Horse racing bets explained for your Kentucky Derby Party
  • Save

Horse Racing Bets Explained for Your Kentucky Derby Party

The greatest 2 minute in sports is approaching and let’s face it. You don’t wanna be left out of the excitement when your friends are cheering on their pony at your Kentucky Derby party! LAME. So, I give you horse racing bets explained!

You deserve to let loose, drink a few mint juleps (recipe below!) and hoot ‘n holler at the TV screen, too! Let me guess, you’re overwhelmed by all of the jargon, right? Don’t sweat it; I’ve got your back!

Talk Derby To Me Kentucky Derby Women's T-Shirt

Aesthetic Kentucky Derby horse racing design. Perfect for all horse races at OTB, Belmont, Preakness, and Kentucky Derby!

More Similar Products:
  • This design is also available in different apparel styles and accessories! Click to choose your perfect style and size:
I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my small business!
Shop all of my Kentucky Derby Collection on Teepublic!

Horse racing is full of terms that might seem like gibberish at first, but once you understand them, placing bets can be exciting and even have you raking in the dough!!

I am ALL about making memories, having fun and throwing killer parties. The kind that everyone gets super pissed off when you’re not hosting it again the next year! This post is all about how YOU can have fun, be in the moment and enjoy the hell out of of your Kentucky Derby party!

Let me walk you through horse racing wagering basics so that by the time “the Run for the Roses” comes around this May, you’ve gone from beginner to BIG winner! Not only will your friends think you’re an expert on horse racing, but perhaps a lucky one too! Now, lets get you ready for your Kentucky Derby party!

*Please note I am not the authority in all things horse racing. I will do my best to break this down, from one mom to the next. I have included links to industry resources if you want to hear it from the horses mouth {pun intended, sorry}. I will not take responsibility for your losses, but if you wanna Venmo me a portion of your winnings I wouldn’t be opposed, ha ha! 😊

The Traditional “Basic” Horse Racing Bets Explained

If you’re looking to add excitement on race day, with as little effort as possible, place a traditional “Win”, “Place”, or “Show” bet. You will select one, favorite horse in all three of these bets. First, let’s review the basics of these three horse racing bets according to

WIN Bet on One Horse

First, if you place a bet on your horse to “Win”, that means you’re selecting one horse to finish in first place. If your favorite horse wins, you get paid! This is also the most straightforward bet to understand what you likely get paid if your horse wins the race.

PLACE Bet on One Horse

Second, if you prefer to increase your odds of being a winner, you can bet that same horse to “Place”. This means that your horse can finish in either first place or second place!

SHOW Bet on One Horse

Third, you have the option of betting that same horse to “Show”. In doing so, you are a winner if your favorite horse finishes in either first or second or third place!

This Show bet will give you the highest odds of being a winner, but with the trade-off, more than likely, being the lowest payoff of these three basic wagers.

  • Save

Now, if that was a lot for you, there is no need to bother with this next part: multi-horse, exotic wagers. Skip down to the Horse Racing Bets Explained section below, and you will still have a good ‘ol time at your Kentucky Derby party!

But, if you have the appetite for making some serious dough, continue on for more exotic horse racing bets explained!

Multi-Horse “Exotic” Horse Racing Bets Explained

Get ready to up your horse racing game with these exotic multi-horse bets! Sounds fancy, right? It is Derby Day after all!

Don’t worry, they are easier to understand than you might expect. The real excitement comes from how much you can win – and we’re talking BIG money here. Just take the 2022 Kentucky Derby as an example. So, let’s dive in and explore these bets further.

EXACTA Bet on Two Horses

Fourth, this bet called the “Exacta” means you specifically bet on one horse to finish in first place and specifically the other horse to finish in second place, exactly.

TRIFECTA Bet on Three Horses

Fifth, like the Exacta, this “Trifecta” wager, as you can probably guess, means you bet on three horses. The first horse specifically finishes in first place. The second horse specifically finishes in second place. Lastly, the third horse specifically finishes in third place.

SUPERFECTA Bet on Four Horses

Sixth, like the Trifecta, this “Superfecta” wager is a bet on four horses. The first horse specifically finishes in first place. The second horse specifically finishes in second place. The third horse specifically finishes in third place. Lastly, the fourth horse specifically finishes in fourth place.

