Included amongst the extensive menu of betting options available to horse racing punters are Exactas and Trifectas – falling under the Exotic Bets umbrella in American and Australian racing.
On British shores, the bets are two of the most popular products offered by the leading Pool Betting operator of the Tote. As the term Exotic implies, these punts are a little more adventurous than simply backing a horse to win on the nose or each way.
With an Exacta bet, you must name both the first and second-placed finishers in the correct order. Trifectas take things a step further by asking you to select the first, second, and third-placed finishers in the correct order. This is clearly not easy to do, but the payouts can be excellent.
Exacta & Trifecta vs Forecast & Tricast
When reading the quick explanation of what Exacta and Trifecta bets are, punters may ask, what is the difference between these bets and Forecasts and Tricasts? After all, a Forecast requires you to predict the first and second-placed finishers – just like an Exacta, and a Tricast requires the first, second and third-placed finishers – just like a Trifecta.
What it takes to win an Exacta/Forecast or Trifecta/Tricast is, in fact, exactly the same. However, the manner in which the payouts are calculated is rather different.
Also known as Computer Straight Forecasts (CSF) and Computer Straight Tricasts (CST), Forecast and Tricast returns are calculated by computer, using a rather complicated formula involving the prices of the runners, the size of the field, the draw, the overall range of odds of and more. Once all relevant factors have been fed into the algorithm, a Forecast and Tricast Dividend is declared, representing the total returns to a £1 stake.
Exacta and Trifecta returns are also given as a dividend, but their calculation follows a simpler methodology. For any given race, all Exacta stakes are gathered into a single Pool. The Tote then takes a cut of this pool to cover operating costs and make a profit. At the end of the race, the remaining pool is divided among all winners. For example, an Exacta dividend of £14.25 means you would receive £14.25 for every £1 you had staked.
Trifecta dividends are calculated the same way; Trifecta stakes are gathered into a single pool, a cut taken by the Tote, and the remaining pool is distributed amongst the winners.
Increasing Your Chances with a Combination Bet
Predicting the winner of a horse or greyhound event (Exacta and Trifecta bets are also popular in dog racing) can be a difficult enough task without also having to name the second and third in the correct order. Given that challenge, you may wish to increase your chances by placing a combination Exacta or Trifecta.
The simplest form of a combination Exacta is a reverse Exacta. This bet requires you to pick two horses to finish first and second in either order and is effectively two separate bets, i.e. 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, and 1st Horse B, 2nd Horse A. A £1 reverse Exacta will cost £2 in total.
Of course, you needn’t restrict yourself to just two runners when attempting to land a winning Exacta. Perhaps there are three horses you fancy to be involved in the finish, but you aren’t sure in which order they will finish. In this instance, you may wish to place a three-horse combination Exacta. This bet takes your three horses and perms them into all possible first and second finishing positions:
- 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B
- 1st Horse B, 2nd Horse A
- 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse C
- 1st Horse C, 2nd Horse A
- 1st Horse B, 2nd Horse C
- 1st Horse C, 2nd Horse B
As we can see, this creates six possible combinations, meaning a £1 three-horse combination Exacta costs a total of £6.
When working out the number of permutations in a combination Exacta, the number of combinations is simply the number of horses you have selected multiplied by one less than that number. For example, a four-horse combination Exacta contains 12 permutations (4 x 3 = 12)
One final option comes in the form of a Banker Exacta. In this case, you may be fairly sure which horse will win but have two or more candidates to fill the second spot. An example would be nominating Horse A as your Banker to win, combined with either Horse B, Horse C, or Horse D finishing second – for a total of four bets.
Given the nature of the bet, you will always need a minimum of three selections for a Trifecta. Predicting three to finish in exactly the right order can be difficult. As such, many punters opt to place a Combination Trifecta, which enables you to win, no matter which order your runners fill the first three positions. A three-horse combination Trifecta results in a total of six bets, as follows:
- 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, 3rd Horse C
- 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse C, 3rd Horse B
- 1st Horse B, 2nd Horse A, 3rd Horse C
- 1st Horse B, 2nd Horse C, 3rd Horse A
- 1st Horse C, 2nd Horse A, 3rd Horse B
- 1st Horse C, 2nd Horse B, 3rd Horse A
When working out the permutations in a combination Trifecta, the number of combinations is simply the number of horses you have selected multiplied by the two numbers below it. For example, a three-horse combination will contains 6 permutations (3 x 2 x 1 = 6), a four-horse combination Trifecta contains 24 permutations (4 x 3 x 2 = 24)
As with the Exacta Bet, you can nominate one of your selections as a Banker to win the race or even to fill the second or third spot, should you wish. For example, a three-horse combination Exacta containing Horse A as a Banker to win would result in just two bets:
- 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, 3rd Horse C
- 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse C, 3rd Horse B
Dead heat rules affect most horse racing bets, but let’s take a look at what happens with Exacta and Trifecta bets in that scenario.
