Glossary of the Most Common Horse Race Betting Terms

A Glossary of Horse Race Betting Terms

If you’re brand-new to the world of horse racing, you might feel a tad bit lost. It almost feels as if you’ve entered a foreign country and you don’t speak the language. There’s an abundance of vibrant terms and phrases people use to place a wide range of bets on different outcomes of a race.

Slang’s also pretty common on the stands. It can take a while to pick up what stuff like “correct weight” and “get out stakes” means. You have to know which phrase applies in a certain scenario. Otherwise, other horse racing fans with a bit more experience might look at you weird.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking moment watching horse races and trying to pick up and decipher as many phrases as possible. Nor do you need to know every single term before you can put your money down on a horse.

In fact, we’re here to give you a shortcut. We’ve put together a glossary of common horse race betting terms so you can start placing bets today. You just have to pick the right thoroughbred.

If you’re genuinely interested in horse racing, we suggest bookmarking this article until you learn most of these terms by heart.

Straight Bets

As you’ve probably guessed, straight bets are pretty straightforward. You choose a single horse and place a wager that it will win the race. If you’re correct and the horse finishes 1st, you win the amount of money proportional to the odds on that horse.

However, a not-so-strict definition of straight bets includes wagering on a horse to come in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are several types of straight bets. Here are a few useful terms that might help you win some money:

On the Nose

This term signifies that you’re betting on a horse to win the race, exclusively. If it comes in second, even by a nose, you won’t get a dime.


If a horse is said to have “placed,” that means it finished second. This is a solid bet if you believe a horse will do quite well but aren’t exactly sure if it can go the distance. The great thing about a “place” bet is that you’ll collect the money even if the horse wins the race.


For a horse to “show,” it needs to finish top three. This is a slightly safer bet than “place,” but as you might assume, you won’t win as much money since the payout is slightly lower.

Across the Board

This bet encompasses the previous three. In fact, it is merely a collection of all three of the above bets. If the horse finishes first, you’ll be able to cash in on all three. If it places, you’ll have two winning tickets. And even if it doesn’t do as well but still comes in third, you’ll at least get some of your money back.

This is probably the best combination of bets to start off with, at least until you get a bit deeper into the matter and start recognizing all the nuances that provide advantages to certain horses.

In the Money

This term is directly related to the three bets we’ve just explained. The horse will be considered “in the money” if it finishes in first, second, or third. We believe it’s one of the easier ones to remember since you’re literally withdrawing money if you’ve played across the board.

Exotic Wagers

Exotic wagers are a bit more complex, but they do offer more ways to win big. They typically include betting on multiple horses, making them harder to win but are all the more lucrative. Here are a few that you might want to consider:


Among the exotic wager, exacta most resembles a straight bet. It’s a single bet where you’re wagering on two horses to come in first and second, in the exact order — hence the name. If you pick the right horses but the wrong order, you won’t have a winning ticket.


Quinella is slightly looser than exacta. Here, the order in which the horses you pick finish doesn’t matter. Naturally, it pays less than an exacta. And it leaves that sour aftertaste that you “knew” the order as well and could’ve won more.

Boxed Bet

Boxing your bet means covering all possible combinations of order in which the horses can finish. For instance, boxing an exacta would mean placing two separate wagers, with the same horses in the top 2, and just swapping the order on the tickets.

However, this also means you’re wagering twice as much money. So if you do end up betting on the wrong horses, you’ll suffer double the loss. People typically box their bets if they’re extremely confident in the horses they opted for but can’t make up their mind regarding the exact order.

You can box other bets as well, but including more than 2 horses proportionally increases the available order variations. With four horses in play, there are a total of 24 different combinations. In other words, you would go broke if a different horse snuck into the top four.

Daily Double

Daily Double involves betting on the winners of two consecutive races. Although it’s not a rule per se, this bet usually pertains to the first two races of the day. Both horses must win their respective races in order for you to cash in on the bet. Still, the odds are pretty good, so it’s definitely worth a try if you’ve got a decent bankroll.

Pick 3

Pick three takes it a step further than daily double. The principle is the same — you pick the winners of three consecutive races. What’s interesting is that “pick” wagers can go up to 6. Although it’s highly unlikely you’ll correctly predict the outcome of six races in a row, if you do — you’ll be rich.

Some race tracks even offer “consolation” prizes if you hit 4 or 5 out of the 6 wagers. Furthermore, since it’s quite rare for someone to win a pick 6, the pot might carry over to the next set of races, or even the next day.

Think of it as a progressive jackpot. The chances of winning it are slim, but it does happen. And if you end up being the lucky winner, the sum can be life-changing.


Trifecta is technically an enhanced exacta. The only difference is that, instead of two, you’re selecting three finishers. Likewise, you must select them in the correct order.

There are only 6 possible outcomes, provided your horses finish top three. So it might be worth it to box a trifecta and cover all variants, depending on the odds.


Superfecta is the same as the trifecta, only involving one more horse. Regarding difficulty, it’s second only to pick 6. Additionally, depending on the number of participants, it can vary how well the superfecta will pay.

As we’ve mentioned already, boxing a superfecta isn’t exactly a viable strategy. You’d have to place 24 different bets… And even if you won, it wouldn’t be at a significant profit. But if you lost, however, you’d be down $50 at the very least.

Much like Pick 6, Superfecta is a “one-off” bet. It’s one of those bets you place $2 on, on the off chance you correctly predict the order. However, for more consistent betting, we suggest one of the other, easier wagers.

Ante-Post Betting & Horse Race Placing

Another term you’ll often hear on the racetrack is ante-post betting. However, this isn’t a type of bet. It simply refers to the time of placing your wagers. Specifically, ante-post describes betting well in advance of the race. For instance, you may place a wager several days in advance.

This is relevant because a lot can happen during the day, let alone in several days. Namely, the number of runners in any particular race may change. Ante-post betting is typically affected by this, unless, of course, the horse you’ve bet on isn’t participating for whatever reason. In this case, your bet will be refunded.

In any other case, the odds will remain the same for ante-post wagers. But they will change if you’ve bet in the morning on a 3 PM race, for instance. If you’ve bet on a race with 8 declared runners, but one withdraws (non-runner), you’ll likely be paid at 1/4 odds rather than the 1/5 you initially expected.

Moreover, races with 5–7 runners typically only pay for the first two places. Admittedly, this can differ from racetrack to racetrack, so it’s best to inquire about the particular track’s terms in these scenarios.

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3 Responses

  1. Ben & Jerry says:

    I always wanted to know what the exotic wagers at the horse track were. Not only did you give me an explanation, but you also mentioned what the most popular types are — an amazing list.

  2. Tommy says:

    Hey guys, for the first time I dared to play Exacta bet and won big! This was only because I read your list of betting terms. The drinks are on me when we meet!

  3. Good Fella says:

    As someone who grew by the horse track, I read your list to see how many things you’ve missed to mention. In the end, I had to say, “well done, guys” — you’ve talked about everything worth mentioning about horse racing and betting.

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