Not too bad, see? These three exotic bets are simple to understand when it comes to placing your bet. Next, lets take it one little step further.

  • Save

BOX Your Bet

Last, but not least, consider this addition to the three exotic bets above to add a little pizzaz! When you choose to “Box” your Exacta, Trifecta or Superfecta, you will still select the same quantity of horses, respectively. However, here comes the cool part!

Your horses can finish in ANY order! Pretty sweet, huh?! This will increase your odds of winning, too. But, there’s a catch. Before I get to that, let’s clarify what Boxing your exotic bets mean.

EXACTA BOX Bet on Two Horses

An Exacta Box bet means your two selected horses both must finish in first and second place. However, the order in which they place does not matter.

TRIFECTA BOX Bet on Three Horses

A Trifecta Box bet means your three selected horses all must finish in first, second, or third place. Again, the order in which they place does not matter.

SUPERFECTA BOX Bet on Four Horses

A Superfecta Box bet means your four selected horses all must finish in first, second, third or fourth place. Yep, you guessed it! The order in which they place does not matter.

Now, back to that catch. The cost of Boxing your exotic bet can be significantly higher than the regular Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta. But, with the trade-off that you’re more likely to be a winner. So, it’s entirely up to you!

To simply put it, when you Box your exotic bet you need to cover every combination of bets. Essentially, with an Exacta Box you are placing 2 bets:

  • Horse A coming in 1st place + Horse B coming in 2nd place, and
  • Horse B coming in 1st place + Horse A coming in 1st place.

There are 6 combinations, or bets, that are placed for a Trifecta Box, and there are 24 combinations, or bets, that are placed for a Superfecta Box. More on the cost of these bets, below. There are numerous bets available in horse racing, but in my opinion, understanding the 3 traditional, basic bets and the 3 multi-horse, exotic bets are plenty to have a ton of fun! Next, lets review how much these bets cost so we can get to the good party… winning money!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click through & make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

The Real Star of the Party

Lets take a brief intermission from your intro to horse betting to discuss the real star of your Kentucky Derby party…

  • Save

Mint Juleps!

If you’ve never tried a mint julep before, you gotta trust me that you’re in for a treat, Mama! The Mint Julep is a quintessential Southern cocktail and perfect for a Kentucky Derby party. By no means am I a bourbon fan, but with a little extra simple syrup and once you’re a few sips deep, I’d be willing to bet you’ll be a fan, too! In fact, I’ll give it 2-1 odds.

  • Save

Mint Julep

Print Recipe
The Classic Star of your Kentucky Derby Party
Keyword Bourbon, Cocktail, Delicious, Kentucky Derby, Mint Julep
Prep Time 15 minutes
Time to Muddle Your Cocktail 3 minutes
Servings 1


  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1 oz Simple syrup
  • 8 – 10 Fresh mint leaves
  • Crushed ice


  • Begin by muddling the mint leaves with the simple syrup in the bottom of a julep cup or rocks glass. Muddle the mint gently to avoid bruising the leaves, which can result in a bitter taste.
  • Fill the glass with crushed ice.
  • Add the bourbon and give the mixture a gentle stir to combine and chill.
  • Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and enjoy!


You can easily make simple syrup by mixing equal parts granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat and stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then let it cool before using. Or save yourself a few minutes and buy pre-made simple syrup.  
Use a good quality bourbon for the best taste. Some popular options include Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, and Buffalo Trace.
Crushed ice is essential for a mint julep. You can use a blender, ice crusher, or a Lewis bag and mallet to achieve the perfect consistency. Then, set the ice out in a leak-proof ice bucket.
Mint Juleps are meant to be served in their official stainless steel or copper cups.
Sip the cocktail slowly through the garnish to enjoy the aroma of the mint. Cheers!

Add these to your Amazon cart now, even if you move them to “save for later”! Just trying to save you time.

  • Save
  • Save
  • Save
  • Save
  • Save
  • Save

Now you’re all set to impress your friends with your mint julep skills! Enjoy, and cheers to a fun and fabulous Kentucky Derby party!

