How Does Exacta Betting Work In Horse Racing?

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Get an exacta bet explained to you


Exacta betting is where you select two horses running in the same race and place one bet on them to finish first and second in a specified order. You are gambling on the exact finishing order of your two selections. When asked what is an exacta, please be aware that this is an American betting term that is commonly known as a forecast with British and Irish bookmakers.


This is separate from a box exacta which places a figurative box around all permutations involved for the numbers selected to first and second. If there are two selections, then a box exacta may also be called a reverse forecast or a quinella, because there are two bets in one for the chosen horse to finish first and second in any order; i.e. AB BA.


That is a crucial difference between regular exacta betting and more elaborate wagers. You can if you so wish also pick three horses to finish first, second and third in either a specified or any order, but that is called a trifecta or (reverse) tricast and we’re dealing with that in a separate article.


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Now that an exacta bet is explained, when would you use one? A race where there is no each-way betting available because there are three or four runners in it is a common time for this bet type to come into its own. There may be two horses that look a class apart from the other runners, however many race. These are scenarios where exacta betting should be considered for wagering on the best racehorses.


Returning to a box exacta, you can have more than two selections in this wager if you wish and want to have more of the field in a race covered, but that will cost you more and the returns will be lesser as more of the permutations you have staked on are losers. If you pick out three horses, for example, there are bets on AB BA AC CA BC CB, so six in total. Only one will come off, meaning five outcomes cannot give you a return. You are unlikely to make a profit off this.




Now you know the answer to what is an exacta, you’ve added to your betting knowledge. Placing forecasts requires sound gambling judgement though, and there are plenty of times in racing where it is a very risky wager to put on. The bigger the field, then in theory the smaller your chances of an exacta have of coming off.


As noted above, you can offset the risk of this by placing a box exacta with more than two selections, but there still remains the difficulty of turning a profit with so many permutations losing. We hope that’s exacta betting explained and neatly summarised for you. If other horse racing and betting terminology interests you, then check out our glossary section for more.


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