Trifecta and Exacta: What are the differences between these two bets?

Brown Horse
9th Jul, 2024
Simon Colmenares Author Profile Photo Simon Colmenares

So you wanted to get into horse race betting, but you’ve stumbled across terms like “Trifecta” and “Exacta”, and you wonder what the hell these mean. Don’t worry. The reality of horse race betting is much simpler than you think.

At first glance, these sound like complicated betting systems, but in reality, these are simple terms used to describe forms of bets connected with the horse’s place and number of races.

Trifecta and Exacta are so-called exotic bets, and they are great for boosting your winnings or at least getting a chance to make a lot of money.

But let’s jump into details and find out the exact difference between Trifecta and Exacta. Things like out what they mean, and all the advantages and disadvantages of using them in the real world can help you make better betting decisions.

What Exactly Are Trifecta and Exacta Bets?

First off, let’s break down these terms so they don’t sound like Hogwarts spells anymore.

Exacta Bets

An exacta bet requires you to predict the first and second place finishers in a race, in the exact order. Sounds simple, right? Well, it might have a simple explanation, but getting this bet right is quite difficult.

What’s so difficult about this bet? 

Well, if choosing the first two winning horses is not difficult on its own, you have to bet on their exact order. 

For instance, if you bet on Horse A to win and Horse B to place, they must finish in that exact order for you to win.

This is the starting point of horse racing exotic bets, and if you think this is difficult wait until you hear about Trifecta and Superfecta. But it's not impossible, although you need some strong research skills, and let's be honest, some luck on your side.

If you want to learn more about the Exacta bets, how they work, and when it is the best time to place such bet, read more about it here:

Trifecta Bets

Now, imagine taking that exacta bet and cranking up the difficulty a notch. That’s a trifecta bet for you. Here, you have to predict the first, second, and third-place finishers in the exact order. 

It’s like juggling flaming torches while riding a unicycle—challenging but potentially rewarding. If you choose Horses A, B, and C to finish in that specific order, they must do so for you to win.

How Do These Bets Compare?

Difficulty Level

Exacta: Challenging but manageable. It’s like trying to guess the weather in a month—it’s tricky but doable.

Trifecta: Super challenging. This is the big leagues. Predicting the top three finishers in exact order is akin to winning a mini lottery.


Exacta: Offers a higher payout than simple win, place, or show bets, but it won’t have you quitting your day job anytime soon.

Trifecta: The payouts can be massive. We're talking about serious money here because the difficulty level weeds out a lot of bettors. In races like the Kentucky Derby, trifecta bets can turn a modest stake into a significant payday.

Betting Strategies: Straight vs. Box

You can place these bets in two primary ways: straight or box.

Straight Bets

Exacta Straight: Pick two horses to finish first and second in the exact order. No room for error here.

Trifecta Straight: Pick three horses to finish first, second, and third in the exact order. Precision is key.

Box Bets

Exacta Box: Select two or more horses to finish first and second in any order. If you pick Horses A and B, they can finish 1-2 or 2-1, and you win. This increases your chances but also your cost.

Trifecta Box: Choose three or more horses to finish in the top three in any order. If you pick Horses A, B, and C, any combination of them finishing in the top three wins. Again, higher cost but better odds.

Statistics and Facts to Consider

Payout Examples: In the 2024 Kentucky Derby, an exacta bet payout could range significantly based on the odds of the horses, but a winning trifecta bet historically has paid out anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Betting Popularity: Exactas are more popular among casual bettors due to their simplicity and lower cost, whereas trifectas attract those looking for a high-risk, high-reward scenario.

Common Questions

Which bet should I choose as a beginner? 

Start with an exacta bet. It’s less complex and gives you a feel for how these bets work without overwhelming you.

Is it worth boxing my bet?

Boxing your bet increases your chances of winning but also increases the cost. If you’re feeling confident about a few horses but not their exact order, boxing can be a good strategy.

How much should I bet?

This depends on your budget and risk tolerance. Exotic bets like exacta and trifecta can be as low as $2 but can quickly add up, especially when boxed.

9th Jul, 2024
Simon Colmenares