Horse Racing Bets Explained

In general, the higher the risk you take, the higher the reward. Makes sense.

The big question is, what are you willing to lose?

What are Odds?

Odds are like a score. They tell you how much money you can get back if you win the race. The odds will change until the horses start running because it changes depending on how much people are betting on each horse. They can look like 3-1. The more people bet on one horse, the better chance it has of winning, theoretically.

What do the Bets Cost?

Depending on where you’re placing your bet and the race, they will have a minimum bet amount. It’s most likely to be in the $0.50 – $2.00 range. On you can calculate the cost of your wagers online.

WIN, PLACE and SHOW Bets Cost

So long as you are betting at least the minimum amount, you can bet as much as you want on a Win, Place or Show bet.


Likewise, bet the minimum bet amount or more on an Exacta, Trifecta or Superfecta bet. Let’s use an example of a $2 bet to illustrate the difference in cost when Boxing your exotic bets.

  • A $2 Exacta will cost you $2 (for the one, exact combination)
  • A $2 Exacta Box will cost you $4 (for the possible two combinations)
  • A $2 Trifecta will cost you $2 (for the one, exact combination)
  • A $2 Trifecta Box will cost you $12 (for the possible 6 combinations)
  • A $2 Superfecta will cost you $2 (for the one, exact combination)
  • A $2 Superfecta Box will cost you $48 (for the 24 possible combinations) offers an Exacta Calculator, Trifecta Calculator, and a Superfecta Calculator for what these bets can cost you. With a little knowledge and some luck, you could be on your way to a thrilling and profitable day at the races!

How to Estimate Payouts

First, estimating a Win bet is the most straightforward and easiest of all the bets. If you’re super concerned with knowing how much you stand to win, this is the only bet for you. Other bets winnings are calculated by the pooled money of all of the bets placed by the public, so there is a lot more uncertainty.

Calculating a WIN Bet’s Payout

The payouts for a $2 Win bet are determined by the odds of the horse. When you place your bet, the odds will be displayed, and you can use them to calculate your potential payout. To calculate, simply multiply the odds by $2, and add the original $2 bet. Here are a few examples:

  • 50-1 means for every $1 you wager, you win $50 (Paid $51 when you cash out)
  • 4-5 means for every $2 you wager, you win $51 (Paid $53 when you cash out)
  • 10-1 means for every $1 you wager, you win $10 (Paid $11 when you cash out)
  • 5-2 means for every $2 you wager, you win $5 (Paid $7 when you cash out) also offers a nice table to illustrate various odds payoffs. Next, lets make you aware of how the other bets payouts work.

Calculating a PLACE or SHOW Bet’s Payout

Each race has a posted payout schedule that shows the potential payout for each type of bet. The payout will vary depending on the odds of the horse, the size of the betting pool, and how many people placed the same bet. It’s wise to keep an eye on the odds and the betting pool before making your bet, as this can give you an idea of what to expect in terms of payout.

To determine your potential payout, divide the total amount of money in the Place or Show pool by the number of winning tickets, then multiply that amount by your $2 bet. Keep in mind that the payout ratio can vary depending on how many people bet on the winning horses. So, if a lot of people bet on the same horse, the payout will likely be smaller than if you had chosen a less popular horse. Regardless, Place and Show bets can still be a fantastic option for horse race betting, as they provide a chance to win without too much risk.

Calculating Exotic Bet’s Payout

Exotic bets can bring in some serious cash if you’re willing to take the risk. Similar to the Place or Show bets, these bets are grouped together in a pool, and the winnings are divided among those who predicted the correct outcome.

But be warned, the payouts can vary greatly.  If you have the stomach or the pocketbook for it, the exotic bets are a thrilling rush of unpredictability! When those exotic bets hit, boy can they hit big!

  • Save
The Churchill Downs Finish Line at the 2022 Kentucky Derby

Look at the incredible payouts from the 2022 Kentucky Derby, according to Yahoo Sports:

  • The $1 Trifecta paid out $14,870.70!
  • The $1 Superfecta paid a jaw-dropping $3,321,500.10!!

Holy sh*t is right! No wonder people are screaming so loudly during the race!

This is all fine and good but, how do you know which horses to put your money on?

