Bleacher Brothers University – Horse Racing 101

horse racing 101

By Joe Quillen

Horse Racing 101

Have you ever wondered what those betting terms are at the top of your program or some of those horse racing shows that these talking heads mention throughout their show? Don’t worry, we at Bleacher Brothers are for the fans and we’ll break down some of these wager names so that if you go up to the teller at your local racetrack, you can walk up there with confidence that you know what you are talking about and want.

I am Professor Joe Quills, the gambling degenerate here and Bleacher Brothers, and since Saturday is the Kentucky Derby, we here at Bleacher Brothers thought that it would be a good idea to give a primer so that you know what these terms mean. This will be an occasional series that we can use to help you our readers so you can be confident in the game of horse racing.

For this Horse Racing 101 course here at Bleacher Brothers University, we will go through the wagering options in a typical race. Since Saturday is the Kentucky Derby, what bettor way (pun intended) than to look at what is offered for the Run for the Roses.

Horse Racing 101

There you see some, but not all the options that are available to you, at least from the Churchill Downs program that I will be looking at when I sit here on Derby Day making my wagers. The program will have all the basic information on the top of the page and all the horses underneath it

I know some of those terms are making you look like Steve Buscemi. Superfecta? Super Hi Five? Wait, if you win, Borat gives you a high five? No, Borat doesn’t give you a high five, but we’ll get through this for you.

The wagers that the Daily Racing Form does not mention are the simplest of wagers. Those are the win, place and show wagers. Those are offered all the time in races and truthfully, tracks don’t mention these wagers in the program for whatever reason, but they are understood that they are available. Let’s start to break down what these wagers are.

Win. This is the simplest of the basic wagers. Your horse must finish first for your wager to be considered a winning wager. 

Place. I know, not as straight forward of a name for a wager compared to the win wager. You get a little more insurance with your wager, though you probably won’t make as much money as a win wager. That’s okay.

Here, if your horse finished first OR second, your ticket is a winner. In 99% of races, you will have two sets of winning tickets. We don’t discuss that remaining 1% at least for right now.

Show. Once again, I know, how did this name arrive. We will worry about that later. With a show wager, your horse needs to finish first, second OR third. This is a safer wager than place and even safer than win wagers, but your return of investment is usually the least of these three most basic wagers.

Now let’s say you’ve been playing win place and show wagers throughout the day and you’re making some money. You want to play one of these other wagers that are specific to this one race. Let’s go through those here.

Exacta. This wager may be in your program depending on your racetrack as PERFECTA in some parts of the United States or as EXACTOR at Canadian racetracks. The names may be different, but they all mean the same thing.

Here, you are trying to correctly pick what two horses will finish first and second in the race. Now there are different ways to play this wager (another lesson coming up soon!) but you need to correctly pick the first two finishers.

Trifecta. In Canada, this is called a TRIACTOR. Once again, there are different ways to play his wager and will be covered in another lesson. But here, like the prefix TRI suggests, you need to correctly pick the first THREE finishers in a race.

Superfecta. This is my personal holy grail of Kentucky Derby day. With this wager you have to pick the first FOUR finishers of the race. How this was named superfecta and not something like quadrafecta or something similar, don’t ask. But when this first came out, it was one of the toughest vertical wagers in sports.

I know, you caught me with some additional knowledge that made you look like Tiger Woods’ mug shot. Vertical wagers are basically how the horses finish in the same race. Think of it as the winner is the top horse on the tote board at your local track or most track’s video feed graphics. Here is an example of what you would see at Churchill Downs.

Horse Racing 101

Super Hi-Five. This is the final vertical wager. Here, you must do the near impossible and predict the first FIVE finishers in a race. 

Those are the vertical wagers. Now let’s close out this lesson with some horizontal wagers. Horizontal wagers are essentially races that cover multiple races.

Daily Double. As the name suggests, you must pick the winning horse in consecutive races. Back in the day when this wager first came out, they had one double a day, thus “Daily Double”. Now most tracks have them on every race.

Pick 3 (4, 5, 6, etc.). With these wagers you must pick winners in the number of races the wager name suggests, whether it is three (which leads to the final two races on the 14 race Churchill Downs card) or four, five which was a Monday future on my Quills Picks Winners article, six, or any other number. We will get into the mechanics of those wagers in another lesson.

That’s it for Bleacher Brothers University’s Horse Racing 101 class. You all get an A from Professor Joe Quills. Make sure you register for Horse Racing 102 class with your advisor. Oh wait, you just have to catch our next article! Hope you enjoyed this first lesson! Class dismissed.