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Exacta Betting: How to exacta bet in horse racing and win

While betting on a race, you might have heard the term "exacta" before. Ever wondered what a horse racing exacta is? You need to know how to use the horse racing exacta system to make money when betting on the sport. After assessing the different types of exactas that you can put on as bets, read on for advice on the kind of races to use these wagers into best effect. Understanding why the number of runners affects these bets is crucial. Find out how to bet an exacta and which type is the most efficient in pursuit of profit.

Best exacta betting sites

The shortlist below contains the best exacta sportsbooks in the business. We selected those particular ones after comparing odds, payouts and for how many major events they have this type of wager. 

What is an exacta bet in horse racing

An exacta bet is where you select two or more horses in the same race and bet on them to finish first and second. Depending on the type of exacta you use, you either give a set order to the horses involved or go with any order. Also called a forecast or exactor depending on the region, the precise exacta meaning has developed over time as betting on horse racing has become more sophisticated. There are different types of exactas you can place.

Straight exacta

If you want to keep things simple, then straight exactas see you pick two horses and specify one to finish first and the other to be second. For example, Enable to win and Found to be second. The horses must finish in the precise order you bet on for this wager to pay out. You can use a reverse exacta as well. It is when you place two bets to cover scenarios where either horse comes first.

Boxed exacta

An exacta box is where you bet on several horses to finish first and second in a race in any order. This allows you to cover many or even all permutations. The downside is that all but one bet will lose. For instance, you place exactas involving five different horses to finish first and second in any order. That means you are making 20 different bets, so a €1 unit stake will see a total of €20 gambled.

Wheel exacta

With an exacta wheel, you use your most fancied horse to place multiple exactas with all other runners in the race to be second. From a €10 total stake, you could for example place five €2 bets on Kauto Star to finish first. Then Denman, Neptune Collonges, Exotic Dancer, Imperial Commander, and Long Run all to be second. The horse you chose to finish first acts as a wheel to your exactas.

Part-wheel exacta

When you part-wheel exactas, you discount one or more of the runners in a race that, in your view, have no chance of winning. For instance, if you don’t fancy Golden Horn at all, and stick to four €2.50 bets with Nijinsky to win and Galileo to be second, Camelot to be second, Sea The Stars to be second and Authorized to be second. Using a part-wheel approach allows you to eliminate some permutations.

Weighted exacta

A weighted exacta bet is where you don’t use equal stakes by weighting the wagers in favour of your preferred fancy. From a total outlay of €10, you would place a €6 exacta on Red Rum to finish first and Crisp to be second. You then cover that with a €4 exacta on Crisp to finish first and Red Rum second. The key is to make sure that you weight the exactas in a way that you make an overall profit regardless of the outcome.

Where to find all different types

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How the number of runners affects exacta bets

The more runners in a race, then the higher the number of potential outcomes for filling the first and second place. In theory, that decreases your chances of pulling off a winning exacta bet. The trade-off is that the odds will be higher. It takes a very brave bettor indeed to put exactas on  a world-famous race with a massive field of 40 horses, for instance. You want to be betting on races where there are far fewer runners.

Smaller fields reduce the potential for exactas to lose. You can cover more bases without box exactas growing out of control. Avoiding big field handicaps is a smart horse racing exacta strategy because the betting is usually competitive. It is hard to assess lots of horses and equate their form to each other. It pays to keep things simple with these wagers. Betting in races where five to 10 horses are running is more manageable.

Which Flat races should I bet on using exactas

Races on the Flat cover everything from sprints over five furlongs up to stayers’ events of two miles plus. While the distance isn’t so crucial for your exactas, the type of race matters. Most Group races on the Flat do not attract large fields and have clear weight-for-age terms and penalty structures. These allow you to assess which horses are favoured by race conditions. You can highlight those that are at a disadvantage. Any races where that is straightforward are ones to be looking at putting exactas on.

The best jumps races to put exactas on

With National Hunt, similar exacta strategies for horse racing apply. Looking at Graded events that are not handicaps should present you with some opportunities for this type of bet. There are probably fewer of these than on the Flat because jumps racing has less global appeal, but again the penalties that apply are clearly defined. National Hunt races given an even greater sex allowance to fillies and mares in an open event against male horses than on the level, so always consider that for exactas.

Exacta strategies in horse racing I should follow

For horse racing exacta bets, you should think very carefully before placing a boxed one. The reasons why this can be a bad strategy are explained below. Looking instead at part-wheel exactas and knowing how to correlate probabilities before placing them makes more sense. Why that makes for a better approach is also highlighted.

Advice on how to bet an exacta box

You mustn't let an exacta box grow too large. The more selections contained within the box, the more of your total stake will be lost. Only two horses can be first and second, so all other permutations do not pay out. Also consider the fact that it is all too easy for an exacta bet that is boxed to pay out money which doesn’t cover the initial outlay. Caution is advised with this particular type of wager.

What is the best part-wheel horse racing exacta strategy

Part-wheel exactas can be more cost-effective than using a box, as you exclude horses. Identifying the one horse you fancy most to win is your first step here. Once you have a view on which that is, then you can assess the leading dangers or opposition. You also need to decide how many horses to involve in your part-wheel. Depending on how many runners there are, it could be three, four or more. 

Why should I correlate probabilities with part-wheel exactas

Making quick conversions between the odds help you eliminate some horses and create your part-wheel. Any runner at a high price will have a low implied probability of winning. For second place, it will depend on the number of horses running and the type of race. It’s also worth remembering that a bookmaker’s price should never put you off including a horse in any wager. The market is only a guide.

Which horse racing exacta system should I use

As noted above, there are benefits and drawbacks to each of the various types of exactas. Straight ones are only useful in small fields where the outcome is more prominent. While a box can allow you to cover more or all the bases, it is tough to come out ahead with an overall profit. That leaves wheels and weighted exactas as your most useful tools for making money betting on the horses.

Part-wheel exactas have plenty going for them. There isn’t the high exacta box cost because you have excluded some runners. Weighting, meanwhile, allows you to tailor exactas towards your main fancy of a winner, but still come out on top with profit if the other contender you liked wins the race. There are very few downsides to these wagers and none which don’t apply to different approaches to horse betting.

Can I benefit from an exacta bet in horse racing: by Book Spy

There certainly is value to be had betting with exactas, so long as you chose the right races and type of wager to place. Each of the various exacta bets has its place. Nevertheless, you want to be reasonably sure what the best horses in any race are before betting on it. The most drawbacks relate to boxed exactas which, while possibly covering more permutations, require more significant overall investment.

Using an exacta bet can be a method of extracting higher value than merely just betting on a favourite because you are also looking at another horse to chase it home. You may even be able to place these wagers ante-post if you so wish which can help to yield even greater returns. It is more complicated than simply betting on a horse to win. Stick to fields of limited size and avoid handicaps to mitigate any risk.

Full list of exacta betting sites

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