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Exacta Box Betting: Everything You Need to Know

The exacta box is a popular type of horse racing bets that you have to know if you’re serious about horse wagering.

Horse racing betting has a rich history in the United States. You can place many types of wagers when gambling on the horses, from a trifecta box to a perfecta bet and an exacta bet.

However, with the introduction of online betting, punters now have more options than ever when it comes to wagering on the races. These sites offer excellent incentives such as free horse racing bets to encourage people to sign-up. Once registered, they can try and strike lucky by picking their winner from home or on the move via a mobile app.

This article covers exacta betting and, in particular, an exacta box bet. You may not have head of a three horse exacta bet or an exacta wheel,  Exacta betting gives customers another way to bet on a horse race rather than just betting on a single horse to win, place, or show. You will win with a horse racing exacta if you can predict the first two horses in the official order of finish. If you are successful in doing that, you will earn a bigger payout than if you were wagering on just a single horse.

Exacta and trifecta are considered exotic wagers because they are not a straightforward single bet on the winner of a race. An Exacta box bet takes this even further. So, if you are wondering, what is an exacta bet or how big a horse racing exacta bet could payout, you have come to the right place. Here you will discover how to place an exacta bet in horse race betting.

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What is an Exacta Bet?

An exacta bet, also called a perfecta or exactor, is a type of horse racing bet in which a bettor is required to predict the two top-placed horses on the track. Not only are you required to correctly guess the first two top horses, but also the order in which they’re placed, adding an extra level of difficulty to this exotic bet.

Next to trifecta bets and superfectas, exactas are considered exotic bets in horse racing, i.e. bets that involve multiple horses or multiple races, unlike the traditional straight bets – win, place, and show.

Picking the correct horses, but failing to predict the order in which they finish will still result in your wager losing. Thankfully, the pari-mutuel system offers another bet type that lets you guard your picks by covering multiple possible combinations. That bet type is the exacta box.

Types of Exacta Bets

Before we dive into the details of each type of exacta bet, let’s first take a look at which exacta sub-types are there:

  • Straight exacta – the vanilla version of the exacta bet explained above, where you pick two horses that you believe will take the two top positions on the race track, as well as the order they finish in.
  • Exacta box – a variant of the exacta bet in which you can box your selections, meaning you can cover multiple combinations in which the horses finish, as well as pick more than two horses.
  • Exacta wheel – a type of exacta bet where you stick to one horse you’re confident will win across multiple bets, while swapping out the rest of your selections you’re not so sure about.
  • Exacta key  – as its name implies, with exacta keys you choose one horse as your “key” selection across multiple bets that you’re confident will win, while other selections can place and your wager will still win.

What Is An Exacta Box?

Whereas a traditional straight exacta is a bet on two horses to finish first and second in that exact order, an exacta box allows you to both cover all possible placement combinations and to include multiple horses in your bet. So, for example, while a straight exacta bet limits you to two horse selections, you could have a 3-horse exacta box.

So, in short, an exacta box increases the number of horses in the bet and also helps you guard your selections by covering more or all combinations possible.

An exacta bet may be more appealing than a win place show wager as the potential payout is higher. You are not just betting on horse A, you need a combination and horse B to do well to win. If you do this on consecutive races, the potential payout becomes even larger.

The drawback of an exacta box is that it will cost you more to box your selections than it would to place a straight exacta. When placing a traditional exacta bet it would cost you $2 on most racebooks, while you would have to spend $2 for each combination when placing an exacta box.

Exacta Box Betting

Quinella vs. Exacta box

A two-horse exacta box functions in a similar way to a quinella bet. They are not so different as they cover both possible outcomes for those horses finishing in first and second place. However, the differences are that with a quinella, the order in which each horse finishes does not matter, while an exacta requires you to predict the correct order in which they’re placed. While a quinella is cheaper to place than an exacta, they also pay out less.

Furthermore, a quinella is treated as a single bet, while an exacta is regarded as two bets, which is why they’re more expensive to place.

Exacta Box Example

Let’s look at an example of bet box racing. To show how an exacta box bet works, imagine the scenario of a nine-horse race. You have decided to choose the horses numbered 4, 5, and 7 as the likeliest first-second place finishers. If you don’t feel confident in narrowing down the results beyond that, you can place a 4-5-7 exacta box wager.

