A Sure Bet: The Exacta
At the racetrack, say hello to the quinella’s big brother, exacta.
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By C. Reid McLellan
In May, we talked about the quinella. This month, let’s talk about the quinella’s “perfect” big brother exacta. (In some places,this wager is called the perfecta. In Canada and some other countries, it’s called an exactor.)
Whereas the quinella bet lets you try to pick the horses that run first and second in “any order,” the exacta bet lets you try to pick the runners that finish first and second in the “exact order.” If you go to a betting window and say, “I want a $2 exacta 5-1,” you are betting that 5 will finish first, and 1 will finish second. If 1 and 5 don’t cooperate, and 1 finishes first with 5 running second, our exacta will be a loser. (Little brother quinella says with some disdain, “If they had bet a quinella, they would have won.”) But, exacta is not ruffled. Most tracks offer bettors the opportunity to play an exacta box using a $1 wagering unit. A $1 exacta box 1,5 is a winner if the final order is 1-5 or 5-1, and the cost is only $2.
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Boxing three horses in a quinella costs $6 and is a winner if any two of those horses run first and second (doesn’t matter what the third horse does). Boxing three horses in a $1 exacta box costs $6 and is a winner if any two of them run first and second (again, doesn’t matter what the third horse does). Hmmm! It seems that a $1 exacta box is the same as a $2 quinella box. (Quinella doesn’t think that’s fair, by the way). What is the difference then?
When playing a quinella, the payoff is the same, regardless of which horse runs first and which runs second. With an exacta
box, the payoff will be different depending on which horse wins. If the favorite (or lower odds horse) wins, the exacta usually pays less than if the longer odds horse wins. So, is it better to play the quinella or exacta if both are offered? The answer is, “It depends.” The advantage to playing an exacta is that you can place more money on the combination in which you have most confidence. Instead of playing a $5 exacta box (or $10 quinella) you can play an $8 exacta 5-1 and $2 exacta 1-5. (I call this a “weighted exacta.”) With the quinella (or same denomination exacta box) you are betting the same amount on each possible winning combination. Exacta lets you put more money on the more-likely combination.
When both wagers are available, here are a couple of simple rules of thumb regarding whether to bet a quinella or exacta.
- If one of your choices is a heavy favorite (less than 3-2) bet a quinella or quinella wheel. Many times, when a heavy favorite wins, the $2 quinella pays more than the corresponding $1 exacta.
- If you think a favorite will not finish in the top two, that is a good time to box three horses in an exacta.
- If you really like the favorite and have a good longshot possibility, bet a “weighted” exacta.
If you pick the right horses and bet them correctly to finish first and second, you can have a “perfect(a)” evening at the races.
As Executive Director of The Elite Program , C. Reid McLellan organizes and teaches Groom, Owner and Trainer Elite classes around the country.
As owner and agent of Purple Power Equine Services . Reid helps people buy and sell race and show prospects and provides guidance and assistance with training, breeding and other equine services.
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