Horse Racing Betting Guide: Different Types of Bets

man riding horse in race

Horse racing is an exciting sport that can get intense for the spectators and riders. You need to have the heart to watch the close battles and enjoy them. It can even get much crazier whenever you are close to the action, and you’ve bet on a horse. There are different events, and you can bet on them. A good example is the Preakness Stakes odds at many top sportsbooks.

However, before you jump into betting on horse racing, you should understand the different aspects, and a good place to start is the different types of bets you can place on horse racing events. We understand that some terminologies can get confusing, especially when you’re new. Therefore, we will ease you into the different bets you can place on horse races. 

Straight Bets – Win, Place, Show

Straight bets are pretty easy to understand. If you’ve already tried placing bets on sports before, you will find it easy to place straight bets on horse racing because they have the same base principle. However, in horse racing, there are three types of straight bets, which we’ve highlighted below:

Win Bets

A win bet is simply picking which horse you think will win the race. This type of straight bet is simple, and you know what you’re looking at. There’s no need to calculate or anything. If your pick is the first to cross the finish line, you’ll win. Or, you lose your money if any other thing happens.  

Place Bets

A place bet is quite different from Win Bets, as you will get the chance to win even if your horse comes second. Although you should know that the return for this type of straight bet is not as high as the one for the win bet, it is safer.

Show Bets

A show bet is the safest of all the straight bet types. In this case, you will win if your pick finishes first, second, or third in the race. However, it has the lowest odds offering in this category, 

Exotic Bets

The exotic bets are a bit more complicated than the straight bets. These bets come in two variations where you can either enter race to race parlays of two to six races. Or, it can require you to predict the correct order of finish of one race. In this case, it can be who will finish 1st and 2nd; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd; or 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. 

Exotic bets have two types, and they include horizontal and vertical wagers. The horizontal exotic bets are parlay bets of multiple races. Your picks can come in different forms, depending on your predictions. On the other hand, with vertical bets, you must pick the correct finishing order of a particular race. 

Boxing Exotic Bets

Selecting the horses in order is a tough task. However, there is a way around that, known as boxing. We won’t call the box a type of bet, but it is a strategy with many bets. These include Trifectas, Exactas, and Superfectas, designed for the handicapper to select the order that different horses will finish in the race. 

With boxing, you can combine the order of the horses. Therefore, they do not have to finish in a particular order for you to win. In this type of bet, the horses you pick only need to finish in either:

  • Top 2 (Exacta)
  • Top 3 (Trifectas)
  • Top 4 (Superfecta)

Once you get a result in these categories, you’ve won with your bet. It offers a better alternative to the standard exotic bets. 


Depending on your perspective, a quinella offers an exciting option that can fit into the vertical or boxing exotic categories. For you to win a quinella, you have to choose the horse that will finish first and the one that will finish second. However, the order you do that does not matter in this case. 

To give you a clearer view and for handicapping purposes, a two-horse exacta and a two-horse quinella are the same. All you’re doing is picking two horses to finish one-two. However, the order they do doesn’t matter to the outcome of the bet. However, the big difference between the two is the standard wager size and pools. 


We’ve covered some of the basic bets you can give a try in horse racing if you want to get started. You should know that these bets have different levels of risk, which directly impacts the odds you’ll get. The safer it is, the lower the odds. Be sure to analyze the race before you go with any of the bet types.