One thing certain about wagering: There’s no such thing as a sure bet.
But there are exactas and trifectas and daily doubles — different kinds of bets at horse racing tracks across America.
People don’t have to be math experts, even horse experts, to place bets at Saratoga Race Course. They have to know a few things about terminology, order, common courtesy and common sense when they step up to the betting window with dollars in hand and dreams in mind.
New racing fans can start with the basics. According to NYRA, which offers betting tips and terms in each race day program, wagers start with win, place or show. Some bet only to win; their chosen horse must finish first for them to collect any cash.
To win a place bet, the horse must finish first or second. Cashing a show bet means the horse must finish first, second or third, a finish “in the money.”
If people are betting the old-fashioned way, they’re buying tickets in person. At Saratoga, people make their bets in this order: Race number, amount of bet, type of bet and number of the horse. An example would be, “Fourth race, $10 to win on the 8 horse.” Or “Fourth race, $10 to place on the 8 horse.”
An “across the board” bet is wagering the same amount on one horse to win, place or show. A $5 “across the board” bet is $15, because the player is betting $5 to win, $5 to place, $5 to show. If your horse wins, you collect on all three wagers.
Some fans are superstitious — they must see horses limbering in the paddock before they make their bets. It’s all about details. They might see a horse with his ears pricked up and alert, a good sign. Or they might see a horse covered in sweat, a white “lather,” a bad sign that indicates the horse might already be laboring in the summer heat.
Gimmick bets, sometimes called “exotic” bets, require a little more study and sometimes a bigger investment.
“Exacta” bets are among the most popular. There’s more risk, but the payoffs can be bigger. The player must pick the first and second place horses in the exact order of finish to win. Smart players will “box” their selections in an exacta play. For example, if a player likes the 4 and 5 horses to finish first and second (respectively) in a race, he or she would also want to be covered if the 5 finishes first and the 4 finishes second. By “boxing” the two horses, the player gets both combinations.
“Boxing” means the player is putting down two bets. They can say, “Fourth race, $2 exacta box, 4 and 5” and cough up $4. Using more horses will cost more money.
“Quinellas” are often called value bets, because people who pick the 4 and 5 to finish first and second automatically get the reverse finish, 5 and 4, as part of the bet. So a “$2 quinella 4 and 5” is really two bets for the price of one.
But quinellas are not the practical path to financial success. These bets represent a low monetary investment, but always represent a lower payoff than does a winning exacta. And if people like two horses enough to play a quinella — why not step up and play an exacta instead?
Picking two horses in correct order is hard enough. Picking three horses in the right order of finish means people are playing a “trifecta.”
In some races, there must be at least six horses entered for the track to offer trifecta wagering. In other races, such as stakes races, only five horses must be saddled. Horse fans will also “box” horses for a trifecta; using three horses in a $2 trifecta box will cost $12.
The “superfecta” is tougher still — four horses chosen in order. And boxing all four can be an expensive proposition — for a $2 bet, the superfecta box with all those combinations will cost $48.
Betting the “daily double” means handicappers are choosing first-place finishers in two consecutive races. People who win the “Pick Three,” “Pick Four” and “Pick Six” are picking hot — choosing the winners in three, four or six consecutive races.
Bettors should always use common sense and courtesy at the pari-mutuel, or betting, windows. Unless people are making bets off cashed tickets, using money they’ve already won, players should never cash winning tickets just before a race. Cashing with one minute to go before post time, with a line of 12 people waiting, can cause every player’s nightmare — the shutout. The race begins and clerks can accept no more wagers.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: