What is the smartest bet in horse racing?

What is the smartest bet in horse racing?

Updated: September 28, 2023

Not a lot of people watch horse racing in America and yet, there’s something about the thrill of the race and its profitable potential that makes people avidly bet on it. But what we all want to know is – what is the smartest bet in horse racing?

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Did you know that horse betting is the third most bet on sport in the US, after football and basketball?

But, for all its popularity, horse betting isn’t profitable for everyone.

Statistically, only a small percentage of those who place bets at horse racing betting sites end up winning or making a nice profit, and, unless you use the smartest horse racing betting strategies, your new hobby won’t offer you too much financial satisfaction.

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Obviously, everyone wants to avoid losses and place the smartest bet in horse racing, but this can be quite a controversial matter.

There are many types of US horse racing wagers, and while everyone has a personal favorite, the right choice ultimately depends on your goals, experience, and betting styles.

Types of Horse Racing Wagers (and Your Chances of Winning)

Before getting into the details on the smartest bet in horse racing, we should point out that horse racing wagers can be simplified by placing them into two categories:

  • Straight wagers
  • Exotic wagers

Straight Wagers

Straight wagers are the easiest to understand, which is why they’re a popular choice among beginners. There are three types of straight wagers:

  • Win bets: you bet on a specific horse crossing the finish line first
  • Place bets: you bet on a specific horse finishing first or second
  • Show bets: you bet on a specific horse finishing first or second, or third

According to some, straight wagers are one of the horse racing best bets because you only have to follow one horse. They also have higher chances of success and involve fewer risks.

But, on the downside, straight bets yield small earnings, and it might take a long time until you have enough to cash out.

Exotic wagers

Exotic wagers are a bit more complex because it involves more horses, races, and outcomes.

Experts argue that if you want to learn how to make money on horse racing, you can’t afford to ignore the potential of exotic wagers.

Granted, it’s harder to win an exotic wager, and the risk is higher, but if you win, you’re in for nice returns.

There are two types of exotic bets: 

horizontal exotic bets and vertical exotic bets, each with its own subcategories.

Horizontal exotic bets

Horizontal exotic bets are very similar to parlay bets, where you have to connect the outcomes of multiple sporting events on a single ticket. In the case of horse betting, you have to guess the outcome of consecutive races in order to win:

  • Daily double: pick the winner of two consecutive races
  • Pick 3: pick the winner of three consecutive races
  • Pick 4: pick the winner of four consecutive races
  • Pick 5: pick the winner of five consecutive races
  • Picky 6: pick the winner of six consecutive races

It’s common for experienced bettors to combine these horizontal exotic bets to maximize their profit.

Vertical exotic bets

Vertical exotic bets require you to wager on the exact order that horses will finish the race:

  • Straight Exacta: pick the horse that wins the race and the second place
  • Straight Trifecta: pick the winner, second, and third place
  • Straight Superfecta: pick the winner, second, third, and fourth place in the right order

As you may have guessed, vertical exotic bets are harder to get right.

However, there is an easier alternative:

Boxing Exotic bets

They’re not a type of bet, but rather a modified version of vertical exotic bets where instead of getting the exact order of the horses right, you only have to guess the names of the first two, three, or four horses correctly, not their order.

This boosts your chances of winning, especially when you’re dealing with a tight race.

Best tactic to place smart horse racing bets

Horse Racing betting Strategies

Now that you know the main types of horse racing bets, the big question is:

  • which is the smartest bet in horse racing out of all of them?
  • What type of bet should you go for if you want surefire winnings and high returns?

The answer is a bit more complicated than you might expect:

if you want to know how to bet horses successfully, first you need to be aware of your level of experience and appetite for risk.
  • For example, an experienced bettor might not prefer straight wagers because they offer small earnings over an extended period.
  • However, for a beginner who is just figuring out horse racing, straight wagers can be a fantastic way to get used to it.

For a beginner, the smartest bet in horse racing is a matter of safety, not profit.

As you gain more experience and get used to the terminology of horse betting and the various betting styles, you can start taking into account advanced strategies and, most importantly, combining various types of bets, which increase the chances of scoring big.

Unlike straight wagers, exotic wagers and combined wagers can make you rich, and there have been cases when bettors won six figures on a single, strategically thought out ticket.

However, keep in mind that these success stories don’t happen often, and it’s important to have realistic expectations.

Not sure which tactic is right for you?

Answer this question:

Do you want to bet in a simple, straightforward way, or do you enjoy the mathematical challenge of estimating the outcome of a race?

If the latter option stresses you out, then the smartest strategy in your case would be to stick with win, place, and show bets for a while. If you’re up for a challenge, go for exotic wagers.

But there’s also a middle ground that can satisfy beginners and experts alike and that many say is the smartest bet in horse racing:

The Daily Double is the the Smartest bet in horse racing

Although it’s a relatively simple bet type (you have to pick the winners of two consecutive races), the payoff is much higher compared to simple straight bets.

Here are some extra tips to help you choose the best horse racing betting strategies:

  • Don’t neglect the racing form guides. They won’t tell you the winner, but there’s a lot of useful information in them that will point you in the right direction.
  • Watch horse races. Horse racing is an atypical example in betting because only a small percentage of those who bet on horses actually watch the race. You miss a lot of details when doing this, so try to at least read race summaries and predictions.
  • Always check the track type before placing a bet. This information is not given in the form guide, but it has a major influence on the outcome of the race.
  • If a type of bet didn’t yield the results you expected, try another one or combine multiple types.
  • Bet on multiple race types to maximize your winnings, but not on all races, because it’s impossible to win at everything.
  • Always stick to a budget when betting.

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We answer the most asked questions about horse racing betting and the smartest bet.

What is the highest paying horse race?

If we’re talking about prize money, then the award for the highest paying horse race goes to the Saudi Cup. For the 2020 edition, the winner will get $20 million.

If we’re talking about betting rewards, then the most lucrative horse race is The Kentucky Derby, which accounts for 70% of the total amount spent on horse racing.

What are the 4 major horse races?

The four major horse races are also called the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing and include:

The Kentucky Derby
Preakness Stakes
Belmont Stakes
Travers Stakes

When a horse wins all these four major races, that’s called a superfecta.

Who is the richest horse owner?

There are many examples of affluence in horse racing, but the richest horse owner is Irish businessman John Magnier, whom many believe to be the most influential in the equine business worldwide.

Also known as “The Boss”, Magnier has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion and is based at Coolmore Stud, which hosts a nursery of thoroughbreds and an elite stallion station.

Coolmore Stud alone is valued at over $4 billion.

How do you win big in horse racing?

The biggest profits in horse racing are made by placing multiple exotic wagers, but before you get there, it’s important to get accustomed to horse racing terminology, surfaces, and jockeys.

Throughout history, there have been examples of beginner punters who made five figures by picking winners at random, but if you want consistent earnings, there’s no shortcut for education, patience, and discipline

What is it called when you pick 4 horses?

The Straight Superfecta is a type of vertical exotic bet in horse racing where you pick the first four horses to cross the finish line.

You can pick the exact order in which each horse will cross the finish line, or, in the case of boxing exotic bets, you can pick only the names, without mentioning in what position they will finish.

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