Horse Racing 101: Terms You Need to Know

Horse Racing 101: Terms You Need to Know article feature image

It’s Kentucky Derby weekend, and you want to be a part of the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.

Luckily, we here at The Action Network have the incomparable Paul Lo Duca on staff and he’s giving out tips left and right for our subscribers.

If you are new to horse racing or just need a refresher on how things work with the ponies, no worries. We have a basic glossary of terms below to help you sound like you know what you’re talking about while you’re sucking down those Mint Juleps.

While gambling on sports is still illegal almost everywhere in the United States, betting on the ponies is legal and a celebrated piece of the American fabric — go figure!


Some state racing associations, NYRA for example, offer an app for users to place bets. There are OTBs (Off-Track Betting shops) around the States. You could also go to any race track and bet on the Derby — or any race around the country. And in some states, there are select bars with betting kiosks.

Types of Bets

To Win: A bet on a particular horse to win. Easy enough, right?

To Place: A bet on a particular horse to finish second.

To Show: A wager on a particular horse to finish third.

Win, Place, Show: A bet on a particular horse to win, place (finish second) or show (finish third). In other words, if the horse you bet on finishes first, second or third you win.

Exacta: A bet on two horses to finish first and second, in order. In other words, if you bet an exacta with the No. 12 horse and No. 20 horse and punch in a 12/20 exacta, the No. 12 horse needs to finish first and the No. 20 horse needs to finish second. This is different from an exacta box (defined below). You can bet exactas with more than two horses.

Exacta Box: An exacta wager, but it doesn’t matter which horse finishes first and which finishes second. Example: If you play an exacta box with the No. 12, No. 20 and No. 7 horse and the No. 7 horse finishes first and the No. 20 horse finishes second, you’re a winner. There’s no limit to the number of horses you can place in an exacta box.

Trifecta: A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order. Basically, an exacta with three horses instead of two.

Trifecta Box: Same concept as the exacta box, except with the first three finishers: A trifecta wager where you don’t need your horses to finish in exact order to win. There’s no limit to the number of horses you can place in a trifecta box.

Superfecta: A bet in which you pick four horses to finish first, second, third and fourth in exact order.

Photo: John Velazquez aboard Always Dreaming (5) races the field at the start of the 2017 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

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