I remember the first bet I made on a horse at Churchill Downs. It was the 3rd race on the day of the 121st running of the Kentucky Derby, May 6th 1995. I had no idea what I was doing, but the horse’s name had something to do with Thomas (my last name) so I figured it was a sure bet. I just said, “I want to put ten dollars on ‘Thomas'”. That didn’t go over too well, as the lady at the betting window looked at me strangely. There is a protocol for placing bets because there are hundreds of ways to bet on horses. I didn’t win my first bet, but by the time the Kentucky Derby was about to race, I was already into the “exacta” betting. I put Thunder Gulch and Tejano Run in an exacta box (cost me $8), and ended up winning $450. I was hooked. I can’t guarantee that you will win anything, but I can at least save you some embarrassment at the betting window.
There are a few main components of each bet that you want to be aware of:
Dollar amount – This is not necessarily how much your total bet will cost, but it is the number of “shares” so to speak, of a particular horse’s win that you want.
The Horse Number – When I told the betting window lady that I wanted to bet on ‘Thomas’, she laughed. Use the number, not the name of the horse.
Type of Bet – Are you betting on one horse to win? One horse to come in top 3? 2 horses? 5 horses? Do you want them to come in a particular order?
So let’s say that you want horse number 4 to come in 1st place and you want to bet $2 on it, you would say:
“Two dollars on number four to win”.
Note: if you do not tell them the race number, they will automatically assume that you are talking about the next race.
Types of Bets
Win – You want the horse to come in first place
Place – You want the horse to come in second place
Show – You want the horse to come in third place
Across the Board – You are betting one horse to come in first, second, or third
Exacta – You pick one horse to come in first AND another horse to come in second. The horses must place in the order you specify unless you choose to BOX your exacta. So a “two dollar exacta with horses 2 and 4” means that horse number 2 must come in first and horse number 4 must come in second. A “two dollar exacta BOX with horses 2 and 4” means that horse number two must come in first OR second, and horse number 4 must come in first OR second.
Trifecta – You pick one horse to come in first, one horse to come in second, and one horse to come in third. The horses must place in the order you specify unless you BOX your trifeca.
Superfecta – You pick one horse to come in first, one horse to come in second, one horse to come in third, and one horse to come in fourth. The horses must place in the order that you specify unless you BOX your superfecta.
There are tons of other ways to get crazy with betting, but these can get you started. Keeping it simple is best when you don’t know what you’re doing. Keep in mind that a “two dollar bet” that involves multiple horses or multiple places (across the board) will cost more than $2. Also, a “box” bet will cost more than a regular bet. Most importantly, have a blast and don’t lose your life savings on a bet!
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