Kentucky, Writing

The HerKentucky Guide to Simple Keeneland Wagers

(This post originally appeared on HerKentucky)

It’s HERE! Keeneland’s Fall Meet has ARRIVED!

You’re going, right? Of course you’re going. We only get to do this in April and October. Get up, get dressed, and go take part in one of the best parts of living around here. (Yes, I’m basically a walking, talking Keeneland commercial whenever meets are in session. I love it that much.)

When I talk to someone who’s visited Lexington and not been to Keeneland, I’m sad. When I talk to someone who lives near Lexington and hasn’t been? Words cannot describe my devastation. I recently met a girl who told me she’s lived in Lexington for eight years and never been to Keeneland. Not once!

Even if you don’t care a bit about horse racing, go for the sheer excitement of it. See the horses. Enjoy the atmosphere. Most of all, experience the glory that is Keeneland, one of the most beautiful racetracks in the country.

My friend told me she’s never been to Keeneland because she doesn’t know how to bet on the races. This, my friends, is no excuse. First, any one of the tellers at the betting stations will happily help you through your bet (trust me, they’ve helped me with several); and secondly, I’m about to give you a quick crash course in how to bet like you know what you’re talking about.

Disclaimer: I don’t do complicated bets. All these examples will be using a standard $2 minimum bet, although I believe Keeneland lowered the minimum wager to $1. Go big or go home, I say. TWO DOLLARS.

Regardless of what you’re betting, when you place your bet, you say…

  1. The name of the track
  2. The race number
  3. The amount of the bet
  4. The type of bet
  5. The number of the horse

One horse, One bet
The easiest bet is just to pick one horse to win, and it’s a super straight and simple bet.

Example: “Keeneland, race one. $2 to win on 4.”

Across the Board
Have a horse you love but you’re not entirely sure it’s a winner? Bet it “across the board,” or to win, place, or show. That bet will cost you $6 since you’re basically placing three bets ($2 to win, to place, and to show). As long as your horse comes one of the top three spots, you’re a winner.

Example: “Keeneland, race one. $2 across the board on 4.” 

Exacta/Exacta Box
And now let’s talk about my favorite bet ever. I use this one to make myself sound like I totally know about horse racing. (Note: I do not know anything about horse racing. My betting system is based purely on whether the horse name means something to me and who the jockey is. If Redhead McSparkles is ridden by a jockey named Jesus, I’m betting on it.)

The exacta bet involves picking the horses that will win and place (or come in first and second). Your best shot is to pick the favorites for this one. Whichever horse you say first is the one you expect to win, and the second is who you think will place. This bet will cost you $4 since you’re actually placing two bets, $2 on the winning horse and $2 on the placing horse.

Example: Keeneland, race one. $2 exacta on 4 and 6.

Now- here’s my bet- the exacta box. Something about saying “exacta” and “box” makes me feel like a total pro. The box means you have the horses you think will come in first and second, but you’re not sure what order they will be in. You can box as many horses as you want. (I usually choose three horses in the hopes that two of them will win and place.)

Example: Keeneland, race one. $2 exacta box on 4, 6, and 9. (This is one where you probably want to go with a $1 bet, because these get expensive really quickly as you add more and more horses.)

Trifecta/Trifecta box
These are the exact same as the exacta and exacta box, except you’re dealing with the first three slots instead of the first two. You’re choosing the horses that will win, place, and show.

It is extremely hard to pick the exacta and/or the trifecta. What are the odds that you’ll even get one horse right, let alone two or three? But these bets, without boxing them, are cheaper, and they typically pay out well if you win. The boxes are easier to win, but cost a lot more.

(If you bet and win a trifecta, you basically have bragging rights for life. If you see me there, I’ll buy you a drink.)

Daily Double: You choose the winner in two consecutive races. (My mom did this once when I was a kid. She still talks about it.)

Pick Three: You choose the winner in three consecutive races. 

Pick Four: You choose the winner in four consecutive races.

More complicated
Remember how I said I don’t do complicated bets? There are things involving “Part-wheels” which, I think, is basically boxing a bet but on a much larger scale. And you “key” horses in those if you know which horse you think will win but you’re not sure about the order of any of the others.

That is literally all I know about these bets. You’re welcome.

There you go! You officially have no excuse to skip Keeneland this year.

When you’re there, look for me. I’ll be the one with the bourbon and coke betting on every single horse with “Red” in its name.

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