around the keyed horse.

Strategies for Horse Racing Wheel Betting


This is a solid way to use wheel bets on either exacta or daily double exotic wagers. The idea behind it is to pick a horse that you think is a sure-thing favorite to win the race.

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If you want, you can even wait to make this bet till right before the race so you can see if the public believes that one of the horses is by far and away the best. That way, you wouldn’t even have to do any handicapping.

You could wheel the favorite with the field in a single-race exacta or with the field of the second race of a daily double. Since heavy favorites don’t pay off very much to win, it’s a way to get a little more pop out of a sure thing.

Throwing Out Horses

This is the best way to keep your wheel bets down to a minimum cost. Take a look at a particular race involved in an exotic race. Usually, you’ll be able to find one or more horses that you don’t think will make any impact on the race whatsoever because they seem inferior to the rest.

Please Note:
If you “throw out” horses, it means that you won’t be including them on any of your horse racing wheel betting.

In doing this, you would be limiting your bets to those horses who have a legitimate shot. You can argue that being able to throw out horses is just as important as being able to spot the top horses, especially when it comes to wheel bets.

Singling Horses

This is an effective way to play bets like the Pick 4 or Pick 6, which are the among the hardest to hit but often pay off the most. When you single horses, you are basically picking just one horse from a race as part of all your wheel tickets. It’s similar to keying, but, with Pick 4’s, Pick 6’s, and the like, you might do it for several races.

For example, if you bet a Pick 4 and think that you have a good idea about who the winners of two of the four races will be, you can single them. You can then do either partial or full wheels for the other race. This tactic makes bets like these much more manageable.

Advantages Disadvantages
More ways to win Can be costly
Puts high-paying exotic bets within reach Will cut into any winning profits
Allows you to throw out horses Might be confusing for newcomers

Answering Your Questions About Wheel Betting

Not really. Straight bets (win, place, show) concern only one horse in one race. Hence, including multiple horses is essentially making multiple straight bets.

If a sports gambling site is devoted to or includes horse racing betting, it’s likely that you’ll have the ability to make wheel bets. These sites will want to give you all the options that you can find at the track.

If it is a single-race wheel bet, you can usually get a refund for that portion of the bet. In the case of multiple-race wheel bets, you might be able to get a substitute horse, often the betting line favorite. But this depends on what the rules are of the bet as provided by the track involved.

There are two types of wheel bets for horse racing, the Full Wheel (or just 'Wheel') and the Part-Wheel.

A part wheel horse racing bet is when the bettor chooses one horse to finish in a specific position, plus some of the other horses in the race to finish in the remaining positions that qualify on the type of bet.

A traditional Wheel bet is placed when the bettor chooses one horse to finish in a specific position, with all other horses in the race combined to finish in the remaining positions that qualify on the type of bet.

Absolutely. While the minimum bet in horse racing is usually $2, you can definitely raise the bet. Doing so will raise the amount of your payback as well.

Learn About Other Popular Horse Racing Bets

Wheel betting is just one of many ways to enjoy wagering on horse races. Here are some other pages that will take a deeper look into the betting strategy behind popular horse racing bets.