A place bet in horse racing is one of the simplest wagers to make, as you are picking a horse you think will finish either first or second in the race. Betting a horse to place offers more flexibility and opportunity to cash than placing a win bet, which pays out only if a horse finishes first, something to keep in mind as you place your bets for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park Nov. 3-4.
The odds will not pay out as much as a win bet, but place betting is an easier way for new bettors to cash a ticket and celebrate.
Place Betting: An Overview Ahead of the Breeders’ Cup
A place bet is one of the traditional basic wagers in horse betting, the others being a win bet and a show wager, where you bet a horse to finish anywhere in the top three.
You can pair all three wagers together and make a bet “across the board”, which means you bet on a horse to win, place, and show (essentially, you are making three separate bets). If the horse wins, the bettor collects all three payouts. If the horse finishes second, you collect place and show money, and if third, you collect the show money alone.
If your horse finishes outside the top three, you do not win, but there’s always another race!
How Do I Make a Place Bet in Horse Racing?
Whether you are betting at the track or through a mobile app, the basics of making a wager are the same. First, you choose the track and race you want to place a wager on. Then, you check the program number of the horse you want to bet on. Next, select the dollar amount you want to bet and the type of wager you want to make.
For example, if you wanted to make a place bet on morning-line favorite Arabian Knight in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, you would bet Race 9 at Santa Anita Park and wager $2 to place on No. 12.
At the track, say to the teller, “$2 to place on number 12.”
Typically, the minimum amount you need to bet at most tracks is $2. Some tracks offer wagers less than that, but most of those involve getting more exotic wagers like 50-cent Trifectas or a $1 Exacta Box.
When is a Place Bet a Good Idea?
Because your horse does not have to win in order to cash, making a place bet can be a lower-risk way to wager while still being profitable. It is a good wager if you like a horse that is not considered among the favorites to win the race but still has a good chance to be in the top two.
A place bet can also offer a bettor a way to earn more money in a race when there is a horse that is considered a heavy favorite and offers little value even if they win. In the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Flightline scored as the 2-to-5 betting favorite, paying just $2.88 to win. A place bet on runner-up Olympiad, however, rewarded backers with a payout of $12.38, nearly four times what a win wager on Flightline produced.
Place Bet: A Breeders’ Cup Example
One of the most recent examples of how a place wager can be more profitable than betting a horse to win came in the 2022 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. When champion Malathaat prevailed by a nose last year, she paid out $7.76 to win.
That nostril cost runner-up Blue Stripe (ARG) the victory but those who supported the 24-to-1 shot for place money were still rewarded as she paid $12.40 for place.
Another strong example of a great place wager at the Breeders’ Cup came in the 2019 running of the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Bricks and Mortar ran up to his even-money favoritism in capturing the race, but paid just $4 to win. With 51-to-1 shot United getting up for second, a place bet on that one was more profitable than betting Bricks and Mortar across the board as it paid out $25.60.
When is a Place Bet Not Worth It?
If you have a horse who is already considered a very short price on the odds board — such as a 1-to-9 favorite — betting it for place may yield only a meager profit.
When Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic in his final career start, the heavy favorite paid just $3 to place.