It’s Race Time!

The time has come to pick which horses you want to bet the house on! Just kidding, please don’t do that! Next, I’ll let you in on my “strategy” and give you a few resources.

Pick Your Horses

In my opinion, the most fun comes from a little bit of research, a little bit of which horse’s names I like, and a little bit of a long shot. Ha! Though I’m positive, experts will not agree with my philosophy.

Now, let’s talk about where you can do some light research.

There are tons of resources for learning about the Kentucky Derby horses and jockeys. There are some super cool stories you can watch on TV that morning, too! If you have the time, check it out. Or have it on in the background as you prep for the party.

Read a few articles, see the names of the horses, or even knock of the experts top picks entirely! Here are a few resources:

How to Place Your Bets

First, if you visit the official Kentucky Derby website, they will direct you to for placing your bets. For the upcoming 2023 Kentucky Derby, they’re currently offering a $25 risk-free bet with the code DERBY25.

Second, you can visit a local OTB (Off-Track Betting) location and place your bet in person. Here are a list of all OTB locations in the United States.

Third, there are numerous online gambling websites now that a quick Google search can give you more options than you need. More than likely though, someone coming to your party already has an online account and can help place the bet for you!

Fourth, go to Churchill Downs yourself to see the race live and in person. Bucket list!

In-Person Betting Etiquette

Placing bets in person is usually very hectic and the people working there have very little tolerance for those who show up to the window asking questions or throwing around buzz words in the wrong order. I recommend you opt for a machine if you want to make it less stressful! But if you do give it a shot, it’s not that hard. You just want to be prepared. Here an easy explanation by

It’s Party Time!

Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to take a chance and win big at your Kentucky Derby party! And you’re ready to make a mint julep or two! Or three, who’s counting?!

As you and your friends prepare shout at this iconic event, remember that betting always involves gambling – know the risks and be sure to abide by your state laws.

Don’t forget to save my Pinterest pin so you can come back and refresh yourself on the every year! Plus share it and save someone else some research time! Now, it’s your job to get everyone to join in on the fun! I’d also be willing to bet that your husband and his friends wouldn’t mind a brush up on these horse racing bets explained! I’ll give that 3-1 odds!

Lucky Charms and Superstitions

Do you have any lucky charms? Might as well pull out all the stops!

Apparently, superstitions aren’t just for Stevie Wonder! According to, here are the top 5 horse racing betting superstitions:

  1. Betting on Gray Horses in Bad Weather: Gray horses have reputations for loving to run in the mud, despite clear data.
  2. Using Horseshoes for Good Luck: Put the horse shoes with the legs facing up to catch and contain all the good luck, like horse trainers do over their hoses stalls.
  3. Never Wish a Jockey Good Luck: Some riders consider it bad luck if when they pass by you, that you wish them good luck. No point in getting in their head!
  4. Bet on Lucky Number: Every horse is assigned a number. Most typically 7 is chosen because of its connotations with gambling craps or slots.
  5. Bet on the Color Green: The number on the horse’s saddle and the jockey’s racing silks are believed to have gambling power when they are green. Likely because it’s association with the color of money.

The Kentucky Derby is such a fun opportunity to gather with friends or family and just have fun! Horse racing bets are meant to bring excitement! So grab your fancy hat and place your bets!

Without a doubt, save these Horse Racing Bets Explained to your Pinterest board for later!

…Or text a link to your partner in crime!

If you enjoyed this Horse Racing Bets Explained post…

And especially if you get a taste of winning big, check out my other post The Easiest Super Bowl Party Betting Game That’s Guaranteed Fun! This is another great way to get everyone engaged at your party and I promise you this is 10X easier than horse race betting on the Kentucky Derby!

If the Juleps were the JAM, stop by my other post The Best Juices for Mimosa Bar and snag the recipe for our famous Espi’mosa!

If got a couple of other bad a** party planning hacks and tips you’re not going to want to miss…

Finally, follow me @memoryinthemaking on Pinterest or
@meminthemaking on Instagram and Facebook!

Good Luck!

  • Save

Similar Posts


  1. 5 stars
    Great tips! Thanks Leigh Anne. I know I will have to refer back to those on the day of the Derby.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.