In this example, the bet covers all six possible combinations of the horses finishing in first or second place:

  • 4-5
  • 4-7
  • 5-4
  • 5-7
  • 7-4
  • 7-5

Essentially, any two of the three selections must finish in first and second place for your exacta to win. As this wager covers six combinations, it is six times the cost of a single bet. In this instance, a $1 wager would become $6. So, if you are wondering what a 5-horse exacta box cost would be, just use that formula.

The more horses you add o an exacta box, the more the cost grows. This is simply because the number of winning combinations also multiplies. So bear that in mind before you place your Preakness exacta bet!

Exacta Box Bet Combinations & Costs

We thought it would be wise to break down how the number of horses added to an exacta box changes the cost and the amount of winning combinations. The prices in our figures below reflect a minimum $1 base wager. The minimum wager used to be $5, but due to the relaxation of these rules many racebooks offer either $1 or $2 minimum wagers. If you want to know how to beat a box and one, keep these figures in mind.

Exacta Box Number of Horses Bet Size Combinations

Number of Horses🏇Number of Combinations🎲Exacta Box Cost💵

Whether you are betting 1 exacta box or more, the above is correct if you are betting $1 with the above combinations.

How To Bet With Exacta Box

Exacta box bets attract bettors because they are easier to win than straight exactas. Additionally, there is still the potential for big payouts. If you want to know your potential payout, there are exacta bet payout calculator options available. An exacta box payout calculator will give bettors the ability to enter their bet amount and number of runners to provide them with a final cost.

Even the most experienced horse racing handicappers find it challenging picking the two best horses in a race, and predicting their exact order is even more of a challenge.

Those who are new to betting who are adventurous and would like to look beyond the basic bets should explore boxing an exacta. It is not an expensive bet, even with multiple horses, and the payouts can be significant amounts. In contrast, choosing the exact finishing order of two horses in a straight exacta, trifecta, or superfecta is a huge ask even for the most experienced handicappers.

How To Key An Exacta

Starting off with an exacta box bet is sensible and an excellent option to begin with more advanced wagers without moving into more complicated bets. However, amateur bettors should never forget that when using box exactas, if you add too many horses, the cost will end up exceeding the payout. You don’t want to win a bet but still, lose money from it. If you are worried, use an exacta box calculator.

How To Key An Exacta

Adding a key horse to an exacta box allows the bettors to put even more confidence in a particular horse while covering themselves by choosing two or more horses to cover the second-place finish. It adds slightly more to a straight exacta bet.

An exacta Key box bet essentially just gives you more assurances while you ‘double down’ on the horse you think will win. This bet comes in handy when you are confident who is going to win but aren’t sure who will finish second.

For example, let’s say you think horse #4 is going to win a race. However, you aren’t sure if the #2, #3, or #5 will finish second. You then decide to key the #4 in first with the #2, #3, and #5. This would cover the following outcomes:




This would be a $6 bet because there are three different exacta bets. Additionally, you could also key on a horse to finish second while still having numerous possibilities to win. On top of that, you could key multiple horses for both first and second, although this will increase the size of your wager. An exacta key bet is another exciting horse wager.

Sites Offering Exacta Bets

The good news is, if you wanted to place a straight bet, a combination or more exotic bets, there are sites dedicated to horse race betting in the US. These sites include:

  • DK Horse
  • Caesars Racebook
  • BetMGM Horse Racing
  • FanDuel Racing
  • bet365 Horse Racing

The above sites will offer odds and markets on famous races such as the Belmont Stakes. In addition to straightforward horse bets, you will discover exotic wager options, possible combination choices and more.


What is an exacta box?

An exacta box is an exotic horse racing bet type in which you need to predict which two horses will finish first in a race, as well as the correct order they place in.

What is the difference between exacta and exacta box?

The difference between an exacta and an exacta box is that the exacta box allows you to pick more than two horses and cover your selections by betting on multiple horse placement combinations.

How much is a $2 exacta box with 3 horses?

If the minimum wager is $2, then a 3-horse exacta box would be $12 - horses in box x horses in box minus 1 x wager amount.