Exacta Dead Heat Rules
If two runners finish in a dead heat for first or second place, the total pool will be split evenly between the two winning outcomes.
- Example 1 – Horse A and Horse B finish in a dead heat for first. The pool will be split in two and then shared between the winners. This results in two separate dividends: one relating to 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, and the other to 1st Horse B, 2nd Horse A
- Example 2 – Horse A wins, and Horse B and Horse C finish in a dead heat for second. In this instance, the pool will again be split and shared amongst the relevant winners. This also results in two separate dividends: One relating to 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, and the other to 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse C
Trifecta Dead Heat Rules
The same process applies to Tricasts involving a dead heat for one of the three placed positions.
- Example 1 – Horse A and Horse B finish in a dead heat for first, and Horse C finished third. Half of the pool will go to the 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, 3rd Horse C result, with the other half going to the 1st Horse B, 2nd Horse A, 3rd Horse C result
- Example 2 – Horse A wins, and Horse B and Horse C finish in a dead heat for second. Half of the pool will go to the 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, 3rd Horse C result, with the other half going to the 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse C, 3rd Horse B result
- Example 3 – Horse A wins, Horse B finishes second, and Horse C and Horse D finish in a dead heat for third. Half of the pool will go to the 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, 3rd Horse C result, with the other half going to the 1st Horse A, 2nd Horse B, 3rd Horse D result
Other Exacta & Trifecta Rules
- Which races can I bet on? – Unless otherwise stated, Exacta and Trifecta bets can be placed on all races with three or more runners. Note that three runners must take part in the race. For instance, if a race begins with three or more horses listed to run, but is pushed below the minimum threshold due to non-runners, that race will be made void for Exacta and Trifecta purposes
- What is the Minimum Stake? – The minimum total stake for any Exact or Trifecta is 50p. For combination bets, this can be broken down to as little as 1p per unit, so long as the total stake comes to 50p
- Can I include the Unnamed Favourite in my bet? – No. Unnamed favourites cannot be included as part of an Exacta or Trifecta bet
- What happens if I back a Non-Runner? – All bets containing a non-runner will become void, and the stake returned. In combination Exacta or Trifecta bets, permutations containing the non-runner will be void. All other permutations will stand
- What happens if only one horse finishes the race? – If only one horse finishes the race, a dividend will still be declared and paid to anyone who selected the lone finisher to win, in combination with any other runner to finish second. In the rare instance of no finishers, all Exacta and Trifecta bets are declared void and stakes are returned
Exacta and Trifecta Tips
When placing a forecast or tricast style bet, you have a choice between the Computer Straight Forecast or Tricast and the Exacta or Trifecta. You may think there isn’t much difference between the two – and often there isn’t. However, there are occasions when the returns for the CSF and Exacta or CST and Trifecta vary widely.
One good example of this came in the 2021 Grand National, won by the 11/1 shot Minella Times, with 100/1 chance Balko Des Flos in second and the well-fancied Any Second Now in third at 15/2. The CSF returns of £882.65 were dwarfed by the Exacta payout of £2,053.30, whilst the difference between the tricast payouts was even wider – the CST returning £8,593.94, compared to a whopping £35,431.20 for the Trifecta.
To understand why this should be the case, we need to think about how Tote payouts work, i.e. the total pool being divided amongst winners, rather than as a set function of the odds as in the computerised system. Therefore, the fewer winning tickets, the more spectacular the payout. When looking at that Grand National result, Minella Times and Any Second Now were likely popular choices. Balko Des Flos was harder to find and must have been included on a very small number of Exacta and Trifecta tickets.
The lesson here is that – whenever you fancy an outsider, who you suspect the betting public has overlooked, you should consider placing an Exacta or Trifecta bet. Even if only playing the Win and Place markets, the returns on the Tote have a good chance of being considerably better than those at fixed odds or starting prices.
Following on from this theory, if there is ever a time when you have a good reason to believe that the favourite will finish outside the frame, the Exacta and Trifecta bets can represent excellent value. The thinking here is that most punters will include the favourite in their bet. If the jolly flops, all those losing stakes will lie waiting to be claimed, reducing the number of winners and bumping up the dividend.